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CONfESSIONSOF 
ST. AUGUSTINE 



IMITATION 
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St. Augustine Reading 
From a freico by Benozzo Gotzoli 




THE HARVARD CLASSICS 
EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT, LL.D. 

The Confessions of 
St. Augustine 

TRANSLATED BY EDWARD B. PUSEY 

The Imitation of Christ 

By Thomas A. Kempis 

TRANSLATED BY WILLIAM BENHAM 

W//A Introductions and Notes 
Vo/ume 7 




P. F. Collier & Son Corporation 

NEW YORK 



Copyright, 1909 
By p. F. Collier & Son 

hanufactured in v. s. a. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

THE FIRST BCXJK 

Confessions of the greatness and unscarchablencss of God, of God's mercies in 
infancy and boyhood, and human wilfulness; of his own sins of idleness, 
abuse of his studies, and of God's gifts up to his fifteenth year .... 5 

THE SECOND BOOK 

Object of these Confessions. Further ills of idleness developed in his sixteenth 
year. Evils of ill society, which betrayed him into theft 22 

THE THIRD BOOK 

His residence at Carthage from his seventeenth to his nineteenth year. Source 
of his disorders. Love of shows. Advance in studies, and love of wisdom. 
Distaste for Scripture. Led astray to the Manichxans. Refutation of some 
of their tenets. Grief of his mother Monnica at his heresy, and prayers for 
his conversion. Her vision from God, and answer through a Bishop 31 

THE FOURTH BOOK 

Augustine's life from nineteen to eight-and-twenty; himself a Manichzan, and 
seducing others to the same heresy; partial obedience amidst vanity and sin; 
consulting astrologers, only partially shaken herein; loss of an early friend, 
who is converted by being baptised when in a swoon; reflections on grief, on 
real and unreal friendship, and love of fame; writes on "the fair and fit," yet 
cannot rightly, though God had given him great talents, since he entertained 
wrong notions of God; and so even his knowledge he applied ill ... . 4; 

THE HFTH BOOK 

St. Augustine's twenty-ninth year. Faustus. a snare of Satan to many, made an 
instrument of deliverance to St. Augustine, by showing the ignorance of the 
Manichees on those things wherein they professed to have divine knowledge. 
Augustine gives up all thought of going further among the Manichees: is 
guided to Rome and Milan, where he hears St. Ambrose, leaves the Manichees, 
and becomes again a Catechumen in the Church Catholic 62 

■mv. SIXTH BOOK 

Arrival of Monnica at Milan; her obedience to St. Ambrose, and his value for 
her; St. Ambrose's habits; Augustine's gradual abandonment of error; finds 
that he has blamed the Church Citholic wrongly; desire of absolute certainty, 
but struck with the contrary analogv of God's natural Providence; how shaken 
in his worldly pursuits; God's guidance of his friend Alypius; Augustine 
debates with himself and his friends about their mode of life; his inveterate 

sins, and dread of judgment 79 

I 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 



THE SEVENTH BOOK 



Augustine's thirty-first year; gradually extricated from his errors, but still with 
material conceptions of God; much aided by an argument of Nebridius; sees 
that the cause of sin lies in free-will, rejects the Manicharan heresy, but cannot 
altogether embrace the doctrine of the Church; recovered from the belief in 
Astrology, but miserably perplexed about the origin of evil; is led to find in 
the Platonists the seeds of the doctrine of the divinity of the Word, but not of 
His humiliation; hence he obtains clearer notions of God's majesty, but, not 
knowing Christ to be the Mediator, remains estranged from Him; all his 
doubts removed by the study of Holy Scripture, especially Sl Paul ... 98 

THE EIGHTH BOOK 

Augustine's thirty-second year. He consults Simplicianus; from him hears the 
history of the conversion of Victorinus, and longs to devote himself entirely 
to God, but is mastered by his old habits; is still further roused by the history 
of St. Antony, and of the conversion of two courtiers; during a se>.Vie 
struggle hears a voice from heaven, opens Scripture, and is converted, with 
his friend Alypius. His mother's visions fulfilled 118 

THE NINTH BOOK 

Augustine determines to devote his life to God, and to abandon his profession 
of Rhetoric, quietly however; retires to the country to prepare himself to 
receive the grace of Baptism, and is baptised with Alypius and his son 
Adeodatus. At Ostia, on his way to Africa, his mother Monnica dies, in her 
Aft>'-sixth year, the thirty-third of Augustine. Her life and character 138 

THE TENTH BOOK 

Having in the former books spoken of himself before his receiving the grace of 
Baptism, in this Augustine confesses what he then was. But first he enquires 
by what faculty we can know God at all; whence he enlarges on the 
mysterious character of the memory, wherein God, being made known, 
dwells, but which could not discover Him. Then he examines his own trials 
under the triple division of temptation, "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, 
and pride"; what Christian continency prescribes as to each. On Christ the 
Only Mediator, who heals and will heal all infirmities 160 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

AuRELius AucusTiNus, better known as Saint Augustine, was born of 
poor parents in the small town of Thagaste in Numidia, North Africa, 
AS). 354. His father, Patricias, a pagan of somewhat loose life, was con- 
verted to Christianity before his death; his mother Monnica, on account 
of her personal piety and her influence on her son, is one of the most 
revered women in the history of the Christian Church. Augustine was 
educated at the University of Carthage, and according to his own account 
belonged to a fast set and joined in their dissipations. While there he 
entered into a relation which lasted for fourteen years with a young 
woman who became the mother of his son Adeodatus; and he joined 
the heretical sect of the Manichacans, who professed to have received 
from their founder. Manes, a higher form of truth than that taught by 
Christ. At the close of his university career, which had been brilliant in 
spite of distractions, he returned to his native town, and first there, and 
later in Carthage and Rome, he practised as a teacher of rhetoric, training 
young lawyers in the art of pleading. By the time he was about twenty- 
seven he had begun to have doubts as to the validity of Manichacism, 
but it was not till 387, while he was Professor of Rhetoric in the Uni- 
versity of Milan, that he was converted to Catholic Christianity, and 
received baptism. He now gave up his profession and became an ascetic, 
studying the foundations of the faith, writing, chiefly against his former 
sect, and conversing with a group of disciples, first at Rome and then 
in his native town. When he was on a visit to Hippw, not far from 
Thagaste, he was forced into the priesthood, and in 395 he became Bishop 
of Hippo, an office which he filled for the remaining thirty-five years of 
his life. Though he took a leading part in the activities of the African 
Church through all this time, and gradually became one of the most dis- 
tinguished ecclesiastical figures in the Empire, the care of his diocese 
and the writing of his books formed his chief occupations. He continued 
to lead a life of extreme simplicity and self-denial, and in his episcopal 
establishment he trained a large number of disciples who became leaders 
in the Church. The strength of his hold on these younger men was due 
not merely to his intellectual ascendency, but also to the charm and 
sweetness of his disposition. 

A large part of his literary activity was devoted to controversy with 
the heretics of his time, first the Manichaeans, then the Donatists, and 
finally the Pelagians. It was in his writings against these last and most 

3 



4 INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

important opponents that he elaborated his statement of the doctrines of 
Predestination, Irresistible Grace and Final Perseverance, through which 
he has left his chief mark upwn the creeds of later times. The theology 
of the Schoolmen, such as Thomas Aquinas, and of the Calvinists of 
the Reformation, is built upon an Augustinian basis. 

His two most impwrtant books are "The City of God" and the "Con- 
fessions." The former of these was provoked by the attacks upon Chris- 
tianity, roused by the disasters that began to fall upon the Western 
Empire in the beginning of the fifth century; and Augustine replies by 
pointing out the failure of the heathen gods in former times to protect 
the peoples who trusted in them, and goes on to expose the evil influence 
of the belief in the old mythology, in a minute examination of its tradi- 
tions and mysteries. The second part of the book deals with the history 
of the "City of Man," founded upon love of self, and of the "City of 
God," founded upon love of God and contempt of self. This work is 
a vast storehouse of the knowledge of the time, and is a monument not 
only to Augustine's great learning, but also to the keenest metaphysical 
mind of the age. 

The "Confessions," here printed, speaks for itself. The earliest of auto- 
biographies, it remains unsurpassed as a sincere and intimate record of 
a great and pious soul laid bare before God. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF 
ST. AUGUSTINE 

THE FIRST BOOK 

Confessions of the greatness and unsearchableness of God, of God's 
mercies in infancy and boyhood, and human wilfulness; of his own 
sins of idleness, abuse of his studies, and of God's gifts up to his 
fifteenth year. 

^^^REAT art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is 
m Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite} And Thee would 

\^^ man praise; man, but a particle of Thy creation; man, that 
bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that 
Thou resistest the proud:^ yet would man praise Thee; he, but a 
particle of Thy creation. Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; 
for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until 
it repose in Thee. Grant me. Lord, to know and understand which 
is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee? and, again, to know Thee 
or to call on Thee? for who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? 
for he that knoweth Thee not, may call on Thee as other than Thou 
art. Or, is it rather, that we call on Thee that we may know Thee ? 
But how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? 
or how shall they believe without a preacher?^ and they that see^ 
the Lord shall praise Him :* for they that see\ shall find Him^ and 
they that find shall praise Him. I will seek Thee, Lord, by calling 
on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us hast 
Thou been preached. My faith. Lord, shall call on Thee, which 
Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the 
Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher. 

And how shall I call upon my God, my God and Lord, since, 
when I call for Him, I shall be calling Him to myself? and what 

' Ps. cxlv. 3; cxlvii. 5. ' Jas. iv. 6; i Pet. v. 5. ' Rom. x. 14. 
* Ps. xxii. 26. * Matt. vii. 7. 



O THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

room is there within me, whither my God can come into me? 
whither can God come into me, God who made heaven and earth? 
is there, indeed, O Lord my God, aught in me that can contain 
Thee? do then heaven and earth, which Thou hast made, and 
wherein Thou hast made me, contain Thee? or, because nothing 
which exists could exist without Thee, doth therefore whatever ex- 
ists contain Thee? Since, then, I too exist, why do I seek that Thou 
shouldest enter into me, who were not, wert Thou not in me? 
Why ? because I am not gone down in hell, and yet Thou art there 
also. For // / go down into hell, Thou art there^ I could not be 
then, O my God, could not be at all, wert Thou not in me; or, rather, 
unless I were in Thee, o/ whom are all things, by whom are all 
things, in whom are all things?^ Even so. Lord, even so. Whither 
do I call Thee, since I am in Thee? or whence canst Thou enter into 
me? for whither can I go beyond heaven and earth, that thence my 
God should come into me, who hath said, / fill the heaven and the 
earth* 

Do the heaven and earth then contain Thee, since thou fillest 
them? or dost Thou fill them and yet overflow, since they do not 
contain Thee? And whither, when the heaven and the earth are 
filled, pourest Thou forth the remainder of Thyself? or hast Thou 
no need that aught contain Thee, who containest all things, since 
what Thou fillest Thou fillest by containing it ? for the vessels which 
Thou fillest uphold Thee not, since, though they were broken. Thou 
wert not poured out. And when Thou art poured out* on us. Thou 
art not cast down, but Thou upliftest us; Thou art not dissipated, 
but Thou gatherest us. But Thou who fillest all things, fillest Thou 
them with Thy whole self? or, since all things cannot contain Thee 
wholly, do they contain part of Thee? and all at once the same part? 
or each its own part, the greater more, the smaller less? And is, then, 
one part of Thee greater, another less? or, art Thou wholly every- 
where, while nothing contains Thee wholly ? 

What art Thou then, my God? what, but the Lord God? For 
who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God?^" Most 
highest, most good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, 
yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet 

* Ps. cxxxix. 7. ' Rom. xi. 36. * Jer. xxiii. 24. * Acts ii. 18. '" Ps. xviii. 31. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 7 

most strong; stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all- 
changing; never new, never old; all-renewing, and bringing age 
upon the proud, and they }{now it not; ever working, ever at rest; 
still gathering, yet nothing lacking; supporting, filling, and over- 
spreading; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet having 
all things. Thou lovest, without passion; art jealous, without anxiety; 
rejjentest, yet grievest not; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy works, 
Thy purpose unchanged; receivest again what Thou findest, yet didst 
never lose; never in need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetous, yet 
exacting usury." Thou receivest over and above, that Thou mayest 
owe; and who hath aught that is not Thine? Thou payest debts, 
owing nothing; remittest debts, losing nothing. And what have I 
now said, my God, my life, my holy joy? or what saith any man 
when he speaks of Thee? Yet woe to him that speaketh not, since 
mute are even the most eloquent. 

Oh! that I might repose on Thee! Oh! that Thou wouldest enter 
into my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and em- 
brace Thee, my sole good? What art Thou to me? In Thy pity, 
teach me to utter it. Or what am 1 to Thee that Thou demandest 
my love, and, if I give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest me 
with grievous woes? Is it then a slight woe to love Thee not? Oh! 
for Thy mercies' sake, tell me, O Lord my God, what Thou art unto 
me. Say unto my soul, I am thy sahation." So speak, that I may 
hear. Behold, Lord, my heart is before Thee; open Thou the ears 
thereof, and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. After this voice 
let me haste, and take hold on Thee. Hide not Thy face from me. 
Let me die — lest I die — only let me see Thy face. 

Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou 
mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it. It has that within 
which must oflend Thine eyes; I confess and know it. But who shall 
cleanse it? or to whom should I cry, save Thee? Lord, cleanse me 
from my secret faults and spare Thy servant from the power of the 
enemy}^ I believe, and therefore do I speal{}* Lord, Thou knowest. 
Have I not confessed against myself my transgressions unto Thee, 
and Thou, my God, hast forgiven the iniquity of my heart?^^ I con- 

"Matt. XXV. 27, supererogatur tihi. "Ps. xxxv. 3. "Ps. xix. 12, 13. 
"Ps. cxvi. 10. "Ps. xxxii. 5, 



8 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

tend not in judgment with Thee,^* who art the truth; I fear to de- 
ceive myself; lest mine iniquity lie unto itself" Therefore I contend 
not in judgment with Thee; for if Thou, Lord, shouldest mar]{ 
iniquities, O Lord, who shall abide it?^' 

Yet suffer me to speak unto Thy mercy, me, dust and ashes}* 
Yet suffer me to speak, since I speak to Thy mercy, and not to 
scornful man. Thou too, perhaps, despisest me, yet wilt Thou return 
and have compassion^" upon me. For what would I say, O Lord my 
God, but that I know not whence I came into this dying life (shall 
I call it?) or living death. Then immediately did the comforts of 
Thy compassion take me up, as I heard (for I remember it not) from 
the parents of my flesh, out of whose substance Thou didst some- 
time fashion me. Thus there received me the comforts of woman's 
milk. For neither my mother nor my nurses stored their own breasts 
for me; but Thou didst bestow the food of my infancy through them, 
according to Thine ordinance, whereby Thou distributest Thy 
riches through the hidden springs of all things. Thou also gavest me 
to desire no more than Thou gavest; and to my nurses willingly to 
give me what Thou gavest them. For they, with a heaven-taught 
affection, willingly gave me what they abounded with from Thee. 
For this my good from them, was good for them. Nor, indeed, from 
them was it, but through them; for from Thee, O God, are all good 
things, and from my God is all my health. This I since learned. 
Thou, through these Thy gifts, within me and without, proclaiming 
Thyself unto me. For then I knew but to suck; to repose in what 
pleased, and cry at what offended my flesh; nothing more. 

Afterwards I began to smile; first in sleep, then waking: for so 
it was told me of myself, and I believed it; for we see the like in 
other infants, though of myself I remember it not. Thus, little by 
litde, I became conscious where I was; and to have a wish to express 
my wishes to those who could content them, and I could not; for 
the wishes were within me, and they without; nor could they by any 
sense of theirs enter within my spirit. So I flung about at random 
limbs and voice, making the few signs I could, and such as I could, 
like, though in truth very little like, what I wished. And when I 
was not presently obeyed (my wishes being hurtful or unintelligible), 

"Jobix. 3. "P$.xxvL 12.— Vulg. "P». cxxx. 3. *• Gen. xviii. 27. "Jer. xiL 15. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 9 

then I was indignant with my elders for not submitting to me, with 
those owing me no service, for not serving me; and avenged myself 
on them by tears. Such have I learnt infants to be from observing 
them; and that I was myself such, they, all unconscious, have shown 
me better than my nurses who knew it. 

And, lo! my infancy died long since, and I live. But Thou, Lord, 
who for ever livest, and in whom nothing dies: for before the foun- 
dation of the worlds, and before all that can be called "before," Thou 
art, and art God and Lord of all which Thou hast created: in Thee 
abide, fixed for ever, the first causes of all things unabiding; and 
of all things changeable, the springs abide in Thee unchangeable: 
and in Thee live the eternal reasons of all things unreasoning and 
temporal. Say, Lord, to me. Thy suppliant; say, all-pitying, to me, 
Thy pitiable one; say, did my infancy succeed another age of mine 
that died before it? was it that which I spent within my mother's 
womb? for of that I have heard somewhat, and have myself seen 
women with child? and what before that life again, O God my 
joy, was I any where or any body ? For this have I none to tell me, 
neither father nor mother, nor experience of others, nor mine own 
memory. Dost Thou mock me for asking this, and bid me praise 
Thee and acknowledge Thee, for that I do know? 

I acknowledge Thee, Lord of heaven and earth, and praise Thee 
for my first rudiments of being, and my infancy, whereof I remem- 
ber nothing; for Thou hast appointed that man should from others 
guess much as to himself; and believe much on the strength of weak 
females. Even then I had being and life, and (at my infancy's close) 
I could seek for signs whereby to make known to others my sensa- 
tions. Whence could such a being be, save from Thee, Lord? Shall 
any be his own artificer? or can there elsewhere be derived any 
vein, which may stream essence and life into us, save from Thee, 
O Lord, in whom essence and life are one? for Thou Thyself art 
supremely Essence and Life. For Thou art most high, and art not 
changed" neither in Thee doth to-day come to a close; yet in Thee 
doth it come to a close; because all such things also are in Thee. 
For they had no way to pass away, unless Thou upheldest them. 
And since Thy years jail not" Thy years are one to-day. How many 
*'Mal. iii. 6. '^Ps. cii. 27. 



10 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

of ours and our fathers' years have flowed away through Thy 
"to-day," and from it received the measure and the mould of such 
being as they had; and still others shall flow away, and so receive 
the mould of their degree of being. But Thou art still the samej^ and 
all things of to-morrow, and all beyond, and all of yesterday, and all 
behind it. Thou hast done to-day. What is it to me, though any 
comprehend not this? Let him also rejoice and say, What thing is 
this?* Let him rejoice even thus; and be content rather by not 
discovering to discover Thee, than by discovering not to discover 
Thee, 

Hear, O God. Alas, for man's sin! So saith man, and Thou 
pitiest him; for Thou madest him, but sin in him Thou madest not. 
Who remindeth me of the sins of my infancy ? jor in Thy sight none 
is pure from sin, not even the infant whose life is but a day upon 
the earth?" Who remindeth me? doth not each little infant, in whom 
I see what of myself I remember not? What then was my sin? was 
it that I hung upon the breast and cried ? for should I now so do for 
food suitable to my age, justly should I be laughed at and reproved. 
What I then did was worthy reproof; but since I could not under- 
stand reproof, custom and reason forbade me to be reproved. For 
those habits, when grown, we root out and cast away. Now no man, 
though he prunes, wittingly casts away what is good." Or was it 
then good, even for a while, to cry for what, if given, would hurt? 
bitterly to resent, that persons free, and its own elders, yea, the 
very authors of its birth, served it not? that many besides, wiser than 
it, obeyed not the nod of its good pleasure? to do its best to strike 
and hurt, because commands were not obeyed, which had been 
obeyed to its hurt? The weakness then of infant limbs, not its will, 
is its innocence. Myself have seen and known even a baby envious; 
it could not speak, yet it turned pale and looked bitterly on its foster- 
brother. Who knows not this? Mothers and nurses tell you that 
they allay these things by I know not what remedies. Is that too 
innocence, when the fountain of milk is flowing in rich abundance, 
not to endure one to share it, though in extremest need, and whose 
very life as yet depends thereon? We bear gently with all this, not 
as being no or slight evils, but because they will disappear as years 
"Ps. cii. 27. '*Exod. xvL 15. "Jobxxv. 4. "Johnxv. 2. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE II 

increase; for, though tolerated now, the very same tempers are 
utterly intolerable when found in riper years. 

Thou, then, O Lord my God, who gavest life to this my infancy, 
furnishing thus with senses (as we see) the frame Thou gavest, 
compacting its limbs, ornamenting its proportions, and for its gen- 
eral good and safety, implanting in it all vital functions. Thou com- 
mandest me to praise Thee in these things, to confess unto Thee, 
and sing unto Thy name, Thou most Highest^ For Thou art God, 
Almighty and Good, even hadst Thou done nought but only this, 
which none could do but Thou; whose Unity is the mould of all 
things; who out of Thy own fairness makest all things fair; and 
orderest all things by Thy law. This age, then, Lord, whereof I 
have no remembrance, which I take on others' word, and guess from 
other infants that I have passed, true though the guess be, I am 
yet loth to count in this life of mine which I live in this world. For 
no less than that which I spent in my mother's womb, is it hid from 
me in the shadows of forgetful ness. But if / was shapen in iniquity, 
and in sin did my mother conceive me^' where, I beseech Thee, O 
my God, where. Lord, or when, was I Thy servant guiltless? But, 
lo! that period I pass by; and what have I now to do with that, of 
which I can recall no vestige.? 

Passing hence from infancy, I came to boyhood, or rather it came 
to me, displacing infancy. Nor did that depart, — (for whither went 
it.'') — and yet it was no more. For I was no longer a speechless in- 
fant, but a speaking boy. This I remember; and have since observed 
how I learned to speak. It was not that my elders taught me words 
(as, soon after, other learning) in any set method; but I, longing 
by cries and broken accents and various motions of my limbs to 
express my thoughts, that so I might have my will, and yet unable 
to express all I willed, or to whom I willed, did myself, by the 
understanding which Thou, my God, gavest me, practise the sounds 
in my memory. When they named any thing, and as they spoke 
turned towards it, I saw and remembered that they called what 
they would point out by the name they uttered. And that they meant 
this thing and no other was plain from the motion of their body, 
the natural language, as it were, of all nations, expressed by the 

"Ps. xcii. I. "Ps. li. 7. 



12 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

countenance, glances of the eye, gestures of the limbs, and tones of 
the voice, indicating the affections of the mind, as it pursues, pos- 
sesses, rejects, or shuns. And thus by constantly hearing words, as 
they occurred in various sentences, I collected gradually for what 
they stood; and having broken in my mouth to these signs, I thereby 
gave utterance to my will. Thus I exchanged with those about me 
these current signs of our wills, and so launched deeper into the 
stormy intercourse of human life, yet depending on parental au- 
thority and the beck of elders. 

O God my God, what miseries and mockeries did I now experi- 
ence, when obedience to my teachers was proposed to me, as projjer 
in a boy, in order that in this world I might prosper, and excel in 
tongue-science, which should serve to the "praise of men," and to 
deceitful riches. Next I was put to school to get learning, in which 
I (poor wretch) knew not what use there was; and yet, if idle in 
learning, I was beaten. For this was judged right by our forefathers; 
and many, passing the same course before us, framed for us weary 
paths, through which we were fain to pass; multiplying toil and grief 
upon the sons of Adam. But, Lord, we found that men called upon 
Thee, and we learnt from them to think of Thee (according to our 
powers) as of some great One, who, though hidden from our senses, 
couldst hear and help us. For so I began, as a boy, to pray to Thee, 
my aid and refuge; and broke the fetters of my tongue to call on 
Thee, praying Thee, though small, yet with no small earnestness, 
that I might not be beaten at school. And when Thou heardst me 
not {not thereby giving me over to folly^^), my elders, yea, my very 
parents, who yet wished me no ill, mocked my stripes, my then 
great and grievous ill. 

Is there. Lord, any of soul so great, and cleaving to Thee with so 
intense affection (for a sort of stupidity will in a way do it) ; but is 
there any one who, from cleaving devoutly to Thee, is endued with 
so great a spirit, that he can think as lightly of the racks and hooks 
and other torments (against which, throughout all lands, men call 
on Thee with extreme dread), mocking at those by whom they are 
feared most bitterly, as our parents mocked the torments which we 
suffered in boyhood from our masters? For we feared not our tor- 

"P*. xxL 3. — Vulg. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I3 

ments less; nor prayed we less to Thee to escape them. And yet we 
sinned, in writing or reading or studying less than was exacted of 
us. For we wanted not, O Lord, memory or capacity, whereof Thy 
will gave enough for our age; but our sole delight was play; and 
for this we were punished by those who yet themselves were doing 
the like. But elder folks' idleness is called "business"; that of boys, 
being really the same, is punished by those elders; and none com- 
miserates either boys or men. For will any of sound discretion ap- 
prove of my being beaten as a boy, because, by playing at ball, I 
made less progress in studies which I was to learn, only that, as a 
man, I might play more unbeseemingly? and what else did he who 
beat me ? who, if worsted in some trifling discussion with his fellow- 
tutor, was more embittered and jealous than I when beaten at ball by 
a play-fellow? 

And yet, I sinned herein, O Lord God, the Creator and Disposer 
of all things in nature, of sin the Disposer" only, O Lord my God, I 
sinned in transgressing the commands of my parents and those my 
masters. For what they, with whatever motive, would have me 
learn, I might afterwards have put to good use. For I disobeyed, not 
from a better choice, but from love of play, loving the pride of vic- 
tory in my contests, and to have my ears tickled with lying fables, 
that they might itch the more; the same curiosity flashing from my 
eyes more and more, for the shows and games of my elders. Yet 
those who give these shows are in such esteem, that almost all wish 
the same for their children, and yet are very willing that they should 
be beaten, if those very games detain them from the studies, whereby 
they would have them attain to be the givers of them. Look with 
pity. Lord, on these things, and deliver us who call upon Thee now; 
deliver those too who call not on Thee yet, that they may call on 
Thee, and Thou mayest deliver them. 

As a boy, then, I had already heard of an eternal life, promised 
us through the humility of the Lord our God stooping to our pride; 
and even from the womb of my mother, who greatly hoped in Thee, 
I was sealed with the mark of His cross and salted with His salt. 
Thou sawest, Lord, how while yet a boy, being seized on a time with 
sudden oppression of the stomach, and like near to death — Thou 

*> Ordinator. 



14 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

sawest, my God (for Thou wert my keeper), with what eagerness 
and what faith I sought, from the pious care of my mother and Thy 
Church, the mother of us all, the baptism of Thy Christ my God and 
Lord. Whereupon the mother of my flesh, being much troubled 
(since, with a heart pure in Thy faith, she even more lovingly tra- 
vailed in birth^^ of my salvation), would in eager haste have provided 
for my consecration and cleansing by the health-giving sacraments, 
confessing Thee, Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, unless I had 
suddenly recovered. And so, as if I must needs be again polluted 
should I live, my cleansing was deferred, because the defilements of 
sin would, after that washing, bring greater and more perilous guilt. 
I then already believed: and my mother, and the whole household 
except my father: yet did not he prevail over the power of my 
mother's piety in me, that as he did not yet believe, so neither should 
I. For it was her earnest care that Thou my God, rather than he, 
sbouldest be my father; and in this Thou didst aid her to prevail 
over her husband, whom she, the better, obeyed, therein also obey- 
ing Thee, who hast so commanded. 

I beseech Thee, my God, I would fain know, if so Thou wiliest, 
for what purpose my baptism was then deferred? was it for my good 
that the rein was laid loose, as it were, upon me, for me to sin? or 
was it not laid loose? If not, why does it still echo in our ears on 
all sides, "Let him alone, let him do as he will, for he is not yet 
baptised?" but as to bodily health, no one says, "Let him be worse 
wounded, for he is not yet healed." How much better then, had I 
been at once healed; and then by my friends' diligence and my own, 
my soul's recovered health had been kept safe in Thy keeping who 
gavest it. Better truly. But how many and great waves of tempta- 
tion seemed to hang over me after my boyhood! These my mother 
foresaw; and preferred to expose to them the clay whence I might 
afterwards be moulded, than the very cast, when made. 

In boyhood itself, however (so much less dreaded for me than 
youth), I loved not study, and hated to be forced to it. Yet I was 
forced; and this was well done towards me, but I did not well; for, 
unless forced, I had not learnt. But no one doth well against his 
will, even though what he doth, be well. Yet neither did they well 

" Gal. iv. 19. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I5 

who forced me, but what was well came to me from Thee, my God. 
For they were regardless how I should employ what they forced me 
to learn, except to satiate the insatiate desires of a wealthy beggary, 
and a shameful glory. But Thou, by whom the very hairs of our head 
are numbered" didst use for my good the error of all who urged me 
to learn; and my own, who would not learn, Thou didst use for my 
punishment — a fit penalty for one, so small a boy and so great a 
sinner. So by those who did not well. Thou didst well for me; and 
by my own sin Thou didst jusdy punish me. For Thou hast com- 
manded, and so it is, that every inordinate affection should be its 
own punishment. 

But why did I so much hate the Greek, which I studied as a boy ? 
I do not yet fully know. For the Latin I loved; not what my first 
masters, but what the so<alled grammarians taught me. For those 
first lessons, reading, writing, and arithmetic, I thought as great a 
burden and penalty as any Greek. And yet whence was this too, but 
from the sin and vanity of this life, because / was flesh, and a breath 
that passeth away and cometh not again?" For those first lessons 
were better certainly, because more certain; by them I obtained, and 
still retain, the power of reading what I find written and myself 
writing what I will; whereas in the others, I was forced to learn the 
wanderings of one yEneas, forgetful of my own, and to weep for 
dead Dido, because she killed herself for love; the while, with dry 
eyes, I endured my miserable self dying among these things, far 
from Thee, O God my life. 

For what more miserable than a miserable being who commiser- 
ates not himself; weeping the death of Dido for love to JEneas, but 
weeping not his own death for want of love to Thee, O God. Thou 
light of my heart. Thou bread of my inmost soul. Thou Power who 
givest vigour to my mind, who quickenest my thoughts, I loved Thee 
not. I committed fornication against Thee, and all around me thus 
fornicating there echoed, "Well done! well done!" for the friend- 
ship of this world is fornication against Thee;^ and "Well done! 
well done!" echoes on till one is ashamed to be thus a man. And all 
this I wept not, I who wept for Dido slain, and "seeking by the 
sword a stroke and wound extreme," myself seeking the while a 
" Matt. X. 30. " Ps. Izxviii. 39. '* Jam. iv. 4. 



l6 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

worse extreme, the extremest and lowest of Thy creatures, having 
forsaken Thee, earth passing into the earth. And if forbid to read 
ail this, I was grieved that I might not read what grieved me. Mad- 
ness like this is thought a higher and a richer learning, than that 
by which I learned to read and write. 

But now, my God, cry Thou aloud in my soul; and let Thy truth 
tell me, "Not so, not so. Far better was that first study." For, lo, I 
would readily forget the wanderings of ^neas and all the rest, 
rather than how to read and write. But over the entrance of the 
Grammar School is a veil drawn! true; yet is this not so much an 
emblem of aught recondite, as a cloak of error. Let not those, whom 
I no longer fear, cry out against me, while I confess to Thee, my 
God, whatever my soul will, and acquiesce in the condemnation of 
my evil ways, that I may love Thy good ways. Let not either buyers 
or sellers of grammar-learning cry out against me. For if I question 
them whether it be true that yEneas came on a time to Carthage, 
as the poet tells, the less learned will reply that they know not, the 
more learned that he never did. But should I ask with what letters 
the name "iEneas" is written, every one who has learnt this will 
answer me aright, as to the signs which men have conventionally 
settled. If again, I should ask which might be forgotten with least 
detriment to the concerns of life, reading and writing or these poetic 
fictions? who does not foresee what all must answer who have not 
wholly forgotten themselves? I sinned, then, when as a boy I pre- 
ferred those empty to those more profitable studies, or rather loved 
the one and hated the other. "One and one, two;" "two and two, 
four;" this was to me a hateful singsong: "the wooden horse lined 
with armed men," and "the burning of Troy,"" and "Creusa's shade 
and sad similitude," were the choice spectacle of my vanity. 

Why then did I hate the Greek classics, which have the like 
tales? For Homer also curiously wove the like fictions, and is most 
sweetly-vain, yet was he bitter to my boyish taste. And so I suppose 
would Virgil be to Grecian children, when forced to learn him as 
I was Homer. Difficulty, in truth, the difficulty of a foreign tongue, 
dashed, as it were, with gall all the sweetness of Grecian fable. For 
aot one word of it did I understand, and to make me understand I 

" /£n. 2. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 7 

was urged vehemently with cruel threats and punishments. Time 
was also (as an infant) I knew no Latin; but this I learned without 
fear or suffering, by mere observation, amid the caresses of my 
nursery and jests of friends, smiling and sportively encouraging me. 
This I learned without any pressure of punishment to urge me on, 
for my heart urged me to give birth to its conceptions which I could 
only do by learning words not of those who taught, but of those 
who talked with me; in whose ears also I gave birth to the thoughts, 
whatever I conceived. No doubt, then, that a free curiosity has more 
force in our learning these things, than a frightful enforcement. 
Only this enforcement restrains the rovings of that freedom, through 
Thy laws, O my God, Thy laws, from the master's cane to the mar- 
tyr's trials, being able to temper for us a wholesome bitter, recalling 
us to Thyself from that deathly pleasure which lures us from Thee. 

Hear, Lord, my prayer; let not my soul faint under Thy disci- 
pline, nor let me faint in confessing unto Thee all Thy mercies, 
whereby Thou hast drawn me out of all my most evil ways, that 
Thou mightest become a delight to me above all the allurements 
which I once pursued; that I may most entirely love Thee, and clasp 
Thy hand with all my affections, and Thou mayest yet rescue me 
from every temptation, even unto the end. For, lo, O Lord, my King 
and my God, for Thy service be whatever useful thing my childhood 
learned; for Thy service, that I speak, write, read, reckon. For 
Thou didst grant me Thy discipline, while I was learning vanities; 
and my sin of delighting in those vanities Thou hast forgiven. In 
them, indeed, I learnt many a useful word, but these may as well be 
learned in things not vain; and that is the safe path for the steps 
of youth. 

But woe is thee, thou torrent of human custom ! Who shall stand 
against thee? how long shalt thou not be dried up? how long roll 
the sons of Eve into that huge and hideous ocean, which even they 
scarcely overpass who climb the cross? Did not I read in thee of 
Jove the thunderer and the adulterer? both, doubdess, he could not 
be; but so the feigned thunder might countenance and pander to 
real adultery. And now which of our gowned masters lends a sober 
ear to one who from their own school cries out, "These were Homer's 
fictions, transferring things human to the gods; would he had 



l8 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

brought down things divine to us!" Yet more truly had he said, 
"These are indeed his fictions; but attributing a divine nature to 
wicked men, that crimes might be no longer crimes, and whoso com- 
mits them might seem to imitate not abandoned men, but the 
celestial gods." 

And yet, thou hellish torrent, into thee are cast the sons of men 
with rich rewards, for compassing such learning; and a great solem- 
nity is made of it, when this is going on in the forum, within sight 
of laws appointing a salary beside the scholar's payments, and thou 
lashest thy rocks and roarest, "Hence words are learnt; hence elo- 
quence; most necessary to gain your ends, or maintain opinions." As 
if we should have never known such words as "golden shower," 
"lap," "beguile," "temples of the heavens," or others in that passage, 
unless Terence had brought a lewd youth upon the stage, setting up 
Jupiter as his example of seduction. 

"Viewing a picture, where the tale was drawn, 
Of Jove's descending in a golden shower 
To Danae's lap, a woman to beguile." 

And then mark how he excites himself to lust as by celestial author- 
ity: 

"And what God ? Great Jove, 
Who shakes heaven's highest temples with his thunder. 
And I, poor mortal man, not do the same! 
I did it, and with all my heart I did it." 

Not one whit more easily are the words learnt for all this vileness; 
but by their means the vileness is committed with less shame. Not 
that I blame the words, being, as it were, choice and precious vessels; 
but that wine of error which is drunk to us in them by intoxicated 
teachers; and if we, too, drink not, we are beaten, and have no sober 
judge to whom we may appeal. Yet, O my God (in whose pres- 
ence I now without hurt may remember this), all this unhappily I 
learnt willingly with great delight, and for this was pronounced a 
hopeful boy. 

Bear with me, my God, while I say somewhat of my wit. Thy gift, 
and on what dotage I wasted it. For a task was set me, troublesome 
enough to my soul, upon terms of praise or shame, and fear of stripes. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 9 

to speak the words of Juno, as she raged and mourned that she could 
not 

"This Trojan prince from Latium turn." 

Which words I had heard that Juno never uttered; but we were 
forced to go astray in the footsteps of these poetic fictions, and to 
say in prose much what he expressed in verse. And his speaking was 
most applauded, in whom the passions of rage and grief were most 
pre-eminent, and clothed in the most fitting language, maintaining 
the dignity of the character. What is it to me, O my true life, my 
God, that my declamation was applauded above so many of my own 
age and class? is not all this smoke and wind? and was there nothing 
else whereon to exercise my wit and tongue? Thy praises. Lord, Thy 
praises might have stayed the yet tender shoot of my heart by the 
prop of Thy Scriptures; so had it not trailed away amid these empty 
trifles, a defiled prey for the fowls of the air. For in more ways than 
one do men sacrifice to the rebellious angels. 

But what marvel that I was thus carrisd away to vanities, and 
went from Thy presence, O my God, when men were set before me 
as models, who, if in relating some action of theirs, in itself not ill, 
they committed some barbarism or solecism, being censured, were 
abashed; but when in rich and adorned and well-ordered discourse 
they related their own disordered life, being bepraised, they gloried? 
These things Thou seest. Lord, and boldest Thy peace; long-suffer- 
ing, and plenteous in mercy and truths Wilt Thou hold Thy peace 
for ever? and even now Thou drawest out of this horrible gulf the 
soul that seeketh Thee, that thirsteth for Thy pleasures, whose heart 
saith unto Thee, I have sought Thy face; Thy face. Lord, will I 
see^.'" For darf^ened" affections is removal from Thee. For it is 
not by our feet, or change of place, that men leave Thee, or return 
unto Thee. Or did that Thy younger son look out for horses or 
chariots, or ships, fly with visible wings, or journey by the motion of 
his limbs, that he might in a far country waste in riotous living all 
Thou gavest at his departure? a loving Father, when Thou gavest, 
and more loving unto him, when he returned empty. So then in 
lustful, that is, in darkened affections, is the true distance from 
Thy face. 

="Ps. Ixxxvi. 15. "P$. xxvii. 8. "Rom. i. 21. 



20 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Behold, O Lord God, yea, behold patiently as Thou art wont, 
how carefully the sons of men observe the covenanted rules of let- 
ters and syllables received from those who spake before them, neg- 
lecting the eternal covenant of everlasting salvation received from 
Thee. Insomuch, that a teacher or learner of the hereditary laws of 
pronunciation will more offend men by speaking without the as- 
pirate, of a "uman being," in despite of the laws of grammar, than if 
he, a "human being," hate a "human being" in despite of Thine. 
As if any enemy could be more hurtful than the hatred with which 
he is incensed against him; or could wound more deeply him whom 
he persecutes, than he wounds his own soul by his enmity. Assuredly 
no science of letters can be so innate as the record of conscience, "that 
he is doing to another what from another he would be loath to 
suffer." How deep are Thy ways, O God, Thou only great, that 
sittest silent on high** and by an unwearied law dispensing penal 
blindness to lawless desires. In quest of the fame of eloquence, a 
man standing before a human judge, surrounded by a human 
throng, declaiming against his enemy with fiercest hatred, will take 
heed most watchfully, lest, by an error of the tongue, he murder the 
word "human being"; but takes no heed, lest, through the fury 
of his spirit, he murder the real human being. 

This was the world at whose gate unhappy I lay in my boyhood; 
this the stage where I had feared more to commit a barbarism, than 
having committed one, to envy those who had not. These things I 
speak and confess to Thee, my God; for which I had praise from 
them, whom I then thought it all virtue to please. For I saw not the 
abyss of vileness, wherein / was cast away from Thine eyes.*" Before 
them what more foul than I was already, displeasing even such as 
myself? with innumerable lies deceiving my tutor, my masters, my 
parents, from love of play, eagerness to see vain shows and resdess- 
ness to imitate them! Thefts also I committed, from my parents' 
cellar and table, enslaved by greediness, or that I might have to give 
to boys, who sold me their play, which all the while they liked no 
less than I. In this play, too, I often sought unfair conquests, con- 
quered myself meanwhile by vain desire of pre-eminence. And what 
could I so ill endure, or, when I detected it, upbraided I so fiercely, 
•• Is. xxxiii. 3. *• Ps. xxxi. 32. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 21 

as that I was doing to others? and for which if, detected, I was up- 
braided, I chose rather to quarrel than to yield. And is this the inno- 
cence of boyhood? Not so, Lord, not so; I cry Thy mercy, O my 
God. For these very sins, as riper years succeed, these very sins are 
transferred from tutors and masters, from nuts and balls and spar- 
rows, to magistrates and kings, to gold and manors and slaves, just 
as severer punishments displace the cane. It was the low stature then 
of childhood which Thou our King didst commend as an emblem 
of lowliness, when Thou saidst. Of such is the kingdom of heat/en.*^ 
Yet, Lord, to Thee, the Creator and Governor of the universe, 
most excellent and most good, thanks were due to Thee our God, 
even hadst Thou destined for me boyhood only. For even then I 
was, I lived, and felt; and had implanted providence over my well- 
being — a trace of that mysterious Unity whence I was derived: I 
guarded by the inward sense the entireness of my senses, and in these 
minute pursuits, and in my thoughts on things minute, I learnt to 
delight in truth, I hated to be deceived, had a vigorous memory, was 
gifted with speech, was soothed by friendship, avoided pain, base- 
ness, ignorance. In so small a creature, what was not wonderful, not 
admirable? But all are gifts of my God: it was not I who gave them 
me; and good these are, and these together are myself. Good, then, 
is He that made me, and He is my good; and before Him will I 
exult for every good which of a boy I had. For it was my sin, that not 
in Him, but in His creatures — myself and others — I sought for 
pleasures, sublimities, truths, and so fell headlong into sorrows, con- 
fusions, errors. Thanks be to Thee, my joy and my glory and my 
confidence, my God, thanks be to Thee for Thy gifts; but do Thou 
preserve them to me. For so wilt Thou preserve me, and those things 
shall be enlarged and perfected which Thou hast given me, and I 
myself shall be with Thee, since even to be Thou hast given me. 

"Matt. xix. 14. 



THE SECOND BOOK 

Ol^ect of these Confessions. Further ills of idleness developed in his 
sixteenth year. Evils of ill society, which betrayed him into theft. 

I WILL now call to mind my past foulness, and the carnal cor- 
ruptions of my soul; not because I love them, but that I may 
love Thee, O my God. For love of Thy love I do it; reviewing 
my most wicked ways in the very bitterness of my remembrance, 
that Thou mayest grow sweet unto me (Thou sweetness never fail- 
ing. Thou blissful and assured sweetness) ; and gathering me again 
out of that my dissipation, wherein I was torn piecemeal, while 
turned from Thee, the One Good, I lost myself among a multiplicity 
of things. For I even burnt in my youth heretofore, to be satiated 
in things below; and I dared to grow wild again, with these various 
and shadowy loves: my beauty consumed away, and I stank in 
Thine eyes; pleasing myself, and desirous to please in the eyes of 
men. 

And what was it that I delighted in, but to love, and be beloved ? 
but I kept not the measure of love, of mind to mind, friendship's 
bright boundary: but out of the muddy concupiscence of the flesh, 
and the bubblings of youth, mists fumed up which beclouded and 
overcast my heart, that I could not discern the clear brightness of 
love from the fog of lustf ulness. Both did confusedly boil in me, and 
hurried my unstayed youth over the precipice of unholy desires, and 
sunk me in a gulf of flagitiousnesses. Thy wrath had gathered over 
me, and I knew it not. I was grown deaf by the clanking of the 
chain of my mortality, the punishment of the pride of my soul, and 
I strayed further from Thee, and Thou lettest me alone, and I was 
tossed about, and wasted, and dissipated, and I boiled over in my 
fornications, and Thou heldest Thy peace, O Thou my tardy joy! 
Thou then heldest Thy peace, and I wandered further and further 
from Thee, into more and more fruitless seed-plots of sorrows, 
with a proud dejectedness, and a restless weariness. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 23 

Oh! that some one had then attempered my disorder, and turned 
to account the fleeting beauties of these, the extreme points of Thy 
creation! had put a bound to their pleasureableness, that so the tides 
of my youth might have cast themselves upon the marriage shore, 
if they could not be calmed, and kept within the object of a family, 
as Thy law prescribes, O Lord: who this way formest the offspring 
of this our death, being able with a gentle hand to blunt the thorns 
which were excluded from Thy paradise? For Thy omnipotency is 
not far from us, even when we be far from Thee. Else ought I more 
watchfully to have heeded the voice from the clouds: Nevertheless 
such shall have trouble in the flesh, but I spare you} And /'/ is good 
for a man not to touch a woman} And, he that is unmarried thin/{- 
eth of the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but he 
that is married careth for the things of this world, how he may please 
his wife} 

To these words I should have listened more attentively, and being 
severed for the /(ingdom of heaven's sal{e} had more happily awaited 
Thy embraces; but I, poor wretch, foamed like a troubled sea, fol- 
lowing the rushing of my own tide, forsaking Thee, and exceeded all 
Thy limits; yet I escaped not Thy scourges. For what mortal can? 
For Thou wert ever with me mercifully rigorous, and besprinkling 
with most bitter alloy all my unlawful pleasures: that I might seek 
pleasures without alloy. But where to find such, I could not discover, 
save in Thee, O Lord, who teachest by sorrow, and woundest us, to 
heal; and killest us, lest we 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 which 
human shamelessness giveth free licence, though unlicensed by Thy 
laws) took the rule over me, and I resigned myself wholly to it? 
My friends meanwhile took no care by marriage to save my fall; 
their only care was that I should learn to speak excellendy, and be 
a persuasive orator. 

For that year were my studies intermitted: whilst after my return 
from Madaura (a neighbour city, whither I had journeyed to learn 
grammar and rhetoric), the expenses for a further journey to Car- 
thage were being provided for me; and that, rather by the resolution 
'Cor. vii. 28 'Ver. 1. * Ver. 32, a. *Matt. xix. 12. *DeuL xxxii. 29. 



24 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

than the means of my father, who was but a poor freeman of Tha- 
gaste. To whom tell I this? not to Thee, my God; but before Thee 
to mine own kind, even to that small portion of mankind as may 
light upon these writings of mine. And to what purpose? that who- 
soever reads this, may think out of what depths we are to cry unto 
Thee* For what is nearer to Thine ears than a confessing heart, and 
a life of faith? Who did not extol my father, for that beyond the 
ability of his means, he would furnish his son with all necessaries 
for a far journey for his studies' sake? For many far abler citizens 
did no such thing for their children. But yet this same father had no 
concern how I grew towards Thee, or how chaste I were; so that I 
were but copious in speech, however barren I were to Thy culture, 
O God, who art the only true and good Lord of Thy field, my heart. 

But while in that my sixteenth year I lived with my parents, leav- 
ing all school for a while (a season of idleness being interposed 
through the narrowness of my parents' fortunes), the briers of un- 
clean desires grew rank over my head, and there was no hand to 
root them out. When that my father saw me at the baths, now 
growing towards manhood, and endued with a restless youthfulness, 
he, as already hence anticipating his descendants, gladly told it to 
my mother; rejoicing in that tumult of the senses wherein the world 
forgetteth Thee its Creator, and becometh enamoured of Thy crea- 
ture, instead of Thyself, through the fumes of that invisible wine 
of its self-will, turning aside and bowing down to the very basest 
things. But in my mother's breast Thou hadst already begun Thy 
temple, and the foundation of Thy holy habitation, whereas my 
father was as yet but a catechumen, and that but recendy. She then 
was startled with a holy fear and trembling; and though I was not 
as yet baptised, feared for me those crooked ways in which they walk 
who turn their bacf^ to Thee, and not their faceJ 

Woe is me! and dare I say that Thou heldest Thy peace, O my 
God, while I wandered further from Thee? Didst Thou then indeed 
hold Thy peace to me? And whose but Thine were these words 
which by my mother, Thy faithful one, Thou sangest in my ears? 
Nothing whereof sunk into my heart, so as to do it. For she wished, 
and I remember in private with great anxiety warned me, "not to 
' Ps. cxxx. I . ' Jer. ii. zy. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 25 

commit fornication; but especially never to defile another man's 
wife." These seemed to me womanish advices, which I should blush 
to obey. But they were Thine, and I knew it not: and I thought Thou 
wert silent and that it was she who spake; by whom Thou wert not 
silent unto me; and in her wast despised by me, her son, the son of 
Thy handmaid, Thy servant* But I knew it not; and ran headlong 
with such blindness, that amongst my equals I was ashamed of a less 
shamelessness, when I heard them boast of their flagitiousness, yea, 
and the more boasting, the more they were degraded: and I took 
pleasure, not only in the pleasure of the deed, but in the praise. What 
is worthy of dispraise but vice? But I made myself worse than I 
was, that I might not be dispraised; and when in any thing I had 
not sinned as the abandoned ones, I would say that I had done what 
I had not done, that I might not seem contemptible in proportion as 
I was innocent; or of less account, the more chaste. 

Behold with what companions I walked the streets of Babylon, 
and wallowed in the mire thereof, as if in a bed of spices and precious 
ointments. And that I might cleave the faster to its very centre, the 
invisible enemy trod me down, and seduced me, for that I was easy 
to be seduced. Neither did the mother of my flesh (who had now 
fed out of the centre of Babylon* yet went more slowly in the skirts 
thereof), as she advised me to chastity, so heed what she had heard 
of me from her husband, as to restrain within the bounds of con- 
jugal affection (if it could not be pared away to the quick) what she 
felt to be pestilent at present and for the future dangerous. She 
heeded not this, for she feared lest a wife should prove a clog and 
hindrance to my hopes. Not those hopes of the world to come, which 
my mother reposed in Thee; but the hope of learning, which both 
my parents were too desirous I should attain; my father, because 
he had next to no thought of Thee, and of me but vain conceits; my 
mother, because she accounted that those usual courses of learning 
would not only be no hindrance, but even some furtherance towards 
attaining Thee. For thus I conjecture, recalling, as well as I may, the 
disposition of my parents. The reins, meantime, were slackened to 
me, beyond all temper of due severity, to spend my time in sport, 
yea, even unto dissoluteness in whatsoever I affected. And in all 
'P$. cxvi. 16. 'Jer. li. 6. 



26 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

was a mist, intercepting from me, O my God, the brightness of Thy 
truth; and mine iniquity burst out as from very fatness."' 

Theft is punished by Thy Law, O Lord, and the law written in 
the hearts of men, which iniquity itself effaces not. For what thief 
will abide a thief? not even a rich thief, one stealing through want. 
Yet I lusted to thieve, and did it, compelled by no hunger, nor pov- 
erty, but through a cloyedness of well-doing, and a pamperedness 
of iniquity. For I stole that, of which I had enough, and much better. 
Nor cared I to enjoy what 1 stole, but joyed in the theft and sin 
itself. A pear tree there was near our vineyard, laden with fruit, 
tempting neither for colour nor taste. To shake and rob this, some 
lewd young fellows of us went, late one night (having according to 
our pestilent custom prolonged our sports in the streets till then), 
and took huge loads, not for our eating, but to fling to the very hogs, 
having only tasted them. And this, but to do what we liked only, 
because it was misliked. Behold my heart, O God, behold my heart, 
which Thou hadst pity upon in the bottom of the bottomless pit. 
Now, behold let my heart tell Thee what it sought there, that I 
should be gratuitously evil, having no temptation to ill, but the ill 
itself. It was foul, and I loved it; I loved to perish, I loved mine own 
fault, not that for which I was faulty, but my fault itself. Foul soul, 
falling from Thy firmament to utter destruction: not seeking aught 
through the shame, but the shame itself I 

For there is an attractiveness in beautiful bodies, in gold and silver, 
and all things; and in bodily touch, sympathy hath much influence, 
and each other sense hath his proper object answerably tempered. 
Worldly honour hath also its grace, and the power of overcoming, 
and of mastery; whence springs also the thirst for revenge. But yet, 
to obtain all these, we may not depart from Thee, O Lord, nor de- 
cline from Thy law. The life also which here we live hath its own 
enchantment, through a certain proportion of its own, and a corre- 
spondence with all things beautiful here below. Human friendship 
also is endeared with a sweet tie by reason of the unity formed of 
many souls. Upon occasion of all these, and the like, is sin com- 
mitted, while through an immoderate inclination towards these 
goods of the lowest order, the better and higher are forsaken, — Thou, 

wps. Ixxiii. 7. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE T.'] 

our Lord God, Thy truth, and Thy law. For these lower things have 
their delights, but not like my God, who made all things; for in 
Him doth the righteous delight, and He is the joy of the upright in 
heart:' 

When, then, we ask why a crime was done, we believe it not, 
unless it appear that there might have been some desire of obtaining 
some of those which we called lower goods, or a fear of losing them. 
For they are beautiful and comely; although compared with those 
higher and beatific goods, they be abject and low. A man hath mur- 
dered another; why? he loved his wife or his estate; or would rob 
for his own livelihood; or feared to lose some such things by him; 
or, wronged, was on fire to be revenged. Would any commit mur- 
der u|X)n no cause, delighted simply in murdering? who would be- 
lieve it? for as for that furious and savage man, of whom it is said 
that he was gratuitously evil and cruel, yet is the cause assigned; 
"lest" (saith he) "through idleness hand or heart should grow in- 
active." And to what end? that, through that practice of guilt, he 
might, having taken the city, attain to honours, empire, riches, and 
be freed from fear of the laws, and his embarrassments from domes- 
tic needs, and consciousness of villainies. So then, not even Catiline 
himself loved his own villainies, but something else, for whose sake 
he did them. 

What then did wretched I so love in thee, thou theft of mine, thou 
deed of darkness, in that sixteenth year of my age? Lovely thou 
wert not, because thou wert theft. But art thou any thing, that thus 
I speak to thee? Fair were the pears we stole, because they were Thy 
creation. Thou fairest of all. Creator of all. Thou good God; God, 
the sovereign good and my true good. Fair were those pears, but 
not them did my wretched soul desire; for I had store of better, 
and those I gathered, only that I might steal. For, when gathered, 
I flung them away, my only feast therein being my own sin, which 
I was pleased to enjoy. For if aught of those pears came within my 
mouth, what sweetened it was the sin. And now, O Lord my God, 
I enquire what in that theft delighted me; and behold it hath no 
loveliness; I mean not such loveliness as in justice and wisdom; nor 
such as is in the mind and memory, and senses, and animal life of 

" Ps. Ixiv. 10. 



28 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

man; nor yet as the stars are glorious and beautiful in their orbs; 
or the earth, or sea, full of embryo-life, replacing by its birth that 
which decayeth; nay, nor even that false and shadowy beauty which 
belongeth to deceiving vices. 

For so doth pride imitate exaltedness; whereas Thou alone art 
God exalted over all. Ambition, what seeks it, but honours and 
glory? whereas Thou alone art to be honoured above all, and glori- 
ous for evermore. The cruelty of the great would fain be feared; but 
who is to be feared but God alone, out of whose power what can be 
wrested or withdrawn? when, or where, or whither, or by whom? 
The tendernesses of the wanton would fain be counted love: yet is 
nothing more tender than Thy charity; nor is aught loved more 
healthfully than that Thy truth, bright and beautiful above all. 
Curiosity makes semblance of a desire of knowledge; whereas Thou 
supremely knowest all. Yea, ignorance and foolishness itself is 
cloaked under the name of simplicity and uninjuriousness; because 
nothing is found more single than Thee: and what less injurious, 
since they are his own works which injure the sinner? Yea, sloth 
would fain be at rest; but what stable rest besides the Lord? Lux- 
ury affects to be called plenty and abundance; but Thou art the 
fulness and never-failing plenteousness of incorruptible pleasures. 
Prodigality presents a shadow of liberality: but Thou art the most 
overflowing Giver of all good. Covetousness would possess many 
things: and Thou possessest all things. Envy disputes for excellency; 
what more excellent than Thou? Anger seeks revenge: who re- 
venges more justly than Thou? Fear stardes at things unwonted 
and sudden, which endanger things beloved, and takes forethought 
for their safety; but to Thee what unwonted or sudden, or who 
separateth from Thee what Thou lovest?" Or where but with Thee 
is unshaken safety? Grief pines away for things lost, the delight of 
its desires; because it would have nothing taken from it, as nothing 
can from Thee. 

Thus doth the soul commit fornication, when she turns from 
Thee, seeking without Thee, what she findeth not pure and un- 
tainted, till she returns to Thee. Thus all pervertedly imitate Thee, 
who remove far from Thee, and lift themselves up against Thee. 
But even by thus imitating Thee, they imply Thee to be the Creator 

" Rom. viii. 9. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 29 

of all nature; whence there is no place whither altogether to retire 
from Thee. What then did I love in that theft? and wherein did 
I even corruptly and pervertedly imitate my Lord ? Did I wish even 
by stealth to do contrary to Thy law, because by power I could not, 
so that being a prisoner, I might mimic a maimed liberty by doing 
with impunity things unpermitted me, a darkened likeness of Thy 
Omnipotency ? Behold, Thy servant, fleeing from his Lord, and ob- 
taining a shadow." O rottenness, O monstrousness of life, and depth 
of death! could I like what I might not, only because I might not? 

What shall I render unto the Lord,^* that, whilst my memory 
recalls these things, my soul is not affrighted at them? / will love 
Thee, O Lord, and thanl{ Thee, and confess unto Thy name; be- 
cause Thou hast forgiven me these so great and heinous deeds of 
mine. To Thy grace I ascribe it, and to Thy mercy, that Thou hast 
melted away my sins as it were ice. To Thy grace I ascribe also 
whatsoever I have not done of evil; for what might I not have done, 
who even loved a sin for its own sake? Yea, all I confess to have 
been forgiven me; both what evils I committed by own wilfulness, 
and what by Thy guidance I committed not. What man is he, who, 
weighing his own infirmity, dares to ascribe his purity and inno- 
cency to his own strength; that so he should love Thee the less, as 
if he had less needed Thy mercy, whereby Thou remittest sins to 
those that turn to Thee? For whosoever, called by Thee, followed 
Thy voice, and avoided those things which he reads me recalling and 
confessing of myself, let him not scorn me, who being sick was cured 
by that Physician, through whose aid it was that he was not, or 
rather was less, sick : and for this let him love Thee as much, yea and 
more; since by whom he sees me to have been recovered from such 
deep consumption of sin, by Him he sees himself to have been from 
the like consumption of sin preserved. 

What fruit had I then (wretched man!) in those things, of the 
remembrance whereof I am now ashamed?^'' Especially, in that theft 
which I loved for the theft's sake; and it too was nothing, and 
therefore the more miserable I, who loved it. Yet alone I had not 
done it: such was I then, I remember, alone I had never done it. I 
loved then in it also the company of the accomplices, with whom I 
did it? I did not then love nothing else but the theft, yea rather 
" lonah i., iv. " Ps. cxvi. 12. ^ Rom. m. 21. 



30 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST, AUGUSTINE 

I did love nothing else; for that circumstance of the company was 
also nothing. What is, in truth? who can teach me, save He that 
enlighteneth my heart, and discovereth its dark corners? What is 
it which hath come into my mind to enquire, and discuss, and con- 
sider? For had I then loved the pears I stole, and wished to enjoy 
them, I might have done it alone, had the bare commission of the 
theft sufficed to attain my pleasure; nor needed I have inflamed the 
itching of my desires by the excitement of accomplices. But since my 
pleasure was not in those pears, it was in the offence itself, which 
the company of fellow-sinners occasioned. 

What then was this feeling? For of a truth it was too foul: and 
woe was me, who had it. But yet what was it ? Who can understand 
his errors?^^ It was the sport, which as it were tickled our hearts, 
that we beguiled those who little thought what we were doing, and 
much disliked it. Why then was my delight of such sort that I did 
it not alone? Because none doth ordinarily laugh alone? ordinarily 
no one; yet laughter sometimes masters men alone and singly when 
no one whatever is with them, if any thing very ludicrous presents 
itself to their senses or mind. Yet I had not done this alone; alone 
I had never done it. Behold my God, before Thee, the vivid remem- 
brance of my soul; alone, I had never committed that theft wherein 
what I stole pleased me not, but that I stole; nor had it alone liked 
me to do it, nor had I done it. O friendship too unfriendly! thou 
incomprehensible inveigler of the soul, thou greediness to do mis- 
chief out of mirth and wantonness, thou thirst of others' loss, without 
lust of my own gain or revenge: but when it is said, "Let's go, let's 
do it," we are ashamed not to be shameless. 

Who can disentangle that twisted and intricate knottiness? Foul 
is it: I hate to think on it, to look on it. But Thee I long for, O 
Righteousness and Innocency, beautiful and comely to all pure eyes, 
and of a satisfaction unsating. With Thee is rest entire, and life 
imperturbable. Whoso enters into Thee, enters into the joy of his 
Lord:" and shall not fear, and shall do excellently in the All- 
Excellent. I sank away from Thee, and I wandered, O my God, too 
much astray from Thee my stay, in these days of my youth, and I 
became to myself a barren land. 

'•Ps. xix. 12. '^Matt. XXV. 21. 



THE THIRD BOOK 

His residence at Carthage from his seventeenth to his nineteenth year. 
Source of his disorders. Love of shows. Advance in studies, and 
love of wisdom. Distaste for Scripture. Led astray to the Manichst- 
ans. Refutation of some of their tenets. Grief of his mother Monnica 
at his heresy, and prayers for his conversion. Her vision from God, 
and answer through a Bishop. 

TO CARTHAGE I came, where there sang all around me in 
my ears a cauldron of unholy loves. I loved not yet, yet I 
loved to love, and out of a deep-seated want, I hated my- 
self for wanting not. I sought what I might love, in love with loving, 
and safety I hated, and a way without snares. For within me was a 
famine of that inward food. Thyself, my God; yet, through that 
famine I was not hungered; but was without all longing for incor- 
ruptible sustenance, not because filled therewith, but the more empty, 
the more I loathed it. For this cause my soul was sickly and full 
of sores, it miserably cast itself forth, desiring to be scraped by the 
touch of objects of sense. Yet if these had not a soul, they would 
not be objects of love. To love then, and to be beloved, was sweet 
to me; but more, when I obtained to enjoy the person I loved. I 
defiled, therefore, the spring of friendship with the filth of concu- 
piscence, and I beclouded its brightness with the hell of lustfulness; 
and thus foul and unseemly, I would fain, through exceeding vanity, 
be fine and courtly. I fell headlong then into the love wherein I 
longed to be ensnared. My God, my Mercy, with how much gall 
didst Thou out of Thy great goodness besprinkle for me that sweet- 
ness? For I was both beloved, and secredy arrived at the bond of 
enjoying; and was with joy fettered with sorrow-bringing bonds, 
that I might be scourged with the iron burning rods of jealousy, and 
suspicion, and fears, and angers, and quarrels. 

Stage-plays also carried me away, full of images of my miseries, 
and of fuel to my fire. Why is it, that man desires to be made sad, 
beholding doleful and tragical things, which yet himself would by 

3» 



32 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

no means suffer? yet he desires as a spectator to feel sorrow at them, 
and this very sorrow is his pleasure. What is this but a miserable 
madness.? for a man is the more affected with these actions, the less 
free he is from such affections. Howsoever, when he suffers in his 
own person, it used to be styled misery; when he compassionates 
others, then it is mercy. But what sort of compassion is this for 
feigned and scenical passions.? for the auditor is not called on to 
relieve, but only to grieve: and he applauds the actor of these fictions 
the more, the more he grieves. And if the calamities of those per- 
sons (whether of old times, or mere fiction) be so acted, that the 
spectator is not moved to tears, he goes away disgusted and criti- 
cising; but if he be moved to passion, he stays intent, and weeps 
for joy. 

Are griefs then too loved? Verily all desire joy. Or whereas no 
man likes to be miserable, is he yet pleased to be merciful? which 
because it cannot be without passion, for this reason alone are pas- 
sions loved? This also springs from that vein of friendship. But 
whither goes that vein? whither flows it? wherefore runs it into 
that torrent of pitch bubbling forth those monstrous tides of foul 
lustfulness, into which it is wilfully changed and transformed, being 
of its own will precipitated and corrupted from its heavenly clear- 
ness? Shall compassion then be put away? by no means. Be griefs 
then sometimes loved. But beware of uncleanness, O my soul, under 
the guardianship of my God, the God of our fathers, who is to be 
praised and exalted above all for ever} beware of uncleanness. For 
I have not now ceased to pity; but then in the theatres I rejoiced with 
lovers when they wickedly enjoyed one another, although this was 
imaginary only in the play. And when they lost one another, as if 
very compassionate, I sorrowed with them, yet had my delight in 
both. But now I much more pity him that rejoiceth in his wicked- 
ness, than him who is thought to suffer hardship, by hissing some 
pernicious pleasure, and the loss of some miserable felicity. This cer- 
tainly is the truer mercy, but in it grief delights not. For though 
he that grieves for the miserable, be commended for his office of 
charity; yet had he, who is genuinely compassionate, rather there 
were nothing for him to grieve for. For if good will be ill willed 
'Song of the Three Children, ver. 3. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 33 

(which can never be), then may he, who truly and sincerely com- 
miserates, wish there might be some miserable, that he might com- 
miserate. Some sorrow may then be allowed, none loved. For thus 
dost Thou, O Lord God, who lovest souls far more purely than we, 
and hast more incorruptibly pity on them, yet are wounded with 
no sorrowfulness. And who is sufficient for these things?^ 

But I, miserable, then loved to grieve, and sought out what to 
grieve at, when in another's and that feigned and personated misery, 
that acting best pleased me, and attracted me the most vehemendy, 
which drew tears from me. What marvel that an unhappy sheep 
straying from Thy flock, and impatient of Thy keeping, I became 
infected with a foul disease? And hence the love of griefs; not such 
as should sink deep into me; for I loved not to suffer, what I loved 
to look on; but such as upon hearing their fictions should lightly 
scratch the surface; upon which, as on envenomed nails, followed 
inflamed swelling, impostumes, and a putriiied sore. My life being 
such, was it life, O my God? 

And Thy faithful mercy hovered over me afar. Upon how griev- 
ous iniquities consumed I myself, pursuing a sacrilegious curiosity, 
that having forsaken Thee, it might bring me to the treacherous 
abyss, and the beguiling service of devils, to whom I sacrificed my 
evil actions, and in all these things Thou didst scourge me! I dared 
even, while Thy solemnities were celebrated within the walls of Thy 
church, to desire, and to compass a business deserving death for its 
fruits, for which Thou scourgedst me with grievous punishments, 
though nothing to my fault, O Thou my exceeding mercy, my God, 
my refuge from those terrible destroyers, among whom I wandered 
with a stiff neck, withdrawing further from Thee, loving mine own 
ways, and not Thine; loving a vagrant liberty. 

Those studies also, which were accounted commendable, had a 
view to excelling in the courts of litigation; the more bepraised, the 
craftier. Such is men's blindness, glorying even in their blind- 
ness. And now I was chief in the rhetoric school, whereat I joyed 
proudly, and I swelled with arrogancy, though (Lord, Thou know- 
est) far quieter and altogether removed from the subvertings of those 
"Subverters" (for this ill-omened and devilish name was the very 

*2 Cor. u. 16. 



34 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

badge of gallantry) among whom I lived, with a shameless shame 
that I was not even as they. With them I lived, and was sometimes 
delighted with their friendship, whose doings I ever did abhor — 
«". e., their "subvertings," wherewith they wantonly persecuted the 
modesty of strangers, which they disturbed by a gratuitous jeering, 
feeding thereon their malicious mirth. Nothing can be liker the 
very actions of devils than these. What then could they be more truly 
called than "subverters" ? themselves subverted and altogether per- 
verted first, the deceiving spirits secretly deriding and seducing them, 
wherein themselves delight to jeer at, and deceive others. 

Among such as these, in that unsetded age of mine, learned I 
books of eloquence, wherein I desired to be eminent, out of a dam- 
nable and vainglorious end, a joy in human vanity. In the ordinary 
course of study, I fell upon a certain book of Cicero, whose speech 
almost all admire, not so his heart. This book of his contains an 
exhortation to philosophy, and is called "Hortensius." But this book 
altered my affections, and turned my prayers to Thyself, O Lord; 
and made me have other purposes and desires. Every vain hope at 
once became worthless to me; and I longed with an incredibly 
burning desire for an immortality of wisdom, and began now to 
arise, that I might return to Thee. For not to sharpen my tongue 
(which thing I seemed to be purchasing with my mother's allow- 
ances, in that my nineteenth year, my father being dead two years 
before), not to sharpen my tongue did I employ that book; nor did 
it infuse into me its style, but its matter. 

How did I burn then, my God, how did I burn to re-mount from 
earthly things to Thee, nor knew 1 what Thou wouldst do with me? 
For with Thee is wisdom. But the love of wisdom is in Greek called 
"philosophy," with which that book inflamed me. Some there be 
that seduce through philosophy, under a great, and smooth, and 
honourable name colouring and disguising their own errors: and 
almost all who in that and former ages were such, are in that book 
censured and set forth: there also is made plain that wholesome 
advice of Thy Spirit, by Thy good and devout servant: Beware lest 
any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the 
tradition of men, after the rudiments of the u/orld, and not after 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 35 

Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.' 
And since at that time (Thou, O light of my heart, knowest) Apos- 
tolic Scripture was not known to me, I was delighted with that ex- 
hortation, so far only, that I was thereby strongly roused, and 
kindled, and inflamed to love, and seek, and obtain, and hold, and 
embrace not this or that sect, but wisdom itself whatever it were; 
and this alone checked me thus enkindled, that the name of Christ 
was not in it. For this name, according to Thy mercy, O Lord, this 
name of my Saviour Thy Son, had my tender heart, even with my 
mother's milk, devoutly drunk in, and deeply treasured; and what- 
soever was without that name, though never so learned, polished, or 
true, took not entire hold of me. 

I resolved then to bend my mind to the holy Scriptures, that I 
might see what they were. But behold, I see a thing not understood 
by the proud, nor laid open to children, lowly in access, in its recesses 
lofty, and veiled with mysteries; and I was not such as could enter 
into it, or stoop my neck to follow its steps. For not as I now speak, 
did I feel when I turned to those Scriptures; but they seemed to me 
unworthy to be compared to the stateliness of Tully: for my swell- 
ing pride shrunk from their lowliness, nor could my sharp wit pierce 
the interior thereof. Yet were they such as would grow up in a little 
one. But I disdained to be a litde one; and, swollen with pride, took 
myself to be a great one. 

Therefore I fell among men proudly doting, exceeding carnal and 
prating, in whose mouths were the snares of the Devil, limed 
with the mixture of the syllables of Thy name, and of our 
Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, our Com- 
forter. These names departed not out of their mouth, but so far 
forth as the sound only and the noise of the tongue, for the heart 
was void of truth. Yet they cried out "Truth, Truth," and spake 
much thereof to me, yet it was not in them:* but they spake false- 
hood, not of Thee only (who truly art Truth), but even of those 
elements of this world. Thy creatures. And I indeed ought to have 
passed by even philosophers who spake truth concerning them, for 
love of Thee, my Father, supremely good. Beauty of all things beau- 
' Col. u. 8, 9. * I John iL 4. 



36 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

tiful. O Truth, Truth, how inwardly did even then the marrow of 
my soul pant after Thee, when they often and diversly, and in many 
and huge books, echoed of Thee to me, though it was but an echo? 
And these were the dishes wherein to me, hungering after Thee, 
they, instead of Thee, served up the Sun and Moon, beautiful works 
of Thine, but yet Thy works, not Thyself, no nor Thy first works. 
For Thy spiritual works are before these corporeal works, celestial 
though they be, and shining. But I hungered and thirsted not even 
after those first works of Thine, but after Thee Thyself, the Truth, 
in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning:^ yet they 
still set before me in those dishes, glittering fantasies, than which 
better were it to love this very sun (which is real to our sight at 
least), than those fantasies which by our eyes deceive our mind. Yet 
because I thought them to be Thee, I fed thereon; not eagerly, for 
Thou didst not in them taste to me as Thou art; for Thou wast not 
these emptinesses, nor was I nourished by them, but exhausted 
rather. Food in sleep shows very like our food awake; yet are not 
those asleep nourished by it, for they are asleep. But those were not 
even any way like to Thee, as Thou hast now spoken to me; for 
those were corporeal fantasies, false bodies, than which these true 
bodies, celestial or terrestrial, which with our fleshly sight we behold, 
are far more certain: these things the beasts and birds discern as 
well as we, and they are more certain than when we fancy them. 
And again, we do with more certainty fancy them, than by them 
conjecture other vaster and infinite bodies which have no being. 
Such empty husks was I then fed on; and was not fed. But Thou, 
my soul's Love, in looking for whom I fail,' that I may become 
strong, art neither those bodies which we see, though in heaven; nor 
those which we see not there; for Thou hast created them, nor dost 
Thou account them among the chiefest of Thy works. How far 
then art Thou from those fantasies of mine, fantasies of bodies which 
altogether are not, than which the images of those bodies, which 
are, are far more certain, and more certain still the bodies themselves, 
which yet Thou art not; no, nor the soul, which is the life of the 
bodies. So then, better and more certain is the life of the bodies than 
* James L 17. 'Ps. Ixix. 3. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 37 

the bodies. But Thou art the life of souls, the life of lives, having 
life in Thyself; and changest not, life of my soul. 

Where then wert Thou then to me, and how far from me? Far 
verily was I straying from Thee, barred from the very husks of the 
swine, whom with husks I fed. For how much better are the fables 
of poets and grammarians than these snares? For verses, and poems, 
and "Medea flying," are more profitable truly than these men's five 
elements, variously disguised, answering to five dens of darkness 
which have no being, yet slay the believer. For verses and poems I 
can turn to true food, and "Medea flying," though I did sing, I main- 
tained not; though I heard it sung, I believed not: but those things 
I did believe. Woe, woe, by what steps was I brought down to the 
depths of helir toiling and turmoiling through want of Truth, since 
I sought after Thee, my God (to Thee I confess it, who hadst mercy 
on me, not as yet confessing), not according to the understanding 
by the mind, wherein Thou willedst that I should excel the beasts, 
but according to the sense of the flesh. But Thou wert more inward 
to me, than my most inward part; and higher than my highest. I 
lighted upon that bold woman, simple and kjioweth nothing, 
shadowed out in Solomon, sitting at the door, and saying. Eat ye 
bread of secrecies willingly, and drinl{ ye stolen waters which are 
sweet:* she seduced me, because she found my soul dwelling abroad 
in the eye of my flesh, and ruminating on such food as through it 
I had devoured. 

For other than this, that which really is I knew not; and was, as 
it were through sharpness of wit, persuaded to assent to foolish 
deceivers, when they asked me, "whence is evil?" "is God bounded by 
a bodily shape, and has hairs and nails?" "are they to be esteemed 
righteous who had many wives at once, and did kill men, and sacri- 
ficed living creatures?'" At which I, in my ignorance, was much 
troubled, and departing from the truth, seemed to myself to be 
making towards it; because as yet I knew not that evil was nothing 
but a privation of good, until at last a thing ceases altogether to be; 
which how should 1 see, the sight of whose eyes reached only to 
bodies, and of my mind to a phantasm? And I knew not God to 
'Prov. ix. 18. 'Prov. ix. 13-17. *l Kings xviiL 40. 



38 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

be a Spirit" not one who hath paru extended in length and 
breadth, or whose being was bulk; for every bulk is less in a part 
than in the whole: and if it be infinite, it must be less in such part 
as is defined by a certain space, than in its infinitude; and so is 
not wholly every where, as Spirit, as God. And what that should 
be in us, by which we were like to God, and might in Scripture be 
righdy said to be after the image of God,^^ I was altogether ignor- 
ant. 

Nor knew I that true inward righteousness which judgeth not 
according to custom, but out of the most rightful law of God Al- 
mighty, whereby the ways of places and times were disposed accord- 
ing to those times and places; itself meantime being the same always 
and every where, one thing in one place, and another in another; ac- 
cording to which Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and Moses, and 
David, were righteous, and all those commended by the mouth of 
God; but were judged unrighteous by silly men, judging out of 
man's judgment," and measuring by their own petty habits, the 
moral habits of the whole human race. As if in an armory, one ignor- 
ant what were adapted to each part should cover his head with 
greaves, or seek to be shod with a helmet, and complain that they 
fitted not : or as if on a day when business is publicly stopped in the 
afternoon, one were angered at not being allowed to keep open shop, 
because he had been in the forenoon; or when in one house he 
observeth some servant take a thing in his hand, which the buder 
is not suffered to meddle with; or something permitted out of doors, 
which is forbidden in the dining-room; and should be angry, that 
in one house, and one family, the same thing is not allotted every 
where, and to all. Even such are they who are fretted to hear some- 
thing to have been lawful for righteous men formerly, which now is 
not; or that God, for certain temporal respects, commanded them 
one thing, and these another, obeying both the same righteousness: 
whereas they see, in one man, and one day, and one house, different 
things to be fit for different members, and a thing formerly lawful, 
after a certain time not so; in one corner permitted or commanded, 
but in another rightly forbidden and punished. Is justice therefore 
various or mutable? No, but the times, over which it presides, flow 
" John iv. 24. " Gen. L 27. " i Cor. iv. 3. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 39 

not evenly, because they are times. But men whose days are jew 
upon the earth}^ for that by their senses they cannot harmonise the 
causes of things in former ages and other nations, which they had 
no experience of, with these which they have experience of, whereas 
in one and the same body, day, or family, they easily see what is 
fitting for each member, and season, part, and person; to the one 
they take exceptions, to the other they submit. 

These things I then knew not, nor observed; they struck my sight 
on all sides, and I saw them not. I indited verses, in which I might 
not place every foot every where, but differently in different metres; 
nor even in any one metre the self-same foot in all places. Yet the 
art itself, by which I indited, had not different principles for these 
different cases, but comprised all in one. Still I saw not how that 
righteousness, which good and holy men obeyed, did far more ex- 
cellently and sublimely contain in one all those things which God 
commanded, and in no part varied; although in varying times it 
prescribed not every thing at once, but apportioned and enjoined 
what was fit for each. And I, in my blindness, censured the holy 
Fathers, not only wherein they made use of things present as God 
commanded and inspired them, but also wherein they were fore- 
telling things to come, as God was revealing in them. 

Can it at any time or place be unjust to love God with all his 
heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind; and his neighbour 
as himself?^* Therefore are those foul offences which be against 
nature, to be every where and at all times detested and punished: 
such as were those of the men of Sodom; which should all nations 
commit, they should all stand guilty of the same crime, by the 
law of God, which hath not so made men that they should so abuse 
one another. For even that intercourse which should be between 
God and us is violated, when that same nature, of which He is 
Author, is polluted by perversity of lust. But those actions which 
are offences against the customs of men, are to be avoided accord- 
ing to the customs severally prevailing; so that a thing agreed upon, 
and confirmed, by custom or law of any city or nation, may not 
be violated at the lawless pleasure of any, whether native or for- 
eigner. For any part which harmoniseth not with its whole, is of- 
" Job xiv. I. " Man. xxii. 37-39. 



40 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

fensive. But when God commands a thing to be done, against the 
customs or compact of any people, though it were never by them 
done heretofore, it is to be done; and if intermitted, it is to be re- 
stored; and if never ordained, is now to be ordained. For lawful 
if it be for a king, in the state which he reigns over, to command 
that which no one before him, nor he himself heretofore, had com- 
manded, and to obey him cannot be against the common weal of the 
state (nay, it were against it if he were not obeyed, for to obey 
princes is a general compact of human society); how much more 
unhesitatingly ought we to obey God, in all which He commands, 
the Ruler of all His creatures! For as among the powers in man's 
society, the greater authority is obeyed in preference to the lesser, so 
must God above all. 

So in acts of violence, where there is a wish to hurt, whether 
by reproach or injury; and these either for revenge, as one enemy 
against another; or for some profit belonging to another, as the 
robber to the traveller; or to avoid some evil, as towards one who is 
feared; or through envy, as one less fortunate to one more so, or 
one well thriven in any thing, to him whose being on a par with 
himself he fears, or grieves at, or for the mere pleasure at another's 
pain, as spectators of gladiators, or deriders and mockers of others. 
These be the heads of iniquity, which spring from the lust of the 
flesh, of the eye," or of rule, either singly, or two combined, or all 
together; and so do men live ill against the three, and seven, that 
psaltery of ten strings" Thy Ten Commandments, O God, most 
high, and most sweet. But what foul offences can there be against 
Thee, who canst not be defiled? or what acts of violence against 
Thee, who canst not be harmed? But Thou avengest what men 
commit against themselves, seeing also when they sin against Thee, 
they do wickedly against their own souls, and iniquity gives itself 
the lie" by corrupting and perverting their nature, which Thou hast 
created and ordained, or by an immoderate use of things allowed, 
or in burning in things unallowed, to that use which is against 
nature;" or are found guilty, raging with heart and tongue against 
Thee, \ic\ing against the pric/^s;" or when, bursting the pale of 
human society, they boldly joy in self-willed combinations or divi- 
•' I John ii. i6. "Ps. cxiiv. 9. "Ps. xxvi. 12. — Vulg. "Rom. i. "Actsix. 5. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 4 1 

sions, according as they have any object to gain or subject of offence. 
And these things are done when Thou art forsaken, O Fountain of 
Life, who art the only and true Creator and Governor of the Uni- 
verse, and by a self-willed pride, any one false thing is selected 
therefrom and loved. So then by a humble devoutness we return 
to Thee; and Thou cleansest us from our evil habits, and art merci- 
ful to their sins who confess, and hearest the groaning of the pris- 
oner,"' and loosest us from the chains which we made for ourselves, 
if we lift not up against Thee the horns of an unreal liberty, suffer- 
ing the loss of all through covetousness of more, by loving more our 
own private good than Thee, the Good of all. 

Amidst these offences of foulness and violence, and so many in- 
iquities, are sins of men, who are on the whole making proficiency; 
which by those that judge rightly, are, after the rule of perfection, 
discommended, yet the persons commended, upon hope of future 
fruit, as in the green blade of growing corn. And there are some, 
resembling offences of foulness or violence, which yet are no sins; 
because they offend neither Thee, our Lord God, nor human so- 
ciety; when, namely, things fitting for a given period are obtained 
for the service of life, and we know not whether out of a lust of 
having; or when things are, for the sake of correction, by consti- 
tuted authority punished, and we know not whether out of a lust of 
hurting. Many an action then which in men's sight is disapproved, 
is by Thy testimony approved; and many, by men praised are (Thou 
being witness) condemned: because the show of the action, and 
the mind of the doer, and the unknown exigency of the period, 
severally vary. But when Thou on a sudden commandest an un- 
wonted and unthought of thing, yea, although Thou hast sometime 
forbidden it, and still for the time hidest the reason of Thy com- 
mand, and it be against the ordinance of some society of men, who 
doubts but it is to be done, seeing that society of men is just which 
serves Thee? But blessed are they who know Thy commands! For 
all things were done by Thy servants; either to show forth some- 
thing needful for the present, or to foreshow things to come. 

These things I being ignorant of, scoffed at those Thy holy serv- 
ants and prophets. And what gained I by scoffing at them, but to be 

"Ps. cii. 20. 



42 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

scoffed at by Thee, being insensibly and step by step drawn on to 
those follies, as to believe that a fig-tree wept when it was plucked, 
and the tree, its mother, shed milky tears? Which fig notwith- 
standing (plucked by some other's, not his own, guilt) had some 
(Manichxan) saint eaten, and mingled with his bowels, he should 
breathe out of it angels, yea, there shall burst forth particles of 
divinity, at every moan or groan in his prayer, which particles of 
the most high and true God had remained bound in that fig, unless 
they had been set at liberty by the teeth or belly of some "Elect" 
saint! And I, miserable, believed that more mercy was to be shown 
to the fruits of the earth than men, for whom they were created. 
For if any one an hungered, not a Manichaean, should ask for any, 
that morsel would seem as it were condemned to capital punishment, 
which should be given him. 

And Thou sentest Thine hand from abovc^^ and drewest my soul 
out of that profound darkness, my mother, thy faithful one, weeping 
to Thee for me, more than mothers weep the bodily deaths of their 
children. For she, by that faith and spirit which she had from 
Thee, discerned the death wherein I lay, and Thou heardest her, O 
Lord; Thou heardest her, and despisedst not her tears, when stream- 
ing down, they watered the ground under her eyes in every place 
where she prayed, yea Thou heardest her. For whence was that 
dream whereby Thou comfortedst her; so that she allowed me to 
live with her, and to eat at the same table in the house, which she 
had begun to shrink from, abhorring and detesting the blasphemies 
of my error ? For she saw herself standing on a certain wooden rule, 
and a shining youth coming towards her, cheerful and smiling upon 
her, herself grieving, and overwhelmed with grief. But he having 
(in order to instruct, as is their wont not to be instructed) enquired 
of her the causes of her grief and daily tears, and she answering that 
she was bewailing my perdition, he bade her rest contented, and 
told her to look and observe, "That where she was, there was I 
also." And when she looked, she saw me standing by her in the 
same rule. Whence was this, but that Thine ears were towards her 
heart? O Thou Good omnipotent, who so carest for every one of 

" Pi, cxliv. 7. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 43 

US, as if Thou caredst for him only; and so for all, as if they were 
but one! 

Whence was this also, that when she had told me this vision, 
and I would fain bend it to mean, "That she rather should not 
despair of being one day what I was;" she presently, without 
any hesitation, replies: "No; for it was not told me that, 'where he, 
there thou also;' but 'where thou, there he also'"? I confess to 
Thee, O Lord, that to the best of my remembrance (and I have oft 
spoken of this), that Thy answer, through my waking mother, — 
that she was not perplexed by the plausibility of my false interpre- 
tation, and so quickly saw what was to be seen, and which I cer- 
tainly had not perceived before she spake, — even then moved me 
more than the dream itself, by which a joy to the holy woman, to be 
fulfilled so long after, was, for the consolation of her present an- 
guish, so long before foresignified. For almost nine years passed, in 
which I wallowed in the mire of that deep pit, and the darkness 
of falsehood, often assaying to rise, but dashed down the more 
grievously. All which time that chaste, godly and sober widow 
(such as Thou lovest), now more cheered with hope, yet no whit 
relaxing in her weeping and mourning, ceased not at all hours of 
her devotions to bewail my case unto Thee. And her prayers entered 
into Thy presence;" and yet Thou sufferest me to be yet involved 
and reinvolved in that darkness. 

Thou gavest her meantime another answer, which I call to mind; 
for much I pass by, hasting to those things which more press me to 
confess unto Thee, and much I do not remember. Thou gavest her 
then another answer, by a Priest of Thine, a certain Bishop brought 
up in Thy Church, and well studied in Thy books. Whom when 
this woman had entreated to vouchsafe to converse with me, refute 
my errors, unteach me ill things, and teach me good things (for 
this he was wont to do, when he found f)ersons fitted to receive it), 
he refused, wisely, as I afterwards perceived. For he answered, that 
I was yet unteachable, being puffed up with the novelty of that 
heresy, and had already perplexed divers unskilful persons with 
captious questions, as she had told him : "but let him alone a while" 

**P$. Ixxxviii. I. 



44 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

(saith he), "only pray God for him, he will of himself by reading 
find what that error is, and how great its impiety." At the same 
time he told her, how himself, when a Utile one, had by his se- 
duced mother been consigned over to the Manichees, and had not 
only read, but frequendy copied out almost all, their books, and had 
(without any argument or proof from any one) seen how much that 
sect was to be avoided; and had avoided it. Which when he had 
said, and she would not be satisfied, but urged him more, with 
entreaties and many tears, that he would see me and discourse with 
me; he, a little displeased at her importunity, saith ,"Go thy ways, 
and God bless thee, for it is not possible that the son of these tears 
should perish." Which answer she took (as she often mentioned 
in her conversations with me) as if it had sounded from Heaven. 



THE FOURTH BOOK 

Augustine's life from nineteen to eight-and-twenty; himself a Mani- 
chzan, and seducing others to the same heresy; partial obedience 
amidst vanity and sin, consulting astrologers, only partially shaken 
herein; loss of an early friend, who is converted by being baptised 
when in a swoon; reflections on grief, on real and unreal friendship, 
and love of fame; writes on "the fair and fit," yet cannot rightly, 
though God had given him great talents, since he entertained wrong 
notions of God; and so even his knowledge he applied ill. 

FOR this space of nine years then (from my nineteenth year to 
my eight-and-twentieth) we lived seduced and seducing, de- 
ceived and deceiving, in divers lusts; openly, by sciences 
which they call liberal; secretly, with a false-named religion; here 
proud, there superstitious, every where vain! Here, hunting after 
the emptiness of popular praise, down even to theatrical applauses, 
and poetic prizes, and strifes for grassy garlands, and the follies of 
shows, and the intemperance of desires. There, desiring to be 
cleansed from these defilements, by carrying food to those who were 
called "elect" and "holy," out of which, in the workhouse of their 
stomachs, they should forge for us Angels and Gods, by whom we 
might be cleansed. These things did I follow, and practise with my 
friends, deceived by me, and with me. Let the arrogant mock me, 
and such as have not been, to their soul's health, stricken and cast 
down by Thee, O my God; but I would still confess to Thee mine 
own shame in Thy praise. Suffer me, I beseech Thee, and give me 
grace to go over in my present remembrance the wanderings of my 
forepassed time, and to offer unto Thee the sacrifice of than){Sgiv- 
ing} For what am I to myself without Thee, but a guide to mine 
own downfall? or what am I even at the best, but an infant sucking 
the milk Thou givest, and feeding upon Thee, the food that perish- 
eth not?^ But what sort of man is any man, seeing he is but a man ? 
Let now the strong and the mighty laugh at us, but let us poor and 
need'/ confess unto Thee. 

'Ps. xlix. 14. 'John vi. 27. 'Ps. Ixxiii. 31. 
45 



46 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

In those years I taught rhetoric, and, overcome by cupidity, made 
sale of a loquacity to overcome by. Yet I preferred (Lord, Thou 
knowest) honest scholars (as they are accounted), and these I, with- 
out artifice, taught artifices, not to be practised against the life of 
the guiltless, though sometimes for the life of the guilty. And 
Thou, O God, from afar perceivedst me stumbling in that slippery 
course, and amid much smoke sending out some sparks of faith- 
fulness, which I showed in that my guidance of such as loved 
vanity, and sought after leasing* myself their companion. In those 
years I had one, — not in that which is called lawful marriage, but 
whom I had found out in a wayward passion, void of understand- 
ing; yet but one, remaining faithful even to her; in whom I in my 
own case experienced what difference there is betwixt the self- 
restraint of the marriage-covenant, for the sake of issue, and the 
bargain of a lustful love, where children are born against their 
parents' will, although, once born, they constrain love. 

I remember also, that when I had settled to enter the lists for a 
theatrical prize, some wizard asked me what I would give him to 
win; but I, detesting and abhorring such foul mysteries, answered, 
"Though the garland were of imp)erishable gold, I would not suffer 
a fly to be killed to gain me it." For he was to kill some living 
creatures in his sacrifices, and by those honours to invite the devils 
to favour me. But this ill also I rejected, not out of a pure love for 
Thee, O God of my heart; for I knew not how to love Thee, who 
knew not how to conceive aught beyond a material brightness. And 
doth not a soul, sighing after such fictions, commit fornication 
against Thee, trust in things unreal, and feed the wind?^ Still I 
would not forsooth have sacrifices offered to devils for me, to whom 
I was sacrificing myself by that superstition. For what else is it to 
feed the wind, but to feed them, that is, by going astray to become 
their pleasure and derision? 

Those impostors then, whom they style Mathematicians, I con- 
sulted without scruple; because they seemed to use no sacrifice, nor 
to pray to any spirit for their divinations: which art, however. 
Christian and true piety consistently rejects and condemns. For, it is 
a good thing to confess unto Thee, and to say. Have mercy upon 
*li. xlii. y, Matt. xii. 20; P(, iv, 3. 'Hoc. sii i. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 47 

me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee^ and not to abuse 
Thy mercy for a license to sin, but to remember the Lord's word^ 
Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing come 
unto thee! All which wholesome advice they labour to destroy, 
saying, "The cause of thy sin is inevitably determined in heaven;" 
and "This did Venus, or Saturn, or Mars:" that man, forsooth, flesK 
and blood, and proud corruption, might be blameless; while the 
Creator and Ordainer of heaven and the stars is to bear the blame. 
And who is He but our God ? the very sweetness and well-spring of 
righteousness, who renderest to every man according to his wor\s: 
and a broken and contrite heart wilt Thou not despise? 

There was in those days a wise man, very skilful in physic, and 
renowned therein, who had with his own proconsular hand put the 
Agonistic garland upon my distempered head, but not as a phy- 
sician : for this disease Thou only curest, who resistest the proud, and 
givest grace to the humble* But didst Thou fail me even by that 
old man, or forbear to heal my soul? For having become more ac- 
quainted with him, and hanging assiduously and fixedly on his 
speech (for though in simple terms, it vras vivid, lively, and ear- 
nest), when he had gathered by my discourse that I was given to 
the books of nativity-casters, he kindly and fatherly advised me to 
cast them away, and not fruitlessly bestow a care and diligence, nec- 
essary for useful things, upon these vanities; saying, that he had in 
his earliest years studied that art, so as to make it the profession 
whereby he should live, and that, understanding Hippocrates, he 
could soon have understood such a study as this; and yet he had 
given it over, and taken to physic, for no other reason but that he 
found it utterly false; and he, a grave man, would not get his living 
by deluding people. "But thou," saith he, "hast rhetoric to maintain 
thyself by, so that thou followest this of free choice, not of neces- 
sity: the more then oughtest thou to give me credit herein, who 
laboured to acquire it so perfecdy as to get my living by it alone." 
Of whom when I had demanded, how then could many true things 
be foretold by it, he answered me (as he could) "that the force of 
chance, diffused throughout the whole order of things, brought 

•Ps. xli. 4. 'John V. 14. 'Rom. iL 6; Matt. xvL 27; Ps. IL 17. 
• 1 Pet. V. 5; ]am. iv. 6. 



48 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

this about. For if when a man by haphazard opens the pages of some 
poet, who sang and thought of something wholly different, a verse 
oftentimes fell out, wondrously agreeable to the present business: 
it were not to be wondered at, if out of the soul of man, unconscious 
what takes place in it, by some higher instinct an answer should be 
given, by hap, not by art, corresponding to the business and actions 
of the demander." 

And thus much, either from or through him. Thou conveyedst to 
me, and tracedst in my memory, what I might hereafter examine for 
myself. But at that time neither he, nor my dearest Nebridius, a 
youth singularly good and of a holy fear, who derided the whole body 
of divination, could persuade me to cast it aside, the authority of the 
authors swaying me yet more, and as yet I had found no certain 
proof (such as I sought) whereby it might without all doubt appear, 
that what had been truly foretold by those consulted was the result 
of haphazard, not of the art of the star-gazers. 

In those years when I first began to teach rhetoric in my native 
town, I had made one my friend, but too dear to me, from a com- 
munity of pursuits, of mine own age, and, as myself, in the first 
opening flower of youth. He had grown up a child with me, and 
we had been both school-fellows and play-fellows. But he was not 
yet my friend as afterwards, nor even then, as true friendship is; 
for true it cannot be, unless in such as Thou cementest together, 
cleaving unto Thee, by that love which is shed abroad in our hearts 
by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.^" Yet was it but too 
sweet, ripened by the warmth of kindred studies: for, from the true 
faith (which he as a youth had not soundly and thoroughly im- 
bibed), I had warped him also to those superstitious and pernicious 
fables, for which my mother bewailed me. With me he now erred 
in mind, nor could my soul be without him. But behold Thou wert 
close on the steps of Thy fugitives, at once God of vengeance," and 
Fountain of mercies, turning us to Thyself by wonderful means; 
Thou tookest that man out of this life, when he had scarce filled 
up one whole year of my friendship, sweet to me above all sweetness 
of that my life. 

Who can recount all Thy praises,^* which he hath felt in his one 
"Rom. V. 5. "P«. xciv. i. "P». cvL a. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 49 

self? What diddest Thou then, my God, and how unsearchable is 
the abyss of Thy judgments?" For long, sore sick of a fever, he lay 
senseless in a death-sweat; and his recovery being despaired of, he 
was baptised, unknowing; myself meanwhile litde regarding, and 
presuming that his soul would retain rather what it had received 
of me, not what was wrought on his unconscious body. But it 
proved far otherwise; for he was refreshed, and restored. Forthwith, 
as soon as I could speak with him (and I could, so soon as he was 
able, for 1 never left him, and we hung but too much upon each 
other), I essayed to jest with him, as though he would jest with me 
at that baptism which he had received, when utterly absent in mind 
and feeling, but had now understood that he had received. But he 
so shrunk from me, as from an enemy; and with a wonderful and 
sudden freedom bade me, as I would continue his friend, forbear 
such language to him. I, all astonished and amazed, suppressed all 
my emotions till he should grow well, and his health were strong 
enough for me to deal with him as I would. But he was taken 
away from my frenzy, that with Thee he might be preserved for my 
comfort; a few days after, in my absence, he was attacked again by 
the fever, and so departed. 

At this grief my heart was utterly darkened; and whatever I be- 
held was death. My native country was a torment to me, and my 
father's house a strange unhappiness; and whatever I had shared 
with him, wanting him, became a distracting torture. Mine eyes 
sought him every where, but he was not granted them; and I hated 
all places, for that they had not him; nor could they now tell me, 
"he is coming," as when he was alive and absent. I became a great 
riddle to myself, and I asked my soul, why she was so sad, and why 
she disquieted me sorely:'* but she knew not what to answer me. 
And if I said, Trust in God, she very righdy 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 trust in. Only 
tears were sweet to me, for they succeeded my friend, in the dearest 
of my affections. 

And now. Lord, these things are passed by, and time hath as- 
suaged my wound. May I learn from Thee, who art Truth, and 
" Ps. xxxvL 2. " Ps. xliL 5. 



50 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

approach the ear of my heart unto Thy mouth, that Thou mayest 
tell me why weeping is sweet to the miserable? Hast Thou, al- 
though present every where, cast away our misery far from Thee? 
And Thou abidest in Thyself, but we are tossed about in divers 
trials. And yet unless we mourned in Thine ears, we should have 
no hope left. Whence then is sweet fruit gathered from the bitter- 
ness of life, from groaning, tears, sighs, and complaints? Doth this 
sweeten it, that we hope Thou hearest? This is true of prayer, for 
therein is a longing to approach unto Thee. But is it also in grief 
for a thing lost, and the sorrow wherewith I was then overwhelmed? 
For I neither hoped he should return to life nor did I desire this 
with my tears; but I wept only and grieved. For I was miserable, 
and had lost my joy. Or is weeping indeed a bitter thing, and for 
very loathing of the things which we before enjoyed, does it then, 
when we shrink from them, please us? 

But what speak I of these things? for now is no time to ques- 
tion, but to confess unto Thee. Wretched I was; and wretched is 
every soul bound by the friendship of perishable things; he is torn 
asunder when he loses them, and then he feels the wretchedness 
which he had ere yet he lost them. So was it then with me; I wept 
most bitterly, and found my repose in bitterness. Thus was I 
wretched, and that wretched life I held dearer than my friend. For 
though I would willingly have changed it, yet was I more unwilling 
to part with it than with him; yea, I know not whether I would 
have parted with it even for him, as is related (if not feigned) of 
Pylades and Orestes, that they would gladly have died for each other 
or together, not to live together being to them worse than death. 
But in me there had arisen some unexplained feeling, too contrary 
to this, for at once I loathed exceedingly to live and feared to die. 
I suppose, the more I loved him, the more did I hate, and fear (as 
a most cruel enemy) death, which had bereaved me of him: and I 
imagined it would speedily make an end of all men, since it had 
power over him. Thus was it with me, I remember. Behold my 
heart, O my God, behold and see into me; for well I remember it, 
O my Hope, who deansest me from the impurity of such affections, 
directing mine eyes towards Thee, and plucf^ing my feet out of the 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 5I 

snare}* For I wondered that others, subject to death, did live, since 
he whom I loved, as if he should never die, was dead; and I won- 
dered yet more that myself, who was to him a second self, could live, 
he being dead. Well said one of his friend, "Thou half of my soul;" 
for I felt that my soul and his soul were "one soul in two bodies:" 
and therefore was my life a horror to me, because I would not live 
halved. And therefore perchance I feared to die, lest he whom I 
had much loved should die wholly. 

O madness, which knowest not how to love men, like men! O 
foolish man that 1 then was, enduring impatiently the lot of man! 
I fretted then, sighed, wept, was distracted; had neither rest nor 
counsel. For I bore about a shattered and bleeding soul, impatient 
of being borne by me, yet where to repose it, 1 found not. Not in 
calm groves, not in games and music, nor in fragrant spots, nor in 
curious banquetings, nor in the pleasures of the bed and the couch; 
nor (finally) in books or [xjesy, found it repose. All things looked 
ghastly, yea, the very light; whatsoever was not what he was, was 
revolting and hateful, except groaning and tears. For in those alone 
found I a little refreshment. But when my soul was withdrawn 
from them a huge load of misery weighed me down. To Thee, O 
Lord, it ought to have been raised, for Thee to lighten; I knew it; 
but neither could nor would; the more, since, when I thought of 
Thee, Thou wert not to me any solid or substantial thing. For 
Thou wert not Thyself, but a mere phantom, and my error was my 
God. If I offered to discharge my load thereon, that it might rest, 
it glided through the void, and came rushing down again on me; 
and I had remained to myself a hapless spot, where I could neither 
be, nor be from thence. For whither should my heart flee from my 
heart? Whither should I flee from myself? Whither not follow 
myself? And yet I fled out of my country; for so should mine 
eyes less look for him, where they were not wont to see him. And 
thus from Thagaste, I came to Carthage. 

Times lose no time; nor do they roll idly by; through our senses 
they work strange operations on the mind. Behold, they went and 
came day by day, and by coming and going, introduced into my 

**P». XXV. 14. 



52 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

mind other imaginations and other remembrances; and little by 
little patched me up again with my old kind of delights, unto which 
that my sorrow gave way. And yet there succeeded, not indeed other 
griefs, yet the causes of other griefs. For whence had that former 
grief so easily reached my very inmost soul, but that I had poured 
out my soul upon the dust, in loving one that must die, as if he 
would never die? For what restored and refreshed me chiefly was 
the solaces of other friends, with whom I did love, what instead of 
Thee I loved; and this was a great fable, and protracted lie, by whose 
adulterous stimulus, our soul, which lay itching in our ears, was 
being defiled. But that fable would not die to me, so oft as any of 
my friends died. There were other things which in them did more 
take my mind; to talk and jest together, to do kind offices by turns; 
to read together honied books; to play the fool or be earnest to- 
gether; to dissent at times without discontent, as a man might with 
his own self; and even with the seldomness of these dissentings, to 
season our more frequent consentings; sometimes to teach, and some- 
times learn; long for the absent with impatience; and welcome the 
coming with joy. These and the like expressions, proceeding out of 
the hearts of those that loved and were loved again, by the counte- 
nance, the tongue, the eyes, and a thousand pleasing gestures, were 
so much fuel to melt our souls together, and out of many make but 
one. 

This is it that is loved in friends; and so loved, that a man's con- 
science condemns itself, if he love not him that loves him again, 
or love not again him that loves him, looking for nothing from his 
person but indications of his love. Hence that mourning, if one die, 
and darkenings of sorrows, that steeping of the heart in tears, all 
sweetness turned to bitterness; and upon the loss of life of the dy- 
ing, the death of the living. Blessed whoso loveth Thee, and his 
friend in Thee, and his enemy for Thee. For he alone loses none 
dear to him, to whom all are dear in Him who cannot be lost. 
And who is this but our God, the God that made heaven and earth, 
and filleth them^* because by filling them He created them? Thee 
none loseth, but who leaveth. And who leaveth Thee, whither goeth 
or whither fleeth he, but from Thee well-pleased, to Thee displeased ? 
"Gen. ii. 24; Jer. xxiii. 24. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 53 

For where doth he not find Thy law in his own punishment? And 
Thy law is truth," and truth Thou. 

Turn us, God of Hosts, show us Thy countenance, and we 
shall be whole^ For whithersoever the soul o£ man turns itself, 
unless towards Thee, it i,s riveted upon sorrows, yea though it is 
riveted on things beautiful. And yet they, out of Thee, and out of 
the soul, were not, unless they were from Thee. They rise, and 
set; and by rising, they begin as it were to be; they grow, that they 
may be perfected; and perfected, they wax old and wither; and all 
grow not old, but all wither. So then when they rise and tend to 
be, the more quickly they grow that they may be, so much the more 
they haste not to be. This is the law of them. Thus much hast 
Thou allotted them, because they are portions of things, which exist 
not all at once, but by passing away and succeeding, they together 
complete that universe, whereof they are portions. And even thus is 
our speech completed by signs giving forth a sound: but this again 
is not perfected unless one word pass away when it hath sounded 
its part, that another may succeed. Out of all these things let my 
soul praise Thee, O God, Creator of all; yet let not my soul be 
riveted unto these things with the glue of love, through the senses 
of the body. For they go whither they were to go, that they might 
not be; and they rend her with pestilent longings, because she longs 
to be, yet loves to repose in what she loves. But in these things 
is no place of repose; they abide not, they flee; and who can follow 
them with the senses of the flesh? yea, who can grasp them, when 
they are hard by? For the sense of the flesh is slow, because it is 
the sense of the flesh; and thereby is it bounded. It sufficeth; for 
that it was made for; but it sufficeth not to stay things running their 
course from their appointed starting-place to the end appointed. 
For in Thy Word, by which they are created, they hear their decree, 
"hence and hitherto." 

Be not foolish, O my soul, nor become deaf in the ear of thine 
heart with the tumult of thy folly. Hearken thou too. The Word 
itself calleth thee to return: and there is the place of rest imperturb- 
able, where love is not forsaken, if itself forsaketh not. Behold, 
these things pass away, that others may replace them, and so this 
"Ps. cxix. 142; ]ohn xiv. 6. "Ps. Ixxx. 19. 



54 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

lower universe be completed by all his parts. But do I depart any 
whither? saith the Word of God. There fix thy dwelling, trust 
there whatsoever thou hast thence, O my soul, at least now thou art 
tired out with vanities. Entrust Truth, whatsoever thou hast from 
the Truth, and thou shalt lose nothing; and thy decay shall bloom 
again, and all thy diseases be healed,^' and thy mortal parts be re- 
formed and renewed, and bound around thee: nor shall they lay 
thee whither themselves descend; but they shall stand fast with 
thee, and abide for ever before God, a^ho abideth and standeth fast 
jor every 

Why then be perverted and follow thy flesh.? Be it converted 
and follow thee. Whatever by her thou hast sense of, is in part; 
and the whole, whereof these are parts, thou knowest not, and yet 
they delight thee. But had the sense of thy flesh a capacity for com- 
prehending the whole, and not itself also, for thy punishment, been 
jusdy restricted to a part of the whole, thou wouldest, that whatso- 
ever existeth at this present, should pass away, that so the whole 
might better please thee. For what we speak also, by the same sense 
of the flesh thou hearest; yet wouldest not thou have the syllables 
stay, but fly away, that others may come, and thou hear the whole. 
And so ever, when any one thing is made up of many, all of which 
do not exist together, all collectively would please more than they 
do severally, could all be perceived collectively. But far better than 
these is He who made all; and He is our God, nor doth He pass 
away, for neither doth aught succeed Him. 

If bodies please thee, praise God on occasion of them, and turn 
back thy love upon their Maker; lest in these things which please 
thee, thou displease. If souls please thee, be they loved in God: for 
they too are mutable, but in Him are they firmly stablished; else 
would they pass, and pass away. In Him then be they beloved; and 
carry unto Him along with thee what souls thou canst, and say to 
them, "Him let us love, Him let us love: He made these, nor is 
He far off. For He did not make them, and so depart, but they are 
of Him, and in Him. See there He is, where truth is loved. He is 
within the very heart, yet hath the heart strayed from Him. Go 
bacl( into your heart, ye transgressors, and cleave fast to Him that 
i*Ps. ciiL 3. *" I Pet. L 33. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 55 

made you. Stand with Him, and ye shall stand fast. Rest in Him, 
and ye shall be at rest. Whither go ye in rough ways? Whither go 
ye? The good that you love is from Him; but it is good and 
pleasant through reference to Him, and justly shall it be embittered, 
because unjusdy is anything loved which is from Him, if He be 
forsaken for it. To what end then would ye still and still walk 
these difficult and toilsome ways? There is no rest, where ye seek 
it. Seek what ye seek; but it is not there where ye seek. Ye seek 
a blessed life in the land of death; it is not there. For how should 
there be a blessed life where life itself is not?" 

"But our true Life came down hither, and bore our death, and 
slew him, out of the abundance of His own life: and He thundered, 
calling aloud to us to return hence to Him into that secret place, 
whence He came forth to us, first into the virgin's womb, wherein 
he espoused the human creation, our mortal flesh, that it might not 
be for ever mortal, and thence lil{e a bridegroom coming out of his 
chamber, rejoicing as a giant to run his course}^ For He lingered not, 
but ran, calling aloud by words, deeds, death, life, descent, ascension; 
crying aloud to us to return unto Him. And He departed from our 
eyes, that we might return into our heart, and there find Him. For 
He departed, and lo. He is here. He would not be long with us, yet 
left us not; for He departed thither, whence He never parted, be- 
cause the world was made by Him" And in this world He was, and 
into this world He came to save sinners}^ unto whom my soul con- 
fesseth, and He healeth it, for it hath sinned against Him.^* O ye 
sons of men, how long so slow of heart?^^ Even now, after the 
descent of Life to you, will ye not ascend and live? But whither 
ascend ye, when ye are on high, and set your mouth against the 
heavens?^ Descend, that ye may ascend, and ascend to God. For 
ye have fallen, by ascending against Him." Tell them this, that they 
may weep in the valley of tears" and so carry them up with thee 
unto God; because out of His Spirit thou speakest thus unto them, 
if thou speakest, burning with the fire of charity. 

These things I then knew not, and I loved these lower beauties, 
and I was sinking to the very depths, and to my friends I said, "Do 

"Ps. Jtu. 5. ''John L 10. » I Tun. i. 15. "Ps. xli. 4. "Ps. iv. 3^-Vulg. 
» Ps. btxiii. 9. " Pj. Uxxiv. 6. 



56 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

we love any thing but the beautiful? What then is the beautiful? 
and what is beauty? What is it that attracts and wins us to the 
things we love? for unless there were in them a grace and beauty, 
they could by no means draw us unto them," And I marked and 
perceived that in bodies themselves, there was a beauty, from their 
forming a sort of whole, and again, another from apt and mutual 
correspondence, as of a part of the body with its whole, or a shoe 
with a foot, and the like. And this consideration sprang up in my 
mind, out of my inmost heart, and I wrote "on the fair and fit," I 
think, two or three books. Thou knowest, O Lord, for it is gone 
from me; for I have them not, but they are strayed from me, I 
know not how. 

But what moved me, O Lord my God, to dedicate these books 
unto Hierius, an orator of Rome, whom I knew not by face, but 
loved for the fame of his learning which was eminent in him, and 
some words of his I had heard, which pleased me? But more did 
he please me, for that he pleased others, who highly extolled him, 
amazed that out of a Syrian, first instructed in Greek eloquence, 
should afterwards be formed a wonderful Latin orator, and one 
most learned in things pertaining unto philosophy. One is com- 
mended, and, unseen, he is loved: doth this love enter the heart of 
the hearer from the mouth of the commender? Not so. But by 
one who loveth is another kindled. For hence he is loved who is 
commended, when the commender is believed to extol him with 
an unfeigned heart; that is, when one that loves him praises him. 

For so did I then love men, upon the judgment of men, not 
Thine, O my God, in whom no man is deceived. But yet why not 
for qualities, like those of a famous charioteer, or fighter with the 
beasts in the theatre, known far and wide by a vulgar popularity, 
but far otherwise, and earnestly, and so as I would be myself com- 
mended? For I would not be commended or loved, as actors are 
(though I myself did commend and love them), but had rather be 
unknown, than so known; and even hated, than so loved. Where 
now are the impulses to such various and divers kinds of loves laid 
up in one soul? Why, since we are equally men, do I love in an- 
other what, if I did not hate, I should not spurn and cast from my- 
self? For it holds not, that as a good horse is loved by him, who 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 57 

would not, though he might, be that horse, therefore the same may 
be said of an actor, who shares our nature. Do I then love in a man, 
what I hate to be, who am a man? Man himself is a great deep, 
whose very hairs Thou numberest, O Lord, and they jail not to the 
ground without TheeJ^ And yet are the hairs of his head easier 
to be numbered than are his feelings, and the beatings of his 
heart. 

But that orator was of that sort whom I loved, as wishing to be 
myself such; and I erred through a swelling pride, and was tossed 
about with every wind,^ but yet was steered by Thee, though very 
secredy. And whence do I know, and whence do I confidently con- 
fess unto Thee, that I had loved him more for the love of his com- 
menders, than for the very things for which he was commended? 
Because, had he been unpraised, and these self-same men had dis- 
praised him, and with dispraise and contempt told the very same 
things of him, I had never been so kindled and excited to love him. 
And yet the things had not been other, nor he himself other; but 
only the feelings of the relators. See where the impotent soul lies 
along, that is not yet stayed up by the solidity of truth! Just as the 
gales of tongues blow from the breast of the opinionative, so is it 
carried this way and that, driven forward and backward, and the 
light is overclouded to it, and the truth unseen. And lo, it is before 
us. And it was to me a great matter, that my discourse and labours 
should be known to that man : which should he approve, I were the 
more kindled, but if he disapproved, my empty heart, void of Thy 
solidity, had been wounded. And yet the "fair and fit," whereon I 
wrote to him, I dwelt on with pleasure, and surveyed it, and admired 
it, though none joined therein. 

But I saw not yet, whereon this weighty matter turned in Thy 
wisdom, O Thou Omnipotent, who only doest wonders;^ and my 
mind ranged through corporeal forms; and "fair," I defined and 
distinguished what is so in itself, and "fit," whose beauty is in cor- 
respondence to some other thing: and this I supported by corporeal 
examples. And 1 turned to the nature of the mind, but the false 
notion which I had of spiritual things, let me not see the truth. Yet 
the force of truth did of itself flash into mine eyes, and I turned 
"Matt. X. 39, 30. **Eph. iv. 14. *•?$. cvL 4. 



58 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

away my panting soul from incorporeal substance to lineaments, and 
colours, and bulky magnitudes. And not being able to see these in 
the mind, I thought I could not see my mind. And whereas in vir- 
tue I loved peace, and in viciousness 1 abhorred discord; in the first 
I observed a unity, but in the other, a sort of division. And in that 
unity I conceived the rational soul, and the nature of truth and of 
the chief good to consist; but in this division I miserably imagined 
there to be some unknown substance of irrational life, and the na- 
ture of the chief evil, which should not only be a substance, but 
real life also, and yet not derived from Thee, O my God, of whom 
are all things. And yet that first I called a Monad, as it had been a 
soul without sex; but the latter a Duad; — anger, in deeds of violence, 
and in flagitiousness, lust; not knowing whereof I spake. For I had 
not known or learned that neither was evil a substance, nor our 
soul that chief and unchangeable good. 

For as deeds of violence arise, if that emotion of the soul be cor- 
rupted, whence vehement action springs, stirring itself insolendy 
and unrulily; and lusts, when that affection of the soul is ungov- 
erned, whereby carnal pleasures are drunk in, so do errors and false 
opinions defile the conversation, if the reasonable soul itself be cor- 
rupted; as it was then in me, who knew not that it must be enlight- 
ened by another light, that it may be partaker of truth, seeing itself 
is not that nature of truth. For Thou shall light my candle, Lord 
my God, Thou shall enlighten my darl{^ness:^^ and of Thy fulness 
have we all received, for Thou art the true light that lighteth every 
man that cometh into the world;" for in Thee there is no variable- 
ness, neither shadow of changed 

But I pressed towards Thee, and was thrust from Thee, that I 
might taste of death: for thou resistest the proud^ But what 
prouder, than for me with a strange madness to maintain myself to 
be that by nature which Thou art? For whereas I was subject to 
change (so much being manifest to me, my very desire to become 
wise, being the wish, of worse to become better), yet chose I rather 
to imagine Thee subject to change, than myself not to be that 
which Thou art. Therefore I was repelled by Thee, and Thou re- 
sistedst my vain stiff-neckedness, and I imagined corporeal forms, 

" Ps. xviii. 28. "John i. 16, 9. "Jam. i. 17. '* 1 Pet v. 5; Jam. iv. 6. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 59 

and, myself flesh, I accused flesh; and, a wind that passeth away, 
I returned not^ to Thee, but I passed on and on to things which 
have no being, neither in Thee, nor in me, nor in the body. Neither 
were they created for me by Thy truth, but by my vanity devised 
out of things corporeal. And I was wont to ask Thy faithful litde 
ones, my fellow<itizens (from whom, unknown to myself, I stood 
exiled), I was wont, prating and foolishly, to ask them, "Why then 
doth the soul err which God created?" But I would not be asked, 
"Why then doth God err?" And I maintained that Thy unchange- 
able substance did err upon constraint, rather than confess that my 
changeable substance had gone astray voluntarily, and now, in 
punishment, lay in error. 

I was then some six or seven and twenty years old when I wrote 
those volumes; revolving within me corporeal fictions, buzzing in 
the ears of my heart, which I turned, O sweet truth, to thy inward 
melody, meditating on the "fair and fit," and longing to stand and 
hearken to Thee, and to rejoice greatly at the Bridegroom's voiced 
but could not; for by the voices of mine own errors, I was hurried 
abroad, and through the weight of my own pride, I was sinking 
into the lowest pit. For Thou didst not make me to hear joy and 
gladness, nor did the bones exult which were not yet humbled" 

And what did it profit me, that scarce twenty years old, a book 
of Aristode, which they call the ten Predicaments, falling into my 
hands (on whose very name I hung, as on something great and 
divine, so often as my rhetoric master of Carthage, and others, ac- 
counted learned, mouthed it with cheeks bursting with pride), I 
read and understood it unaided? And on my conferring with others, 
who said that they scarcely understood it with very able tutors, not 
only orally explaining it, but drawing many things in sand, they 
could tell me no more of it than I had learned, reading it by myself. 
And the book appeared to me to speak very clearly of substances, 
such as "man," and of their qualities, as the figure of a man, of what 
sort it is; and stature, how many feet high; and his relationship, 
whose brother he is; or where placed; or when born; or whether he 
stands or sits; or be shod or armed; or does, or suffers anything; and 
all the innumerable things which might be ranged under these nine 
*^ Ps. IxxviiL 39. •• John iu. 29. " Ps. li. 8. 



60 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Predicaments, of which I have given some specimens, or under that 
chief Predicament of Substance. 

What did all this further me, seeing it even hindered me? when, 
imagining whatever was, was comprehended under those ten Pre- 
dicaments, I essayed in such wise to understand, O my God, Thy 
wonderful and unchangeable Unity also, as if Thou also hadst been 
subjected to Thine own greatness or beauty; so that (as in bodies) 
they should exist in Thee, as their subject: whereas Thou Thyself 
art Thy greatness and beauty; but a body is not great or fair in that 
it is a body, seeing that, though it were less great or fair, it should 
notwithstanding be a body. But it was falsehood which of Thee I 
conceived, not truth, fictions of my misery, not the realities of Thy 
Blessedness. For Thou hadst commanded, and it was done in me, 
that the earth should bring forth briars and thorns to me, and 
that in the stveat of my brows I should eat my bread. 

And what did it profit me, that all the books I could procure 
of the so<alled liberal arts, I, the vile slave of vile affections, read by 
myself, and understood? And I delighted in them, but knew not 
whence came all, that herein was true or certain. For I had my back 
to the light, and my face to the things enlightened; whence my 
face, with which I discerned the things enlightened, itself was not 
enlightened. Whatever was written, either on rhetoric, or logic, 
geometry, music, and arithmetic, by myself without much difficulty 
or any instructor, 1 understood. Thou knowest, O Lord my God; 
because both quickness of understanding, and acuteness in discern- 
ing, is Thy gift: yet did I not thence sacrifice to Thee. So then it 
served not to my use, but rather to my perdition, since I went about 
to get so good a portion of my substance into my own keeping; 
and I \ept not my strength for Thee, but wandered from Thee 
into a far country, to spend it upon harlotries?^ For what profited 
me good abilities, not employed to good uses? For I felt not that 
those arts were attained with great difficulty, even by the studious 
and talented, until I attempted to explain them to such; when he 
most excelled in them who followed me not altogether slowly. 

But what did this further me, imagining that Thou, O Lord God, 
the Truth, wert a vast and bright body, and I a fragment of that 
*• Luke XV.; P». IviiL lo. — Vulg, 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 6l 

body? Perverseness too great! But such was I. Nor do I blush, O 
my God, to confess to Thee Thy mercies towards me, and to call 
upon Thee, who blushed not then to profess to men my blasphemies, 
and to bark against Thee. What profited me then my nimble wit 
in those sciences and all those most knotty volumes, unravelled by 
me, without aid from human instruction; seeing I erred so foully, 
and with such sacrilegious shamefulness, in the doctrine of piety? 
Or what hindrance was a far slower wit to Thy little ones, since 
they departed not far from Thee, that in the nest of Thy Church 
they might securely be fledged, and nourish the wings of charity, 
by the food of a sound faith. O Lord our God, under the shadow of 
Thy wings let us hope; protect us, and carry us. Thou wilt carry 
us both when little, and even to hoar hairs wilt Thou carry usf* for 
our firmness, when it is Thou, then is it firmness; but when our 
own, it is infirmity. Our good ever lives with Thee; from which 
when we turn away, we are turned aside. Let us now, O Lord, 
return, that we may not be overturned, because with Thee our good 
lives without any decay, which good art Thou; nor need we fear, 
lest there be no place whither to return, because we fell from it: for 
through our absence, our mansion fell not — Thy eternity. 

»Is. xlvi. 4. 



THE FIFTH BOOK 

St. Augustine's twenty-ninth year. Faustus, a snare of Satan to many, 
made an instrument of deliverance to St. Augustine, by showing the 
ignorance of the Manichees on those things wherein they professed 
to have divine knowledge. Augustine gives up all thought of going 
further among the Manichees: is guided to Rome and Milan, where 
he hears St. Ambrose, leaves the Manichees, and becomes again a 
Catechumen in the Church Catholic. 

ACCEPT the sacrifice of my confessions from the ministry of 
/ \ my tongue, which Thou hast formed and stirred up to con- 
JL. .^ fess unto Thy name. Heal Thou all my bones, and let them 
say, O Lord, who is lil{e unto Thee?^ For he who confesses to Thee 
doth not teach Thee what takes place within him; seeing a closed 
heart closes not out Thy eye, nor can man's hard-heartedness thrust 
back Thy hand: for Thou dissolves! it at Thy will in pity or in 
vengeance, and nothing can hide itself from Thy heat? But let my 
soul praise Thee, that it may love Thee; and let it confess Thy own 
mercies to Thee, that it may praise Thee. Thy whole creation ceaseth 
not, nor is silent in Thy praises; neither the spirit of man with 
voice directed unto Thee, nor creation animate or inanimate, by the 
voice of those who meditate thereon: that so our souls may from their 
weariness arise towards Thee, leaning on those things which Thou 
hast created, and passing on to Thyself, who madest them wonder- 
fully; and there is refreshment and true strength. 

Let the restless, the godless, depart and flee from Thee; yet Thou 
seest them, and dividest the darkness. And behold, the universe 
with them is fair, though they are foul. And how have they injured 
Thee.? or how have they disgraced Thy government, which, from 
the heaven to this lowest earth, is just and perfect.? For whither fled 
they, when they fled from Thy presence?' or where dost not Thou 
find them? But they fled, that they might not see Thee seeing 
them, and, blinded, might stumble against Thee* (because Thou 

'Ps. XXXV. 20. ' Ps. xix. 6. 'Ps. cxxxix. 7. ^Gen. xvi. 14. 

61 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 63 

jorsal{est nothing Thou hast made'); that the unjust, I say, might 
stumble upon Thee, and justly be hurt; withdrawing themselves 
from thy gentleness, and stumbling at Thy uprightness, and falling 
upon their own ruggedness. Ignorant, in truth, that Thou art every 
where. Whom no place encompasseth! and Thou alone art near, 
even to those that remove jar from Thee.' Let them then be turned, 
and seek Thee; because not as they have forsaken their Creator, hast 
Thou forsaken Thy creation. Let them be turned and seek Thee; 
and behold, Thou art there in their heart, in the heart of those that 
confess to Thee, and cast themselves upon Thee, and weep in Thy 
bosom, after all their rugged ways. Then dost Thou gently wipe 
away their tears, and they weep the more, and joy in weeping; even 
for that Thou, Lord, — not man of flesh and blood, but — Thou, Lord, 
who madest them, re-makest and comfortest them. But where was 
I, when I was seeking Thee? And Thou wert before me, but I 
had gone away from Thee; nor did I find myself, how much less 
Thee! 

I would lay open before my God that nine-and-twentieth year 
of mine age. There had then come to Carthage a certain Bishop of 
the Manichees, Faustus by name, a great snare of the Devil, and many 
were entangled by him through that lure of his smooth language: 
which though I did commend, yet could I separate from the truth 
of the things which I was earnest to learn: nor do I so much regard 
the service of oratory as the science which this Faustus, so praised 
among them, set before me to feed upon. Fame had before be- 
spoken him most knowing in all valuable learning, and exquisitely 
skilled in the liberal sciences. And since I had read and well re- 
membered much of the philosophers, I compared some things of 
theirs with those long fables of the Manichees, and found the former 
the more probable; even although they could only prevail so far 
as to mal{e judgment of this lower world, the Lord of it they could 
by no means find out? For Thou art great, O Lord, and hast respect 
unto the humble, but the proud Thou beholdest afar o§^ Nor dost 
thou draw near, but to the contrite in heart* nor art found by the 
proud, no, not though by curious skill they could number the stars 

• Wisd. xi. 25, old vers. • P$. Ixxiii. 27. ' Wisd. xiii. 9. " Ps. cxxxviii. 6. 

•Ps. xxxiv. 18. 



64 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

and the sand, and measure the starry heavens, and track the courses 
of the planets. 

For with their understanding and wit, which Thou bestowedst on 
them, they search out these things; and much have they found out; 
and foretold, many years before, eclipses of those luminaries, the 
sun and moon, — what day and hour, and how many digits, — nor 
did their calculation fail; and it came to pass as they foretold; and 
they wrote down the rules they had found out, and these are read at 
this day, and out of them do others foretell in what year and month 
of the year, and what day of the month, and what hour of the day, 
and what part of its light, moon or sun is to be eclipsed and so it 
shall be, as it is foreshowed. At these things men, that know not 
this art, marvel and are astonished, and they that know it, exult, and 
are puffed up; and by an ungodly pride departing from Thee, and 
failing of Thy light, they foresee a failure of the sun's light, which 
shall be, so long before, but see not their own, which is. For they 
search not religiously whence they have the wit, wherewith they 
search out this. And finding that Thou madest them, they give 
not themselves up to Thee, to preserve what Thou madest, nor sacri- 
fice to Thee what they have made themselves; nor slay their own 
soaring imaginations, as jowls of the air, nor their own diving curi- 
osities (wherewith, like the fishes of the sea^" they wander over 
the unknown paths of the abyss), nor their own luxuriousness, 
as beasts of the field, that Thou, Lord, a consuming fire^ mayest 
burn up those dead cares of theirs, and recreate themselves immor- 
tally. 

But they knew not the way. Thy Word," by Whom Thou madest 
these things which they number, and themselves who number, and 
the sense whereby they perceive what they number, and the under- 
standing, out of which they number; or that of Thy wisdom there 
is no number}^ But the Only Begotten is Himself made unto us 
wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification^* and was numbered 
among us, and paid tribute unto Ccesar}^ They knew not this Way 
whereby to descend to Him from themselves, and by Him ascend 
unto Him. They knew not this way, and deemed themselves ex- 
alted amongst the stars and shining; and behold, they fell upon the 

"•Ps. viii. 7, 8. "Deut. iv. 24. "John 1.3. " Ps. cxivii. 5. 
" I Cor. i. 30. " Matt. xvii. 27. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 65 

earth, and their foolish heart was darkened}* They discourse many 
things truly concerning the creature; but Truth, Artificer of the 
creature, they seek not piously, and therefore find him not; or if 
they find him, \nowing Him to be God, they glorify Him not as 
God, nather are thankjul, but become vain in their imaginations, 
and profess themselves to be wise," attributing to themselves what 
is Thine; and thereby with most perverse blindness, study to impute 
to Thee what is their own, forging lies of Thee who art the Truth, 
and changing the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image 
made li}{e corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and 
creeping things, changing Thy truth into a lie, and worshipping and 
serving the creature more than the Creator}^ 

Yet many truths concerning the creature retained I from these 
men, and saw the reason thereof from calculations, the succession 
of times, and the visible testimonies of the stars; and compared them 
with the saying of Manicharus, which in his frenzy he had written 
most largely on these subjects; but discovered not any account of 
the solstices, or equinoxes, or the eclipses df the greater lights, nor 
whatever of this sort I had learned in the books of secular philoso- 
phy. But I was commanded to believe; and yet it corresponded not 
with what had been established by calciJations and my own sight, 
but was quite contrary. 

Doth then, O Lord God of Truth, whoso knoweth these things, 
therefore please Thee? Surely unhappy is he who knoweth all 
these, and knoweth not Thee: but happy whoso knoweth Thee, 
though he know not these. And whoso knoweth both Thee and 
them is not the happier for them, but for Thee only, if, knowing 
Thee, he glorifies Thee as God, and is thanl(ful, and becomes not 
vain in his imaginations" For as he is better off who knows how 
to possess a tree, and return thanks to Thee for the use thereof, 
although he know not how many cubits high it is, or how wide it 
spreads, than he that can measure it, and count all its boughs, and 
neither owns it, nor knows or loves its Creator: so a believer, whose 
all this world of wealth is, and who having nothing, yet possesseth 
all things^" by cleaving unto Thee, whom all things serve, though 
he know not even the circles of the Great Bear, yet is it folly to 

" 1$. xiv. 13; Rev. xii. 4; Rom. L 21. "Rom. L 21. " Rom. i. 23. 
"Rom. i. n. "•2 Cor. vi. 10. 



66 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

doubt but he is in a better state than one who can measure the 
heavens, and number the stars, and poise the elements, yet neglect- 
eth Thee who hast made all things in number, weight, and meas- 
ure^' 

But yet who bade that Manichxus write on these things also, 
skill in which was no element of piety? For Thou hast said to man, 
Behold piety and wisdom;^ of which he might be ignorant, though 
he had perfect knowledge of these things; but these things, since, 
knowing not, he most impudently dared to teach, he plainly could 
have no knowledge of piety. For it is vanity to make profession of 
these worldly things even when known; but confession to Thee is 
piety. Wherefore this wanderer to this end spake much of these 
things, that convicted by those who had truly learned them, it might 
be manifest what understanding he had in the other abstruser 
things. For he would not have himself meanly thought of, but went 
about to persuade men, "That the Holy Ghost, the Comforter and 
Enricher of Thy faithful ones, was with plenary authority person- 
ally within him." When then he was found out to have taught 
falsely of the heaven and stars, and of the motions of the sun and 
moon (although these things pertain not to the doctrine of religion), 
yet his sacrilegious presumption would become evident enough, 
seeing he delivered things which not only he knew not, but which 
were falsified, with so mad a vanity of pride, that he sought to 
ascribe them to himself, as to a divine person. 

For when I hear any Christian brother ignorant of these things, 
and mistaken on them, I can patiently behold such a man holding 
his opinion; nor do I see that any ignorance as to the position or 
character of the corporeal creation can injure him, so long as he 
doth not believe any thing unworthy of Thee, O Lord, the Creator 
of all. But it doth injure him, if he imagine it to pertain to the 
form of the doctrine of piety, and will yet affirm that too stiffly 
whereof he is ignorant. And yet is even such an infirmity, in the 
infancy of faith, borne by our mother Charity, till the newborn 
may grow up unto a perfect man, so as not to be carried about with 
every wind of doctrine^ But in him who in such wise presumed 
to be the teacher, source, guide, chief of all whom he could so per- 
»Wisd. xi. 20. "Job. xxvm. 28. LXX. "£pij. jy. 13, 14. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 67 

suade, that whoso followed him thought that he followed, not a 
mere man, but Thy Holy Spirit; who would not judge that so great 
madness, when once convicted of having taught any thing false, 
were to be detested and utterly rejected? But I had not as yet 
clearly ascertained whether the vicissitudes of longer and shorter 
days and nights, and of day and night itself, with the eclipses of the 
greater lights, and whatever else of the kind I had read of in other 
books, might be explained consistendy with his sayings; so that, 
if they by any means might, it should remain a question to me 
whether it were so or no; but I might, on account of his reputed 
sanctity, rest my credence upon his authority. 

And for almost all those nine years, wherein with unsetded mind 
I had been their disciple, I had longed but too intensely for the 
coming of this Faustus. For the rest of the sect, whom by chance 
I had lighted upon, when unable to solve my objections about these 
things, still held out to me the coming of this Faustus, by conference 
with whom these and greater difficulties, if 1 had them, were to be 
most readily and abundantly cleared. When then he came, I found 
him a man of pleasing discourse, and who could speak fluendy and 
in better terms, yet still but the self-same things which they were 
wont to say. But what availed the utmost neatness of the cup-bearer 
to my thirst for a more precious draught? Mine ears were already 
cloyed with the like, nor did they seem to me therefore better, be- 
cause better said; or therefore true, because eloquent; nor the soul 
therefore wise, because the face was comely, and the language grace- 
ful. But they who held him out to me were no good judges of 
things; and therefore to them he appeared understanding and wise, 
because in words pleasing. I felt however that another sort of peo- 
ple were suspicious even of truth, and refused to assent to it, if de- 
livered in a smooth and copious discourse. But Thou, O my God, 
hadst already taught me by wonderful and secret ways, and there- 
fore I believe that Thou taughtest me, because it is truth, nor is there 
besides Thee any teacher of truth, where or whencesoever it may 
shine upon us. Of Thyself therefore had I now learned, that neither 
ought any thing to seem to be spoken truly, because eloquendy; nor 
therefore falsely, because the utterance of the lips is inharmonious; 
nor, again, therefore true, because rudely delivered; or therefore 



68 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

false, because the language is rich; but that wisdom and folly are as 
wholesome and unwholesome food; and adorned or unadorned 
phrases as courtly or country vessels; either kind of meats may be 
served up in either kind of dishes. 

That greediness then, wherewith I had of so long time expected 
that man, was delighted verily with his action and feeling when 
disputing, and his choice and readiness of words to clothe his ideas. 
I was then delighted, and, with many others and more than they, 
did I praise and extol him. It troubled me, however, that in the 
assembly of his auditors, I was not allowed to put in and communi- 
cate those questions that troubled me, in familiar converse with him. 
Which when I might, and with my friends began to engage his ears 
at such times as it was not unbecoming for him to discuss with me, 
and had brought forward such things as moved me; I found him 
first utterly ignorant of liberal sciences, save grammar, and that but 
in an ordinary way. But because he had read some of Tully's Ora- 
tions, a very few books of Seneca, some things of the poets, and such 
few volumes of his own sect as were written in Latin and neatly, 
and was daily practised in speaking, he acquired a certain eloquence, 
which proved the more pleasing and seductive, because under the 
guidance of a good wit, and with a kind of natural gracefulness. Is 
it not thus, as I recall it, O Lord my God, Thou Judge of my con- 
science? before Thee is my heart, and my remembrance, Who didst 
at that time direct me by the hidden mystery of Thy providence, 
and didst set those shameful errors of mine before my face, that I 
might see and hate them." 

For after it was clear that he was ignorant of those arts in which 
I thought he excelled, I began to despair of his opening and solving 
the difficulties which perplexed me (of which indeed however igno- 
rant, he might have held the truths of piety, had he not been a 
Manichee). For their books are fraught with prolix fable, of the 
heaven, and stars, sun, and moon, and I now no longer thought him 
able satisfactorily to decide what I much desired, whether, on com- 
parison of these things with the calculations I had elsewhere read, 
the account given in the books of Manichaeus were preferable, or 
at least as good. Which when I proposed to be considered and 

»*Ps. I. 21. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 69 

discussed, he, so far modesdy, shrunk from the burthen. For he 
knew that he knew not these things, and was not ashamed to confess 
it. For he was not one of those talking persons, many of whom I had 
endured, who undertook to teach me these things, and said nothing. 
But this man had a heart, though not right towards Thee, yet 
neither ahogether treacherous to himself. For he was not altogether 
ignorant of his own ignorance, nor would he rashly be entangled in 
a dispute, whence he could neither retreat nor extricate himself 
fairly. Even for this I liked him the better. For fairer is the modesty 
of a candid mind, than the knowledge of those things which I de- 
sired; and such I found him, in all the more difficult and subtile 
questions. 

My zeal for the writings of Manichaeus being thus blunted, and 
despairing yet more of their other teachers, seeing that in divers 
things which perplexed me, he, so renowned among them, had so 
turned out; I began to engage with him in the study of that litera- 
ture, on which he also was much set (and which as rhetoric-reader 
I was at that time teaching young students at Carthage), and to 
read with him, either what himself desired to hear, or such as I 
judged fit for his genius. But all my efforts whereby I had purposed 
to advance in that sect, upon knowledge of that man, came utterly 
to an end; not that I detached myself from them altogether, but 
as one finding nothing better, I had setded to be content mean- 
while with what I had in whatever way fallen upon, unless by 
chance something more eligible should dawn upon me. Thus that 
Faustus, to so many a snare of death, had now, neither willing nor 
witting it, begun to loosen that wherein I was taken. For Thy 
hands, O my God, in the secret purpose of Thy providence, did not 
forsake my soul; and out of my mother's heart's blood, through her 
tears night and day poured out, was a sacrifice offered for me unto 
Thee; and Thou didst deal with me by wondrous ways." Thou 
didst it, O my God : for the steps of a man are ordered by the Lord, 
and He shall dispose his way^ Or how shall we obtain salvadon, but 
from Thy hand, re-making what it made? 

Thou didst deal with me, that I should be persuaded to go to Rome, 
and to teach there rather, what I was teaching at Carthage. Aod 
" Joel. ii. 26. *• P$. xxxviL 23. 



70 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST, AUGUSTINE 

how I was persuaded to this, I will not neglect to confess to Thee: 
because herein also the deepest recesses of Thy wisdom, and Thy 
most present mercy to us, must be considered and confessed. I did 
not wish therefore to go to Rome, because higher gains and higher 
dignities were warranted me by my friends who persuaded me to 
this (though even these things had at that time an influence over 
my mind), but my chief and almost only reason was, that I heard 
that young men studied there more peacefully, and were kept quiet 
under a restraint of more regular discipline; so that they did not, at 
their pleasures, petulantly rush into the school of one whose pupils 
they were not, nor were even admitted without his permission. 
Whereas at Carthage there reigns among the scholars a most dis- 
graceful and unruly licence. They burst in audaciously, and with 
gestures almost frantic, disturb all order which any one hath estab- 
lished for the good of his scholars. Divers outrages they commit, 
with a wonderful stolidity, punishable by law, did not custom up- 
hold them; that custom evincing them to be the more miserable, in 
that they now do as lawful what by Thy eternal law shall never be 
lawful; and they think they do it unpunished, whereas they are 
punished with the very blindness whereby they do it, and suffer 
incomparably worse than what they do. The manners then which, 
when a student, I would not make my own, I was fain as a teacher 
to endure in others: and so I was well pleased to go where, all that 
knew it, assured me that the like was not done. But Thou, my 
refuge and my portion in the land of the livingi" that I might 
change my earthly dwelling for the salvation of my soul, at Carthage 
didst goad me, that I might thereby be torn from it; and at Rome 
didst proffer me allurements, whereby I might be drawn thither, by 
men in love with a dying life, the one doing frantic, the other 
promising vain, things; and, to correct my steps, didst secretly use 
their and my own perverseness. For both they who disturbed my 
quiet were blinded with a disgraceful frenzy, and they who invited 
me elsewhere savoured of earth. And I, who here detested real 
misery, was there seeking unreal happiness. 

But why I went hence, and went thither, Thou knewest, O God, 
yet showedst it neither to me, nor to my mother, who grievously 

" Ps. cxlii. 5. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 7 1 

bewailed my journey, and followed me as far as the sea. But I de- 
ceived her, holding me by force, that either she might keep me back 
or go with me, and I feigned that I had a friend whom I could 
not leave, till he had a fair wind to sail. And I lied to my mother, 
and such a mother, and escaped: for this also hast Thou mercifully 
forgiven me, preserving me, thus full of execrable defilements, from 
the waters of the sea, for the water of Thy Grace; whereby when I 
was cleansed, the streams of my mother's eyes should be dried, with 
which for me she daily watered the ground under her face. And 
yet refusing to return without me, I scarcely persuaded her to stay 
that night in a place hard by our ship, where was an Oratory in 
memory of the blessed Cyprian. That night I privily departed, but 
she was not behind in weeping and prayer. And what, O Lord, 
was she with so many tears asking of Thee, but that Thou wouldst 
not suffer me to sail? But Thou, in the depth of Thy counsels and 
hearing the main point of her desire, regardedst not what she thea 
asked, that Thou mightest make me what she ever asked. The 
wind blew and swelled our sails, and withdrew the shore from our 
sight; and she on the morrow was there, frantic with sorrow, and 
with complaints and groans filled Thine ears, who didst then dis- 
regard them; whilst through my desires, Thou wert hurrying me 
to end all desire, and the earthly part of her affection to me was 
chastened by the allotted scourge of sorrows. For she loved my 
being with her, as mothers do, but much more than many; and she 
knew not how great joy Thou wert about to work for her out of my 
absence. She knew not; therefore did she weep and wail, and by 
this agony there appeared in her the inheritance of Eve, with sorrow 
seeking what in sorrow she had brought forth. And yet, after ac- 
cusing my treachery and hardheartedness, she betook herself again 
to intercede to Thee for me, went to her wonted place, and I to 
Rome. 

And lo, there was I received by the scourge of bodily sickness, and 
I was going down to hell, carrying all the sins which I had com- 
mitted, both against Thee, and myself, and others, many and griev- 
ous, over and above that bond of original sin, whereby we all die 
in Adam?* For Thou hadst not forgiven me any of these things 

** I Cor. XV. 21. 



72 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

in Christ, nor had He abolished by His cross the enmity which by 
my sins I had incurred with Thee. For how should He, by the 
crucifixion o£ a phantasm, which 1 beUeved Him to be? So true, 
then, was the death of my soul, as that of His flesh seemed to me 
false; and how true the death of His body, so false was the life of 
my soul, which did not believe it. And now the fever heightening, 
I was parting and departing for ever. For had I then parted hence, 
whither had I departed, but into fire and torments, such as my 
misdeeds deserved in the truth of Thy appointment? And this she 
knew not, yet in absence prayed for me. But Thou, everywhere 
present, heardest her where she was, and, where I was, hadst com- 
passion upon me; that I should recover the health of my body, 
though frenzied as yet in my sacrilegious heart. For I did not in 
all that danger desire Thy baptism; and I was better as a boy, when 
I begged it of my mother's piety, as I have before recited and con- 
fessed. But I had grown up to my own shame, and I madly scoffed 
at the prescripts of Thy medicine, who wouldest not suffer me, being 
such, to die a double death. With which wound had my mother's 
heart been pierced, it could never be healed. For I cannot express 
the affection she bare to me, and with how much more vehement 
anguish she was now in labour of me in the spirit, than at her child- 
bearing in the flesh." 

I see not then how she should have been healed, had such a death 
of mine stricken through the bowels of her love. And where would 
have been those her so strong and unceasing prayers, unintermitting 
to Thee alone? But wouldest Thou, God of mercies, despise the 
contrite and humbled hearf of that chaste and sober widow, so fre- 
quent in alms-deeds, so full of duty and service to Thy saints, no 
day intermitting the oblation at Thine altar, twice a day, morning 
and evening, without any intermission, coming to Thy church, not 
for idle tattlings and old wives' jablesf^ but that she might hear 
Thee in Thy discourses, and Thou her in her prayers. Couldest 
Thou despise and reject from Thy aid the tears of such an one, 
wherewith she begged of Thee not gold or silver, nor mutable or 
passing good, but the salvation of her son's soul? Thou, by whose 
gift she was such ? Never, Lord. Yea, Thou wert at hand, and wert 
"Gal. iv. 9. "Ps. li. 17. " i Tim. v. 10. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 73 

hearing and doing, in that order wherein Thou hadst determined 
before that it should be done. Far be it that Thou shouldest deceive 
her in Thy visions and answers, some whereof I have, some I have 
not mentioned, which she laid up in her faithful heart, and ever 
praying urged upon Thee, as Thine own handwriting. For Thou, 
because Thy mercy endureth for ever, vouchsafest to those to whom 
Thou forgivest all their debts, to become also a debtor by Thy 
promises. 

Thou recoveredst me then of that sickness, and healedst the son 
of Thy handmaid, for the time in body, that he might live, for 
Thee to bestow upon him a better and more abiding health. And 
even then, at Rome, I joined myself to those deceiving and deceived 
"holy ones"; not with their disciples only (of which number was 
he, in whose house I had fallen sick and recovered) ; but also with 
those whom they call "The Elect." For I still thought "that it was 
not we that sin, but that I know not what other nature sinned in 
us"; and it delighted my pride, to be free from blame; and when 
I had done any evil, not to confess I had done any, that Thou might- 
est heal my soul because it had sinned against Thee:'^ but I loved 
to excuse it, and to accuse I know not what other thing, which was 
with me, but which I was not. But in truth it was wholly I, and 
mine impiety had divided me against myself: and that sin was the 
more incurable, whereby I did not judge myself a sinner; and exe- 
crable iniquity it was, that I had rather have Thee, Thee, O God 
Almighty, to be overcome in me to my destruction, than myself of 
Thee to salvation. Not as yet then hadst Thou set a watch before 
my mouth, and a door of safe l^eeping around my lips, that my 
heart might not turn aside to wicked speeches, to mal{e excuses of 
sins, with men that wor^ iniquity: and, therefore, was I still united 
with their Elect." 

But now despairing to make proficiency in that false doctrine, 
even those (with which if I should find no better, I had resolved to 
rest contented) I now held more laxly and carelessly. For there 
half arose a thought in me that those philosophers, whom they call 
Academics, were wiser than the rest, for that they held men ought to 
doubt everything, and laid down that no truth can be compre- 
» Ps. xlL 4 «Ps. cxli. 3, 4.— Vulg. 



74 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

hended by man: for so, not then understanding even their meaning, 
I also was clearly convinced that they thought, as they are com- 
monly reported. Yet did I freely and openly discourage that host of 
mine from that over-confidence which I perceived him to have in 
those fables, which the books of Manichxus are full of. Yet I lived 
in more familiar friendship with them, than with others who were 
not of this heresy. Nor did I maintain it with my ancient eager- 
ness; still my intimacy with that sect (Rome secretly harbouring 
many of them) made me slower to seek any other way: especially 
since I despaired of finding the truth, from which they had turned 
me aside, in Thy Church, O Lord of heaven and earth. Creator of 
all things visible and invisible: and it seemed to me unseemly to 
believe Thee to have the shape of human flesh, and to be bounded 
by the bodily lineaments of our members. And because, when I 
wished to think on my God, I knew not what to think of, but a 
mass of bodies (for what was not such did not seem to me to be 
any thing), this was the greatest, and almost only cause of my in- 
evitable error. 

For hence I believed Evil also to be some such kind of substance, 
and to have its own foul and hideous bulk; whether gross, which 
they called earth, or thin and subtile (like the body of the air), 
which they imagine to be some malignant mind, creeping through 
that earth. And because a piety, such as it was, constrained me to 
believe that the good God never created any evil nature, I conceived 
two masses, contrary to one another, both unbounded, but the evil 
narrower, the good more expansive. And from this pestilent be- 
ginning, the other sacrilegious conceits followed on me. For when 
my mind endeavoured to recur to the Catholic faith, I was driven 
back, since that was not the Catholic faith which I thought to be 
so. And I seemed to myself more reverential, if I believed of Thee, 
my God (to whom Thy mercies confess out of my mouth), as un- 
bounded, at least on other sides, although on that where the mass of 
evil was opposed to Thee, I was constrained to confess Thee 
bounded; than if on all sides I should imagine Thee to be bounded 
by the form of a human body. And it seemed to me better to believe 
Thee to have created no evil (which to me ignorant seemed not 
some only, but a bodily substance, because I could not conceive of 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 75 

mind unless as a subtile body, and that diffused in definite spaces), 
than to believe the nature of evil, such as I conceived it, could 
come from Thee. Yea, and our Saviour Himself, Thy Only Be- 
gotten, I believed to have been reached forth (as it were) for our sal- 
vation, out of the mass of Thy most lucid substance, so as to believe 
nothing of Him, but what I could imagine in my vanity. His Na- 
ture then, being such, I thought could not be born of the Virgin 
Mary, without being mingled with the flesh: and how that which I 
had so figured to myself could be mingled, and not defiled, I saw 
not. I feared therefore to believe Him born in the flesh, lest I should 
be forced to believe Him defiled by the flesh. Now will Thy spirit- 
ual ones mildly and lovingly smile upon me, if they shall read these 
my confessions. Yet such was I. 

Furthermore, what the Manichees had criticised in Thy Scrip- 
tures, I thought could not be defended; yet at times verily I had a 
wish to confer upon these several points with some one very well 
skilled in those books, and to make trial what he thought thereon: 
for the words of one Helpidius, as he spoke and disputed face to 
face against the said Manichees, had begun to stir me even at Car- 
thage: in that he had produced things out of the Scriptures, not easily 
withstood, the Manichees' answer whereto seemed to me weak. And 
this answer they liked not to give publicly, but only to us in private. 
It was, that the Scriptures of the New Testament had been corrupted 
by I know not whom, who wished to engraff the law of the Jews 
upon the Christian faith: yet themselves produced not any uncor- 
rupted copies. But I, conceiving of things corporeal only, was mainly 
held down, vehemendy oppressed and in a manner suffocated by 
those "masses"; panting under which after the breath of Thy truth, 
I could not breathe it pure and untainted. 

I began then diligendy to praaise that for which I came to Rome, 
to teach rhetoric; and first, to gather some to my house, to whom, 
and through whom, I had begun to be known; when lo, I found 
other offences committed in Rome, to which I was not exposed in 
Africa. True, those "subverdngs" by profligate young men were 
not here practised, as was told me: but on a sudden, said they, to 
avoid paying their master's stipend, a number of youths plot to- 
gether, and remove to another; — breakers of faith, who for love of 



'jd THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

money hold justice cheap. These also my heart hated, though not 
with a perfect hatred}^ for perchance I hated them more because I 
was to suffer by them, than because they did things utterly unlaw- 
ful. Of a truth such are base persons, and they go a whoring from 
Thee, loving these fleeting mockeries of things temporal, and filthy 
lucre, which fouls the hand that grasps it; hugging the fleeting 
world, and despising Thee, who abidest, and recallest, and forgiv- 
es! the adulteress soul of man, when she returns to Thee. And now 
I hate such depraved and crooked persons, though I love them if 
corrigible, so as to prefer to money the learning which they acquire, 
and to learning. Thee, O God, the truth and fulness of assured 
good, and most pure peace. But then I rather for my own sake 
misliked them evil, than liked and wished them good for Thine. 

When therefore they of Milan had sent to Rome to the prefect 
of the city, to furnish them with a rhetoric reader for their city, and 
send him at the public expense, I made application (through those 
very persons, intoxicated with Manichacan vanities, to be freed 
wherefrom I was to go, neither of us however knowing it) that 
Symmachus, then prefect of the city, would try me by setting me 
some subject, and so send me. To Milan I came, to Ambrose the 
Bishop, known to the whole world as among the best of men, Thy 
devout servant; whose eloquent discourse did then plentifully dis- 
pense unto Thy fjeople the flour of Thy wheat, the gladness of Thy 
oil, and the sober inebriation of Thy wine." To him was I un- 
knowing led by Thee, that by him I might knowingly be led to 
Thee. That man of God received me as a father, and showed me 
an Episcopal kindness on my coming. Thenceforth I began to love 
him, at first indeed not as a teacher of the truth (which I utterly 
despaired of in Thy Church), but as a person kind towards myself. 
And I listened diligently to him preaching to the people, not with 
that intent I ought, but, as it were, trying his eloquence, whether it 
answered the fame thereof, or flowed fuller or lower than was re- 
ported; and I hung on his words attentively; but of the matter I was 
as a careless and scornful looker-on; and I was delighted with the 
sweetness of his discourse, more recondite, yet in manner less win- 
ning and harmonious, than that of Faustus. Of the matter, how- 

"Ps. cxxxix. 22. **Ps. iv. 7; civ. 15. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 77 

ever, there was no comparison; for the one was wandering amid 
Manichxan delusions, the other teaching salvation most soundly. 
But salvation is jar from sinners^ such as I then stood before him; 
and as yet was I drawing nearer by little and litde, and uncon- 
sciously. 

For though I took no pains to learn what he spake, but only to 
hear how he spake (for that empty care alone was left me, despair- 
ing of a way, open for man, to Thee), yet together with the words 
which I would choose, came also into my mind the things which 
I would refuse; for I could not separate them. And while I opened 
my heart to admit "how eloquently he spake," there also entered 
"how truly he spake;" but this by degrees. For first, these things 
also had now begun to appear to me capable of defence; and the 
Catholic faith, for which I had thought nothing could be said against 
the Manichees' objections, I now thought might be maintained 
without shamelessness; especially after I had heard one or two 
places of the Old Testament resolved, and ofttimes "in a figure,'"^ 
which when I understood literally, I was slain spiritually. Very 
many places then of those books having been explained, I now 
blamed my despair, in believing that no answer could be given to 
such as hated and scoffed at the Law and the Prophets. Yet did I 
not therefore then see that the Catholic way was to be held, because 
it also could find learned maintainers, who could at large and with 
some show of reason answer objections; nor that what 1 held was 
therefore to be condemned, because both sides could be maintained. 
For the Catholic cause seemed to me in such sort not vanquished, 
as still not as yet to be victorious. 

Hereupon I earnestly bent my mind, to see if in any way I could 
by any certain proof convict the Manichees of falsehood. Could I 
once have conceived a spiritual substance, all their strongholds had 
been beaten down, and cast utterly out of my mind; but I could 
not. Notwithstanding, concerning the frame of this world, and the 
whole of nature, which the senses of the flesh can reach to, as I more 
and more considered and compared things, I judged the tenets of 
most of the philosophers to have been much more probable. So then 
after the manner of the Academics (as they are supposed) doubting 
•♦Pi. Clin. 155. " I Cor. xiii. 12; 2 Cor. iii. 6. 



78 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

of everything, and wavering between all, I settled so far, that the 
Manichees were to be abandoned; judging that, even while doubt- 
ing, I might not continue in that sect, to which I already preferred 
some of the philosophers; to which philosophers notwithstanding, 
for that they were without the saving Name of Christ, I utterly re- 
fused to commit the cure of my sick soul. I determined therefore 
so long to be a Catechumen in the Catholic Church, to which I had 
been commended by my parents, till something certain should dawn 
upon me, whither I might steer my course. 



THE SIXTH BOOK 

Arrival of Monnica at Milan; her obedience to St. Ambrose, and his 
value for her; St. Ambrose's habits; Augustine's gradual abandon- 
ment of error; finds that he has blamed the Church Catholic wrongly; 
desire of absolute certainty, but struck with the contrary analogy of 
God's natural Providence; how shaken in his worldly pursuits; God's 
guidance of his friend Alypius; Augustine debates with himself and 
his friends about their mode of life; his inveterate sins, and dread 
of judgment. 

OTHOU, my hope from my youth} where wert Thou to 
me, and whither wert Thou gone.? Hadst not Thou cre- 
ated me, and separated me from the beasts of the field, and 
fowls of the air.? Thou hadst made me wiser, yet did I walk in dark- 
ness, and in slippery places, and sought Thee abroad out of my- 
self, and found not the God of my heart; and had come into the 
depths of the sea, and distrusted and despaired of ever finding truth. 
My mother had now come to me, resolute through piety, following 
me over sea and land, in all perils confiding in Thee. For in perils 
of the sea, she comforted the very mariners (by whom passengers 
unacquainted with the deep, use rather to be comforted when trou- 
bled), assuring them of a safe arrival, because Thou hadst by a 
vision assured her thereof. She found me in grievous peril, through 
despair of ever finding truth. But when I had discovered to her that 
I was now no longer a Manichee, though not yet a Catholic Chris- 
tian, she was not overjoyed, as at something unexpected; although 
she was now assured concerning that part of my misery, for which 
she bewailed me as one dead, though to be reawakened by Thee, 
carrying me forth upon the bier of her thoughts, that Thou mightest 
say to the son of the widow, Young man, I say unto thee. Arise; and 
he should revive, and begin to speaf(^, and thou shouldest deliver him 
to his mother} Her heart then was shaken with no tumultuous ex- 
ultation, when she heard that what she daily desired of Thee was 

*Ps. Ixxi. 5. 'Luke vii. 14, 15. 
79 



80 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

already in so great part realised; in that, though I had not yet at- 
tained the truth, I was rescued from falsehood; but, as being assured, 
that Thou, who hadst promised the whole, wouldest one day give 
the rest, most calmly, and with a heart full of confidence, she re- 
plied to me, "She believed in Christ, that before she departed this 
life, she should see me a Catholic believer." Thus much to me. But 
to Thee, Fountain of mercies, {xjured she forth more copious pray- 
ers and tears, that Thou wouldest hasten Thy help, and enlighten 
my darkness; and she hastened the more eagerly to the Church, and 
hung upon the lips of Ambrose, praying for the fountain of that 
water, which springeth up unto life everlasting^ But that man she 
loved as an angel of God, because she knew that by him I had been 
brought for the present to that doubtful state of faith I now was in, 
through which she anticipated most confidently that I should pass 
from sickness unto health, after the access, as it were, of a sharper 
fit, which physicians call "the crisis." 

When then my mother had once, as she was wont in Afric, brought 
to the Churches built in memory of the Saints, certain cakes, and 
bread and wine, and was forbidden by the door-keeper; so soon as 
she knew that the Bishop had forbidden this, she so piously and 
obediently embraced his wishes, that I myself wondered how readily 
she censured her own practice, rather than discuss his prohibition. 
For wine-bibbing did not lay siege to her spirit, nor did love of 
wine provoke her to hatred of the truth, as it doth too many (both 
men and women), who revolt at a lesson of sobriety, as men well- 
drunk at a draught mingled with water. But she, when she had 
brought her basket with the accustomed festival-food, to be but 
tasted by herself, and then given away, never joined therewith more 
than one small cup of wine, diluted according to her own abstem- 
ious habits, which for courtesy she would taste. And if there were 
many churches of the departed saints that were to be honoured in 
that manner, she still carried round that same one cup, to be used 
every where; and this, though not only made very watery, but un- 
pleasantly heated with carrying about, she would distribute to those 
about her by small sips; for she sought there devotion, not pleasure. 
So soon, then, as she found this custom to be forbidden by that 

'John iv. 14. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 8 1 

famous preacher and most pious prelate, even to those that would 
use it soberly, lest so an occasion of excess might be given to the 
drunken; and for that these, as it were, anniversary funeral solemni- 
ties did much resemble the superstition of the Gentiles, she most 
willingly forbare it: and for a basket filled with fruits of the earth, 
she had learned to bring to the Churches of the martyrs a breast 
filled with more purified petitions, and to give what she could to 
the poor; that so the communication of the Lord's Body might be 
there righdy celebrated, where, after the example of His Passion, 
the martyrs had been sacrificed and crowned. But yet it seems to 
me, O Lord my God, and thus thinks my heart of it in Thy sight, 
that perhaps she would not so readily have yielded to the cutting 
off of this custom, had it been forbidden by another, whom she loved 
not as Ambrose, whom, for my salvation, she loved most entirely; 
and he her again, for her most religious conversation, whereby in 
good works, so fervent in spirit, she was constant at church; so that, 
when he saw me, he often burst forth into her praises; congratulat- 
ing me that I had such a mother; not knowing what a son she had 
in me, who doubted of all these things, and imagined the way to 
life could not be found out. 

Nor did I yet groan in my prayers, that Thou wouldest help me; 
but my spirit was wholly intent on learning, and resdess to dispute. 
And Ambrose himself, as the world counts happy, I esteemed a 
happy man, whom personages so great held in such honour; only 
his celibacy seemed to me a painful course. But what hope he 
bore within him, what struggles he had against the temptations 
which beset his very excellencies, or what comfort in adversities, and 
what sweet joys Thy Bread had for the hidden mouth of his spirit, 
when chewing the cud thereof, I neither could conjecture, nor had 
experienced. Nor did he know the tides of my feelings, or the abyss 
of my danger. For I could not ask of him, what I would as I 
would, being shut out both from his ear and speech by multitudes 
of busy people, whose weaknesses he served. With whom when he 
was not taken up (which was but a little time), he was either re- 
freshing his body with the sustenance absolutely necessary, or his 
mind with reading. But when he was reading, his eye glided over 
the pages, and his heart searched out the sense, but his voice and 



82 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

tongue were at rest. Ofttimes when we had come (for no man was 
forbidden to enter, nor was it his wont that any who came should 
be announced to him), we saw him thus reading to himself, and 
never otherwise; and having long sat silent (for who durst intrude 
on one so intent?) we were fain to depart, conjecturing that in the 
small interval which he obtained, free from the din of others' busi- 
ness, for the recruiting of his mind, he was loth to be taken off; 
and perchance he dreaded lest if the author he read should deliver 
any thing obscurely, some attentive or perplexed hearer should de- 
sire him to expound it, or to discuss some of the harder questions; 
so that his time being thus spent, he could not turn over so many 
volumes as he desired; although the preserving of his voice (which 
a very little speaking would weaken) might be the truer reason for 
his reading to himself. But with what intent soever he did it, 
certainly in such a man it was good. 

I however certainly had no opportunity of enquiring what I 
wished of that so holy oracle of Thine, his breast, unless the thing 
might be answered briefly. But those tides in me, to be poured out 
to him, required his full leisure, and never found it. I heard him 
indeed every Lord's day, rightly expounding the Word of truth* 
among the people; and I was more and more convinced that all the 
knots of those crafty calumnies, which those our deceivers had knit 
against the Divine Books, could be unravelled. But when I under- 
stood withal, that "man, created by Thee after Thine own image," 
was not so understood by Thy spiritual sons, whom of the Catholic 
Mother Thou hast born again through grace as though they be- 
lieved and conceived of Thee as bounded by human shape (although 
what a spiritual substance should be I had not even a faint or 
shadowy notion); yet, with joy I blushed at having so many years 
barked not against the Catholic faith, but against the fictions of 
carnal imaginations. For so rash and impious had I been, that what 
I ought by enquiring to have learned, I had pronounced on, con- 
demning. For Thou, Most High, and most near; most secret, and 
most present; Who hast not limbs some larger, some smaller, but 
art wholly every where, and no where in space, art not of such 

* 2 Tim. ii. 15. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 83 

corporeal shape, yet hast Thou made man after Thine own image; 
and behold, from head to foot is he contained in space. 

Ignorant then how this Thy image should subsist, I should have 
knocked and proposed the doubt, how it was to be believed, not in- 
sultingly opposed it, as if believed. Doubt, then, what to hold for 
certain, the more sharply gnawed my heart, the more ashamed I was, 
that so long deluded and deceived by the promise of certainties, I 
had with childish error and vehemence, prated of so many uncer- 
tainties. For that they were falsehoods became clear to me later. 
However I was certain that they were uncertain, and that I had 
formerly accounted them certain, when with a blind contentious- 
ness, I accused Thy Catholic Church, whom I now discovered, not 
indeed as yet to teach truly, but at least not to teach that for which 
I had grievously censured her. So I was confounded, and converted; 
and I joyed, O my God, that the One Only Church, the body of 
Thine Only Son (wherein the name of Christ had been put upon 
me as an infant), had no taste for infantine conceits; nor in her 
sound doctrine maintained any tenet which should confine Thee, the 
Creator of all, in space, however great and large, yet bounded every 
where by the limits of a human form. 

I joyed also that the old Scriptures of the law and the Prophets 
were laid before me, not now to be perused with that eye to which 
before they seemed absurd, when I reviled Thy holy ones for so 
thinking, whereas indeed they thought not so: and with joy I heard 
Ambrose in his sermons to the people, oftentimes most diligently 
recommend this text for a rule, The letter \illeth, but the Spirit giveth 
lijef" whilst he drew aside the mystic veil, laying open spiritually 
what, according to the letter, seemed to teach something unsound; 
teaching herein nothing that offended me, though he taught what 
I knew not as yet, whether it were true. For I kept my heart from 
assenting to any thing, fearing to fall headlong; but by hanging in 
suspense I was the worse killed. For I wished to be as assured of 
the things I saw not, as I was that seven and three are ten. For I 
was not so mad as to think that even this could not be compre- 
hended; but I desired to have other things as clear as this, whether 

*3Cor. iii. 6. 



84 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

things corporeal, which were not present to my senses, or spiritual, 
whereof I knew not how to conceive, except corporeally. And by 
believing might I have been cured, that so the eyesight of my soul 
being cleared, might in some way be directed to Thy truth, which 
abideth always, and in no part faileth. But as it happens that one 
who has tried a bad physician, fears to trust himself with a good one, 
so was it with the health of my soul, which could not be healed but 
by believing, and lest it should believe falsehoods, refused to be 
cured; resisting Thy hands, who hast prepared the medicines of 
faith, and hast applied them to the diseases of the whole world, and 
given unto them so great authority. 

Being led, however, from this to prefer the Catholic doctrine, I 
felt that her proceeding was more unassuming and honest, in that 
she required to be believed things not demonstrated (whether it was 
that they could in themselves be demonstrated but not to certain 
persons, or could not at all be), whereas among the Manichees our 
credulity was mocked by a promise of certain knowledge, and then 
so many most fabulous and absurd things were imposed to be be- 
lieved, because they could not be demonstrated. Then Thou, O Lord, 
little by little with most tender and most merciful hand, touching and 
composing my heart, didst persuade me — considering what innu- 
merable things I believed, which I saw not, nor was present while 
they were done, as so many things in secular history, so many re- 
ports of places and of cities, which I had not seen; so many of 
friends, so many of physicians, so many continually of other men, 
which unless we should believe, we should do nothing at all in this 
life; lastly, with how unshaken an assurance I believed of what par- 
ents I was born, which I could not know, had I not believed up)on 
hearsay — considering all this. Thou didst persuade me, that not they 
who believed Thy Books (which Thou hast established in so great 
authority among almost all nations), but they who believed them 
not, were to be blamed; and that they were not to be heard who 
should say to me, "How knowest thou those Scriptures to have been 
imparted unto mankind by the Spirit of the one true and most true 
God?" For this very thing was of all most to be believed, since no 
contentiousness of blasphemous questionings, of all that multitude 
which I had read in the self-contradicting philosophers, could wring 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 85 

this belief from me, "That Thou art" whatsoever Thou wert (what 
I knew not), and "That the government of human things belongs 
to Thee." 

This I believed, sometimes more strongly, more weakly other- 
whiles; yet I ever believed both that Thou wert, and hadst a care 
of us; though I was ignorant, both what was to be thought of Thy 
substance, and what way led or led back to Thee. Since then we 
were too weak by abstract reasonings to find out truth : and for this 
very cause needed the authority of Holy Writ; I had now begun to 
believe that Thou wouldest never have given such excellency of au- 
thority to that Writ in all lands, hadst Thou not willed thereby 
to be believed in, thereby sought. For now what things, sounding 
strangely in the Scripture, were wont to offend me, having heard 
divers of them expounded satisfactorily, I referred to the depths of 
the mysteries, and its authority appeared to me the more venerable, 
and more worthy of religious credence, in that, while it lay open 
to all to read, it reserved the majesty of its mysteries within its pro- 
founder meaning, stooping to all in the great plainness of its words 
and lowliness of its style, yet calling forth the intensest application 
of such as are not light of heart; that so it might receive all in its 
open bosom, and through narrow passages waft over towards Thee 
some few, yet many more than if it stood not aloft on such a height 
of authority, nor drew multitudes within its bosom by its holy low- 
liness. These things I thought on, and Thou wert with me; I 
sighed, and Thou heardest me; I wavered, and Thou didst guide 
me; I wandered through the broad way of the world, and Thou 
didst not forsake me. 

I panted after honours, gains, marriage; and Thou deridest me. 
In these desires I underwent most bitter crosses, Thou being the 
more gracious, the less Thou sufferedst aught to grow sweet to me, 
which was not Thou. Behold my heart, O Lord, who wouldest I 
should remember all this, and confess to Thee. Let my soul cleave 
unto Thee, now that Thou hast freed it from that fast-holding bird- 
lime of death. How wretched was it! and Thou didst irritate the 
feeling of its wound, that forsaking all else, it might be converted 
unto Thee, who art above all, and without whom all things would 
be nothing; be converted, and be healed. How miserable was I 



86 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

then, and how didst Thou deal with me, to make me feel my misery 
on that day, when I was preparing to recite a panegyric of the Em- 
peror, wherein I was to utter many a lie, and lying, was to be ap- 
plauded by those who knew I lied, and my heart was panting with 
these anxieties, and boiling with the feverishness of consuming 
thoughts. For, passing through one of the streets of Milan, I ob- 
served a poor beggar, then, I suppose, with a full belly, joking and 
joyous: and I sighed, and spoke to the friends around me, of the 
many sorrows of our frenzies; for that by all such efforts of ours, as 
those wherein I then toiled, dragging along, under the goading of 
desire, the burthen of my own wretchedness, and, by dragging, aug- 
menting it, we yet looked to arrive only at that very joyousness 
whither that beggar-man had arrived before us, who should never 
perchance attain it. For what he had obtained by means of a few 
begged pence, the same was 1 plotting for by many a toilsome turn- 
ing and winding; the joy of a temporary felicity. For he verily had 
not the true joy; but yet I with those my ambitious designs was seek- 
ing one much less true. And certainly he was joyous, I anxious; he 
void of care, I full of fears. But should any ask me, had I rather 
be merry or fearful? I would answer, merry. Again, if he asked 
had I rather be such as he was, or what I then was? I should choose 
to be myself, though worn with cares and fears; but out of wrong 
judgment; for, was it the truth? For I ought not to prefer myself 
to him, because more learned than he, seeing I had no joy therein, 
but sought to please men by it; and that not to instruct, but simply 
to please. Wherefore also Thou didst break my bones with the staff 
of Thy correction. 

Away with those then from my soul who say to her, "It makes a 
difference whence a man's joy is. That beggar-man joyed in drunk- 
enness; Thou desiredst to joy in glory." What glory, Lord? That 
which is not in Thee. For even as his was no true joy, so was that 
no true glory: and it overthrew my soul more. He that very night 
should digest his drunkenness; but I had slept and risen again with 
mine, and was to sleep again, and again to rise with it, how many 
days, Thou, God, knowest. But "it doth make a difference whence 
a man's joy is." I know it, and the joy of a faithful hope lieth incom- 
parably beyond such vanity. Yea, and so was he then beyond me: 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 87 

for he verily was the happier; not only for that he was thoroughly 
drenched in mirth, I disembowelled with cares: but he, by fair 
wishes, had gotten wine; I, by lying, was seeking for empty, swelling 
praise. Much to this purpose said I then to my friends: and I often 
marked in them how it fared with me; and I found it went ill with 
me, and grieved, and doubled that very ill; and if any prosperity 
smiled on me, I was loth to catch at it, for almost before I could grasp 
it, it flew away. 

These things we, who are living as friends together, bemoaned 
together, but chiefly and most familiarly did I speak thereof with 
Alypius and Nebridius, of whom Alypius was born in the same 
town with me, of persons of chief rank there, but younger than I. 
For he had studied under me, both when I first lectured in our town, 
and afterwards at Carthage, and he loved me much, because I 
seemed to him kind, and learned; and I him, for his great toward- 
liness to virtue, which was eminent enough in one of no greater 
years. Yet the whirlpool of Carthaginian habits (amongst whom 
those idle spectacles are hotly followed) had drawn him into the 
madness of the Circus. But while he was miserably tossed therein, 
and I, professing rhetoric there, had a public school, as yet he used 
not my teaching, by reason of some unkindness risen betwixt his 
father and me. I had found then how deadly he doted upon the 
Circus, and was deeply grieved that he seemed likely, nay, or had 
thrown away so great promise: yet had I no means of advising or 
with a sort of constraint reclaiming him, either by the kindness of 
a friend, or the authority of a master. For I supposed that he thought 
of me as did his father; but he was not such; laying aside then his 
father's mind in that matter, he began to greet me, come sometimes 
into my lecture-room, hear a little, and be gone. 

I however had forgotten to deal with him, that he should not 
through a blind and headlong desire of vain pastimes, undo so good 
a wit. But Thou, O Lord, who guidest the course of all Thou hast 
created, hadst not forgotten him, who was one day to be among Thy 
children. Priest and Dispenser of Thy Sacrament; and that his 
amendment might plainly be attributed to Thyself, Thou effectedst 
it through me, but unknowingly. For as one day I sat in my accus- 
tomed place, with my scholars before me, he entered, greeted me, 



88 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

sat down, and applied his mind to what I then handled. I had by 
chance a passage in hand, which while I was explaining, a likeness 
from the Circensian races occurred to me, as likely to make what I 
would convey pleasanter and plainer, seasoned with biting mockery 
of those whom that madness had enthralled; God, Thou knowest 
that I then thought not of curing Alypius of that infection. But he 
took it wholly to himself, and thought that I said it simply for his 
sake. And whence another would have taken occasion of offence 
with me, that right-minded youth took as a ground of being offended 
at himself, and loving me more fervently. For Thou hadst said it 
long ago, and put it into Thy book, Rebu\e a wise man and he 
will love thee^ But I had not rebuked him, but Thou, who em- 
ployest all, knowing or not knowing, in that order which Thyself 
knowest (and that order is just), didst of my heart and tongue make 
burning coals, by which to set on fire the hopeful mind, thus lan- 
guishing, and so cure it. Let him be silent in Thy praises, who con- 
siders not Thy mercies, which confess unto Thee out of my inmost 
soul. For he upon that speech burst out of that pit so deep, wherein 
he was wilfully plunged, and was blinded with its wretched pas- 
times; and he shook his mind with a strong self-command; where- 
upon all the filths of the Circensian pastimes flew off from him, nor 
came he again thither. Upon this, he prevailed with his unwilUng 
father that he might be my scholar. He gave way, and gave in. And 
Alypius beginning to be my hearer again, was involved in the same 
superstition with me, loving in the Manichees that show of conti- 
nency which he supposed true and unfeigned. Whereas it was a 
senseless and seducing continency, ensnaring precious souls, unable 
as yet to reach the depth of virtue, yet readily beguiled with the 
surface of what was but a shadowy and counterfeit virtue. 

He, not forsaking that secular course which his parents had 
charmed him to pursue, had gone before me to Rome, to study law, 
and there he was carried away incredibly with an incredible eager- 
ness after the shows of gladiators. For being utterly averse to and 
detesting such spectacles, he was one day by chance met by divers of 
his acquaintance and fellow-students coming from dinner, and they 
with a familiar violence haled him, vehemently refusing and resist- 

• Prov. ix. 8. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 89 

ing, into the Amphitheatre, during these cruel and deadly shows, he 
thus protesting: "Though you hale my body to that place, and there 
set me, can you force me also to turn my mind or my eyes to those 
shows? I shall then be absent while present, and so shall overcome 
both you and them." They hearing this, led him on nevertheless, 
desirous perchance to try that very thing, whether he could do as 
he said. When they were come thither, and had taken their places 
as they could, the whole place kindled with that savage pastime. 
But he, closing the passages of his eyes, forbade his mind to range 
abroad after such evils; and would he had stopped his ears also! 
For in the fight, when one fell, a mighty cry of the whole people 
striking him strongly, overcome by curiosity, and as if prepared to 
despise and be superior to it whatsoever it were, even when seen, 
he opened his eyes, and was stricken with a deeper wound in his 
soul than the other, whom he desired to behold, was in his body; 
and he fell more miserably than he upon whose fall that mighty 
noise was raised, which entered through his ears, and unlocked his 
eyes, to make way for the striking and beating down of a soul, bold 
rather than resolute, and the weaker, in that it had presumed on 
itself, which ought to have relied on Thee. For so soon as he saw 
that blood, he therewith drunk down savageness; nor turned away, 
but fixed his eye, drinking in frenzy, unawares, and was delighted 
with that guilty fight, and intoxicated with the bloody pastime. Nor 
was he now the man he came, but one of the throng he came unto, 
yea, a true associate of theirs that brought him thither. Why say 
more? He beheld, shouted, kindled, carried thence with him the 
madness which should goad him to return not only with them who 
first drew him thither, but also before them, yea and to draw in 
others. Yet thence didst Thou with a most strong and most merciful 
hand pluck him, and taughtest him to have confidence not in himself, 
but in Thee. But this was after. 

But this was already being laid up in his memory to be a medicine 
hereafter. So was that also, that when he was yet studying under 
me at Carthage, and was thinking over at mid-day in the market- 
place what he was to say by heart (as scholars use to practise). Thou 
sufleredst him to be apprehended by the officers of the market-plao 
for a thief. For no other cause, I deem, didst Thou, our God, suffer 



90 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

it but that he who was hereafter to prove so great a man, should 
already begin to learn that in judging of causes, man was not readily 
to be condemned by man out of a rash credulity. For as he was 
walking up and down by himself before the judgment-seat, with his 
note-book and pen, lo, a young man, a lawyer, the real thief, privily 
bringing a hatchet, got in, unperceived by Alypius, as far as the 
leaden gratings which fence in the silversmiths' shops, and began 
to cut away the lead. But the noise of the hatchet being heard, the 
silversmiths beneath began to make a stir, and sent to apprehend 
whomever they should find. But he hearing their voices, ran away, 
leaving his hatchet, fearing to be taken with it. Alypius now, who 
had not seen him enter, was aware of his going, and saw with what 
speed he made away. And being desirous to know the matter, en- 
tered the place; where finding the hatchet, he was standing, wonder- 
ing and considering it, when behold, those that had been sent, find 
him alone with the hatchet in his hand, the noise whereof had 
starded and brought them thither. They seize him, hale him away, 
and gathering the dwellers in the market-place together, boast of 
having taken a notorious thief, and so he was being led away to be 
taken before the judge. 

But thus far was Alypius to be instructed. For forthwith, O Lord, 
Thou succouredst his innocency, whereof Thou alone wert witness. 
For as he was being led either to prison or to punishment, a certain 
architect met them, who had the chief charge of the public build- 
ings. Glad they were to meet him especially, by whom they were 
wont to be suspected of stealing the goods lost out of the market- 
place, as though to show him at last by whom these thefts were 
committed. He, however, had divers times seen Alypius at a certain 
senator's house, to whom he often went to pay his respects; and 
recognising him immediately, took him aside by the hand, and en- 
quiring the occasion of so great a calamity, heard the whole matter, 
and bade all present, amid much uproar and threats, to go with him. 
So they came to the house of the young man who had done the deed. 
There, before the door, was a boy so young as to be likely, not appre- 
hending any harm to his master, to disclose the whole. For he had 
attended his master to the market-place. Whom so soon as Alypius 
remembered, he told the architect: and he showing the hatchet to 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 9I 

the boy, asked him "Whose that was?" "Ours," quoth he presently: 
and being further questioned, he discovered every thing. Thus the 
crime being transferred to that house, and the muhitude ashamed, 
which had begun to insult over Alypius, he who was to be a dis- 
penser of Thy Word, and an examiner of many causes in Thy 
Church, went away better experienced and instructed. 

Him then I had found at Rome, and he clave to me by a most 
strong tie, and went with me to Milan, both that he might not leave 
me, and might practise something of the law he had studied, more 
to please his parents than himself. There he had thrice sat as Asses- 
sor, with an uncorruptness much wondered at by others, he won- 
dering at others rather who could prefer gold to honesty. His charac- 
ter was tried besides, not only with the bait of covetousness, but with 
the goad of fear. At Rome he was Assessor to the count of the 
Italian Treasury. There was at that time a very powerful senator, 
to whose favours many stood indebted, many much feared. He 
would needs, by his usual power, have a thing allowed him which 
by the laws was unallowed. Alypius resisted it: a bribe was prom- 
ised; with all his heart he scorned it: threats were held out; he 
trampled upon them: all wondering at so unwonted a spirit, which 
neither desired the friendship, nor feared the enmity of one so great 
and so mightily renowned for innumerable means of doing good or 
evil. And the very Judge, whose councillor Alypius was, although 
also unwilling it should be, yet did not openly refuse, but put the 
matter off upon Alypius, alleging that he would not allow him to 
do it: for in truth had the Judge done it, Alypius would have decided 
otherwise. With this one thing in the way of learning was he well- 
nigh seduced, that he might have books copied for him at Prxtorian 
prices, but consulting j ustice, he altered his deliberation for the bet- 
ter; esteeming equity whereby he was hindered more gainful than 
the power whereby he were allowed. These are slight things, but he 
that is faithful in little, is faithful also in much J Nor can that any 
how be void, which proceeded out of the mouth of Thy Truth: // 
ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous Mammon, tvho will 
commit to your trust true riches? And if ye have not been faithful 
in that tvhich is another man's, who shall ^ve you that tvhich is your 

'Luke zvi 10. 



92 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

own?* He being such, did at that time cleave to me, and with me 
wavered in purpose, what course of life was to be taken. 

Nebridius also, who having left his native country near Carthage, 
yea and Carthage itself, where he had much lived, leaving his excel- 
lent family-estate and house, and a mother behind, who was not to 
follow him, had come to Milan, for no other reason but that with 
me he might live in a most ardent search after truth and wisdom. 
Like me he sighed, like me he wavered, an ardent searcher after 
true life, and a most acute examiner of the most difficult questions. 
Thus were there the mouths of three indigent persons, sighing out 
their wants one to another, and waiting upon Thee that Thou might- 
est give them their meat in due season^ And in all the bitterness 
which by Thy mercy followed our worldly affairs, as we looked 
towards the end, why we should suffer all this, darkness met us; and 
we turned away groaning, and saying. How long shall these things 
be? This too we often said; and so saying forsook them not, for as 
yet there dawned nothing certain, which, these forsaken, we might 
embrace. 

And I, viewing and reviewing things, most wondered at the length 
of time from that my nineteenth year, wherein I had begun to kindle 
with the desire of wisdom, setding when I had found her, to aban- 
don all the empty hopes and lying frenzies of vain desires. And lo, 
I was now in my thirtieth year, sticking in the same mire, greedy 
of enjoying things present, which passed away and wasted my soul; 
while I said to myself, "To-morrow I shall find it; it will appear 
manifestly, and I shall grasp it; Faustus the Manichee will come, and 
clear every thing! O you great men, ye Academicians, it is true then, 
that no certainty can be attained for the ordering of life! Nay, let us 
search the more diligently, and despair not. Lo, things in the ecclesi- 
astical books are not absurd to us now, which sometimes seemed 
absurd, and may be otherwise taken, and in a good sense. I will take 
my stand, where, as a child, my parents placed me, until the clear 
truth be found out. But where shall it be sought or when? Am- 
brose has no leisure; we have no leisure to read; where shall we find 
even the books? Whence, or when procure them? from whom bor- 
row them? Let set times be appointed, and certain hours be ordered 
*Luke xvi. ii, 12. 'Ps. adv. i«i 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 93 

for the health of our soul. Great hope has dawned; the Catholic 
Faith teaches not what we thought, and vainly accused it of; her in- 
structed members hold it profane to believe God to be bounded by 
the figure of a human body: and do we doubt to 'knock,' that the 
rest 'may be opened'? The forenoons our scholars take up; what do 
we during the rest? Why not this? But when then pay we court to 
our great friends, whose favour we need? When compose what we 
may sell to scholars? When refresh ourselves, unbending our minds 
from this intenseness of care?" 

"Perish every thing, dismiss we these empty vanities, and betake 
ourselves to the one search for truth! Life is vain, death uncertain; if 
it steals upon us on a sudden, in what state shall we depart hence? 
and where shall we learn what here we have neglected? and shall 
we not rather suffer the punishment of this negligence? What, if 
death itself cut off and end all care and feeling? Then must this be 
ascertained. But God forbid this! It is no vain and empty thing, 
that the excellent dignity of the authority of the Christian Faith hath 
overspread the whole world. Never would such and so great things 
be by God wrought for us, if with the death of the body the life of 
the soul came to an end. Wherefore delay then to abandon worldly 
hopes, and give ourselves wholly to seek after God and the blessed 
life? But wait! Even those things are pleasant; they have some, 
and no small sweetness. We must not lighdy abandon them, for it 
were a shame to return again to them. See, it is no great mauer now 
to obtain some station, and then what should we more wish for ? We 
have store of powerful friends; if nothing else offer, and we be in 
much haste, at least a presidentship may be given us: and a wife 
with some money, that she increase not our charges: and this shall 
be the bound of desire. Many great men, and most worthy of imiu- 
tion, have given themselves to the study of wisdom in the state of 
marriage." 

While I went over these things, and these winds shifted and drove 
my heart this way and that, time passed on, but I delayed to turn to 
the Lord; and from day to day deferred to live in Thee, and deferred 
not daily to die in myself. Loving a happy life, I feared it in its own 
abode, and sought it, by fleeing from it. I thought I should be too 
miserable, unless folded in female arms; and of the medicine of Thy 



94 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

mercy to cure that infirmity I thought not, not having tried it. As 
for continency, I supposed it to be in our own power (though in 
myself I did not find that power), being so fooHsh as not to know 
what is written, None can be continent unless Thou give it;^" and 
that Thou wouldest give it, if with inward groanings I did knock at 
Thine ears, and with a settled faith did cast my care on Thee. 

Alypius indeed kept me from marrying; alleging that so could 
we by no means with undistracted leisure live together in the love 
of wisdom, as we had long desired. For himself was even then 
most pure in this point, so that it was wonderful; and that the more, 
since in the outset of his youth he had entered into that course, but 
had not stuck fast therein; rather had he felt remorse and revolting 
at it, living thenceforth until now most continendy. But I opposed 
him with the examples of those who as married men had cherished 
wisdom, and served God acceptably, and retained their friends, and 
loved them faithfully. Of whose greatness of spirit I was far short; 
and bound with the disease of the flesh and its deadly sweetness, 
drew along my chain, dreading to be loosed, and as if my wound 
had been fretted, put back his good persuasions, as it were the hand 
of one that would unchain me. Moreover, by me did the serpent 
speak unto Alypius himself, by my tongue weaving and laying in 
his path pleasurable snares, wherein his virtuous and free feet might 
be entangled. 

For when he wondered that I, whom he esteemed not slightly, 
should stick so fast in the birdlime of that pleasure, as to protest 
(so oft as we discussed it) that I could never lead a single life; and 
urged in my defence when I saw him wonder, that there was great 
difference between his momentary and scarce-remembered knowl- 
edge of that life, which so he might easily despise, and my continued 
acquaintance whereto if but the honourable name of marriage were 
added, he ought not to wonder why I could not contemn that course; 
he began also to desire to be married; not as overcome with desire 
of such pleasure, but out of curiosity. For he would fain know, he 
said, what that should be, without which my life, to him so pleasing, 
would to me seem not life but a punishment. For his mind, free 
from that chain, was amazed at my thraldom; and through that 
«» Wisd. viii. 2.— Vulg. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 95 

amazement was going on to a desire of trying it, thence to the trial 
itself, and thence perhaps to sink into that bondage whereat he 
wondered, seeing he was willing to make a covenant with death'^^ 
and he that loves danger, shall jail into it}^ For whatever honour 
there be in the office of well-ordering a married life, and a family, 
moved us but slightly. But me for the most part the habit of satis- 
fying an insatiable appetite tormented, while it held me captive; him, 
an admiring wonder was leading captive. So were we, until Thou, 
O Most High, not forsaking our dust, commiserating us miserable, 
didst come to our help, by wondrous and secret ways. 

Continual effort was made to have me married. I wooed, I was 
promised, chiefly through my mother's pains, that so once married, 
the health-giving baptism might cleanse me, towards which she re- 
joiced that I was being daily fitted, and observed that her prayers, 
and Thy promises, were being fulfilled in my faith. At which time 
verily, both at my request and her own longing, with strong cries 
of heart she daily begged of Thee, that Thou wouldest by a vision dis- 
cover unto her something concerning my future marriage; Thou 
never wouldest. She saw indeed certain vain and fantastic things, 
such as the energy of the human spirit, busied thereon, brought to- 
gether; and these she told me of, not with that confidence she was 
wont, when Thou showedst her any thing, but slighting them. For 
she could, she said, through a certain feeling, which in words she 
could not express, discern betwixt Thy revelations, and the dreams 
of her own soul. Yet the matter was pressed on, and a maiden asked 
in marriage, two years under the fit age; and as pleasing, was 
waited for. 

And many of us friends conferring about, and detesting the tur- 
bulent turmoils of human life, had debated and now almost re- 
solved on hving apart from business and the bustle of men; and this 
was to be thus obtained; we were to bring whatever we might sev- 
erally procure, and make one household of all; so that through the 
truth of our friendship nothing should belong especially to any; but 
the whole thus derived from all, should as a whole belong to each, 
and all to all. We thought there might be some ten persons in this 
society; some of whom were very rich, especially Romanianus our 
"It. xzviii. I J. "Ecdus. m. 37. 



96 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

townsman, from childhood a very familiar friend of mine, whom the 
grievous perplexities of his affairs had brought up to court; who was 
the most earnest for this project; and therein was his voice of great 
weight, because his ample estate far exceeded any of the rest. We 
had settled also that two annual officers, as it were, should provide 
all things necessary, the rest being undisturbed. But when we began 
to consider whether the wives, which some of us already had, others 
hoped to have, would allow this, all that plan, which was being so 
well moulded, fell to pieces in our hands, was utterly dashed and 
cast aside. Thence we betook us to sighs, and groans, and our steps to 
follow the broad and beaten ways of the world;" for many thoughts 
were in our heart, but Thy counsel standeth for ever." Out of which 
counsel Thou didst deride ours, and preparedst Thine own; pur- 
posing to gii/e us meat in due season, and to open Thy hand, and to 
fill our souls with blessing}'' 

Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied, and my concubine 
being torn from my side as a hindrance to my marriage, my heart 
which clave unto her was torn and wounded and bleeding. And she 
returned to Afric, vowing unto Thee never to know any other man, 
leaving with me my son by her. But unhappy I, who could not imi- 
tate a very woman, impatient of delay, inasmuch as not till after 
two years was I to obtain her I sought, not being so much a lover of 
marriage as a slave to lust, procured another, though no wife, that 
so by the servitude of an enduring custom, the disease of my soul 
might be kept up and carried on in its vigour, or even augmented, 
into the dominion of marriage. Nor was that my wound cured, 
which had been made by the cutting away of the former, but after 
inflammation and most acute pain, it mortified, and my pains became 
less acute, but more desperate. 

To Thee be praise, glory to Thee, Fountain of mercies. I was 
becoming more miserable, and Thou nearer. Thy right hand was 
continually ready to pluck me out of the mire, and to wash me 
throughly, and I knew it not; nor did any thing call me back from a 
yet deeper gulf of carnal pleasures, but the fear of death, and of Thy 
judgment to come; which amid all my changes, never departed from 
my breast. And in my disputes with my friends Alypius and Neb- 
**Man. vii. 13. "P$. xxxiii. 11. "P$. cxlv. 15, 16. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 97 

ridius of the nature of good and evil, I held that Epicurus had in my 
mind won the palm, had I not believed that after death there re- 
mained a life for the soul, and places of requital according to men's 
deserts, which Epicurus would not believe. And I asked, "were we 
immortal, and to live in perpetual bodily pleasures, without fear of 
losing it, why should we not be happy, or what else should we seek?" 
not knowing that great misery was involved in this very thing, that, 
being thus sunk and blinded, I could not discern that light of excel- 
lence and beauty, to be embraced for its own sake, which the eye of 
flesh cannot see, and is seen by the inner man. Nor did I, unhappy, 
consider from what source it sprung, that even on these things, foul 
as they were, I with pleasure discoursed with my friends, nor could I, 
even according to the notions I then had of happiness, be happy 
without friends, amid what abundance soever of carnal pleasures. 
And yet these friends I loved for themselves only, and I felt that I 
was beloved of them again for myself only. 

O crooked paths! Woe to the audacious soul, which hoped, by for- 
saking Thee, to gain some better thing! Turned it hath, and turned 
again, upon back, sides, and belly, yet all was painful; and Thou 
alone rest. And behold. Thou art at hand, and deliverest us from 
our wretched wanderings, and placest us in Thy way, and dost com- 
fort us, and say, "Run; I will carry you; yea I will bring you 
through; there also will I carry you." 



THE SEVENTH BOOK 

Augustine's thirty-first year; gradually extricated from his errors, but 
still with material conceptions of God; much aided by an argument 
of Nebridius; sees that the cause of sin lies in free-will, rejects the 
Manichxan heresy, but can not altogether embrace the doctrine of 
the Church; recovered from the belief in Astrology, but miserably 
perplexed about the origin of evil; is led to find in the Platonists the 
seeds of the doctrine of the Divinity of the Word, but not of His 
humiliation; hence he obtains clearer notions of God's majesty, but, 
not knowing Christ to be the Mediator, remains estranged from 
Him; all his doubts removed by the study of Holy Scripture, espe- 
cially St. Paul. 

DECEASED was now that my evil and abominable youth, 
and I was passing into early manhood; the more defiled 
by vain things as I grew in years, who could not imagine 
any substance, but such as is wont to be seen with these eyes, I 
thought not of Thee, O God, under the figure of a human body; 
since I began to hear aught of wisdom, I always avoided this; and 
rejoiced to have found the same in the faith of our spiritual mother, 
Thy Catholic Church. But what else to conceive Thee I knew not. 
And I, a man, and such a man, sought to conceive of Thee the sov- 
ereign, only, true God; and I did in my inmost soul believe that 
Thou wert incorruptible, and uninjurable, and unchangeable; be- 
cause though not knowing whence or how, yet I saw plainly, and 
was sure, that that which may be corrupted must be inferior to that 
which cannot; what could not be injured I preferred unhesitatingly 
to what could receive injury; the unchangeable to things subject to 
change. My heart passionately cried out against all my phantoms, 
and with this one blow I sought to beat away from the eye of my 
mind all that unclean troop which buzzed around it. And lo, being 
scarce put off, in the twinkling of an eye they gathered again thick 
about me, flew against my face, and beclouded it; so that though 
not under the form of the human body, yet was I constrained to con- 
ceive of Thee (that incorruptible, uninjurable, and unchangeable, 

98 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 99 

which I preferred before the corruptible, and injurable, and change- 
able) as being in space, whether infused into the world, or diffused 
infinitely without it. Because whatsoever I conceived, deprived of 
this space, seemed to me nothing, yea altogether nothing, not even a 
void, as if a body were taken out of its place, and the place should 
remain empty of any body at all, of earth and water, air and heaven, 
yet would it remain a void place, as it were a spacious nothing. 

I then being thus gross-hearted, nor clear even to myself, what- 
soever was not extended over certain spaces, nor diffused, nor con- 
densed, nor swelled out, or did not or could not receive some of 
these dimensions, I thought to be altogether nothing. For over such 
forms as my eyes are wont to range, did my heart then range: nor 
yet did I see that this same notion of the mind, whereby I formed 
those very images, was not of this sort, and yet it could not have 
formed them, had not itself been some great thing. So also did I 
endeavour to conceive of Thee, Life of my life, as vast, through in- 
finite spaces on every side penetrating the whole mass of the uni- 
verse, and beyond it, every way, through unmeasurable boundless 
spaces; so that the earth should have Thee, the heaven have Thee, 
all things have Thee, and they be bounded in Thee, and Thou 
bounded nowhere. For that as the body of this air which is above 
the earth, hindereth not the light of the sun from passing through 
it, penetrating it, not by bursting or by cutting, but by filling it 
wholly: so I thought the body not of heaven, air, and sea only, but 
of the earth too, previous to Thee, so that in all its parts, the greatest 
as the smallest, it should admit Thy presence, by a secret inspiration 
within and without, directing all things which Thou hast created. 
So I guessed, only as unable to conceive aught else, for it was false. 
For thus should a greater part of the earth contain a greater portion 
of Thee, and a less, a lesser: and all things should in such sort be 
full of Thee, that the body of an elephant should contain more of 
Thee than that of a sparrow, by how much larger it is and takes up 
more room; and thus shouldest Thou make the several portions of 
Thyself present unto the several portions of the world, in fragments, 
large to the large, petty to the petty. But such are not Thou. But 
not as yet hadst Thou enlightened my darkness. 

It was enough for me. Lord, to oppose to those deceived deceivers. 



lOO THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

and dumb praters, since Thy word sounded not out of them; — 
that was enough which long ago, while we were yet at Carthage, 
Nebridius used to propound, at which all we that heard it were 
staggered: "That said nation of darkness, which the Manichees are 
wont to set as an opposing mass over against Thee, what could it 
have done unto Thee, hadst Thou refused to fight with it? For, if 
they answered, 'it would have done Thee some hurt,' then shouldest 
Thou be subject to injury and corruption: but if 'it could do Thee no 
hurt,' then was no reason brought for Thy fighting with it; and fight- 
ing in such wise, as that a certain portion or member of Thee, or 
offspring of Thy very Substance, should be mingled with opposed 
powers, and natures not created by Thee, and be by them so far cor- 
rupted and changed to the worse, as to be turned from happiness 
into misery, and need assistance, whereby it might be extricated and 
purified; and that this offspring of Thy Substance was the soul, 
which being enthralled, defiled, corrupted, Thy Word free, pure and 
whole might relieve; that Word itself being still corruptible because 
it was of one and the same Substance. So then, should they affirm 
Thee, whatsoever Thou art, that is, Thy Substance whereby Thou 
art, to be incorruptible, then were all these sayings false and exe- 
crable; but if corruptible, the very statement showed it to be false 
and revolting." This argument then of Nebridius sufficed against 
those who deserved wholly to be vomited out of the overcharged 
stomach; for they had no escape, without horrible blasphemy of heart 
and tongue, thus thinking and speaking of Thee. 

But I also as yet, although I held and was firmly persuaded that 
Thou our Lord the true God, who madest not only our souls, but our 
bodies, and not only our souls and bodies, but all beings, and all 
things wert undefilable and unalterable, and in no degree mutable; 
yet understood I not, clearly and without difficulty, the cause of evil. 
And yet whatever it were, I perceived it was in such wise to be 
sought out, as should not constrain me to believe the immutable God 
to be mutable, lest I should become that evil I was seeking out. I 
sought it out then, thus far free from anxiety, certain of the untruth 
of what these held, from whom I shrunk with my whole heart: for 
I saw, that through enquiring the origin of evil, they were filled with 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 101 

evil, in that they preferred to think that Thy substance did suffer 
ill than their own did commit it. 

And I strained to perceive what I now heard, that freewill was 
the cause of our doing ill, and Thy just judgment of our suffering ill. 
But I was not able clearly to discern it. So then endeavouring to 
draw my soul's vision out of that deep pit, I was again plunged 
therein, and endeavouring often, I was plunged back as often. But 
this raised me a litde into Thy light, that I knew as well that I had 
a will, as that I lived: when then I did will or nill any thing, I was 
most sure that no other than myself did will and nill: and I all but 
saw that there was the cause of my sin. But what I did against my 
will, I saw that 1 suffered rather than did, and I judged not to be my 
fault, but my punishment; whereby however, holding Thee to be 
just, I speedily confessed myself to be not unjustly punished. But 
again I said. Who made me? Did not my God, who is not only 
good, but goodness itself? Whence then came I to will evil and nill 
good, so that I am thus justly punished? who set this in me, and 
ingrafted into me this plant of bitterness, seeing I was wholly formed 
by my most sweet God ? If the devil were the author, whence is that 
same devil ? And if he also by his own perverse will, of a good angel 
became a devil, whence, again, came in him that evil will whereby he 
became a devil, seeing the whole nature of angels was made by that 
most good Creator? By these thoughts I was again sunk down and 
choked; yet not brought down to that hell of error (where no man 
confesseth unto Thee), to think rather that Thou dost suffer ill, 
than that man doth it.' 

For I was in such wise striving to find out the rest, as one who had 
already found that the incorruptible must needs be better than the 
corruptible: and Thee therefore, whatsoever Thou wert, I con- 
fessed to be incorruptible. For never soul was, nor shall be able to 
conceive any thing which may be better than Thou, who art the 
sovereign and the best good. But since most truly and certainly, the 
incorruptible is preferable to the corruptible (as I did now prefer it), 
then, wert Thou not incorruptible, I could in thought have arrived 
at something better than my God Where then I saw the incor- 

'P«. vL 5. 



102 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

ruptible to be preferable to the corruptible, there ought I to seek for 
Thee, and there observe "wherein evil itself was;" that is whence 
corruption comes, by which Thy substance can by no means be im- 
paired. For corruption does no ways impair our God; by no will, by 
no necessity, by no unlooked-for chance: because He is God, and 
what He wills is good, and Himself is that good; but to be corrupted 
is not good. Nor art Thou against Thy will constrained to any thing, 
since Thy will is not greater than Thy power. But greater should it 
be, were Thyself greater than Thyself. For the will and power of 
God is God Himself. And what can be unlooked for by Thee, who 
knowest all things? Nor is there any nature in things, but Thou 
knowest it. And what should we more say, "why that substance 
which God is should not be corruptible," seeing if it were so, it 
should not be God? 

And I sought "whence is evil," and sought in an evil way; and 
saw not the evil in my very search. I set now before the sight of my 
spirit the whole creation, whatsoever we can see therein (as sea, 
earth, air, stars, trees, mortal creatures) ; yea, and whatever in it we 
do not see, as the firmament of heaven, all angels moreover, and all 
the spiritual inhabitants thereof. But these very beings, as though 
they were bodies, did my fancy dispose in place, and I made one great 
mass of Thy creation, distinguished as to the kinds of bodies; some, 
real bodies, some, what myself had feigned for spirits. And this mass 
I made huge, not as it was (which I could not know), but as I 
thought convenient, yet every way finite. But Thee, O Lord, I 
imagined on every part environing and penetrating it, though every 
way infinite: as if there were a sea, every where, and on every side, 
through unmeasured space, one only boundless sea, and it contained 
within it some spwnge, huge, but bounded; that sponge must needs, 
in all its parts, be filled from that unmeasurable sea: so conceived I 
Thy creation, itself finite, full of Thee, the Infinite; and I said. Be- 
hold God, and behold what God hath created; and God is good, yea, 
most mightily and incomparably better than all these: but yet He, the 
Good, created them good; and see how He environeth and fulfils 
them. Where is evil then, and whence, and how crept it in hither? 
What is its root, and what its seed? Or hath it no being? Why then 
fear we and avoid what is not? Or if we fear it idly, then is that 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE lOJ 

very fear evil, whereby the soul is thus idly goaded and racked. Yea, 
and so much a greater evil, as we have nothing to fear, and yet do 
fear. Therefore either is that evil which we fear, or else evil is, that 
we fear. Whence is it then ? seeing God, the Good, hath created all 
these things good. He indeed, the greater and chiefest Good, hath 
created these lesser goods; still both Creator and created, all are good. 
Whence is evil? Or, was there some evil matter of which He made, 
and formed, and ordered it, yet left something in it which He did 
not convert into good ? Why so then ? Had He no right to turn and 
change the whole, so that no evil should remain in it, seeing He is 
Almighty? Lastly, why should He make any thing at all of it, and 
not rather by the same All-mightiness cause it not to be at all? Or, 
could it then be against His will? Or if it were from eternity, why 
suffered He it so to be for infinite spaces of times past, and was 
pleased so long after to make something out of it? Or if He were 
suddenly pleased now to effect somewhat, this rather should the All- 
mighty have effected, that this evil matter should not be, and He 
alone be, the whole, true, sovereign, and infinite Good. Or if it was 
not good that He who was good should not also frame and create 
something that were good, then, that evil matter being taken away 
and brought to nothing. He might form good matter, whereof to 
create all things. For He should not be All-mighty, if He might not 
create something good without the aid of that matter which Himself 
had not created. These thoughts I revolved in my miserable heart, 
overcharged with most gnawing cares, lest I should die ere I had 
found the truth; yet was the faith of Thy Christ, our Lord and 
Saviour, professed in the Church Catholic, firmly fixed in my earth, 
in many points, indeed, as yet unformed, and fluctuating from the 
rule of doctrine; yet did not my mind utterly leave it, but rather 
daily took in more and more of it. 

By this time also had I rejected the lying divinations and impious 
dotages of the astrologers. Let Thine own mercies, out of my very 
inmost soul, confess unto Thee for this also, O my God.' For Thou, 
Thou altogether (for who else calls us back from the death of all 
errors, save the Life which cannot die, and the Wisdom which need- 
ing no light enlightens the minds that need it, whereby the universe 
» P$. cvL 8.— Vulg. 



104 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

is directed, down to the whirling leaves of trees?), — Thou madest 
provision for my obstinacy wherewith I struggled against Vindici- 
anus,' an acute old man, and Nebridius, a young man of admirable 
talents; the first vehemently affirming, and the latter often (though 
with some doubtfulness) saying, "That there was no such art whereby 
to foresee things to come, but that men's conjectures were a sort of 
lottery, and that out of many things which they said should come 
to pass, some actually did, unawares to them who spake it, who 
stumbled upon it, through their oft speaking." Thou providest 
then a friend for me, no negligent consulter of the astrologers; nor 
yet well skilled in those arts, but (as I said) a curious consulter 
with them, and yet knowing something, which he said he had heard 
of his father, which how far it went to overthrow the estimation of 
that art, he knew not. This man then, Firminus by name, having 
had a liberal education, and well taught in Rhetoric, consulted me, 
as one very dear to him, what, according to his so<alled constella- 
tions, I thought on certain affairs of his, wherein his worldly hopes 
had risen, and I, who had herein now begun to incline towards 
Nebridius' opinion, did not altogether refuse to conjecture, and tell 
him what came into my unresolved mind: but added, that I was 
now almost persuaded that these were but empty and ridiculous 
follies. Thereupon he told me that his father had been very curious 
in such books, and had a friend as earnest in them as himself, who 
with joint study and conference fanned the flame of their affections 
to these toys, so that they would observe the moments whereat the 
very dumb animals, which bred about their houses, gave birth, and 
then observed the relative position of the heavens, thereby to make 
fresh experiments in this so<alled art. He said then that he had 
heard of his father, that what time his mother was about to give 
birth to him, Firminus, a woman-servant of that friend of his father's 
was also with child, which could not escape her master, who took 
care with most exact diligence to know the births of his very pup- 
pies. And so it was that (the one for his wife, and the other for 
his servant, with the most careful observation, reckoning days, hours, 
nay, the lesser divisions of the hours) both were delivered at the 
same instant; so that both were constrained to allow the same con- 

' See Book IV., p. 50. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I05 

stellations, even to the minutest points, the one for his son, the other 
for his new-born slave. For so soon as the women began to be in 
labour, they each gave notice to the other what was fallen out in 
their houses, and had messengers ready to send to one another so 
soon as they had notice of the actual birth, of which they had 
easily provided, each in his own province, to give instant intelli- 
gence. Thus then the messengers of the respective parties met, he 
averred, at such an equal distance from either house, that neither 
of them could make out any difference in the position of the stars, 
or any other minutest points; and yet Firminus, born in a high 
estate in his parents' house, ran his course through the gilded paths 
of life, was increased in riches, raised to honours; whereas that slave 
continued to serve his masters, without any relaxation of his yoke, 
as Firminus, who knew him, told me. 

Upon hearing and believing these things, told by one of such credi- 
bility, all that my resistance gave way; and first I endeavoured to 
reclaim Firminus himself from that curiosity, by telling him that 
upon inspecting his constellations, I ought, if I were to predict truly, 
to have seen in them parents eminent among their neighbours, a 
noble family in its own city, high birth, good education, liberal 
learning. But if that servant had consulted me upon the same con- 
stellations, since they were his also, I ought again (to tell him too 
truly) to see in them a lineage the most abject, a slavish condition, 
and every thing else utterly at variance with the former. Whence 
then, if I spake the truth, I should, from the same constellations, 
speak diversely, or if I spake the same, speak falsely: thence it fol- 
lowed most certainly that whatever, upon consideration of the con- 
stellations, was spoken truly, was spoken not out of art, but chance; 
and whatever spoken falsely, was not out of ignorance in the art, 
but the failure of the chance. 

An opening thus made, ruminating with myself on the like 
things, that no one of those dotards (who lived by such a trade, and 
whom I longed to attack, and with derision to confute) might urge 
against me that Firminus had informed me falsely, or his father 
him; I bent my thoughts on those that are born twins, who for the 
most part come out of the womb so near one to other, that the small 
interval (how much force soever in the nature of things folk may 



I06 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

pretend it to have) cannot be noted by human observation, or be at 
all expressed in those figures which the astrologer is to inspect, that 
he may pronounce truly. Yet they cannot be true: for looking into 
the same figures, he must have predicted the same of Esau and 
Jacob, whereas the same happened not to them. Therefore he must 
speak falsely; or if truly, then, looking into the same figures, he 
must not give the same answer. Not by art, then, but by chance, 
would he speak truly. For Thou, O Lord, most righteous Ruler of 
the Universe, while consulters and consulted know it not, dost by 
Thy hidden inspiration effect that the consulter should hear what, 
according to the hidden deservings of souls, he ought to hear, out of 
the unsearchable depth of Thy just judgment, to Whom let no man 
say. What is this? Why that? Let him not so say, for he is man. 

Now then, O my Helper, hadst thou loosed me from those fetters: 
and I sought "whence is evil," and found no way. But thou suf- 
feredst me not by any fluctuations of thought to be carried away 
from the Faith whereby I believed Thee both to be, and Thy sub- 
stance to be unchangeable, and that Thou hast a care of, and would- 
est judge men, and that in Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, and the 
holy Scriptures, which the authority of Thy Catholic Church 
pressed upon me. Thou hadst set the way of man's salvation, to that 
life which is to be after this death. These things being safe and im- 
movably settled in my mind, I sought anxiously "whence was evil?" 
What were the pangs of my teeming heart, what groans, O my 
God! yet even there were Thine ears open, and I knew it not: 
and when in silence I vehemently sought, those silent contritions 
of my soul were strong cries unto Thy mercy. Thou knewest what 
I suffered, and no man. For, what was that which was thence 
through my tongue distilled into the ears of my most familiar 
friends? Did the whole tumult of my soul, for which neither time 
nor utterance* sufficed, reach them ? Yet went up the whole to Thy 
hearing, all which I roared out from the groanings of my heart; and 
my desire was before Thee, and the light of mine eyes was not 
with me: for that was within, I without: nor was that confined to 
place, but I was intent on things contained in place, but there found 
I no resting-place, nor did they so receive me, that I could say, "It 
*P». xzzvii. 9-1 1. — Vulg. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE IO7 

is enough," "it is well": nor did they yet suffer me to turn back, 
where it might be well enough with me. For to these things was I 
superior, but inferior to Thee; and Thou art my true joy when sub- 
jected to Thee, and Thou hadst subjected to me what Thou createdst 
below me. And this was the true temperament, and middle region 
of my safety, to remain in Thy Image, and by serving Thee, rule 
the body. But when 1 rose proudly against Thee, and ran against 
the Lord with my necf^, with the thic/(^ bosses of my bucf{ler^ even 
these inferior things were set above me, and pressed me down, and 
no where was there respite or space for breathing. They met ray 
sight on all sides by heaps and troops, and in thought the images 
thereof presented themselves unsought, as I would return to Thee, 
as if they would say unto me, "Whither goest thou, unworthy and 
defiled?" And these things had grown out of my wound; for Thou 
"humbledst the proud like one that is wounded,'* and through my 
own swelling was I separated from Thee; yea, my pride-swollen 
face closed up mine eyes. 

But Thou, Lord, abidest jar ever, yet not for ever art Thou 
angry with us; because Thou pitiest our dust and ashes and it was 
pleasing in Thy sight to reform my deformities and by inward goads 
didst Thou rouse me, that I should be ill at ease, until Thou wert 
manifested to my inward sight. Thus, by the secret hand of Thy 
medicining was my swelling abated, and the troubled and bedimmed 
eye-sight of my mind, by the smarting anointings of healthful sor- 
rows, was from day to day healed. 

And Thou, willing first to show me how Thou resistest the 
proud, but givest grace unto the humble^ and by how great an act 
of Thy Mercy Thou hadst traced out to men the way of humility, 
in that Thy Word was made flesh, and dwelt among men: — Thou 
procuredst for me, by means of one puffed up with most unnatural 
pride, certain books of the Platonists, translated from Greek into 
Latin. And therein I read, not indeed in the very words, but to the 
very same purpose, enforced by many and divers reasons, that In the 
beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the 
Word was God: the Same was in the beginning with God: all 
things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made: 
•job XT. 26. *Pf. IzzxTiiL 11. — Vulg. 'Jam. iv. 6; i Pet. v. 5. 



I08 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

that which was made by Him is life, and the life was the light of 
men, and the light shineth in the darkness, and the dar/^ness com- 
prehended it not.' And that the soul of man, though it bears witness 
to the light, yet itself is not that light; but the Word of God, being 
God, is that true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the 
world? And that He was in the world, and the world was made by 
Him, and the world \new Him not}" But that He came unto His 
own, and His own received him not;'^ but as many as received Him, 
to them gave He power to become the sons of God, as many as be- 
lieved in His name;" this I read not there. 

Again I read there, that God the Word was born not of flesh, nor 
of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of 
God." But that the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,^* I 
read not there. For I traced in those books that it was many and 
divers ways said, that the Son was in the form of the Father, and 
thought it not robbery to be equal with God, for that naturally He 
was the Same Substance. But that He emptied himself, talking the 
form of a servant, being made in the lil{eness of men, and found in 
fashion as a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, 
and that the death of the cross: wherefore God exalted Him from the 
dead and gave Him a name above every name, that at the name of 
Jesus every l{nee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, 
and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that 
the Lord Jesus Christ is in the Glory of God the Father;" those books 
have not. For that before all times and above all times Thy Only- 
Begotten Son remaineth unchangeable, co-eternal with Thee, and 
that of His fulness souls receive," that they may be blessed; and 
that by participation of wisdom abiding in them, they are renewed, 
so as to be wise, is there. But that in due time He died for the un- 
godly;" and that Thou sparedst not Thine Only Son, but deliveredst 
Him for us all" is not there. For Thou hiddest these things from 
the wise, and revealedst them to babes; that they that labour and are 
heavy laden might come unto Him, and He refresh them, because 
He is meel{ and lowly in heart;" and the meel{ He directeth in 
judgment, and the gentle He teacheth His ways,"* beholding our 
•John L 1-5. •/*. 9. "M. 10. "/*. II. "lb. 12. "/*. 13. "/*. 14, 
"Phil. ii. 6-1 1. "John i. 16. "Rom. v. 6. "/A. viii. 32. 
"Matt, xi., 25, 28, 29. '»Ps. XXV. 9. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE IO9 

loneliness and trouble, and forgiving all our sins." But such as are 
lifted up in the lofty walk of some would-be sublimer learning, hear 
not Him, saying. Learn of Me, for I am meel{ and lowly in heart, 
and ye shall find rest to your souls^ Although they l^new God, yet 
they glorify Him not as God, nor are thankjul, but wax vain in 
their thoughts; and their foolish heart is darl^ened; professing that 
they were wise, they became fools}* 

And therefore did I read there also, that they had changed the 
glory of Thy incorruptible nature into idols and divers shapes, into 
the likeness of the image of corruptible man, and birds, and beasts, 
and creeping things;^* namely, into that Egyptian food for which 
Esau lost his birthright," for that Thy first-born people worshipped 
the head of a four-footed beast instead of Thee;^° turning in heart 
back towards Egypt; and bowing Thy image, their own soul, be- 
fore the image of a calf that eateth hay^ These things found I here, 
but I fed not on them. For it pleased Thee, O Lord, to take away 
the reproach of diminution from Jacob, that the elder should serve 
the younger:" and Thou calledst the Gentiles into Thine inheritance. 
And I had come to Thee from among the Gentiles; and I set my 
mind upon the gold which Thou willedst Thy people to take from 
Egypt, seeing Thine it was, wheresoever it were." And to the 
Athenians Thou saidst by Thy Apostle, that in Thee we live, move, 
and have our being, as one of their own poets had said."' And verily 
these books came from thence. But I set not my mind on the idols 
of Egypt, whom they served with Thy gold,^^ who changed the truth 
of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more 
than the Creator}^ 

And being thence admonished to return to myself, I entered even 
into my inward self. Thou being my Guide: and able I was, for 
Thou wert become my Helper. And I entered and beheld with the 
eye of my soul (such as it was), above the same eye of my soul, above 
my mind, the Light Unchangeable. Not this ordinary light, which 
all flesh may look upon, nor as it were a greater of the same kind, 
as though the brightness of this should be manifold brighter, and 
with its greatness take up all space. Not such was this light, but 

*'/6. 18. "Matt xi. 29. "Rom. i. 11, 22. "Rom. i. 2j. "Gen. xxv. 33, 34 

"Ex. xxxii. 1-6. "Ps. cvi. 20. "Rom. ix. 13. "Ex. iii. 23; xi. 2. 

» Acts xvii. 28. " Ho». u. 8. « Rom. i. 25. 



no THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

other, yea, far other from all these. Nor was it above my soul, as 
oil is above water, nor yet as heaven above earth: but above to my 
soul, because It made me; and I below It, because I was made by 
it. He that knows the Truth, knows what that Light is; and he that 
knows It, knows eternity. Love knoweth it. O Truth Who art Eter- 
nity! and Love Who art Truth! and Eternity Who art Love! Thou 
art my God, to Thee do I sigh night and day. Thee when I first 
knew. Thou liftedst me up, that I might see there was what I might 
see, and that I was not yet such as to see. And Thou didst beat 
back the weakness of my sight, streaming forth Thy beams of light 
upon me most strongly, and I trembled with love and awe: and I 
perceived myself to be far off from Thee, in the region of unlike- 
ness, as if I heard this Thy voice from on high: "I am the food of 
grown men; grow and thou shalt feed up>on Me; nor shalt thou 
convert Me, like the food of thy flesh, into thee, but thou shalt be 
converted into Me." And I learned, that Thou for iniquity chas- 
tenest man, and Thou madest my soul to consume away like a 
spider." And I said, "Is Truth therefore nothing because it is not 
diffused through space finite or infinite?" And Thou criedst to me 
from afar: "Yea, verily, / AM that I AM."" And I heard, as the 
heart heareth, nor had I room to doubt, and I should sooner doubt 
that I live than that Truth is not, which is clearly seen, being under- 
stood by those things which are made^ 

And I beheld the other things below Thee, and I perceived that 
they neither altogether are, nor altogether are not, for they are, since 
they are from Thee, but are not, because they are not, what Thou 
art. For that truly is which remains unchangeably. It is good then 
for me to hold fast unto Godf* for if I remain not in Him, I 
cannot in myself; but He remaining in Himself, reneweth all 
things.^^ And Thou art the Lord my God since Thou standest not 
in need of my goodness}^ 

And it was manifested unto me, that those things be good which 
yet are corrupted; which neither were they sovereignly good, nor 
unless they were good could be corrupted: for if sovereignly good, 
they were incorruptible, if not good at all, there were nothing in 

Ts.xxxix. II. ** Exod. iii. 14. ''Rom.Lio. 

" Ps. Ixxiii 28 " Wisd. vii. 27. '» Ps. xvi. i . 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE III 

them to be corrupted. For corruption injures, but unless it dimin- 
ished goodness, it could not injure. Either then corruption injures 
not, which cannot be; or which is most certain, all which is cor- 
rupted is deprived of good. But if they be deprived of all good, they 
shall cease to be. For if they shall be, and can now no longer be 
corrupted, they shall be better than before, because they shall abide 
incorruptibly. And what more monstrous than to affirm things to 
become better by losing all their good? Therefore, if they shall be 
deprived of all good, they shall no longer be. So long therefore as 
they are, they are good: therefore whatsoever is, is good. That evil 
then which I sought, whence it is, is not any substance: for were it 
a substance, it should be good. For either it should be an incor- 
ruptible substance, and so a chief good: or a corruptible substance; 
which unless it were good, could not be corrupted. I perceived 
therefore, and it was manifested to me that Thou madest all things 
good, nor is there any substance at all, which Thou madest not; and 
for that Thou madest not all things equal, therefore are all things; 
because each is good, and altogether very good, because our God 
made all things very good?* 

And to Thee is nothing whatsoever evil: yea, not only to Thee, 
but also to Thy creation as a whole, because there is nothing with- 
out, which may break in, and corrupt that order which Thou hast 
appointed it. But in the parts thereof some things, because unhar- 
monising with other some, are accounted evil: whereas those very 
things harmonise with others, and are good; and in themselves are 
good. And all these things which harmonise not altogether, do yet 
with the inferior part, which we call Earth, having its own cloudy 
and windy sky harmonising with it. Far be it then that I should 
say, "These things should not be:" for should I see nought but 
these, I should indeed long for the better; but still must even for 
these alone praise Thee; for that Thou art to be praised, do show 
jrom the earth, dragons, and all deeps, fire, hail, snow, ice, and 
stormy wind which fulfil Thy word; mountains and all hills, fruit- 
ful trees, and all cedars; beasts, and all cattle, creeping things, and 
flying fowls; kings of the earth, and all people, princes, and all 
judges of the earth; young men and maidens, old men and young, 
''Gen. L 31; E r cli, xxxix. 31. 



112 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

praise Thy Name. But when, from heaven, these praise Thee, praise 
Thee, our God, in the heights, all Thy angels, all Thy hosts, sun 
and moon, all the stars and light, the Heaven of heavens, and the 
tvaters that be above the heavens, praise Thy Name;*° I did not now 
long for things better because I conceived of all : and with a sounder 
judgment I apprehended that the things above were better than 
these below, but all together better than those above by themselves. 

There is no soundness in them, whom aught of Thy creation dis- 
pleaseth: as neither in me, when much which Thou hast made, dis- 
pleased me. And because my soul durst not be displeased at my 
God, it would fain not account that Thine, which displeased it. 
Hence it had gone into the opinion of two substances, and had no 
rest, but talked idly. And returning thence, it had made to itself a 
God, through infinite measures of all space; and thought it to be 
Thee, and placed it in its heart; and had again become the temple 
of its own idol, to Thee abominable. But after Thou hadst soothed 
my head, unknown to me, and closed mine eyes that they should not 
behold vanity," I ceased somewhat of my former self, and my frenzy 
was lulled to sleep; and I awoke in Thee, and saw Thee infinite, but 
in another way, and this sight was not derived from the flesh. 

And I looked back on other things; and I saw that they owed 
their being to Thee; and were all bounded in Thee: but in a differ- 
ent way; not as being in space; but because Thou containest all 
things in Thine hand in Thy Truth; and all things are true so far 
as they be; nor is there any falsehood unless when that is thought to 
be, which is not. And I saw that all things did harmonise, not with 
their places only, but with their seasons. And that Thou, who only 
art Eternal, didst not begin to work after innumerable spaces of 
times spent; for that all spaces of times, both which have passed, and 
which shall pass, neither go nor come, but through Thee, working, 
and abiding. 

And I perceived and found it nothing strange, that bread which 
is pleasant to a healthy palate is loathsome to one distempered: and 
to sore eyes light is offensive, which to the sound is delightful. And 
Thy righteousness displeaseth the wicked; much more the viper and 
reptiles, which Thou hast created good, fitting in with the inferior 
**Ps. cxlviii. I-I2. *' Ps. cxix. 37. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE II3 

portions of Thy Creation, with which the very wicked also fit in; 
and that the more, by how much they be unlike Thee; but with the 
superior creatures by how much they become more like to Thee. 
And I enquired what iniquity was, and found it to be no substance, 
but the perversion of the will, turned aside from Thee, O God, the 
Supreme, towards these lower things, and casting out its bowels, 
and puffed up outwardly. 

And I wondered that I now loved Thee, and no phantasm for 
Thee. And yet did I not press on to enjoy my God; but was borne 
up to Thee by Thy beauty, and soon borne down from Thee by 
mine own weight, sinking with sorrow into these inferior things. 
This weight was carnal custom. Yet dwelt there with me a remem- 
brance of Thee; nor did I any way doubt that there was One to 
whom I might cleave, but that I was not yet such as to cleave to 
Thee : for that the body which is corrupted presseth down the soul, 
and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind that museth 
upon many things" And most certain I was, that Thy invisible 
works from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being under- 
stood by the things that are made, even Thy eternal power and 
Godhead!^ For examining whence it was that I admired the beauty 
of bodies celestial or terrestrial; and what aided me in judging 
soundly on things mutable, and pronouncing, "This ought to be 
thus, this not;" examining, I say, whence it was that I so judged, 
seeing I did so judge, I had found the unchangeable and true Eter- 
nity of Truth above my changeable mind. And thus by degrees I 
passed from bodies to the soul, which through the bodily senses per- 
ceives; and thence to its inward faculty, to which the bodily senses 
represent things external, whitherto reach the faculties of beasts; 
and thence again to the reasoning faculty, to which what is received 
from the senses of the body is referred to be judged. Which finding 
itself also to be in me a thing variable, raised itself up to its own 
understanding, and drew away my thoughts from the power of 
habit, withdrawing itself from those troops of contradictory phan- 
tasms; that so it might find what that light was whereby it was be- 
dewed, when, without all doubting, it cried out, "That the unchange- 
able was to be preferred to the changeable;" whence also it knew That 
♦^Wisd. ix. 15. "Rom. i. 20. 



114 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Unchangeable, which, unless it had in some way known, it had had 
no sure ground to prefer it to the changeable. And thus with the 
flash of one trembling glance it arrived at That Which Is. And 
then I saw Thy invisible things understood by the things which are 
made^ But I could not fix my gaze thereon; and my infirmity 
being struck back, I was thrown again on my wonted habits, carry- 
ing along with me only a loving memory thereof, and a longing 
for what I had, as it were, perceived the odour of, but was not yet 
able to feed on. 

Then I sought a way of obtaining strength sufficient to enjoy 
Thee; and found it not, until I embraced that Mediator betwixt 
God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,*^ who is over all, God blessed 
jar evermore^ calling unto me,and saying, / am the way, the truth, 
and the life," and mingling that food which I was unable to receive, 
with our flesh. For, the Word was made flesh," that Thy wisdom, 
whereby Thou createdst all things, might provide milk for our in- 
fant state. For I did not hold to my Lord Jesus Christ, I, humbled, 
to the humble; nor knew I yet whereto His infirmity would guide 
us. For Thy Word, the Eternal Truth, far above the higher parts 
of Thy Creation, raises up the subdued unto Itself: but in this lower 
world built for Itself a lowly habitation of our clay, whereby to abase 
from themselves such as would be subdued, and bring them over 
to Himself; allaying their swelling, and fomenting their love; to 
the end they might go on no further in self<onfidence, but rather 
consent to become weak, seeing before their feet the Divinity weak 
by taking our coats of sl{in;*^ and wearied, might cast themselves 
down upon It, and It rising, might lift them up. 

But I thought otherwise; conceiving only of my Lord Christ as 
of a man of excellent wisdom, whom no one could be equalled unto; 
especially, for that being wonderfully born of a Virgin, He seemed, 
in conformity therewith, through the Divine care for us, to have 
attained that great eminence of authority, for an ensample of despis- 
ing things temporal for the obtaining of immortality. But what 
mystery there lay in "The Word was made flesh," I could not even 
imagine. Only I had learnt out of what is deUvered to us in writing 

** Rom. L 20. ^ I Tun. ii. 5. ■" Rom. ii. 5. * John xiv. 6. 

^•John i. 14. **Gcn. iii, 21. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE II5 

of Him that He did eat, and drink, sleep, walk, rejoiced in spirit, 
was sorrowful, discoursed; that flesh did not cleave by itself unto 
Thy Word but with the human soul and mind. All know this who 
know the unchangeableness of Thy Word, which I now knew, as 
far as I could, nor did I at all doubt thereof. For, now to move the 
limbs of the body by will, now not, now to be moved by some affec- 
tion, now not, now to deliver wise sayings through human signS; 
now to keep silence, belong to soul and mind subject to variation. 
And should these things be falsely written of Him, all the rest also 
would risk the charge, nor would there remain in those books any 
saving faith for mankind. Since then they were written truly, I 
acknowledged a pxjrfect man to be in Christ; not the body of a man 
only, nor, with the body, a sensitive soul without a rational, but 
very man; whom, not only as being a form of Truth, but for a cer- 
tain great excellency of human nature and a more perfect participa- 
tion of wisdom, I judged to be preferred before others. But Alypius 
imagined the Catholics to believe God to be so clothed with flesh, 
that besides God and flesh, there was no soul at all in Christ, and 
did not think that a human mind was ascribed to him. And be- 
cause he was well persuaded that the actions recorded of Him could 
only be performed by a vital and a rational creature, he moved the 
more slowly towards the Christian Faith. But understanding after- 
wards that this was the error of the ApoUinarian heretics, he joyed 
in and was conformed to the Catholic Faith. But somewhat later, 
I confess, did I learn how in that saying. The Word was made flesh, 
the Catholic Truth is distinguished from the falsehood of Photinus. 
For the rejection of heretics makes the tenets of Thy Church and 
sound doctrine to stand out more clearly. For there must also be 
heresies, that the approved may be made manifest among the tveal{^ 
But having then read those books of the Platonists, and thence 
been taught to search for incorporeal truth, I saw Thy invisible 
things, understood by those things which are made;^^ and though 
cast back, I perceived what that was which through the darkness of 
my mind I was hindered from contemplating, being assured, "That 
Thou wert, and wert infinite, and yet not diffused in space, finite 
or infinite; and that Thou truly art who art the same ever, in no 
" I Cor. xL 19. *' Rom. L 20. 



Il6 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

part nor motion varying; and that all other things are from Thee, 
on this most sure ground alone, that they are." Of these things I 
was assured, yet too unsure to enjoy Thee. I prated as one well 
skilled; but had I not sought Thy way in Christ our Saviour, I had 
proved to be, not skilled, but killed. For now I had begun to wish 
to seem wise, being filled with mine own punishment, yet I did not 
mourn, but rather scorn, puffed up with knowledge." For where 
was that charity building upon the foundation of humility, which is 
Christ Jesus?" or when should these books teach me it? Upon 
these, I believe. Thou therefore willedst that I should fall, before 
I studied Thy Scriptures, that it might be imprinted on my memory 
how I was affected by them; and that afterwards when my spirits 
were tamed through Thy books, and my wounds touched by Thy 
healing fingers, I might discern and distinguish between presump- 
tion and confession; between those who saw whither they were to 
go, yet saw not the way, and the way that leadeth not to behold only 
but to dwell in the beatific country. For had I first been formed in 
Thy Holy Scriptures, and hadst Thou in the familiar use of them 
grown sweet unto me, and had I then fallen upon those other vol- 
umes, they might perhaps have withdrawn me from the solid 
ground of piety, or, had I continued in that healthful frame which 
I had thence imbibed, I might have thought that it might have been 
obtained by the study of those books alone. 

Most eagerly then did I seize that venerable writing of Thy Spirit: 
and chiefly the Apostle Paul. Whereupon those difficulties vanished 
away, wherein he once seemed to me to contradict himself, and the 
text of his discourse not to agree with the testimonies of the Law and 
the Prophets. And the face of that pure word appeared to me one 
and the same; and I learned to rejoice tvith trembling}^ So I began; 
and whatsoever truth I had read in those other books, I found here 
amid the praise of Thy Grace; that whoso sees, may not so glory 
as if he had not received!"^ not only what he sees, but also that he 
sees {for what hath he, which he hath not received?), and that he 
may be not only admonished to behold Thee, Who art ever the same, 
but also healed, to hold Thee, and that he who cannot see afar off, 
may yet walk on the way, whereby he may arrive, and behold, and 
" I Cor. viii. i. ^Ibid. iii. ii. "Ps. ii. ii. M , cor. iv. 7. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE II7 

hold Thee. For, though a man be delighted with the law of God 
after the inner man^ what shall he do with that other law in his 
members which warreth against the law of his mind, and bringeth 
him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his members?" For, 
Thou art righteous, O Lord, but we have sinned and committed in- 
iquity, and have done wickedly!* and Thy hand is grown heavy 
upon us, and we are justly delivered over unto that ancient sinner, 
the king of death; because he persuaded our will to be like his will, 
whereby he abode not in Thy truth. What shall wretched man do? 
who shall deliver him from the body of this death, but only Thy 
Grace, through fesus Christ our Lordj"' whom Thou hast begotten 
co-eternal, and formedst in the beginning of Thy ways^ in whom 
the prince of this world found nothing worthy of death,'^ yet killed 
he Him; and the handwriting, which was contrary to us, was blotted 
out?" This those writings contain not. Those pages present not the 
image of this piety, the tears of confession, Thy sacrifice, a troubled 
spirit, a broken and a contrite heart," the salvation of the people, 
the Bridal City^* the earnest of the Holy Ghost^ the Cup of our 
Redemption^ No man sings there. Shall not my soul be submitted 
unto God? for of Him cometh my salvation. For He is my God and 
my salvation, my guardian, I shall no more be moved." No one 
there hears Him call. Come unto Me, all ye that labour." They 
scorn to learn of Him, because He is meek """^ lowly in heart; for 
these things hast Thou hid from the wise and prudent, and hast re- 
vealed them unto babes" For it is one thing, from the mountain's 
shaggy top to see the land of peace, and to find no way thither;'" 
and in vain to essay through ways unpassable, opposed and beset 
by fugitives and deserters, under their captain the lion and the dra- 
gon: and another to keep on the way that leads thither, guarded by 
the host of the heavenly General; where they spoil not who have 
deserted the heavenly army; for they avoid it, as very torment. These 
things did wonderfully sink into my bowels, when I read that least 
of Thy Apostles^^ and had meditated upon Thy works, and trembled 
exceedingly. 

** Rom. vii. 22. " Rom. vii. 23. ** Song of the Three Children, 4 et seq. 

**Rom. vii. 24. "Prov. viii. 22. "John xiv. 30. "Col. ii. 14. 

"Ps. li. 17. "Rev. xxi. 2. "2 Cor. v. 5. Mpj „vi. 13. 

"Ft. Ixii. I, 2. "MaK. xi. 28. «»Ver. 29. "Deut. xxxiL 49. " i Cor. xv. 9. 



THE EIGHTH BOOK 

Augustine's thirty-second year. He consults Simplicianus: from him hears 
the history of the conversion of Victorinus, and longs to devote him- 
self entirely to God, but is mastered by his old habits; is still fur- 
ther roused by the history of St. Antony, and the conversion of two 
courtiers; during a severe struggle hears a voice from heaven, opens 
Scripture, and is converted, with his friend Alypius. His mother's 
rision fulfilled. 

OMY God, let me, with thanksgiving, remeinber, and con- 
fess unto Thee Thy mercies on me. Let my bones be be- 
dewed with Thy love, and let them say unto Thee, Who 
is lil{e unto Thee, O Lord?^ Thou hast broken my bonds in sunder, 
I will offer unto Thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving} And how Thou 
hast broken them, I will declare; and all who worship Thee, when 
they hear this, shall say, "Blessed be the Lord in heaven and in earth, 
great and wonderful is His name." Thy words had stuck fast in my 
heart, and / was hedged round about on all sides by Thee} Of Thy 
eternal life I was now certain, though I saw it in a figure and as 
through a glass.* Yet I had ceased to doubt that there was an in- 
corruptible substance, whence was all other substance; nor did I now 
desire to be more certain of Thee, but more steadfast in Thee. But 
for my temporal life, all was wavering, and my heart had to be 
purged from the old leaven} The Way,* the Saviour Himself, well 
pleased me, but as yet I shrunk from going through its straitness. 
And Thou didst put into my mind, and it seemed good in my 
eyes, to go to Simplicianus, who seemed to me a good servant of 
Thine; and Thy grace shone in him. I had heard also that from 
his very youth he had lived most devoted unto Thee. Now he was 
grown into years; and by reason of so great age spent in such zealous 
following of Thy ways, he seemed to me likely to have learned much 
experience; and so he had. Out of which store I wished that he 

*P». XXXV. 10. 'P». cxvi. i6, 17. *Job. i. 10. *i Cor. ziiL li. 
' I Cor. V. 7. ' John xiv. 6. 

118 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE II9 

would tell me (setting before him my anxieties) which were the 
fittest way for one in my case to walk in Thy paths. 

For, I saw the church full; and one went this way, and another 
that way. But I was displeased that I led a secular life; yea now 
that my desires no longer inflamed me, as of old, with hopes of 
honour and profit, a very grievous burden it was to undergo so 
heavy a bondage. For, in comparison of Thy sweetness, and the 
beauty of Thy house which I loved^ those things delighted me no 
longer. But still I was enthralled with the love of woman; nor did 
the Apostle forbid me to marry, although he advised me to some- 
thing better, chiefly wishing that all men were as himself was.' But 
I being weak, chose the more indulgent place; and because of this 
alone, was tossed up and down in all beside, faint and wasted with 
withering cares, because in other matters I was constrained against 
my will to conform myself to a married life, to which I was given 
up and enthralled. I had heard from the mouth of the Truth, that 
there were some eunuchs which had made themselves eunuchs for 
the \ingdom of heaven's sake: but, saith He, let him who can re- 
ceive it, receive itJ Surely vain are all men who are ignorant of 
God, and 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 sur- 
mounted it; and by the common witness of all Thy creatures had 
found Thee our Creator, and Thy Word, God with Thee, and to- 
gether with Thee one God, by whom Thou createdst all things. 
There is yet another kind of ungodly, who- knowing God, glorified 
Him not as God, neither were thanl^ful." Into this also I had fallen, 
but Thy right hand upheld rwf," and took me thence, and Thou 
placedst me where I might recover. For Thou hast said unto man. 
Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom" and. Desire not to seem 
wise," because they who affirmed themselves to be wise, became 
fools}' But 1 had now found the goodly pearl, which, selling all 
that I had}* I ought to have bought, and I hesitated. 

To Simplicianus then I went, the father of Ambrose (a Bishop 

now) in receiving Thy grace, and whom Ambrose truly loved as a 

father. To him I related the mazes of my wanderings. But when 

»Pf. xxxvi 8. • I Cor. vii. 8. »Matt. xix. 12. '"Wisd. xui. i. 

"Rom. i. 21. "Ps. xviii. 35. "Job. xxviii. 28. "Prov. iii. 7. 

" Rom. i. 22. " Matt. xiii. 46. 



120 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

I mentioned that I had read certain books of the Platonists, which 
Victorinus, sometime Rhetoric Professor of Rome (who had died 
a Christian, as I had heard), had translated into Latin, he testified 
his joy that I had not fallen upon the writings of other philosophers, 
full of fallacies and deceits, after the rudiments of this world," 
whereas the Platonists many ways led to the belief in God and His 
Word. Then to exhort me to the humility of Christ, hidden from the 
wise, and revealed to little ones}* he spoke of Victorinus himself, 
whom while at Rome he had most intimately known: and of him he 
related what I will not conceal. For it contains great praise of Thy 
grace, to be confessed unto Thee, how that aged man, most learned 
and skilled in the liberal sciences, and who had read, and weighed 
so many works of the philosophers; the instructor of so many noble 
Senators, who also, as a monument of his excellent discharge of his 
office, had (which men of this world esteem a high honour) both 
deserved and obtained a statue in the Roman Forum; he, to that 
age a worshipper of idols, and a partaker of the sacrilegious rites, to 
which almost all the nobility of Rome were given up, and had 
inspired the people with the love of 

"Anubis, barking Deity, and all 
The monster Gods of every kind, who fought 
'Gainst Neptune, Venus, and Minerva": 

whom Rome once conquered, now adored, all which the aged 
Victorinus had with thundering eloquence so many years defended; 
— he now blushed not to be the child of Thy Christ, and the new- 
born babe of Thy fountain; submitting his neck to the yoke of 
humility, and subduing his forehead to the reproach of the Cross. 

O Lord, Lord, Which hast bowed the heavens and come down, 
touched the mountains and they did smol(^e" by what means didst 
Thou convey Thyself into that breast? He used to read (as Simplic- 
ianus said) the holy Scripture, most studiously sought and searched 
into all the Christian writings, and said to Simplicianus (not openly, 
but privately and as a friend), "Understand that I am already a 
Christian." Whereto he answered, "I will not believe it, nor will I 
rank you among Christians, unless I see you in the Church of 
" Col. u. 8. " Matt. xi. 25. »» P$. cxliv. 5. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 121 

Christ." The other, in banter replied, "Do walls then make Chris- 
tians?" And this he often said, that he was already a Christian; and 
Simplicianus as often made the same answer, and the conceit of 
the "walls" was by the other as often renewed. For he feared to 
offend his friends, proud dxmon-worshippers, from the height of 
whose Babylonian dignity, as from cedars of Libanus^" which the 
Lard had not yet broken down, he supposed the weight of enmity 
would fall upon him. But after that by reading and earnest thought 
he had gathered firmness, and feared to be denied by Christ before 
the holy angels, should he now be afraid to confess Him before 
men}^ and appeared to himself guilty of a heavy offence, in being 
ashamed of the Sacraments of the humility of Thy Word, and not 
being ashamed of the sacrilegious rites of those proud daemons, 
whose pride he had imitated and their rites adopted, he became 
bold-faced against vanity, and shame-faced towards the truth, and 
suddenly and unexpectedly said to Simplicianus (as himself told 
me), "Go we to the Church; I wish to be made a Christian." But 
he, not containing himself for joy, went with him. And having 
been admitted to the first Sacrament and become a Catechumen, not 
long after he further gave in his name, that he might be regenerated 
by baptism, Rome wondering, the Church, rejoicing. The proud 
saw, and were wroth; they gnashed with their teeth, and melted 
awayl^ But the hord God was the hope of Thy servant, and he 
regarded not vanities and lying madness.^' 

To conclude, when the hour was come for making profession of 
his faith (which at Rome they, who are about to approach to Thy 
grace, deliver, from an elevated place, in the sight of all the faithful, 
in a set form of words committed to memory), the presbyters, he 
said, offered Victorinus (as was done to such as seemed likely 
through bashfulness to be alarmed) to make his profession more 
privately: but he chose rather to profess his salvation in the presence 
of the holy multitude. "For it was not salvation that he taught in 
rhetoric, and yet that he had publicly professed: how much less 
then ought he, when pronouncing Thy word, to dread Thy meek 
fkxk, who, when delivering his own words, had not feared a mad 
multitude!" When, then, he went up to make his profession, all, 

*"?$. xxix. 5. *'Luke ix. 26. **Ps. cxiL 10. ^'Ps. xxxi. 6, 40, etc. 



122 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

as they knew him, whispered his name one to another with the voice 
of congratulation. And who there knew him not? and there ran a 
low murmur through all the mouths of the rejoicing multitude, 
Victorinus! Victorinus! Sudden was the burst of rapture, that they 
saw him; suddenly were they hushed that they might hear him. 
He pronounced the true faith with an excellent boldness, and all 
wished to draw him into their very heart: yea by their love and joy 
they drew him thither, such were the hands wherewith they drew 
him. 

Good God! what takes place in man that he should more rejoice 
at the salvation of a soul despaired of, and freed from greater peril, 
than if there had always been hope of him, or the danger had been 
less? For so Thou also, merciful Father, dost more rejoice over one 
penitent than over ninety-nine just persons that need no repent- 
ance.^* And with much joyfulness do we hear, so often as we hear 
with what joy the sheep which had strayed is brought bacl{ upon 
the shepherd's shoulder, and the groat is restored to Thy treasury, 
the neighbours rejoicing with the woman who found it;" and the 
joy of the solemn service of Thy house forceth to tears, when in Thy 
house it is read of Thy younger son, that he was dead, and liveth 
again; had been lost, and is found. For Thou rejoicest in us, and 
in Thy holy angels, holy through holy charity. For Thou art ever 
the same; for all things which abide not the same nor for ever. Thou 
for ever knowest in the same way. 

What then takes place in the soul, when it is more delighted at 
finding or recovering the things it loves, than if it had ever had 
them? yea, and other things witness hereunto; and all things are 
full of witnesses, crying out, "So is it." The conquering commander 
triumphant; yet had he not conquered unless he had fought; and 
the more peril there was in the battle, so much the more joy is there 
in the triumph. The storm tosses the sailors, threatens shipwreck; 
all wax pale at approaching death; sky and sea are calmed, and they 
are exceedingly joyed, as having been exceeding afraid. A friend is 
sick, and his pulse threatens danger; all who long for his recovery 
are sick in mind with him. He is restored, though as yet he walks 
not with his former strength; yet there is such joy, as was not, when 
'* Luke XT. 7. '^ Ver. 3-9. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I23 

before he walked sound and strong. Yea, the very pleasures of hu- 
man life men acquire by difficulties, not those only which fall upon 
us unlocked for, and against our wills, but even by self-chosen, and 
pleasure-seeking trouble. Eating and drinking have no pleasure, 
unless there precede the pinching of hunger and thirst. Men, given 
to drink, eat certain salt meats, to procure a troublesome heat, which 
the drink allaying, causes pleasure. It is also ordered that the affi- 
anced bride should not at once be given, lest as a husband he should 
hold cheap whom, as betrothed, he sighed not after. 

This law holds in foul and accursed joy; this in permitted and 
lawful joy; this in the very purest perfection of friendship; this, in 
him who was dead, and lived again; had been lost and was found. 
Every where the greater joy is ushered in by the greater pain. What 
means this, O Lord my God, whereas Thou art everlastingly joy to 
Thyself, and some things around Thee evermore rejoice in Thee? 
What means this, that this portion of things thus ebbs and flows 
alternately displeased and reconciled? Is this their allotted measure? 
Is this all Thou hast assigned to them, whereas from the highest 
heavens to the lowest earth, from the beginning of the world to the 
end of ages, from the angel to the worm, from the first motion to 
the last. Thou settest each in its place, and realises! each in their 
season, every thing good after its kind? Woe is me! how high art 
Thou in the highest, and how deep in the deepest! and Thou never 
departest, and we scarcely return to Thee. 

Up, Lord, and do; stir us up, and recall us; kindle and draw us; 
inflame, grow sweet unto us; let us now love, let us run^ Do not 
many, out of a deeper hell of blindness dian Victorinus, return to 
Thee, approach, and are enlightened, receiving that Light, which 
they who receive, receive power from Thee to become Thy sons?" 
But if they be less known to the nations, even they that know them, 
joy less for them. For when many joy together, each also has more ex- 
uberant joy; for that they are kindled and inflamed one by the other. 
Again, because those known to many, influence the more towards 
salvation, and lead the way with many to follow. And therefore do 
they also who preceded them much rejoice not in them, because 
they rejoice not in them alone. For far be it, that in Thy taber- 
"Cant. i. 4. "John L 12. 



124 "T^E CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

nacle the persons of the rich should be accepted before the poor, or 
the noble before the ignoble; seeing rather Thou hast chosen the 
weal{ things of the world to confound the strong; and the base 
things of this world, and the things despised hast Thou chosen, and 
those things which are not, that Thou mightest bring to nought 
things that areJ* And yet even that least of Thy Apostles^ by whose 
tongue Thou soundedest forth these words, when through his war- 
fare, Paulus the Proconsul, his pride conquered, was made to pass 
under the easy yoke of Thy Christ, and became a provincial of the 
great King; he also for his former name Saul, was pleased to be 
called Paul, in testimony of so great a victory. For the enemy is 
more overcome in one, of whom he hath more hold; by whom he 
hath hold of more. But the proud he hath more hold of, through 
their nobility; and by them, of more through their authority. By 
how much the more welcome then the heart of Victorinus was es- 
teemed, which the devil had held as an impregnable possession, 
the tongue of Victorinus, with which mighty and keen weapon he 
had slain many; so much the more abundantly ought Thy sons to 
rejoice, for that our King hath bound the strong man^ and they 
saw his vessels taken from him and cleansed, and made meet for 
Thy honour -^^ and become serviceable for the Lord, unto every good 
work." 

But when that man of Thine, Simplicianus, related to me this of 
Victorinus, I was on fire to imitate him; for for this very end had 
he related it. But when he had subjoined also, how in the days of 
the Emperor Julian a law was made, whereby Christians were for- 
bidden to teach the liberal sciences or oratory; and how he, obeying 
this law, chose rather to give over the wordy school than Thy Word, 
by which Thou makest eloquent the tongues of the dumb;" he 
seemed to me not more resolute than blessed, in having thus found 
opportunity to wait on Thee only. Which thing I was sighing for, 
bound as I was, not with another's irons, but by my own iron will. 
My will the enemy held, and thence had made a chain for me, and 
bound me. For of a froward will, was a lust made; and a lust 
served, became custom; and custom not resisted, became necessity. 
By which links, as it were, joined together (whence I called it a 

*» I Cor. i. 27, 28. •» I Cor. xv. 9. »• Matt. xii. 19. " Luke xi. 22, 25. 

'^Tim. ii. 21. " Wisd. x. 21. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 25 

chain) a hard bondage held me enthralled. But that new will which 
had begun to be in me, freely to serve Thee, and to wish to en- 
joy Thee, O God, the only assured pleasantness, was not yet able 
to overcome my former wilfulness, strengthened by age. Thus 
did my two wills, one new, and the other old, one carnal, the 
other spiritual, struggle within me; and by their discord, undid my 
soul. 

Thus I understood, by my own experience, what I had read, how 
the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.** 
Myself verily either way; yet more myself, in that which I approved 
in myself, than in that which in myself I disapproved." For in this 
last, it was now for the more part not myself, because in much I 
rather endured against my will, than acted willingly. And yet it 
was through me, that custom had obtained this power of warring 
against me, because I had come willingly, whither I willed not. 
And who has any right to speak against it, if just punishment fol- 
low the sinner? Nor had I now any longer my former plea, that I 
therefore as yet hesitated to be above the world and serve Thee, for 
that the truth was not altogether ascertained to me; for now it too 
was. But I, still under service to the earth, refused to fight under 
Thy banner, and feared as much to be freed of all encumbrances, as 
we should fear to be encumbered with it. Thus with the baggage 
of this present world was I held down pleasandy, as in sleep; and 
the thoughts wherein I meditated on Thee were like the efforts of 
such as would awake, who yet overcome with a heavy drowsiness, 
are again drenched therein. And as no one would sleep for ever, 
and in all men's sober judgment waking is better, yet a man for the 
most part, feeling a heavy lethargy in all his limbs, defers to shake 
off sleep, and, though half displeased, yet even, after it is time to 
rise, with pleasure yields to it, so was I assured that much better 
were it for me to give myself up to Thy charity, than to give 
myself over to mine own cupidity; but though the former course 
satisfied me and gained the mastery, the latter pleased me and held 
me mastered. Nor had I any thing to answer Thee calling to me, 
Au/af(e thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ 
shall give thee light." And when Thou didst on all sides show me 
that what Thou saidst was true, I, convicted by the truth, had noth- 
**GaI. V. 17 "Rom. vii. 18. " Eph. v. 14. 



126 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

ing at all to answer, but only those dull and drowsy words, "Anon, 
anon," "presently," "leave me but a little." But "presendy, pres- 
ently," had no present, and my "little while" went on for a long 
while; in vain / delighted in Thy law according to the inner man, 
when another law in my members rebelled against the law of my 
mind, and led me captiue under the law of sin which was in my 
members^ For the law of sin is the violence of custom, whereby 
the mind is drawn and holden, even against its will; but deservedly, 
for that it willingly fell into it. Who then should deliver me thus 
wretched from the body of this death, but Thy grace only, through 
Jesus Christ our Lord?" 

And how Thou didst deliver me out of the bonds of desire, where- 
with I was bound most straidy to carnal concupiscence, and out of 
the drudgery of worldly things, I will now declare, and confess unto 
Thy name, O Lord, my helper and my Redeemer.'* Amid increas- 
ing anxiety, I was doing my wonted business, and daily sighing 
unto Thee. I attended Thy Church, whenever free from the busi- 
ness under the biu-den of which I groaned. Alypius was with me, 
now after the third sitting released from his law business, and wait- 
ing to whom to sell his counsel, as I sold the skill of speaking, if 
indeed teaching can impart it. Nebridius had now, in consideration 
of our friendship, consented to teach under Verecundus, a citizen 
and a grammarian of Milan, and a very intimate friend of us all; 
who urgently desired, and by the right of friendship challenged 
from our company, such faithful aid as he greatly needed. Nebridius 
then was not drawn to this by any desire of advantage (for he might 
have made much more of his learning had he so willed), but as a 
most kind and gende friend, he would not be wanting to a good 
office, and slight our request. But he acted herein very discreetly, 
shunning to become known to personages great according to this 
world, avoiding the distraction of mind thence ensuing, and desiring 
to have it free and at leisure, as many hours as might be, to seek, 
or read, or hear something concerning wisdom. 

Upon a day then, Nebridius being absent (I recollect not why), 
lo, there came to see me and Alypius, one Pontitianus, our country- 
man so far as being an African, in high office in the Emperor's 
"Rom. vii. J2. "Vcr. 34, 25. **?$. zix. 14. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 27 

court. What he would with us, I know not, but we sat down to 
converse, and it happened that upon a table for some game, before 
us, he observed a book, took, opened it, and contrary to his expecta- 
tion, found it the Apostle Paul; for he had thought it some of those 
books which I was wearing myself in teaching. Whereat smiling, 
and looking at me, he expressed his joy and wonder that he had on 
a sudden found this book, and this only before my eyes. For 
he was a Christian, and baptised, and often bowed himself before 
Thee our God in the Church, in frequent and continued prayers. 
When then I had told him that I bestowed very great pains upon 
those Scriptures, a conversation arose (suggested by his account) 
on Antony the Egyptian monk; whose name was in high reputation 
among Thy servants, though to that hour unknown to us. Which 
when he discovered, he dwelt the more upon that subject, inform- 
ing and wondering at our ignorance of one so eminent. But we 
stood amazed, hearing Thy wonderful works most fully attested, in 
times so recent, and almost in our own, wrought in the true Faith 
and Church Catholic. We all wondered; we, that they were so great, 
and he, that they had not reached us. 

Thence his discourse turned to the flocks in the monasteries, and 
their holy ways, a sweet-smelling savour unto Thee, and the fruitful 
deserts of the wilderness, whereof we knew nothing. And there was 
a monastery at Milan, full of good brethren, without the city walls, 
under the fostering care of Ambrose, and we knew it not. He went 
on with his discourse, and we listened in intent silence. He told us 
then how one afternoon at Triers, when the Emperor was taken up 
with the Circensian games, he and three others, his companions, 
went out to walk in gardens near the city walls, and there as they 
happened to walk in pairs, one went apart with him, and the other 
two wandered by themselves; and these, in their wanderings, lighted 
upon a certain cottage, inhabited by certain of Thy servants, poor in 
spirit, of whom is the l{ingdom of heat/en,*'^ and there they found 
a little book containing the life of Antony. This one of them began 
to read, admire and kindle at it; and as he read, to meditate on taking 
up such a life, and giving over his secular service to serve Thee. 
And these two were of those whom they style agents for the public 

«Matt- V. 3. 



128 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

affairs. Then suddenly, filled with an holy love, and a sober shame, 
in anger with himself he cast his eyes upon his friend, saying, "Tell 
me, I pray thee, what would we attain by all these labours of ours? 
what aim we at? what serve we for? Can our hopes in court rise 
higher than to be the Emperor's favourites? and in this, what is there 
not brittle, and full of perils? and by how many perils arrive we at 
a greater peril? and when arrive we thither? But a friend of God, 
if I wish it, I become now at once." So spake he. And in pain with 
the travail of a new life, he turned his eyes again upon the book, and 
read on, and was changed inwardly, where Thou sawest, and his 
mind was stripped of the world, as soon appeared. For as he read 
and rolled up and down the waves of his heart, he stormed at him- 
self a while, then discerned, and determined on a better course; and 
now being Thine, said to his friend, "Now have I broken loose from 
those our hopes, and am resolved to serve God; and this, from this 
hour, in this place, I begin upon. If thou likest not to imitate me, 
oppose not." The other answered, he would cleave to him, to partake 
so glorious a reward, so glorious a service. Thus both being now 
Thine, were building the tower at the necessary cost, the forsa/^ing 
all that they had, and jollowing Thee.*^ Then Pontitianus and the 
other with him, that had walked in other parts of the garden, came 
in search of them to the same place; and finding them, reminded 
them to return, for the day was now far spent. But they relating 
their resolution and purpose, and how that will was begun and 
settled in them, begged them, if they would not join, not to molest 
them. But the others, though nothing altered from their former 
selves, did yet bewail themselves (as he affirmed), and piously con- 
gratulated them, recommending themselves to their prayers; and 
so, with hearts lingering on the earth, went away to the palace. But 
the other two, fixing their heart on heaven, remained in the cottage. 
And both had affianced brides, who when they heard hereof, also 
dedicated their virginity unto God. 

Such was the story of Pontitianus; but Thou, O Lord, while he 
was speaking, didst turn me round towards myself, taking me from 
behind my back where I had placed me, unwilling to observe myself; 
and setting me before my face, that I might see how foul I was, how 
crooked and defiled, bespotted and ulcerous. And I beheld and 

*• Luke xiv. 26-35. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 29 

Stood aghast; and whither to flee from myself I found not. And if I 
sought to turn mine eye from off myself, he went on with his rela- 
tion, and Thou again didst set me over against myself, and thrustedst 
me before my eyes, that / might find out mine iniquity, and hate it.** 
I had known it, but made as though I saw it not, winked at it, and 
forgot it. 

But now, the more ardently I loved those whose healthful affec- 
tions I heard of, that they had resigned themselves wholly to Thee 
to be cured, the more did I abhor myself, when compared with them. 
For many of my years (some twelve) had now run out with me since 
my nineteenth, when, upon the reading of Cicero's Hortensius, I was 
stirred to an earnest love of wisdom; and still I was deferring to re- 
ject mere earthly felicity, and give myself to search out that, whereof 
not the finding only, but the very search, was to be preferred to the 
treasures and kingdoms of the world, though already found, and 
to the pleasures of the body, though spread around me at my will. 
But I wretched, most wretched, in the very commencement of my 
early youth, had begged chastity of Thee, and said, "Give me chas- 
tity and continency, only not yet." For I feared lest Thou shouldest 
hear me soon, and soon cure me of the disease of concupiscence, 
which I wished to have satisfied, rather than extinguished. And I 
had wandered through crooked ways in a sacrilegious superstition, 
not indeed assured thereof, but as preferring it to the others which 
I did not seek religiously, but opposed maliciously. 

I had thought that I therefore deferred from day to day to reject 
the hopes of this world, and follow Thee only, because there did not 
appear aught certain, whither to direct my course. And now was the 
day come wherein I was to be laid bare to myself, and my conscience 
was to upbraid me. "Where art thou now, my tongue? Thou saidst 
that for an uncertain truth thou likedst not to cast off the baggage 
of vanity; now, it is certain, and yet that burden still oppresseth thee, 
while they who neither have worn themselves out with seeking it, 
nor for ten years and more have been thinking thereon, have had 
their shoulders lightened, and received wings to fly away." Thus 
was I gnawed within, and exceedingly confounded with a horrible 
shame, while Pontitianus was so speaking. And he having brought 
to a close his tale and the business he came for, went his way; and I 

"Ps. xxxvi. 2. 



130 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

into myself. What said I not against myself? with what scourges 
of condemnation lashed I not my soul, that it might follow me, striv- 
ing to go after Thee! Yet it drew back; refused, but excused not 
itself. All arguments were spent and confuted; there remained a 
mute shrinking; and she feared, as she would death, to be restrained 
from the flux of that custom, whereby she was wasting to death. 

Then in this great contention of my inward dwelling, which I 
had strongly raised against my soul, in the chamber*^ of my heart, 
troubled in mind and countenance, I turned upon Alypius. "What 
ails us?" I exclaim: "what is it? what heardest thou? The unlearned 
start up and ta\e heaven by force,** and we with our learning, and 
without heart, lo, where we wallow in flesh and blood! Are we 
ashamed to follow, because others are gone before, and not ashamed 
not even to follow?" Some such words I uttered, and my fever of 
mind tore me away from him, while he, gazing on me in astonish- 
ment, kept silence. For it was not my wonted tone; and my fore- 
head, cheeks, eyes, colour, tone of voice, spake my mind more than 
the words I uttered. A litde garden there was to our lodging, which 
we had the use of, as of the whole house; for the master of the house, 
our host, was not living there. Thither had the tumult of my breast 
hurried me, where no man might hinder the hot contention wherein 
I had engaged with myself, until it should end as Thou knewest, I 
knew not. Only I was healthfully distracted and dying, to live; know- 
ing what evil thing I was, and not knowing what good thing I was 
shordy to become. I retired then into the garden, and Alypius, on 
my steps. For his presence did not lessen my privacy; or how could 
he forsake me so disturbed ? We sate down as far removed as might 
be from the house. I was troubled in spirit, most vehemendy indig- 
nant that I entered not into Thy will and covenant, O my God, 
which all my bones cried out unto me to enter, and praised it to the 
skies. And therein we enter not by ships, or chariots, or feet, no, 
move not so far as I had come from the house to that place where 
we were sitting. For, not to go only, but to go in thither was nothing 
else but to will to go, but to will resolutely and thoroughly; not to 
turn and toss, this way and that, a maimed and half-divided will, 
struggHng, with one part sinking as another rose. 

**Is. xxvi. 20; Matt. vL 6. "Matt. vi. 12. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I3I 

Lasdy, in the very fever of my irresoluteness, I made with my 
body many such motions as men sometimes would, but cannot, if 
either they have not the limbs, or these be bound with bands, weak- 
ened with infirmity, or any other way hindered. Thus, if I tore my 
hair, beat my forehead, if locking my fingers I clasped my knees; I 
willed, I did it. But I might have willed, and not done it; if the 
power of motion in my limbs had not obeyed. So many things then 
I did, when "to will" was not in itself "to be able"; and I did not 
what both I longed incomparably more to do, and which soon after, 
when 1 should will, I should be able to do; because soon after, when 
I should will, I should will thoroughly. For in these things the ability 
was one with the will, and to will was to do; and yet was it not done: 
and more easily did my body obey the weakest willing of my soul, 
in moving its limbs at its nod, than the soul obeyed itself to accom- 
plish in the will alone this its momentous will. 

Whence is this monstrousness? and to what end? Let Thy mercy 
gleam that I may ask, if so be the secret penalties of men, and those 
darkest pangs of the sons of Adam, may perhaps answer me. Whence 
is this monstrousness? and to what end? The mind commands the 
body, and it obeys instandy; the mind commands itself, and is re- 
sisted. The mind commands the hand to be moved; and such readi- 
ness is there, that command is scarce distinct from obedience. Yet 
the mind is mind, the hand is body. The mind commands the mind, 
its own self, to will and yet it doth not. Whence this monstrousness? 
and to what end? It commands itself, I say, to will, and would not 
command, unless it willed, and what it commands is not done. But 
it willeth not entirely: therefore doth it not command entirely. For 
so far forth it commandeth, as it willeth; and, so far forth is the 
thing commanded, not done, as it willeth not. For the will com- 
mandeth that there be a will ; not another, but itself. But it doth not 
command entirely, therefore what it commandeth, is not. For were 
the will entire, it would not even command it to be, because it 
would already be. It is therefore no monstrousness pardy to will, 
pardy to nill, but a disease of the mind, that it doth not wholly rise, 
by truth up-borne, borne down by custom. And therefore are there 
two wills, for that one of them is not entire: and what the one 
lacketh, the other hath. 



132 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Let them perish from Thy presence^ O God, as perish vain talk- 
ers and seducers** of the soul: who observing that in deliberating 
there were two wills, affirm that there are two minds in us of two 
kinds, one good, the other evil. Themselves are truly evil, when they 
hold these evil things: and themselves shall become good when they 
hold the truth and assent unto the truth, that Thy Aposde may say 
to them, Ye were sometimes darl^ness, but now light in the Lord." 
But they, wishing to be light, not in the Lord, but in themselves, 
imagining the nature of the soul to be that which God is, are made 
more gross darkness through a dreadful arrogancy; for that they 
went bacl{ farther from Thee, the true Light that enlighteneth every 
man that cometh into the world.** Take heed what you say, and 
blush for shame: draw near unto Him and be enlightened, and your 
faces shall not be ashamed.** Myself when I was deliberating upon 
the serving the Lord my God now, as I had long purposed, it was I 
who willed, I who nilled, I, I myself. I neither willed entirely, nor 
nilled entirely. Therefore was I at strife with myself, and rent 
asunder by myself. And this rent befell me against my will, and yet 
indicated, not the presence of another mind, but the punishment of 
my own. Therefore it was no more I that wrought it, but sin that 
dwelt in me;^ the punishment of a sin more freely committed, in that 
I was a son of Adam. 

For if there be so many contrary natures as there be conflicting 
wills, there shall now be not two only, but many. If a man deliberate 
whether he should go to their conventicle or to the theatre, these 
Manichees cry out. Behold, here are two natures: one good, draws 
this way; another bad, draws back that way. For whence else is this 
hesitation between conflicting wills? But I say that both be bad: that 
which draws to them, as that which draws back to the theatre. But 
they believe not that will to be other than good, which draws to 
them. What then if one of us should deliberate, and amid the strife 
of his two wills be in a strait, whether he should go to the theatre 
or to our church? would not these Manichees also be in a strait what 
to answer? For either they must confess (which they fain would 
not) that the will which leads to our church is good, as well as theirs, 

*^Vi. Ixviii. 2. **T\t. i. 10. ^'Eph. v. 8. 
*John L 9. **Pi. xxxiv. 5. "Rom. vii. 17. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I33 

who have received and are held by the mysteries of theirs: or they 
must suppose two evil natures, and two evil souls conflicting in one 
man, and it will not be true, which they say, that there is one good 
and another bad; or they must be converted to the truth, and no 
more deny that where one deliberates, one soul fluctuates between 
contrary wills. 

Let them no more say then, when they perceive two conflicting 
wills in one man, that the conflict is between two contrary souls, of 
two contrary substances, from two contrary principles, one good, 
and the other bad. For Thou, O true God, dost disprove, check, 
and convict them; as when, both wills being bad, one deliberates 
whether he should kill a man by poison or by the sword; whether 
he should seize this or that estate of another's, when he cannot both; 
whether he should purchase pleasure by luxury, or keep his money 
by covetousness; whether he go to the circus or the theatre, if both be 
open on one day; or thirdly, to rob another's house, if he have the 
opportunity; or, fourthly, to commit adultery, if at the same time he 
have the means thereof also; all these meeting together in the same 
juncture of time, and all being equally desired, which cannot at one 
time be acted: for they rend the mind amid four, or even (amid the ' 
vast variety of things desired) more, conflicting wills, nor do they 
yet allege that there are so many divers substances. So also in wills 
which are good. For I ask them, is it good to take pleasure in reading 
the Apostle? or good to take pleasure in a sober Psalm? or good to 
discourse on the Gospel? They will answer to each, "It is good." 
What then if all give equal pleasure, and all at once? Do not divers 
wills distract the mind, while he deliberates which he should rather 
choose? yet are they all good, and are at variance till one be chosen, 
whither the one entire will may be borne, which before was divided 
into many. Thus also, when, above, eternity delights us, and the 
pleasure of temporal good holds us down below, it is the same soul 
which willeth not this or that with an entire will; and therefore is 
rent asunder with grievous perplexities, while out of truth it sets 
this first, but out of habit sets not that aside. 

Thus soul-sick was I, and tormented, accusing myself much more 
severely than my wont, rolling and turning me in my chain, till 
that were wholly broken, whereby I now was but just, but still was, 



134 'T'^E CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

held. And Thou, O Lord, pressedst upon me in my inward parts 
by a severe mercy, redoubling the lashes of fear and shame, lest I 
should again give way, and not bursting that same slight remaining 
tie, it should recover strength, and bind me the faster. For I said 
within myself, "Be it done now, be it done now," and as I spake, I 
all but enacted it: I all but did it, and did it not: yet sunk not back 
to my former state, but kept my stand hard by, and took breath. 
And I essayed again, and wanted somewhat less of it, and some- 
what less, and all but touched, and laid hold of it; and yet came not 
at it, nor touched nor laid hold of it; hesitating to die to death and 
to live to life: and the worse whereto I was inured, prevailed more 
with me than the better whereto I was unused: and the very moment 
wherein I was to become other than I was, the nearer it approached 
me, the greater horror did it strike into me; yet did it not strike me 
back, nor turned me away, but held me in suspense. 

The very toys of toys, and vanities of vanities, my ancient mis- 
tresses, still held me; they plucked my fleshly garment, and whis- 
pered softly, "Dost thou cast us off? and from that moment shall we 
no more be with thee for ever ? and from that moment shall not this 
or that be lawful for thee for ever?" And what was it which they 
suggested in that I said, "this or that," what did they suggest, O my 
God? Let Thy mercy turn it away from the soul of Thy servant 
What defilements did they suggest! what shame! And now I much 
less than half heard them, and not openly showing themselves and 
contradicting me, but muttering as it were behind my back, and 
privily plucking me, as I was departing, but to look back on them. 
Yet they did retard me, so that I hesitated to burst and shake myself 
free from them, and to spring over whither I was called; a vio- 
lent habit saying to me, "Thinkest thou, thou canst live without 
them?" 

But now it spake very faintly. For on that side whither I had set 
my face, and whither I trembled to go, there appeared unto me the 
chaste dignity of Continency, serene, yet not relaxedly, gay, honestly 
alluring me to come and doubt not; and stretching forth to receive 
and embrace me, her holy hands full of multitudes of good examples: 
there were so many young men and maidens here, a multitude of 
youth and every age, grave widows and aged virgins; and Conti- 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I35 

nence herself in all, not barren, but a fruitful mother of children of 
joys, by Thee her Husband, O Lord. And she smiled on me with a 
persuasive mockery, as would she say, "Canst not thou what these 
youths, what these maidens can? or can they either in themselves, 
and not rather in the Lord their God? The Lord their God gave 
me unto them. Why standest thou in thyself, and so standest not? 
cast thyself upon Him, fear not He will not withdraw Himself that 
thou shouldest fall; cast thyself fearlessly upon Him, He will receive, 
and will heal thee." And I blushed exceedingly, for that I yet heard 
the muttering of those toys, and hung in suspense. And she again 
seemed to say, "Stop thine ears against those thy unclean members on 
the earth, that they may be mortified. They tell thee of delights, but 
not as doth the law of the Lord thy God." " This controversy in my 
heart was self against self only. But Alypius sitting close by my side, 
in silence waited the issue of my unwonted emotion. 

But when a deep consideration had from the secret bottom of my 
soul drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my 
heart; there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears. 
Which that I might pour forth wholly, in its natural expressions, I 
rose from Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as fitter for the 
business of weeping; so I retired so far that even his presence could 
not be a burden to me. Thus was it then with me, and he perceived 
something of it; for something I suppose I had spoken, wherein the 
tones of my voice appeared choked with weeping, and so had risen 
up. He then remained where we were sitting, most extremely aston- 
ished. I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, 
giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out 
an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. And, not indeed in these words, yet 
to this purpose, spake I much unto Thee: and Thou, O Lord, how 
long? how long. Lord, wilt Thou be angry, for everT"^ Remember 
not our former iniquities^ for I felt that I was held by them. I sent 
up these sorrowful words: How long, how long, "to-morrow, and 
to-morrow?" Why not now? why not is there this hour an end 
to my uncleanness? 

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my 
heart, when, lo! 1 heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of 
"P». cix. 85. Old Ver. «Ps. vi 4. "Ps. Ixxix. 5, 8. 



136 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, "Take up and 
read; Take up and read." Instantly, my countenance altered, I be- 
gan to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind 
of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard 
the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting 
it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and 
read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, 
that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the 
admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell 
all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shall have treasure 
in heaven, and come and follow me:^* and by such oracle he was 
forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place 
where Alypius was sitting; for there had 1 laid the volume of the 
Aposde when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read 
that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunken- 
ness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; 
but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ma^e not provision for the 
flesh, ^ in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for 
instandy at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity 
infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away. 

Then putting my finger between, or some other mark, 1 shut the 
volume, and with a calmed countenance made it known to Alypius. 
And what was wrought in him, which I knew not, he thus showed 
me. He asked to see what I had read: I showed him; and he looked 
even further than I had read, and I knew not what followed. This 
followed, him that is wea^ in the faith, receive,"" which he applied 
to himself, and disclosed to me. And by this admonition was he 
strengthened; and by a good resolution and purpose, and most cor- 
responding to his character, wherein he did always very far differ 
from me, for the better, without any turbulent delay he joined me. 
Thence we go in to my mother; we tell her; she rejoiceth: we relate 
in order how it took place; she leaps for joy, and triumpheth, and 
blessed Thee, Who art able to do above that which we as\ or thin\f 
for she perceived that Thou hadst given her more for me, than she 
was wont to beg by her pitiful and most sorrowful groanings. For 
thou convertedst me unto Thyself, so that I sought neither wife, 
^Matt. xix. 31. ^RooL xiiL 13, 14. ^Rom. ziv. I. ^'Eph. iu. 30. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I37 

nor any hope of this world, standing in that rule of faith, where 
Thou hadst showed me unto her in a vision, so many years before. 
And Thou didst convert her mourning into joy" much more plenti- 
ful than she had desired, and in a much more precious and purer 
way than she erst required, by having grandchildren of my body. 

"Ps. XXX. II. 



THE NINTH BOOK 

Augustine determines to devote his life to God, and to abandon his pro- 
fession of Rhetoric, quietly however; retires to the country to pre- 
pare himself to receive the grace of Baptism, and is baptised with 
Alypius, and his son Adeodatus. At Ostia, in his way to Africa, his 
mother Monnica dies, in her fifty-sixth year, the thirty-third of 
Augustine. Her life and character. 

OLORD, I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, and the son 
of Thy handmaid. Thou hast brol{en my bonds in sunder. 
I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of praise.^ Let my heart 
and my tongue praise Thee; yea, let all my bones say, O Lord, who 
is lif^e unto Thee? Let them say, and answer Thou me, and say 
unto my soul, I am thy salvation?^ Who am I, and what am 1? 
What evil have not been either my deeds, or if not my deeds, my 
words, or if not my words, my will.'' But Thou, O Lord, art good 
and merciful, and Thy right hand had respect unto the depth of my 
death, and from the bottom of my heart emptied that abyss of cor- 
ruption. And this Thy whole gift was, to nill what I willed, and to 
will what Thou willedst. But where through all those years, and 
out of what low and deep recess was my free-will called forth in a 
moment, whereby to submit my neck to Thy easy yof^e,^ and my 
shoulders unto Thy light burden, O Christ Jesus, my Helper and my 
Redeemer?* How sweet did it at once become to me, to want the 
sweetness of those toys! and what I feared to be parted from, was 
now a joy to part with. For Thou didst cast them forth from me, 
Thou true and highest sweetness. Thou easiest them forth, and for 
them enteredst in Thyself, sweeter than all pleasure, though not to 
flesh and blood; brighter than all light, but more hidden than all 
depths, higher than all honour, but not to the high in their own con- 
ceits. Now was my soul free from the biting cares of canvassing 
and getting, and weltering in filth, and scratching off the itch of 

• Ps. cxvi. 1 6, 17. * Ps. XXXV. 10. 'Matt. xi. 30. *Ps. xix. 4. 
138 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I39 

lust. And my infant tongue spake freely to Thee, my brightness, 
and my riches, and my health, the Lord my God. 

And I resolved in Thy sight, not tumultuously to tear, but gently 
to withdraw, the service of my tongue from the marts of lip-labour: 
that the young, no students in Thy law, nor in Thy peace, but in 
lying dotages and law-skirmishes, should no longer buy at my mouth 
arms for their madness. And very seasonably, it now wanted but 
very few days unto the Vacation of the Vintage, and I resolved to 
endure them, then in a regular way to take my leave, and having been 
purchased by Thee, no more to return for sale. Our purpose then 
was known to Thee; but to men, other than our own friends, was 
it not known. For we had agreed among ourselves not to let it out 
abroad to any: although to us, now ascending from the valley of 
tears, and singing that song of degrees, Thou hadst given sharp 
arrows, and destroying coats against the subtle tongue, which as 
though advising for us, would thwart, and would out of love devour 
us, as it doth its meat. 

Thou hadst pierced our hearts with Thy charity, and we carried 
Thy words as it were fixed in our entrails: and the examples of Thy 
servants, whom for black Thou hadst made bright, and for dead, 
alive, being piled together in the receptacle of our thoughts, kindled 
and burned up that our heavy torpor, that we should not sink down 
to the abyss; and they fired us so vehemently, that all the blasts of 
subtle tongues from gainsayers might only inflame us the more 
fiercely, not extinguish us. Nevertheless, because for Thy Name's 
sake which Thou hast hallowed throughout the earth, this our vow 
and purpose might also find some to commend it, it seemed like os- 
tentation not to wait for the vacation now so near, but to quit before- 
hand a public profession, which was before the eyes of all; so that, 
all looking on this aa of mine, and observing how near was the time 
of vintage which I wished to anticipate, would talk much of me, as 
if I had desired to appear some great one. And what end had it 
served me, that people should repute and dispute upon my purpose, 
and that our good should be evil spo/^en of? 

Moreover, it had at first troubled me that in this very summer 
my lungs began to give way, amid too great literary labour, and to 

'Rom. xiv. 16. 



140 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

breathe deeply with difficuhy and by the pain in my chest to show 
that they were injured, and to refuse any full or lengthened speak- 
ing; this had troubled me, for it almost constrained me of necessity 
to lay down that burden of teaching, or, if I could be cured and re- 
cover, at least to intermit it. But when the full wish for leisure, 
that I might see how that Thou art the Lord,' arose, and was fixed, 
in me; my God, Thou knowest, I began even to rejoice that I had 
this secondary, and that no feigned, excuse, which might something 
moderate the offence taken by those who, for their sons' sake, wished 
me never to have the freedom of Thy sons. Full then of such joy, 
I endured till that interval of time were run; it may have been some 
twenty days, yet they were endured manfully; endured, for the 
covetousness which aforetime bore a part of this heavy business, had 
left me, and I remained alone, and had been overwhelmed, had not 
patience taken its place. Perchance, some of Thy servants, my breth- 
ren, may say that I sinned in this, that with a heart fully set on Thy 
service, I suffered myself to sit even one hour in the chair of lies. 
Nor would I be contentious. But hast not Thou, O most merciful 
Lord, pardoned and remitted this sin also, with my other most 
horrible and deadly sins, in the holy water? 

Verecundus was worn down with care about this our blessedness, 
for that being held back by bonds, whereby he was most straitly 
bound, he saw that he should be severed from us. For himself was 
not yet a Christian, his wife one of the faithful; and yet hereby, 
more rigidly than by any other chain, was he let and hindered from 
the journey which we had now essayed. For he would not, he said, 
be a Christian on any other terms than on those he could not. How- 
ever, he offered us courteously to remain at his country-house so 
long as we should stay there. Thou, O Lxjrd, shalt reward him in the 
resurrection of the just J seeing Thou hast already given him the lot 
of the righteous.' For although in our absence, being now at Rome, 
he was seized with bodily sickness, and therein being made a Chris- 
tian, and one of the faithful, he departed this life; yet hadst Thou 
mercy not on him only, but on us also:* lest remembering the exceed- 
ing kindness of our friend towards us, yet unable to number him 
among Thy flock, we should be agonised with intolerable sorrow. 
•P«. xlvi. 10. ''Luke xiv. 14. *P5. cxxv. 3. 'Phil. ii. 27. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 141 

Thanks unto Thee, our God, we are Thine: Thy suggestions and con- 
solations tell us, Faithful in promises, Thou now requitest Verecun- 
dus for his country-house of Cassiacum, where from the fever of the 
world we reposed in Thee, with the eternal freshness of Thy Para- 
dise: for that Thou hast forgiven him his sins upon earth, in that rich 
mountain, that mountain which yieldeth milk. Thine own mountain. 
He then had at that time sorrow, but Nebridius joy. For although 
he also, not being yet a Christian, had fallen into the pit of that most 
pernicious error, believing the flesh of Thy Son to be a phantom : yet 
emerging thence, he believed as we did; not as yet endued with any 
Sacraments of Thy Church, but a most ardent searcher out of truth. 
Whom, not long after our conversion and regeneration by Thy 
Baptism, being also a faithful member of the Church Catholic, and 
serving Thee in perfect chastity and continence amongst his people 
in Africa, his whole house having through him first been made 
Christian, didst Thou release from the flesh; and now he lives in 
Abraham's bosom. Whatever that be, which is signified by that 
bosom, there lives my Nebridius, my sweet friend, and Thy child, O 
Lord, adopted of a freed man: there he liveth. For what other place 
is there for such a soul? There he liveth, whereof he asked much of 
me, a poor inexperienced man. Now lays he not his ear to my mouth, 
but his spiritual mouth unto Thy fountain, and drinketh as much 
as he can receive, wisdom in proportion to his thirst, endlessly 
happy. Nor do I think that he is so inebriated therewith, as to forget 
me; seeing Thou, Lord, Whom he drinketh, art mindful of us. So 
were we then, comforting Verecundus, who sorrowed, as far as 
friendship permitted, that our conversion was of such sort; and 
exhorting him to become faithful, according to his measure, namely, 
of a married estate; and awaiting Nebridius to follow us, which, 
being so near, he was all but doing: and so, lo! those days rolled by 
at length; for long and many they seemed, for the love I bare to the 
easeful liberty, that I might sing to Thee from my inmost marrow. 
My heart hath said unto Thee, I have sought Thy face: Thy face. 
Lord, will I see^:" 

Now was the day come wherein I was in deed to be freed of my 
Rhetoric Professorship, whereof in thought I was already freed. And 

•» Ps. xxvii. 8. 



142 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

it was done. Thou didst rescue my tongue, whence Thou hadst 
before rescued my heart. And I blessed Thee, rejoicing; retiring 
with all mine to the villa. What I there did in writing, which was 
now enlisted in Thy service, though still, in this breathing-time as it 
were, panting from the school of pride, my books may witness, as 
well what I debated with others, as what with myself alone, before 
Thee: what with Nebridius, who was absent, my Epistles bear wit- 
ness. And when shall I have time to rehearse all Thy great benefits 
towards us at that time, especially when hasting on to yet greater 
mercies? For my remembrance recalls me, and pleasant is it to me, 
O Lord, to confess to Thee, by what inward goads Thou tamedst me; 
and how Thou hast evened me, lowering the mountains and hills 
of my high imaginations, straightening my crool^edness, and smooth- 
ing my rough ways; and how Thou also subduest the brother of my 
heart, Alypius, unto the Name of Thy Only Begotten, our Lord and 
Saviour Jesus Christ, which he would not at first vouchsafe to have 
inserted in our writings. For rather would he have them savour of 
the lofty cedars of the Schools, which the Lord hath now broken 
down^^ than of the wholesome herbs of the Church, the antidote 
against serpents. 

Oh, in what accents spake I unto Thee, my God, when I read the 
Psalms of David, those faithful songs, and sounds of devotion, which 
allow of no swelling spirit, as yet a Catechumen, and a novice in 
Thy real love, resting in that villa, with Alypius a Catechumen, my 
mother cleaving to us, in female garb with masculine faith, with 
the tranquillity of age, motherly love, Christian piety! Oh, what 
accents did I utter unto Thee in those Psalms, and how was I by 
them kindled towards Thee, and on fire to rehearse them, if possible, 
through the whole world, against the pride of mankind! And yet 
they are sung through the whole world, nor can any hide himself 
from Thy heat," With what vehement and bitter sorrow was I 
angered at the Manichees! and again I pitied them for that they 
knew not those Sacraments, those medicines, and were mad against 
the antidote which might have recovered them of their madness. 
How I would they had then been somewhere near me, and without 
" Pfc xxix. 5. " Ps. xix. 6. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I43 

my knowing that they were there, could have beheld my counte- 
nance, and heard my words, when I read the fourth Psalm in that 
time of my rest, and how that Psalm wrought upon me, When I 
called, the God of my righteousness heard me; in tribulation Thou 
enlargedst me. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, and hear my prayer}^ 
Would that what I uttered on these words, they could hear, with- 
out my knowing whether they heard, lest they should think I spake 
it for their sakes! Because in truth neither should I speak the same 
things, nor in the same way, if I perceived that they heard and 
saw me; nor if I spake them would they so receive them, as when I 
spake by and for myself before Thee, out of the natural feelings of 
my soul. 

I trembled for fear, and again kindled with hope, and with rejoic- 
ing in Thy mercy, O Father; and all issued forth both by mine eyes 
and voice, when Thy good Spirit turning unto us, said, O ye sons of 
men, how long slow of heart? why do ye love vanity, and seek^ after 
leasing?^* For I had loved vanity, and sought after leasing}^ And 
Thou, O Lord, hadst already magnified Thy Holy One, raising Him 
from the dead, and setting Him at Thy right hand}* whence from on 
high He should send His promise, the Comforter, the Spirit of 
truth." And He had already sent Him, but I knew it not; He had 
sent Him, because He was now magnified, rising again from the 
dead, and ascending into heaven." For till then, the Spirit was not 
yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified}^ And the prophet 
cries out. How long, slow of heart? why do ye love vanity, and seek^ 
after leasing? Know this, that the Lord hath magnified His Holy 
One. He cries out. How long? He cries out. Know this: and I so 
long, not knowing, loved vanity, and sought after leasing: and 
therefore I heard and trembled, because it was spoken unto such as 
I remembered myself to have been. For in those phantoms which I 
had held for truths, was there vanity and leasing; and I spake aloud 
many things earnestly and forcibly, in the bitterness of my remem- 
brance. Which would they had heard, who yet love vanity and seel{ 
after leasing! They would perchance have been troubled, and have 

"Ps. iv. 1. Old Vers. "Ps. iv. 2. Old Vers. " Ver. 3. 

'•Eph. L 20. "Luke xxix. 49; John xiv. 16, 17. "Acts ii. 1-4. 

"John vii. 39. 



144 "^^^ CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

vomited it up; and Thou tvouldest hear them when they cried unto 
Thee; for by a true death in the flesh did He die for us, who now 
intercedeth unto Thee for us.^ 

I further read, Be angry, and sin not?^ And how was I moved, 

my God, who had now learned to be angry at myself for things 
past, that I might not sin in time to come! Yea, to be justly angry; for 
that it was not another nature of a people of darkness which sinned 
for me, as they say who are not angry at themselves, and treasure up 
wrath against the day of wrath, and of the revelation of Thy just 
judgment?^ Nor were my good things now without, nor sought 
with the eyes of flesh in that earthly sun; for they that would have 
joy from without soon become vain, and waste themselves on the 
things seen and temporal, and in their famished thoughts do lick 
their very shadows. Oh that they were wearied out with their fam- 
ine, and said, Who will show us good things?'^ And we would say, 
and they hear. The light of Thy countenance is sealed upon us.** 
For we are not that light which enlighteneth every man^^ but we are 
enlightened by Thee; that having been sometimes darkness, we may 
be light in Thee^ Oh that they could see the eternal Internal, which 
having tasted, I was grieved that I could not show It them, so long 
as they brought me their heart in their eyes roving abroad from Thee, 
while they said, Who will show us good things?" For there, where 

1 was angry within myself in my chamber, where I was inwardly 
pricked, where I had sacrificed, slaying my old man and commencing 
the purpose of a new life, putting my trust in TheeJ^ — there hadst 
Thou begun to grow sweet unto me, and hadst put gladness in my 
hearth And I cried out, as I read this outwardly, finding it inwardly. 
Nor would I be multiplied with worldly goods; wasting away time, 
and wasted by time; whereas I had in Thy eternal Simple Essence 
other corn, and wine, and oil. 

And with a loud cry of my heart I cried out in the next verse, O 
in peace, O for The Self-same! O what said he, / will lay me down 
and sleeps for who shall hinder us, when cometh to pass that say- 
ing which is written, Death is swallowed up in victory?'^ And Thou 
surpassingly are the Self-same, Who art not changed; and in Thee is 
rest which forgetteth all toil, for there is none other with Thee, nor 
*>Rom. viii. 34. " gpi,. jy. 26. "Rom. ii. 5. " Ps. iv. 6. "Ibid. 
"John i. 9. "Eph. v. 8. "Ps. iv. 6. "Vcr. 5. 
» Ps. iv. 7. *> Vcr. 8. " I Cor. xv. 54. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST, AUGUSTINE 1 45 

are we to seek those many other things, which are not what Thou 
art: but Thou Lord, alone hast made me dwell in hope. I read, and 
kindled; nor found I what to do to those deaf and dead, of whom 
myself had been, a pestilent person, a bitter and a blind bawler 
against those writings, which are honied with the honey of heaven, 
and lightsome with Thine own light: and I was consumed with zeal 
at the enemies of this Scripture. 

When shall I recall all which passed in those holy-days? Yet 
neither have I forgotten, nor will I pass over the severity of Thy 
scourge, and the wonderful swiftness of Thy mercy. Thou didst then 
torment me with pain in my teeth; which when it had come to such 
height that I could not speak, it came into my heart to desire all my 
friends present to pray for me to Thee, the God of all manner of 
health. And this I wrote on wax, and gave it to them to read. Pres- 
ently so soon as with humble devotion we had bowed our knees, 
that pain went away. But what pain ? or how went it away ? I was 
affrighted, O my Lord, my God, for from infancy I had never expe- 
rienced the like. And the power of Thy Nod was deeply conveyed 
to me, and rejoicing in faith, I praised Thy Name. And that faith 
suffered me not to be at ease about my past sins, which were not yet 
forgiven me by Thy baptism. 

The vintage-vacation ended, I gave notice to the Milanese to pro- 
vide their scholars with another master to sell words to them; for that 
I had both made choice to serve Thee, and through my difficulty of 
breathing and pain in my chest was not equal to the Professorship, 
And by letters I signified to Thy Prelate, the holy man Ambrose, 
my former errors and present desires, begging his advice what of 
Thy Scriptures I had best read, to become readier and fitter for 
receiving so great grace. He recommended Isaiah the Prophet: I 
believe, because he above the rest is a more clear fore-shower of the 
Gospel and of the calling of the Gentiles. But I, not understand- 
ing the first lesson in him, and imagining the whole to be like it, 
laid it by, to be resumed when better practised in our Lord's own 
words. 

Thence, when the time was come wherein I was to give in my 
name, we left the country and returned to Milan. It pleased Alypius 
also to be with me born again in Thee, being already clothed with the 
humility befitting Thy Sacraments; and a most valiant tamer of the 



146 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

body, so as, with unwonted venture, to wear the frozen ground of 
Italy with his bare feet. We joined with us the boy Adeodatus, born 
after the flesh of my sin. Excellently hadst Thou made him. He 
was not quite fifteen, and in wit surpassed many grave and learned 
men. I confess unto Thee Thy gifts, O Lord my God, Creator of all, 
and abundantly able to reform our deformities: for I had no part in 
that boy, but the sin. For that we brought him up in Thy discipline, 
it was Thou, none else, had inspired us with it. I confess unto Thee 
Thy gifts. There is a book of ours entitled The Master; it is a dia- 
logue between him and me. Thou knowest that all there ascribed 
to the person conversing with me were his ideas, in his sixteenth 
year. Much besides, and yet more admirable, I found in him. That 
talent struck awe into me. And who but Thou could be the work- 
master of such wonders? Soon didst Thou take his life from the 
earth: and I now remember him without anxiety, fearing nothing for 
his childhood or youth, or his whole self. Him we joined with us, our 
contemporary in grace, to be brought up in Thy discipline; and we 
were baptised, and anxiety for our past life vanished from us. Nor 
was I sated in those days with the wondrous sweetness of consider- 
ing the depth of Thy counsels concerning the salvation of mankind. 
How did I weep, in Thy Hymns and Canticles, touched to the quick 
by the voices of Thy sweet-attuned Church! The voices flowed into 
mine ears, and the Truth distilled into my heart, whence the affec- 
tions of my devotion overflowed, and tears ran down, and happy 
was I therein. 

Not long had the Church of Milan begun to use this kind of con- 
solation and exhortation, the brethren zealously joining with har- 
mony of voice and hearts. For it was a year, or not much more, that 
Justina, mother to the Emperor Valentinian, a child, persecuted Thy 
servant Ambrose, in favour of her heresy, to which she was seduced 
by the Arians. The devout people kept watch in the Church, ready 
to die with their Bishop Thy servant. There my mother Thy hand- 
maid, bearing a chief part of those anxieties and watchings, lived 
for prayer. We, yet unwarmed by the heat of Thy Spirit, still were 
stirred up by the sight of the amazed and disquieted city. Then it 
was first instituted that after the manner of the Eastern Churches, 
Hymns and Psalms should be sung, lest the people should wax faint 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I47 

through the tediousness of sorrow: and from that day to this the 
custom is retained, divers (yea, almost all) Thy congregations, 
throughout other parts of the world, following herein. 

Then didst Thou by a vision discover to Thy forenamed Bishop 
where the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius the martyrs lay hid 
(whom Thou hadst in Thy secret treasury stored uncorrupted so 
many years), whence Thou mightest seasonably produce them to 
repress the fury of a woman, but an Empress. For when they were 
discovered and dug up, and with due honour translated to the 
Ambrosian Basilica, not only they who were vexed with unclean 
spirits (the devils confessing themselves) were cured, but a certain 
man who had for many years been blind, a citizen, and well known 
to the city, asking and hearing the reason of the people's confused 
joy, sprang forth, desiring his guide to lead him thither. Led thither, 
he begged to be allowed to touch with his handkerchief the bier of 
Thy saints, whose death is precious in Thy sight?^ Which when he 
had done, and put to his eyes, they were forthwith opened. Thence 
did the fame spread, thence Thy praises glowed, shone; thence the 
mind of that enemy, though not turned to the soundness of believ- 
ing, was yet turned back from her fury of persecuting. Thanks to 
Thee, O my God. Whence and whither hast Thou thus led my 
remembrance, that I should confess these things also unto Thee? 
which great though they be, I had passed by in forgetfulness. And 
yet then, when the odour of Thy ointments was so fragrant, did we 
not run after Thee." Therefore did I more weep among the singing 
of Thy Hymns, formerly sighing after Thee, and at length breathing 
in Thee, as far as the breath may enter into this our house of grass. 

Thou that makest men to dwell of one mind in one housef*^ didst 
join with us Euodius also, a young man of our own city. Who being 
an officer of Court, was before us converted to Thee and baptised: 
and quitting his secular warfare, girded himself to Thine. We were 
together, about to dwell together in our devout purpose. We sought 
where we might serve Thee most usefully, and were together return- 
ing to Africa: whitherward being as far as Ostia, my mother departed 
this life. Much I omit, as hastening much. Receive my confessions 
and thanksgivings, O my God, for innumerable things whereof I 
"Ps. cxvi. 15. "0801.1.2,3. ** Ps. Ixviii. 6. 



148 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

am silent. But I will not omit whatsoever my soul would bring 
forth concerning that Thy handmaid, who brought me forth, both in 
the flesh, that I might be born to this temporal light, and in heart, 
that I might be born to Light eternal. Not her gifts, but Thine in 
her, would I speak of; for neither did she make nor educate herself. 
Thou createdst her; nor did her father and mother know what a one 
should come from them. And the sceptre of Thy Christ, the disci- 
pline of Thine only Son, in a Christian house, a good member of 
Thy Church, educated her in Thy fear. Yet for her good discipline 
was she wont to commend not so much her mother's diligence, as 
that of a certain decrepit maid-servant, who had carried her father 
when a child, as little ones used to be carried at the backs of elder 
girls. For which reason, and for her great age, and excellent con- 
versation, was she, in that Christian family, well respected by its 
heads. Whence also the charge of her master's daughters was en- 
trusted to her, to which she gave diligent heed, restraining them 
earnestly, when necessary, with a holy severity, and teaching them 
with a grave discretion. For, except at those hours wherein they 
were most temperately fed at their parents' table, she would not 
suffer them, though parched with thirst, to drink even water; pre- 
venting an evil custom, and adding this wholesome advice: "Ye 
drink water now, because you have not wine in your power; but 
when you come to be married, and be made mistresses of cellars 
and cupboards, you will scorn water, but the custom of drinking 
will abide." By this method of instruction, and the authority she had, 
she refrained the greediness of childhood, and moulded their very 
thirst to such an excellent moderation that what they should not, 
that they would not. 

And yet (as Thy handmaid told me her son) there had crept upon 
her a love of wine. For when (as the manner was) she, as though 
a sober maiden, was bidden by her parents to draw wine out of 
the hogshead, holding the vessel under the ofjening, before she 
poured the wine into the flagon, she sipped a little with the tip of 
her lips; for more her instinctive feelings refused. For this she did, 
not out of any desire of drink, but out of the exuberance of youth, 
whereby, it boils over in mirthful freaks, which in youthful spirits 
are wont to be kept under by the gravity of their elders. And thus by 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I49 

adding to that little, daily littles (for whoso despiseth little things 
shall jail by little and little^) she had fallen into such a habit as 
greedily to drink off her litde cup brim-full almost of wine. Where 
was then that discreet old woman, and that her earnest counter- 
manding? Would aught avail against a secret disease, if Thy healing 
hand, O Lord, watched not over us? Father, mother, and governors 
absent, Thou present, who createdst, who callest, who also by those 
set over us, workest something towards the salvation of our souls, 
what didst Thou then, O my God ? how didst Thou cure her ? how 
heal her? didst Thou not out of another soul bring forth a hard and a 
sharp taunt, like a lancet out of Thy secret store, and with one touch 
remove all that foul stuff? For a maid-servant with whom she used 
to go to the cellar, falling to words (as it happens) with her little 
mistress, when alone with her, taunted her with this fault, with most 
bitter insult, calling her wine-bibber. With which taunt, she, stung 
to the quick, saw the foulness of her fault, and instantly condemned 
and forsook it. As flattering friends pervert, so reproachful enemies 
mostly correct. Yet not what by them Thou doest, but what them- 
selves purposed, dost Thou repay them. For she in her anger sought 
to vex her young mistress, not to amend her; and did it in private, 
for that the time and place of the quarrel so found them; or lest 
herself also should have anger, for discovering it thus late. But Thou, 
Lord, Governor of all in heaven and earth, who turnest to Thy 
purposes the deepest currents, and the ruled turbulence of the tide 
of times, didst by the very unhealthiness of one soul heal another; 
lest any, when he observes this, should ascribe it to his own power, 
even when another, whom he wished to be reformed, is reformed 
through words of his. 

Brought up thus modesdy and soberly, and made subject rather by 
Thee to her parents, than by her parents to Thee, so soon as she was 
of marriageable age, being bestowed upon a husband, she served 
him as her lord; and did her diligence to win him unto Thee, preach- 
ing Thee unto him by her conversation; by which Thou orna- 
mentedst her, making her reverently amiable, and admirable unto 
her husband. And she so endured the wronging of her bed as never 
to have any quarrel with her husband thereon. For she looked for 

^ Ecclus. xix. I. 



150 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Thy mercy ujx)n him, that believing in Thee, he might be made 
chaste. But besides this, he was fervid, as in his affections, so in 
anger: but she had learnt not to resist an angry husband, not in deed 
only, but not even in word. Only when he was smoothed and tran- 
quil, and in a temper to receive it, she would give an account of her 
actions, if haply he had overhastily taken offence. In a word, while 
many matrons, who had milder husbands, yet bore even in their 
faces marks of shame, would in familiar talk blame their husbands' 
lives, she would blame their tongues, giving them, as in jest, earnest 
advice: "That from the time they heard the marriage writings read 
to them, they should account them as indentures, whereby they 
were made servants; and so, remembering their condition, ought not 
to set themselves up against their lords." And when they, know- 
ing what a choleric husband she endured, marvelled that it had 
never been heard, nor by any token perceived, that Patricius had 
beaten his wife, or that there had been any domestic difference be- 
tween them, even for one day, and confidentially asking the reason, 
she taught them her practice above mentioned. Those wives who 
observed it found the good, and returned thanks; those who observed 
it not, found no relief, and suffered. 

Her mother-in-law also, at first by whisperings of evil servants 
incensed against her, she so overcame by observance and persever- 
ing endurance and meekness, that she of her own accord discovered 
to her son the meddling tongues whereby the domestic peace be- 
twixt her and her daughter-in-law had been disturbed, asking him 
to correct them. Then, when in compliance with his mother, and for 
the well-ordering of the family, and the harmony of its members, he 
had with stripes corrected those discovered, at her will who had 
discovered them, she promised the like reward to any who, to please 
her, should speak ill of her daughter-in-law to her: and none now 
venturing, they lived together with a remarkable sweetness of 
mutual kindness. 

This great gift also Thou bestowedst, O my God, my mercy, upon 
that good handmaid of Thine, in whose womb Thou createdst me, 
that between any disagreeing and discordant parties where she was 
able, she showed herself such a peace-maker, that hearing on both 
sides most bitter things, such as swelling and indigested choler uses 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I5I 

to break out into, when the crudities of enmities are breathed out in 
sour discourses to a present friend against an absent enemy, she 
never would disclose aught of the one unto the other, but what might 
tend to their reconcilement. A small good this might appear to me, 
did I not to my grief know numberless persons, who through some 
horrible and wide-spreading contagion of sin, not only disclose to 
persons mutually angered things said in anger, but add withal things 
never spoken, whereas to humane humanity, it ought to seem a light 
thing not to foment or increase ill will by ill words, unless one study 
withal by good words to quench it. Such was she. Thyself, her most 
inward Instructor, teaching her in the school of the heart. 

Finally, her own husband, towards the very end of his earthly life, 
did she gain unto Thee; nor had she to complain of that in him as a 
believer, which before he was a believer she had borne from him. 
She was also the servant of Thy servants; whosoever of them knew 
her, did in her much praise and honour and love Thee; for that 
through the witness of the fruits of a holy conversation they per- 
ceived Thy presence in her heart. For she had been the wife of one 
man, had requited her parents, had governed her house piously, was 
well reported of her good worlds, had brought up children!^ so often 
travailing in birth of them}^ as she saw them swerving from Thee. 
Lastly, of all of us Thy servants, O Lord (whom on occasion of 
Thy own gift Thou suflerest to speak), us, who before her sleeping 
in Thee Hved united together, having received the grace of Thy 
baptism, did she so take care of, as though she had been mother of 
us all; so served us, as though she had been child to us all. 

The day now approaching whereon she was to depart this life 
(which day Thou well knewest, we knew not), it came to pass, 
Thyself, as I believe, by Thy secret ways so ordering it, that she and 
I stood alone, leaning in a certain window, which looked into the 
garden of the house where we now lay, at Ostia; where removed 
from the din of men, we were recruiting from the fatigues of a long 
journey, for the voyage. We were discoursing then together, alone, 
very sweedy; and forgetting those things which are behind, and 
reaching forth unto those things which are before^ we were en- 
quiring between ourselves in the presence of the Truth, which 
"Tim. V. 4, 9, 10 "Gal. iv. 19. "Phil. iii. 13. 



152 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Thou art, of what sort the eternal life of the saints was to be, which 
eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart 
of manf^ But yet we gasped with the mouth of our heart, after 
those heavenly streams of Thy fountain, the fountain of life, which 
is with Thee:*° that being bedewed thence according to our capacity, 
we might in some sort meditate upon so high a mystery. 

And when our discourse was brought to that point, that the very 
highest delight of the earthly senses, in the very purest material 
light, was, in respect of the sweetness of that life, not only not 
worthy of comparison, but not even of mention; we raising up our- 
selves with a more glowing affection towards the "Self-same," did 
by degrees pass through all things bodily, even the very heaven 
whence sun and moon and stars shine upon the earth; yea, we were 
soaring higher yet, by inward musing, and discourse, and admiring 
of Thy works; and we came to our own minds, and went beyond 
them, that we might arrive at that region of never-failing plenty, 
where Thou feedest Israel*^ for ever with the food of truth, and 
where life is the Wisdom by whom all these things are made, and 
what have been, and what shall be, and she is not made, but is, as 
she hath been, and so shall she be ever; yea rather, to "have been," 
and "hereafter to be," are not in her, but only "to be," seeing she is 
eternal. For to "have been," and to "be hereafter," are not eternal. 
And while we were discoursing and panting after her, we slightly 
touched on her with the whole effort of our heart; and we sighed, 
and there we leave bound the first fruits of the Spirit;" and returned 
to vocal expressions of our mouth, where the word spoken has be- 
ginning and end. And what is like unto Thy Word, our Lord, who 
endureth in Himself without becoming old, and mal^eth all things 
new?" 

We were saying then: If to any the tumult of the flesh were 
hushed, hushed the images of earth, and waters, and air, hushed also 
the poles of heaven, yea the very soul be hushed to herself, and by 
not thinking on self surmount self, hushed all dreams and im- 
aginary revelations, every tongue and every sign, and whatsoever 
exists only in transition, since if any could hear, all these say. We 
made not ourselves, but He made us that abideth for ever — If then 
•• I Cor. u. 9. Tj. xxxvLg. "P$. Ixxx. i. *' Rom. viii. 12. *• Wisd. vu. 27. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 53 

having uttered this, they too should be hushed, having roused only 
our ears to Him who made them, and He alone speak, not by them, 
but by Himself, that we may hear His Word, not through any 
tongue of flesh, nor Angel's voice, nor sound of thunder, nor in the 
dark riddle of a similitude, but might hear Whom in these things 
we love, might hear His Very Self without these (as we two now 
strained ourselves, and in swift thought touched on that Eternal 
Wisdom which abideth over all) : — could this be continued on, and 
other visions of kind far unlike be withdrawn, and this one ravish, 
and absorb, and wrap up its beholder amid these inward joys, so 
that life might be for ever like that one moment of understanding 
which now we sighed after; were not this, Enter into thy Master's 
joy?** And when shall that be? When we shall all rise again, 
though we shall not all be changed?"" 

Such things was I speaking, and even if not in this very manner, 
and these same words, yet Lord, Thou knowest that in that day 
when we were sf>eaking of these things, and this world with all its 
delights became, as we spake, contemptible to us, my mother said, 
"Son, for mine own part I have no further delight in any thing in 
this life. What I do here any longer, and to what end I am here, 
I know not, now that my hopes in this world are accomplished. One 
thing there was for which I desired to linger for a while in this 
life, that I might see thee a Catholic Christian before I died. My 
God hath done this for me more abundantly, that I should now see 
thee withal, despising earthly happiness, become His servant: what 
do I here?" 

What answer I made her unto these things, I remember not. For 
scarce five days after, or not much more, she fell sick of a fever; and 
in that sickness one day she fell into a swoon, and was for a while 
withdrawn from these visible things. We hastened round her; but 
she was soon brought back to her senses; and looking on me and 
my brother standing by her, said to us enquiringly, "Where was 
I?" And then looking fixedly on us, with grief amazed: "Here," 
saith she, "shall you bury your mother." I held my peace and re- 
frained weeping; but my brother spake something, wishing, for 
her, as the happier lot, that she might die, not in a strange place, 
**Matt. XXV. 21. "i Cor. xv. 51. — Vulg., etc. 



154 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

but in her own land. Whereat, she with anxious look, checking him 
with her eyes, for that he still savoured such things, and then look- 
ing upon me: "Behold," saith she, "what he saith:" and soon after 
to us both, "Lay," she saith, "this body any where; let not the care 
for that any way disquiet you: this only I request, that you would 
remember me at the Lord's altar, wherever you be." And having de- 
livered this sentiment in what words she could she held her peace, 
being exercised by her growing sickness. 

But I, considering Thy gifts. Thou unseen God, which Thou in- 
stillest into the hearts of Thy faithful ones, whence wondrous fruits 
do spring, did rejoice and give thanks to Thee, recalling what I 
before knew, how careful and anxious she had ever been as to her 
place of burial, which she had provided and prepared for herself by 
the body of her husband. For because they had lived in great har- 
mony together, she also wished (so litde can the human mind em- 
brace things divine) to have this addition to that happiness, and 
to have it remembered among men, that after her pilgrimage be- 
yond the seas, what was earthly of this united pair had been per- 
mitted to be united beneath the same earth. But when this empti- 
ness had through the fulness of Thy goodness begun to cease in her 
heart, I knew not, and rejoiced admiring what she had so disclosed 
to me; though indeed in that our discourse also in the window, 
when she said, "What do 1 here any longer?" there appeared no 
desire of dying in her own country. I heard afterwards also, that 
when we were now at Ostia, she with a mother's confidence, when 
I was absent, one day discoursed with certain of my friends about 
the contempt of this life, and the blessing of death: and when they 
were amazed at such courage which Thou hadst given to a woman, 
and asked, "Whether she were not afraid to leave her body so far 
from her own city?" she replied, "Nothing is far to God; nor was 
it to be feared lest at the end of the world, He should not recognise 
whence He were to raise me up." On the ninth day then of her 
sickness, and the fifty-sixth year of her age, and the three-and- 
thirtieth of mine, was that religious and holy soul freed from the 
body. 

I closed her eyes; and there flowed withal a mighty sorrow into 
my heart, which was overflowing into tears; mine eyes at the same 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 55 

time, by the violent command of my mind, drank up their fountain 
wholly dry; and woe was me in such a strife! But when she breathed 
her last, the boy Adeodatus burst out into a loud lament; then, 
checked by us all, held his peace. In like manner also a childish 
feeling in me, which was, through my heart's youthful voice, finding 
its vent in weeping, was checked and silenced. For we thought it 
not fitting to solemnise that funeral with tearful lament, and groan- 
ings; for thereby do they for the most part express grief for the de- 
parted, as though unhappy, or altogether dead; whereas she was 
neither unhappy in her death, nor altogether dead. Of this we were 
assured on good grounds, the testimony of her good conversation 
and her faith unfeigned. 

What then was it which did grievously pain me within, but a 
fresh wound wrought through the sudden wrench of that most 
sweet and dear custom of living together? I joyed indeed in her 
testimony, when, in that her last sickness, mingling her endear- 
ments with my acts of duty, she called me "dutiful," and mentioned, 
with great affection of love, that she never had heard any harsh or 
reproachful sound uttered by my mouth against her. But yet, O my 
God, Who madest us, what comparison is there betwixt that honour 
that I paid to her, and her slavery for me? Being then forsaken of 
so great comfort in her, my soul was wounded, and that life rent 
asunder as it were, which, of hers and mine together, had been made 
but one. 

The boy then being stilled from weeping, Euodius took up the 
Psalter, and began to sing, our whole house answering him, the 
Psalm, / will sing of mercy and judgment to Thee, O Lord.*^ But 
hearing what we were doing, many brethren and religious women 
came together; and whilst they (whose office it was) made ready 
for the burial, as the manner is, I (in a part of the house, where I 
might properly), together with those who thought not fit to leave 
me, discoursed upon something fitting the time; and by this balm 
of truth assuaged that torment, known to Thee, they unknowing 
and listening intently, and conceiving me to be without all sense 
of sorrow. But in Thy ears, where none of them heard, I blamed 
the weakness of my feelings, and refrained my flood of grief, which 



156 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

gave way a little unto me; but again came, as with a tide, yet not 
so as to burst out into tears, nor to a change of countenance; still I 
knew what I was keeping down in my heart. And being very much 
displeased that these human things had such power over me, which 
in the due order and appointment of our natural condition must 
needs come to pass, with a new grief 1 grieved for my grief, and 
was thus worn by a double sorrow. 

And behold, the corpse was carried to the burial; we went and 
returned without tears. For neither in those prayers which we 
poured forth unto Thee, when the Sacrifice of our ransom was 
offered for her, when now the corpse was by the grave's side, as the 
manner there is, previous to its being laid therein, did I weep even 
during those prayers; yet was I the whole day in secret heavily sad, 
and with troubled mind prayed Thee, as I could, to heal my sorrow, 
yet Thou didst not; impressing, I believe, upon my memory by 
this one instance, how strong is the bond of all habit, even upon a 
soul, which now feeds upon no deceiving Word. It seemed also 
good to me to go and bathe, having heard that the bath had its 
name (balneum) from the Greek /3aXowio»', for that it drives sadness 
from the mind. And this also I confess unto Thy mercy. Father of 
the fatherless," that I bathed, and was the same as before I bathed. 
For the bitterness of sorrow could not exude out of my heart. Then 
I slept, and woke up again, and found my grief not a little softened; 
and as I was alone in my bed, I remembered those true verses of 
Thy Ambrose. For Thou art the 

"Maker of all, the Lord, 
And Ruler of the height, 
Who, robing day in light, hast poured 
Soft slumbers o'er the night, 

"That to our limbs the power 
Of toil may be renew'd, 
And hearts be rais'd that sink and cower, 
And sorrows be subdu'd." 

And then by little and litde I recovered my former thoughts of 
Thy handmaid, her holy conversation towards Thee, her holy ten- 

*' P$. Ixviii. 5. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I57 

derness and observance towards us, whereof I was suddenly de- 
prived: and I was minded to weep in Thy sight, for her and for 
myself, in her behalf and in my own. And I gave way to the tears 
which I before restrained, to overflow as much as they desired; re- 
posing my heart upon them; and it found rest in them, for it was 
in Thy ears not in those of man, who would have scornfully inter- 
preted my weeping. And now. Lord, in writing I confess it unto 
Thee. Read it, who will, and interpret it, how he will: and if he 
finds sin therein, that I wept my mother for a small portion of an 
hour (the mother who for the time was dead to mine eyes, who 
had for many years wept for me that I might live in Thine eyes), 
let him not deride me; but rather, if he be one of large charity, 
let him weep himself for my sins unto Thee, the Father of all the 
brethren of Thy Christ. 

But now, with a heart cured of that wound, wherein it might 
seem blameworthy for an earthly feeling, I pour out unto Thee, our 
God, in behalf of that Thy handmaid, a far different kind of tears, 
flowing from a spirit shaken by the thoughts of the dangers of 
every soul that dieth in Adam." And although she having been 
quickened in Christ, even before her release from the flesh, had 
lived to the praise of Thy name for her faith and conversation; yet 
dare I not say that from what time Thou regeneratedst her by bap- 
tism, no word issued from her mouth against Thy Commandment.** 
Thy Son, the Truth, hath said, Wfiosoci/er shall say unto his brother, 
Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire!^ And woe be even unto 
the commendable life of men, if, laying aside mercy. Thou shouldest 
examine it. But because Thou art not extreme in enquiring after 
sins, we confidently hope to find some place with Thee. But whoso- 
ever reckons up his real merits to Thee, what reckons he up to Thee 
but Thine own gifts? O that men would know themselves to be 
men; and that he that glorieth would glory in the Lord." 

I therefore, O my Praise and my Life, God of my heart, laying 
aside for a while her good deeds, for which I give thanks to Thee 
with joy, do now beseech Thee for the sins of my mother. Hearken 
unto me, I entreat Thee, by the Medicine of our wounds, Who hung 
upon the tree, and now sitting at Thy right hand maketh interces- 
* I Cor. XV. 22. "Matt. xii. 36. '"Matt. v. 22. " i Cor. x. 17. 



158 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

sion to Thee for us^^ I know that she dealt mercifully, and from 
her heart forgave her debtors their debts; do Thou also forgive her 
debtsj'' what ever she may have contracted in so many years, since 
the water of salvation. Forgive her, Lord, forgive, I beseech Thee; 
enter not into the judgment with her!"* Let Thy mercy be exalted 
above Thy justice^ since Thy words are true, and Thou hast prom- 
ised mercy unto the merciful f* which thou gavest them to be, who 
wilt have mercy on whom Thou wilt have mercy; and wilt have 
compassion on whom Thou hast had compassion" 

And, I believe. Thou hast already done what I ask; but accept, O 
Lord, the free-will offerings of my mouth!* For she, the day of her 
dissolution now at hand, took no thought to have her body sumptu- 
ously wound up, or embalmed with spices; nor desired she a choice 
monument, or to be buried in her own land. These things she en- 
joined us not; but desired only to have her name commemorated at 
Thy Altar, which she had served without intermission of one day: 
whence she knew that holy Sacrifice to be dispensed, by which the 
hand-writing that was against us is blotted out;^* through which the 
enemy was triumphed over, who summing up our offences, and 
seeking what to lay to our charge, found nothing in Him^ in 
Whom we conquer. Who shall restore to Him the innocent blood? 
Who repay Him the price wherewith He bought us, and so take 
us from Him. Unto the Sacrament of which our ransom, Thy 
handmaid bound her soul by the bond of faith. Let none sever her 
from Thy protection : let neither the lion nor the dragon^^ interpose 
himself by force or fraud. For she will not answer that she owes 
nothing, lest she be convicted and seized by the crafty accuser: but 
she will answer that her sins are forgiven her by Him, to Whom 
none can repay that price which He, Who owed nothing, paid for us. 

May she rest then in peace with the husband before and after 
whom she had never any; whom she obeyed, with patience bringing 
forth fruit" unto Thee, that she might win him also unto Thee. 
And inspire, O Lord my God, inspire Thy servants my brethren, 
Thy sons my masters, whom with voice and heart, and pen I serve, 
that so many as shall read these Confessions, may at Thy Altar re- 

**Rom. viii. 34. "Matt, xviii. 35; vi. 12. '* Ps. cxliii. 2. "James iL 13. 

"Matt. V. 7. "Rom. ix. 15. =» Ps. cxix. 108. ''Col. ii. 14. 

•"John xiv. 30. " Ps. xci. i. "Luke viii. 15. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 59 

member Monnica Thy handmaid, with Patricius, her sometimes 
husband, by whose bodies Thou broughtest me into this life, how, 
I know not. May they with devout affection remember my parents 
in this transitory Hght, my brethren under Thee our Father in our 
CathoHc Mother, and my fellow<itizens in that eternal Jerusalem 
which Thy pilgrim people sigheth after from their Exodus, even 
unto their return thither. That so my mother's last request of me, 
may, through my Confessions, more than through my prayers, be, 
through the prayers of many, more abundantly fulfilled to her. 



THE TENTH BOOK 

Having in the former books spoken of himself before his receiving the 
grace of Baptism, in this Augustine confesses what he then was. But 
first, he enquires by what faculty we can know God at all, whence 
he enlarges on the mysterious character of the memory, wherein 
God, being made known, dwells, but which could not discover Him. 
Then he examines his own trials under the triple division of tempta- 
tion, "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride"; what Christian 
continency prescribes as to each. On Christ the Only Mediator, who 
heals and will heal all infirmities. 

Eme know Thee, O Lord, who knowest me; let me \now 
Thee, as I am known} Power of my soul, enter into it, and 
fit it for Thee, that Thou mayest have and hold it without 
spot or wrinkle} This is my hope, therefore do I spea^!* and in this 
hope do I rejoice, when I rejoice healthfully. Other things of this 
life are the less to be sorrowed for, the more they are sorrowed for; 
and the more to be sorrowed for, the less men sorrow for them. 
For behold. Thou lovest the truth,* and he that doth it, cometh to 
the light!" This would I do in my heart before Thee in confession: 
and in my writing, before many witnesses. 

And from Thee, O Lord, unto whose eyef the abyss of man's 
conscience is naked, what could be hidden in me though I would 
not confess it? For I should hide Thee from me, not me from 
Thee. But now, for that my groaning is witness, that I am dis- 
pleased with myself. Thou shinest out, and art pleasing, and be- 
loved, and longed for; that I may be ashamed of myself, and 
renounce myself, and choose Thee, and neither please Thee nor 
myself, but in Thee. To Thee therefore, O Lord, am I ojjen, what- 
ever I am; and with what fruit I confess unto Thee, I have said. 
Nor do I it with words and sounds of the flesh, but with the words 
of my soul, and the cry of the thought which Thy ear knoweth. For 

• I Cor. xiiL 12. * Eph. v. ay. * P$. cxvi. 10. * P». IL 6. * John UL ao. 

•Heb. iv. 13. 

160 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE l6l 

when I am evil, then to confess to Thee is nothing else than to be dis- 
pleased with myself; but when holy, nothing else than not to ascribe 
it to myself: because Thou, O Lord, blessest the godly ^ but first 
Thou justifiest him when ungodly* My confession then, O my God, 
in Thy sight, is made silently, and not silently. For in sound, it is 
silent; in affection, it cries aloud. For neither do I utter any thing 
right unto men, which Thou hast not before heard from me; nof 
dost Thou hear any such thing from me, which Thou hast not first 
said unto me. 

What then have I to do with men, that they should hear my con- 
fessions — as if they could heal all my infirmities' — a race, curious 
to know the lives of others, slothful to amend their own? Why seek 
they to hear from me what I am; who will not hear from Thee what 
themselves are? And how know they, when from myself they 
hear of myself, whether I say true; seeing no man k/iows what is in 
man, but the spirit of man which is in him?^" But if they hear from 
Thee of themselves, they cannot say, "The Lord lieth." For what 
is it to hear from Thee of themselves, but to know themselves? and 
who knoweth and saith, "It is false," unless himself lieth? But 
because charity believeth all things^^ (that is, among those whom 
knitting unto itself it maketh one), I also, O Lord, will in such wise 
confess unto Thee, that men may hear, to whom I cannot demon- 
strate whether I confess truly; yet they believe me, whose ears 
charity openeth unto me. 

But do Thou, my inmost Physician, make plain unto me what 
object I may gain by doing it. For the confessions of my past sins, 
which Thou hast forgiven and covered," that Thou mightest bless 
me in Thee, changing my soul by Faith and Thy Sacrament, when 
read and heard, stir up the heart, that it sleep not in despair and say 
"I cannot," but awake in the love of Thy mercy and the sweetness 
of Thy grace, whereby whoso is weak^, is strong, when by it he be- 
came conscious of his own weakness. And the good delight to hear 
of the past evils of such as are now freed from them, not because 
they are evils, but because they have been and are not. With what 
object, then, O Lord my God, to Whom my conscience daily con- 

'Pi. V. I a. 'Rom. iv. 5. »Ps. ciii. 3. "• i Cor. ii. 11. "Ibid. xiii. 7. 

"Ps. xzxii. I. 



1 62 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

fesseth, trusting more in the hope of Thy mercy than in her own 
innocency, with what object, I pray, do I by this book confess to 
men also in Thy presence what 1 now am, not what I have been? 
For that other object I have seen and spoken of. But what I now 
am, at the very time of making these confessions, divers desire to 
know, who have or have not known me, who have heard from me 
or of me; but their ear is not at my heart, where I am, whatever I 
am. They wish then to hear me confess what I am within; whither 
neither their eye, nor ear, nor understanding can reach; they wish 
it, as ready to beUeve — but will they know? For charity, whereby 
they are good, telleth them that in my confessions I lie not; and she 
in them, belie veth me. 

But for what object would they hear this? Do they desire to joy 
with me, when they hear how near, by Thy gift, I approach unto 
Thee? and to pray for me, when they shall hear how much 1 am 
held back by my own weight ? To such will I discover myself. For 
it is no mean object, O Lord my God, that by many thanks should 
be given to Thee on our behalf" and Thou be by many entreated 
for us. Let the brotherly mind love in me what Thou teachest is to 
be loved, and lament in me what Thou teachest is to be lamented. 
Let a brotherly, not a stranger, mind, not that of the strange chil- 
dren, whose mouth talketh of vanity, and their right hand is a right 
hand of iniquity^* but that brotherly mind which when it approv- 
eth rejoiceth for me, and when it disapproveth me, is sorry for me; 
because whether it approveth or disapproveth, it loveth me. To such 
will I discover myself: they will breathe freely at my good deeds, 
sigh for my ill. My good deeds are Thine appointments and Thy 
gifts; my evil ones are my offences, and Thy judgments. Let them 
breathe freely at the one, sigh at the other; and let hymns and weep- 
ing go up into Thy sight out of the hearts of my brethren, Thy 
censers}^ And do Thou, O Lord, be pleased with the incense of 
Thy holy temple, have mercy upon me according to Thy great 
mercy for Thine own name's sake;" and no ways forsaking what 
Thou hast begun, perfect my imperfections. 

This is the object of my confessions of what I am, not of what 
I have been, to confess this, not before Thee only, in a secret 
•'i Cor. ij. II. "Ps. cxliv. ii. "Rev. viii. 3. "P$. li. i. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 63 

exultation tvith trembling" and a secret sorrow with hope; but in 
the ears also of the beUeving sons of men, sharers of my joy, and 
partners in my mortaUty, my fellow<itizens, and fellow-pilgrims, 
who are gone before, or are to follow on, companions of my way. 
These are Thy servants, my brethren, whom Thou wiliest to be Thy 
sons; my masters, whom Thou commandest me to serve, if I would 
live with Thee, of Thee. But this Thy Word were little, did it 
only command by speaking and not go before in performing. This 
then I do in deed and word, this I do under Thy wings; in over 
great peril, were not my soul subdued unto Thee under Thy wings, 
and my infirmity known unto Thee. I am a litde one, but my 
Father ever liveth, and my Guardian is sufficient for me. For he is 
the same who begat me, and defends me: and Thou Thyself art 
all my good; Thou, Almighty, Who art with me, yea, before I am 
with Thee. To such then whom Thou commandest me to serve will 
I discover, not what I have been, but what I now am and what I 
yet am. But neither do I judge myself.^' Thus therefore I would be 
heard. 

For Thou, Lord, dost judge me:" because, although no man 
l{^noweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man which is in 
him, yet is there something of man, which neither the spirit of man 
that is in him, itself knoweth?" But Thou, Lord, knowest all of 
him, Who hast made him. Yet I, though in Thy sight I despise 
myself, and account myself dust and ashes; yet know I something of 
Thee, which I know not of myself. And truly, now we see through 
a glass darkly, not face to fac^^ as yet. So long therefore as / be 
absent from Thee^^ I am more present with myself than with Thee, 
and yet know I Thee that Thou art in no ways passible; but I, what 
temptations I can resist, what I cannot, I know not. And there is 
hope, because Thou art faithful. Who wilt not suffer us to be 
tempted above that we are able; but wilt with the temptation also 
ma/(e a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it^ I will confess 
then what I know of myself, I will confess also what I know not 
of myself. And that because what I do know of myself, I know by 
Thy shining upon me; and what I know not of myself, so long 

"Ps. ii. II. " I Cor. iv. 3. '»/*«/. «>lbid. u. 11. "/«(/. xiii. li. 
" 1 Cor. V. 6. " I Cor. x. 3. 



164 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

know I not it, until my darkness be made as the noon-day" in Thy 

countenance. 
Not with doubting, but with assured consciousness, do I love 

Thee, Lord. Thou hast stricken my heart with Thy word, and I 
loved Thee. Yea also heaven and earth, and all that therein is, be- 
hold on every side they bid me love Thee; nor cease to say so unto 
all, that they may be without excuse. But more deeply wilt Thou 
have mercy on whom Thou wilt have mercy, and wilt have compas- 
sion on whom Thou hast had compassion:^'' else in deaf ears do the 
heaven and the earth speak Thy praises. But what do I love, when 
1 love Thee? not beauty of bodies, nor the fair harmony of time, 
nor the brightness of the light, so gladsome to our eyes, nor sweet 
melodies of varied songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers, and oint- 
ments, and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs acceptable to 
embracements of flesh. None of these I love, when I love my God; 
and yet I love a kind of light, and melody, and fragrance, and meat, 
and embracement when I love my God, the light, melody, fragrance, 
meat, embracement of my inner man: where there shineth unto my 
soul what space cannot contain and there soundeth what time bear- 
eth not away, and there smelleth what breathing disperseth not, and 
there tasteth what eating diminisheth not, and there clingeth what 
satiety divorceth not. This is it which I love when I love my God. 

And what is this? I asked the earth, and it answered me, "I am 
not He;" and whatsoever are in it confessed the same. I asked the 
sea and the deeps, and the living creeping things, and they answered, 
"We are not Thy God, seek above us." I asked the moving air; and 
the whole air with his inhabitants answered, "Anaximenes was de- 
ceived, I am not God." I asked the heavens, sun, moon, stars, "Nor 
(say they) are we the God whom thou seekest." And I replied unto 
all the things which encompass the door of my flesh: "Ye have told 
me of my God, that ye are not He; tell me something of Him." 
And they cried out with a loud voice, "He made us." My question- 
ing them, was my thoughts on them: and their form of beauty gave 
the answer. And I turned myself unto myself, and said to my- 
self, "Who art thou?" And I answered, "A man." And behold, in 
me there present themselves to me soul, and body, one without, the 
"l$a. Iviu. 10. "Rom. L 20; ix. 15. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 65 

Other within. By which of these ought I to seek my God? I had 
sought Him in the body from earth to heaven, so far as I could send 
messengers, the beams of mine eyes. But the better is the inner, for 
to it as presiding and judging, all the bodily messengers reported the 
answers of heaven and earth, and all things therein, who said, "We 
are not God, but He made us." These things did my inner man 
know by the ministry of the outer: I the inner knew them; I, the 
mind, through the senses of my body. I asked the whole frame 
of the world about my God; and it answered me, "I am not He, but 
He made me." 

Is not this corporeal figure apparent to all whose senses are per- 
fect? why then sjjeaks it not the same to all? Animals small and 
great see it, but they cannot ask it: because no reason is set over 
their senses to judge on what they report. But men can ask, so 
that the invisible things of God are clearly seen, being understood 
by the things that are madef' but by love of them, they are made 
subject unto them: and subjects cannot judge. Nor yet do the 
creatures answer such as ask, unless they can judge: nor yet do they 
change their voice (;. e., their appearance), if one man only sees, 
another seeing asks, so as to appear one way to this man, another 
way to that; but appearing the same way to both, it is dumb to this, 
speaks to that; yea rather it speaks to all; but they only under- 
stand, who compare its voice received from without, with the truth 
within. For truth saith unto me, "Neither heaven, nor earth, nor 
any other body is thy God." This, their very nature saith to him 
that seeth them: "They are a mass; a mass is less in a part thereof 
than in the whole." Now to thee I speak, O my soul, thou art my 
better part: for thou quickenest the mass of my body, giving it life, 
which no body can give to a body: but thy God is even unto thee 
the Life of thy life. 

What then do I love, when I love my God? who is He above 
the head of my soul ? By my very soul will I ascend to Him. I will 
pass beyond that power whereby I am united to my body, and 
fill its whole frame with life. Nor can I by that power find my 
God; for so horse and mule that have no understanding^ might 
find Him; seeing it is the same power, whereby even their bodies 
** Rom. i. 20. *' Ps. xxxii. 9. 



1 66 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

live. But another power there is, not that only whereby I animate, 
but that too whereby I imbue with sense my flesh, which the Lord 
hath framed for me: commanding the eye not to hear, and the ear 
not to see; but the eye, that through it I should see, and the ear, 
that through it I should hear; and to the other senses severally, what 
is to each their own peculiar seats and offices; which, being divers, 
I the one mind, do through them enact. I will pass beyond this 
power of mine also; for this also have the horse and mule, for they 
also perceive through the body. 

I will pass then beyond this power of my nature also, rising by 
degrees unto Him who made me. And I come to the fields and 
spacious palaces of my memory, where are the treasures of innu- 
merable images, brought into it from things of all sorts perceived 
by the senses. There is stored up, whatsoever besides we think, either 
by enlarging or diminishing, or any other way varying those things 
which the sense hath come to; and whatever else hath been com- 
mitted and laid up, which forgetfulness hath not yet swallowed 
up and buried. When I enter there, I require what I will to be 
brought forth, and something instantly comes; others must be longer 
sought after, which are fetched, as it were, out of some inner recep- 
tacle; others rush out in troops, and while one thing is desired and 
required, they start forth, as who should say, "Is it perchance I?" 
These I drive away with the hand of my heart, from the face of my 
remembrance; until what I wish for be unveiled, and appear in 
sight, out of its secret place. Other things come up readily, in un- 
broken order, as they are called for; those in front making way for the 
following; and as they make way, they are hidden from sight, 
ready to come when I will. All which takes place when I repeat a 
thing by heart. 

There are all things preserved distinctly and under general heads, 
each having entered by its own avenue: as light, and all colours and 
forms of bodies by the eyes; by the ears all sorts of sounds; all 
smells by the avenue of the nostrils; all tastes by the mouth; and 
by the sensation of the whole body, what is hard or soft; hot or 
cold; smooth or rugged; heavy or light; either outwardly or in- 
wardly to the body. All these doth that great harbour of the mem- 
ory receive in her numberless secret and inexpressible windings, to 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 67 

be forthcoming, and brought out at need; each entering in by his 
own gate, and there laid up. Nor yet do the things themselves enter 
in; only the images of the things perceived are there in readiness, 
for thought to recall. Which images, how they are formed, who 
can tell, though it doth plainly appear by which sense each hath been 
brought in and stored up? For even while I dwell in darkness and 
in silence, in my memory I can produce colours, if 1 will, and discern 
betwixt black and white, and what others I will: nor yet do sounds 
break in and disturb the image drawn in by my eyes, which I am 
reviewing, though they also are there, lying dormant, and laid up, 
as it were, apart. For these too I call for, and forthwith they appear. 
And though my tongue be still, and my throat mute, so can I sing 
as much as I will; nor do those images of colours, which notwith- 
standing be there, intrude themselves and interrupt, when another 
store is called for, which flowed in by the ears. So the other things, 
piled in and up by the other senses, I recall at my pleasure. Yea, I 
discern the breath of lilies from violets, though smelling nothing; 
and I prefer honey to sweet wine, smooth before rugged, at the 
time neither tasting nor handling, but remembering only. 

These things do I within, in that vast court of my memory. For 
there are present with me, heaven, earth, sea, and whatever I could 
think on therein, besides what I have forgotten. There also meet 
I with myself, and recall myself, and when, where, and what I have 
done, and under what feelings. There be all which I remember, 
either on my own experience, or others' credit. Out of the same 
store do I myself with the past continually combine fresh and fresh 
likenesses of things which I have exjjerienced, or, from what I have 
experienced, have believed: and thence again infer future actions, 
events and hopes, and all these again I reflect on, as present. "I 
will do this or that," say I to myself, in that great receptacle of my 
mind, stored with the images of things so many and so great, "and 
this or that will follow." "O that this or that might be!" "God avert 
this or that!" So speak I to myself: and when I speak, the images 
of all I speak of are present, out of the same treasury of memory; 
nor would I speak of any thereof, were the images wanting. 

Great is this force of memory, excessive great, O my God; a large 
and boundless chamber! who ever sounded the bottom thereof? 



l68 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

yet is this a power of mine, and belongs unto my nature; nor do I 
myself comprehend all that I am. Therefore is the mind too strait 
to contain itself. And where should that be, which it containeth 
not of itself? Is it without it, and not within? how then doth it 
not comprehend itself? A wonderful admiration surprises me, 
amazement seizes me upon this. And men go abroad to admire the 
heights of mountains, the mighty billows of the sea, the broad tides 
of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, 
and pass themselves by; nor wonder that when I spake of all these 
things, I did not see them with mine eyes, yet could not have spoken 
of them, unless I then actually saw the mountains, billows, rivers, 
stars which I had seen, and that ocean which I believe to be, in- 
wardly in my memory, and that, with the same vast spaces between, 
as if I saw them abroad. Yet did not I by seeing draw them into 
myself, when with mine eyes I beheld them; nor are they them- 
selves with me, but their images only. And I know by what sense of 
the body each was impressed upon me. 

Yet not these alone does the unmeasurable capacity of my mem- 
ory retain. Here also is all, learnt of the liberal sciences and as yet 
unforgotten; removed as it were to some inner place, which is yet 
no place: nor are they the images thereof, but the things them- 
selves. For, what is literature, what the art of disputing, how many 
kinds of questions there be, whatsoever of these I know, in such 
manner exists in my memory, as that I have not taken in the 
image, and left out the thing, or that it should have sounded and 
passed away like a voice fixed on the ear by that impress, whereby 
it might be recalled, as if it sounded, when it no longer sounded; 
or as a smell while it passes and evapwrates into air affects the sense 
of smell, whence it conveys into the memory an image of itself, 
which remembering, we renew, or as meat, which verily in the belly 
hath now no taste, and yet in the memory still in a manner tast- 
eth; or as any thing which the body by touch perceiveth, and which 
when removed from us, the memory still conceives. For those things 
are not transmitted into the memory, but their Images only are 
with an admirable swiftness caught up, and stored as it were in 
wondrous cabinets, and thence wonderfully by the act of remem- 
bering, brought forth. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 69 

But now when I hear that there be three kinds of questions, 
"Whether the thing be? what it is? of what kind it is?" I do indeed 
hold the images of the sounds of which those words be composed, 
and that those sounds, with a noise passed through the air, and 
now are not. But the things themselves which are signified by 
those sounds, I never reached with any sense of my body, nor even 
discerned them otherwise than in my mind; yet in my memory have 
I laid up not their images, but themselves. Which how they en- 
tered into me, let them say if they can; for I have gone over all the 
avenues of my flesh, but cannot find by which they entered. For the 
eyes say, "if those images were coloured, we reported of them." 
The ears say, "if they sound, we gave knowledge of them." The 
nostrils say, "if they smell, they passed by us." The taste says, "unless 
they have a savour, ask me not." The touch says, "if it have not 
size, I handled it not; if I handled it not, I gave no notice of it." 
Whence and how entered these things into my memory? I know 
not how. For when I learned them, I gave no credit to another 
man's mind, but recognized them in mine; and approving them 
for true, I commended them to it, laying them up as it were, whence 
I might bring them forth when I willed. In my heart then they 
were, even before I learned them, but in my memory they were 
not. Where then? or wherefore, when they were spoken, did I 
acknowledge them, and said, "So is it, it is true," unless that they 
were already in the memory, but so thrown back and buried as it 
were in deeper recesses, that had not the suggestion of another 
drawn them forth I had perchance been unable to conceive of 
them ? 

Wherefore we find, that to learn these things whereof we imbibe 
not the images by our senses, but perceive within by themselves, 
without images, as they are, is nothing else, but by conception to 
receive, and by marking to take heed that those things which the 
memory did before contain at random and unarranged, be laid up 
at hand as it were in that same memory where before they lay un- 
known, scattered and neglected, and so readily occur to the mind 
familiarised to them. And how many things of this kind does my 
memory bear which have been already found out, and as I said, 
placed as it were at hand, which we are said to have learned and 



170 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

come to know; which were I for some short space of time to cease 
to call to mind, they are again so buried, and glide back, as it were, 
into the deeper recesses, that they must again, as if new, be thought 
out thence, for other abode they have none: but they must be drawn 
together again, that they may be known: that is to say, they must 
as it were be collected together from their dispersion: whence the 
word "cogitation" is derived. For cogo (collect) and cogito (re- 
collect) have the same relation to each other as ago and agito, facto 
and jactito. But the mind hath appropriated to itself this word (cogi- 
tation), so that, not what is "collected" any how, but what is "re- 
collected," />., brought together, in the mind, is properly said to be 
cogitated, or thought upon. 

The memory containeth also reasons and laws innumerable of 
numbers and dimensions, none of which hath any bodily sense im- 
pressed; seeing they have neither colour, nor sound, nor taste, nor 
smell, nor touch. I have heard the sound of the words whereby 
when discussed they are denoted: but the sounds are other than the 
things. For the sounds are other in Greek than in Latin; but the 
things are neither Greek, nor Latin, nor any other language. I have 
seen the lines of architects, the very finest, like a spider's thread; 
but those are still different, they are not the images of those lines 
which the eye of flesh showed me: he knoweth them, whosoever 
without any conception whatsoever of a body, recognises them 
within himself. I have perceived also the numbers of the things 
with which we number all the senses of my body; but those num- 
bers wherewith we number are different, nor are they the images 
of these, and therefore they indeed are. Let him who seeth them 
not, deride me for saying these things, and I will pity him, while he 
derides me. 

All these things I remember, and how I learnt them I remem- 
ber. Many things also most falsely objected against them have I 
heard, and remember; which though they be false, yet is it not false 
that I remember them; and I remember also that I have discerned 
betwixt those truths and these falsehoods objected to them. And I 
perceive that the present discerning of these things is different from 
remembering that I oftentimes discerned them, when I often 
thought upon them. I both remember then to have often under- 
stood these things; and what I now discern and understand, I lay 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 171 

up in my memory, that hereafter I may remember that I understood 
it now. So then I remember also to have remembered; as if here- 
after I shall call to remembrance, that 1 have now been able to 
remember these things, by the force of memory shall I call it to 
remembrance. 

The same memory contains also the affections of my mind, not 
in the same manner that my mind itself contains them, when it feels 
them; but far otherwise, according to a power of its own. For with- 
out rejoicing I remember myself to have joyed; and without sorrow 
do 1 recollect my past sorrow. And that I once feared, I review 
without fear; and without desire call to mind a past desire. Some- 
times, on the contrary, with joy do I remember my fore-past sor- 
row, and with sorrow, joy. Which is not wonderful, as to the body; 
for mind is one thing, body another. If I therefore with joy remem- 
ber some past pain of body, it is not so wonderful. But now seeing 
this very memory itself is mind (for when we give a thing in charge, 
to be kept in memory, we say, "See that you keep it in mind;" and 
when we forget, we say, "It did not come to my mind," and, "It 
slipped out of my mind," calling the memory itself the mind); 
this being so, how is it that when with joy I remember my past 
sorrow, the mind hath joy, the memory hath sorrow; the mind upon 
the joyfulness which is in it, is joyful, yet the memory upon 
the sadness which is in it, is not sad? Does the memory perchance 
not belong to the mind ? Who will say so ? The memory then is, as 
it were, the belly of the mind, and joy and sadness, hke sweet and 
bitter food; which, when committed to the memory, are, as it were, 
passed into the belly, where they may be stowed, but cannot taste. 
Ridiculous it is to imagine these to be alike; and yet are they not 
utterly unlike. 

But, behold, out of my memory I bring it, when I say there be 
four perturbations of the mind, desire, joy, fear, sorrow; and what- 
soever I can dispute thereon, by dividing each into its subordinate 
species, and by defining it, in my memory find I what to say, and 
thence do I bring it: yet am I not disturbed by any of these per- 
turbations, when by calling them to mind, I remember them; yea, 
and before I recalled and brought them back, they were there; and 
therefore could they, by recollection, thence be brought. Perchance, 
then, as meat is by chewing the cud brought up out of the belly, so 



172 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

by recollection these out of the memory. Why then does not the 
disputer, thus recollecting, taste in the mouth of his musing the 
sweetness of joy, or the bitterness of sorrow? Is the comparison 
unlike in this, because not in all respects like? For who would will- 
ingly speak thereof, if so oft as we name grief or fear, we should 
be compelled to be sad or fearful? And yet could we not speak 
of them, did we not find in our memory, not only the sounds of the 
names according to the images impressed by the senses of the body, 
but notions of the very things themselves which we never received 
by any avenue of the body, but which the mind itself perceiving by 
the experience of its own passions, committed to the memory, or the 
memory of itself retained, without being committed unto. 

But whether by images or no, who can readily say? Thus, I 
name a stone, I name the sun, the things themselves not being pres- 
ent to my senses, but their images to my memory. I name a bodily 
pain, yet it is not present with me, when nothing aches: yet unless 
its image were present in my memory, I should not know what to 
say thereof, nor in discoursing discern pain from pleasure. I name 
bodily health; being sound in body, the thing itself is present with 
me; yet, unless its image also were present in my memory, I could 
by no means recall what the sound of this name should signify. 
Nor would the sick, when health were named, recognise what were 
spoken, unless the same image were by the force of memory re- 
tained, although the thing itself were absent from the body. I name 
numbers whereby we number; and not their images, but themselves 
are present in my memory. I name the image of the sun, and that 
image is present in my memory. For I recall not the image of its 
image, but the image itself is present to me, calling it to mind. I 
name memory, and I recognize what I name. And where do I 
recognise it, but in the memory itself? Is it also present to itself 
by its image, and not by itself? 

What, when I name forgetful ness, and withal recognise what I 
name? whence should I recognize it, did I not remember it? I speak 
not of the sound of the name, but of the thing which it signifies: 
which if I had forgotten I could not recognise what that sound sig- 
nifies. When then I remember memory, memory itself is, through 
itself, present with itself: but when I remember forgetfulness, there 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 73 

are present both memory and forgetfulness; memory whereby I re- 
member, forgetfulness which I remember. But what is forgetful- 
ness, but the privation of memory? How then is it present that I 
remember it, since when present I cannot remember? But if what 
we remember we hold it in memory, yet, unless we did remember 
forgetfulness, we could never at the hearing of the name recognise 
the thing thereby signified, then forgetfulness is retained by memory. 
Present then it is, that we forget not, and being so, we forget. It 
is to be understood from this that forgetfulness, when we remember 
it, is not present to the memory by itself, but by its image: because 
if it were present by itself, it would not cause us to remember, but to 
forget. Who now shall search out this? who shall comprehend 
how it is? 

Lord, I, truly, toil therein, yea and toil in myself; I am become 
a heavy soil requiring over much sweat of the brow. For we are not 
now searching out the regions of heaven, or measuring the distances 
of the stars, or enquiring the balancings of the earth. It is I myself 
who remember, I the mind. It is not so wonderful, if what I myself 
am not, be far from me. But what is nearer to me than myself? 
And lo, the force of mine own memory is not understood by me; 
though I cannot so much as name myself without it. For what shall 
I say, when it is clear to me that I remember forgetfulness? Shall I 
say that that is not in my memory, which I remember? or shall I 
say that forgetfulness is for this purpose in my memory, that I 
might not forget? Both were most absurd. What third way is there? 
How can I say that the image of forgetfulness is retained by my 
memory, not forgetfulness itself, when I remember it? How could 
I say this either, seeing that when the image of any thing is im- 
pressed on the memory, the thing itself must needs be first present, 
whence that image may be impressed? For thus do I remember 
Carthage, thus all places where I have been, thus men's faces whom 
I have seen, and things reported by the other senses; thus the health 
or sickness of the body. For when these things were present, my 
memory received from them images, which, being present with me, 
I might look on and bring back in my mind, when I remembered 
them in their absence. If then this forgetfulness is retained in the 
memory through its image, not through itself, then plainly itself was 



174 "THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

once present, that its image might be taken. But when it was present, 
how did it write its image in the memory, seeing that forgetfulness 
by its presence effaces even what it finds already noted? And yet, 
in whatever way, although that way be past conceiving and explain- 
ing, yet certain am I that I remember forgetfulness itself also, 
whereby what we remember is effaced. 

Great is the power of memory, a fearful thing, O my God, a deep 
and boundless manifoldness; and this thing is the mind, and this 
am I myself. What am I then, O my God? What nature am I? 
A hfe various and manifold, and exceeding immense. Behold in the 
plains, and caves, and caverns of my memory, innumerable and in- 
numerably full of innumerable kinds of things, either through 
images, as all bodies; or by actual presence, as the arts; or by certain 
notions or impressions, as the affections of the mind, which, even 
when the mind doth not feel, the memory retaineth, while yet what- 
soever is in the memory is also in the mind — over all these do I run, 
I fly; I dive on this side and on that, as far as I can, and there is no 
end. So great is the force of memory, so great the force of life, even 
in the mortal life of man. What shall I do then, O Thou my true 
life, my God? I will pass even beyond this power of mine which is 
called memory : yea, I will pass beyond it, that I may approach unto 
Thee, O sweet Light. What sayest Thou to me? See, I am mount- 
ing up through my mind towards Thee who abidest above me. Yea, 
I now will pass beyond this power of mine which is called memory, 
desirous to arrive at Thee, whence Thou mayest be arrived at; and 
to cleave unto Thee, whence one may cleave unto Thee. For even 
beasts and birds have memory; else could they not return to their 
dens and nests, nor many other things they are used unto: nor 
indeed could they be used to any thing, but by memory. I will pass 
then beyond memory also, that I may arrive at Him who hath 
separated me from the four-footed beasts and made me wiser than 
the fowls of the air, I will pass beyond memory also, and where shall 
I find Thee, Thou truly good and certain sweetness? And where 
shall I find Thee? If I find Thee without my memory, then do I 
not retain Thee in my memory. And how shall I find Thee, if I 
remember Thee not? 

For the woman that had lost her groat, and sought it with a 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 75 

light; unless she had remembered it, she had never found it."' For 
when it was found, whence should she know whether it were the 
same, unless she remembered it? I remember to have sought and 
found many a thing; and this I thereby know, that when I was seek- 
ing any of them, and was asked, "Is this it?" "Is that it?" so long said 
I "No," until that were offered me which I sought. Which had I 
not remembered (whatever it were) though it were offered me, yet 
should I not find it, because I could not recognize it. And so it ever 
is, when we seek and find any lost thing. Notwithstanding, when 
any thing is by chance lost from the sight, not from the memory (as 
any visible body), yet its image is still retained within, and it is 
sought until it be restored to sight; and when it is found, it is recog- 
nized by the image which is within: nor do we say that we have 
found what was lost, unless we recognize it; nor can we recognize 
it, unless we remember it. But this was lost to the eyes, but retained 
in the memory. 

But what when the memory itself loses any thing, as falls out when 
we forget and seek that we may recollect ? Where in the end do we 
search, but in the memory itself? and there, if one thing be per- 
chance offered instead of another, we reject it, until what we seek 
meets us; and when it doth, we say, "This is it;" which we should 
not unless we recognized it, nor recognize it unless we remembered 
it. Certainly then we had forgotten it. Or, had not the whole es- 
caped us, but by the part whereof we had hold, was the lost part 
sought for; in that the memory felt that it did not carry on together 
all which it was wont, and maimed, as it were, by the curtailment 
of its ancient habit, demanded the restoration of what it missed? 
For instance, if we see or think of some one known to us, and having 
forgotten his name, try to recover it; whatever else occurs, connects 
itself not therewith; because it was not wont to be thought upon 
together with him, and therefore is rejected, until that present itself, 
whereon the knowledge reposes equably as its wonted object. And 
whence does that present itself, but out of the memory itself? for 
even when we recognize it, on being reminded by another, it is 
thence it comes. For we do not believe it as something new, but, 
up)on recollection, allow what was named to be right. But were it 
utterly blotted out of the mind, we should not remember it, even 

"Luke XV. 8. 



176 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

when reminded. For we have not as yet utterly forgotten that, which 
we remember ourselves to have forgotten. What then we have 
utterly forgotten, though lost, we cannot even seek after. 

How then do I seek Thee, O Lord? For when I seek Thee, my 
God, I seek a happy life. / will seel{^ Thee, that my soul may live. For 
my body liveth by my soul; and my soul by Thee. How then do I 
seek a happy life, seeing I have it not, until I can say, where I ought 
to say it, "It is enough".'' How seek I it? By remembrance, as though 
I had forgotten it, remembering that I had forgotten it? Or, desiring 
to learn it as a thing unknown, either never having known, or so 
forgotten it, as not even to remember that I had forgotten it ? is not a 
happy life what all will, and no one altogether wills it not? where 
have they known it, that they so will it? where seen it, that they so 
love it? Truly we have it, how, I know not. Yea, there is another 
way, wherein when one hath it, then is he happy; and there are, 
who are blessed in hope. These have it in a lower kind, than they 
who have it in very deed; yet are they better off than such as are 
happy neither in deed nor in hope. Yet even these, had they it not 
in some sort, would not so will to be happy, which that they do will, 
is most certain. They have known it then, I know not how, and so 
have it by some sort of knowledge, what, I know not, and am per- 
plexed whether it be in the memory, which if it be, then we have 
been happy once; whether all severally, or in that man who first 
sinned, in whom also we all died," and from whom we are all born 
with misery, I now enquire not; but only, whether the happy life 
be in the memory? For neither should we love it, did we not know 
it. We hear the name, and we all confess that we desire the thing; 
for we are not delighted with the mere sound. For when a Greek 
hears it in Latin, he is not delighted, not knowing what is spoken; 
but we Latins are delighted, as would he too, if he heard it in Greek; 
because the thing itself is neither Greek nor Latin, which Greeks and 
Latins, and men of all other tongues, long for so earnestly. Known 
therefore it is to all, for could they with one voice be asked, "would 
they be happy?" they would answer without doubt, "they would." 
And this could not be, unless the thing itself whereof it is the name 
were retained in their memory, 

" I Cor. XV. 22. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 7/ 

But is it so, as one remembers Carthage who hath seen it? No. 
For a happy hfe is not seen with the eye, because it is not a body. 
As we remember numbers then ? No. For these, he that hath in his 
knowledge, seeks not further to attain unto; but a happy life we 
have in our knowledge and therefore love it, and yet still desire to 
attain it, that we may be happy. As we remember eloquence then? 
No. For although ujX)n hearing this name also, some call to mind 
the thing, who still are not yet eloquent, and many who desire to be 
so, whence it appears that it is in their knowledge; yet these have 
by their bodily senses observed others to be eloquent, and been de- 
lighted, and desire to be the like (though indeed they would not 
be delighted but for some inward knowledge thereof, nor wish to be 
the like, unless they were thus delighted) ; whereas a happy life, we 
do by no bodily sense experience in others. As then we remember 
joy? Perchance; for my joy I remember, even when sad, as a happy 
life, when unhappy; nor did I ever with bodily sense see, hear, smell, 
taste, or touch my joy; but I experienced it in my mind, when I re- 
joiced; and the knowledge of it clave to my memory, so that I can 
recall it with disgust sometimes, at others with longing, according 
to the nature of the things, wherein I remember myself to have 
joyed. For even from foul things have I been immersed in a sort 
of joy; which now recalling, I detest and execrate; otherwise in 
good and honest things, which I recall with longing, although per- 
chance no longer present; and therefore with sadness I recall former 

joy- 
Where then and when did I experience my happy life, that I 

should remember, and love, and long for it? Nor is it I alone, or 

some few besides, but we all would fain be happy; which, unless by 

some certain knowledge we knew, we should not with so certain 

a will desire. But how is this, that if two men be asked whether they 

would go to the wars, one, perchance, would answer that he would, 

the other, that he would not; but if they were asked whether they 

would be happy, both would instantly without any doubting say 

they would; and for no other reason would the one go to the wars, 

and the other not, but to be happy. Is it perchance that as one looks 

for his joy in this thing, another in that, all agree in their desire 

of being happy, as they would (if they were asked) that they wished 



178 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

to have joy, and this joy they call a happy life? Although then one 
obtains this joy by one means, another by another, all have one end, 
which they strive to attain, namely, joy. Which being a thing which 
all must say they have experienced, it is therefore found in the 
memory, and recognised whenever the name of a happy life is 
mentioned. 

Far be it, Lord, far be it from the heart of Thy servant who here 
confesseth unto Thee, far be it, that, be the joy what it may, I should 
therefore think myself happy. For there is a joy which is not given 
to the ungodly^ but to those who love Thee for Thine own sake, 
whose joy Thou Thyself art. And this is the happy life, to rejoice to 
Thee, of Thee, for Thee; this is it, and there is no other. For they 
who think there is another, pursue some other and not the true joy. 
Yet is not their will turned away from some semblance of joy. 

It is not certain then that all wish to be happy, inasmuch as they 
who wish not to joy in Thee, which is the only happy life, do not 
truly desire the happy life. Or do all men desire this, but because 
the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, 
that they cannot do what they would^^ they fall upon that which they 
can, and are content therewith; because, what they are not able to 
do, they do not will so strongly as would suffice to make them able ? 
For I ask any one, had he rather joy in truth, or in falsehood? They 
will as litde hesitate to say "in the truth," as to say "that they desire 
to be happy," for a happy life is joy in the truth: for this is a joying 
in Thee, Who art the Truth^^ O God my light, health of my counte- 
nance, my God." This is the happy life which all desire; this life 
which alone is happy, all desire; to joy in the truth all desire. I have 
met with many that would deceive; who would be deceived, no one. 
Where then did they know this happy life, save where they knew the 
truth also? For they love it also, since they would not be deceived. 
And when they love a happy life, which is no other than joying in the 
truth, then also do they love the truth; which yet they would not love, 
were there not some notice of it in their memory. Why then joy they 
not in it? why are they not happy? because they are more strongly 
taken up with other things which have more power to make them 
miserable, than that which they so faintly remember to make them 
•"Is. xlviii. 22. "Gal. v. 17. ''John xiv. 6. "Ps. xxvii. i; xliL 11. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 79 

happy. For there is yet a little light in men; let them walk, let them 
«/a/^, that the darl^ness overtake them not^ 

But why doth "truth generate hatred" and the man of thine^ 
preaching the truth, become an enemy to them? whereas a happy 
life is loved, which is nothing else but joying in the truth; unless 
that truth is in that kind loved, that they who love any thing else 
would gladly have that which they love to be the truth: and because 
they would not be deceived, would not be convinced that they are so? 
Therefore do they hate the truth for that thing's sake which they 
love instead of the truth. They love truth when she enlightens, they 
hate her when she reproves. For since they would not be deceived, 
and would deceive, they love her when she discovers herself unto 
them, and hate her when she discovers them. Whence she shall so 
repay them, that they who would not be made manifest by her, she 
both against their will makes manifest, and herself becometh not 
manifest unto them. Thus, thus, yea thus doth the mind of man, thus 
blind and sick, foul and ill-favoured, wish to be hidden, but that 
aught should be hidden from it, it wills not. But the contrary is 
requited it, that itself should not be hidden from the Truth; but the 
Truth is hid from it Yet even thus miserable, it had rather joy in 
truths than in falsehoods. Happy then will it be, when, no distraction 
interposing, it shall joy in that only Truth, by Whom all things 
are true. 

See what a space I have gone over in my memory seeking Thee, O 
Lord; and I have not found Thee, without it. Nor have I found 
any thing concerning Thee, but what I have kept in memory, ever 
since I learnt Thee. For since I learnt Thee, I have not forgotten 
Thee. For where I found Truth, there found I my God, the Truth 
Itself; which since I learnt, I have not forgotten. Since then I learnt 
Thee, Thou residest in my memory; and there do I find Thee, when 
I call Thee to remembrance, and delight in Thee. These be my holy 
delights, which Thou hast given me in Thy mercy, having regard 
to my {xjverty. 

But where in my memory residest Thou, O Lord, where residest 
Thou there? what manner of lodging hast Thou framed for Thee? 
what manner of sanctuary hast Thou builded for Thee? Thou hast 
"John xii. 35. ^^John viii. 40. 



l8o THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

given this honour to my memory, to reside in it; but in what quarter 
of it Thou residest, that am 1 considering. For in thinking on Thee, 
I passed beyond such parts of it as the beasts also have, for I found 
Thee not there among the images of corporeal things: and I came 
to those parts to which I committed the affections of my mind, nor 
found Thee there. And I entered into the very seat of my mind 
(which it hath in my memory, inasmuch as the mind remembers 
itself also), neither wert Thou there: for as Thou art not a corporeal 
image, nor the affection of a living being (as when we rejoice, con- 
dole, desire, fear, remember, forget, or the like) ; so neither art Thou 
the mind itself; because Thou art the Lx)rd God of the mind; and 
all these are changed, but Thou remainest unchangeable over all, 
and yet hast vouchsafed to dwell in my memory, since I learnt Thee. 
And why seek I now in what place thereof Thou dwellest, as if there 
were places therein? Sure I am, that in it Thou dwellest, since I 
have remembered Thee ever since I learnt Thee, and there I find 
Thee, when I call Thee to remembrance. 

Where then did I find Thee, that I might learn Thee? For in my 
memory Thou wert not, before I learned Thee. Where then did I 
find Thee, that I might learn Thee, but in Thee above me? Place 
there is none; we go bacl{ward and forward^ and there is no place. 
Every where, O Truth, dost Thou give audience to all who ask 
counsel of Thee, and at once answerest all, though on manifold 
matters they ask Thy counsel. Clearly dost Thou answer, though 
all do not clearly hear. All consult Thee on what they will, though 
they hear not always what they will. He is Thy best servant who 
looks not so much to hear that from Thee which himself willeth, as 
rather to will that which from Thee he heareth. 

Too late loved I Thee, O Thou Beauty of ancient days, yet ever 
new! too late I love Thee! And behold. Thou wert within, and I 
abroad, and there I searched for Thee; deformed I, plunging amid 
those fair forms which Thou hadst made. Thou wert with me, but I 
was not with Thee. Things held me far from Thee, which, unless 
they were in Thee, were not at all. Thou calledst and shoutedst, and 
burstest my deafness. Thou flashedst, shonest, and scatteredst my 
blindness. Thou breathedst odours, and / drew in breath and pant 

** Job xxiii. 8, 9. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE l8l 

for Thee. I tasted, and hunger and thirst. Thou touchedst me, and I 
burned for Thy peace. 

When I shall with my whole self cleave to Thee, I shall no where 
have sorrow or labour; and my life shall wholly live, as wholly full 
of Thee. But now since whom Thou fillest, Thou liftest up, because I 
am not full of Thee I am a burden to myself. Lamentable joys strive 
with joyous sorrows: and on which side is the victory, I know not. 
Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. My evil sorrows strive with my 
good joys; and on which side is the victory, I know not. Woe is me! 
Lord, have pity on me. Woe is me! lo! I hide not my wounds; Thou 
art the Physician, I the sick; Thou merciful, I miserable. Is not the 
life of man upon earth all trial?^^ Who wishes for troubles and diffi- 
culties? Thou commandest them to be endured, not to be loved. No 
man loves what he endures, though he love to endure. For though 
he rejoices that he endures, he had rather there were nothing for 
him to endure. In adversity I long for prosperity, in prosperity I 
fear adversity. What middle place is there betwixt these two, where 
the life of man is not all trial? Woe to the prosperities of the world, 
once and again, through fear of adversity, and corruption of joy! 
Woe to the adversities of the world, once and again, and the third 
time, from the longing for prosperity, and because adversity itself 
is a hard thing, and lest it shatter endurance. Is not the life of man 
upon earth all trial: without any interval ? 

And all my hope is no where but in Thy exceeding great mercy. 
Give what Thou enjoinest, and enjoin what Thou wilt. Thou en- 
joinest us continency; and when I l^new, saith one, that no man can 
be continent, unless God give it, this also was a part of wisdom to 
i{now whose gift she is." By continency verily are we bound up and 
brought back into One, whence we were dissipated into many. For 
too little doth he love Thee, who loves any thing with Thee, which 
he loveth not for Thee. O love, who ever burnest and never con- 
sumest! O charity, my God! kindle me. Thou enjoinest continency: 
give me what Thou enjoinest, and enjoin what Thou wilt. 

Verily Thou enjoinest me continency from the lust of the flesh, 
the lust of the eyes, and the ambition of the world.'' Thou enjoinest 
continency from concubinage; and for wedlock itself. Thou hast 
»' Job. viL I.— Old Vulg. »» Wisd. viii. 21. » I John iL l6. 



l82 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

counselled something better than what Thou hast jjermitted. And 
since Thou gavest it, it was done, even before I became a dispenser 
of Thy Sacrament. But there yet live in my memory (whereof I 
have much spoken) the images of such things as my ill custom there 
fixed, which haunt me, strengthless when I am awake: but in sleep, 
not only so as to give pleasure, but even to obtain assent, and what 
is very like reality. Yea, so far prevails the illusion of the image, in 
my soul and in my flesh, that, when asleep, false visions persuade to 
that which when waking, the true cannot. Am I not then myself, O 
Lord my God? And yet there is so much difference betwixt myself 
and myself, within that moment wherein I pass from waking to 
sleeping, or return from sleeping to waking! Where is reason then, 
which, awake, resisteth such suggestions? And should the things 
themselves be urged on it, it remaineth unshaken. Is it clasped up 
with the eyes? is it lulled asleep with the senses of the body? And 
whence is it that often even in sleep we resist, and mindful of our 
purpose, and abiding most chastely in it, yield no assent to such 
enticements? And yet so much difference there is, that when it 
happeneth otherwise, upon waking we return to peace of conscience; 
and by this very difference discover that we did not, what yet we be 
sorry that in some way it was done in us. 

Art Thou not mighty, God Almighty, so as to heal alt the diseases 
of my soul^ and by Thy more abundant grace to quench even the 
impure motions of my sleep! Thou wilt increase. Lord, Thy gifts 
more and more in me, that my soul may follow me to Thee, disen- 
tangled from the bird-lime of concupiscence; that it rebel not against 
itself, and even in dreams not only not, through images of sense, 
commit those debasing corruptions, even to pollution of the flesh, 
but not even to consent unto them. For that nothing of this sort 
should have, over the pure affections even of a sleeper, the very least 
influence, not even such as a thought would restrain — to work this, 
not only during life, but even at my present age is not hard for the 
Almighty, Who art able to do above all that we as\ or thinf(^.*^ But 
what I yet am in this kind of my evil, have I confessed unto my good 
Lord; rejoicing with trembling," in that which Thou hast given me, 
and bemoaning that wherein I am still imperfect; hoping that Thou 

■"Ps. ciii. 3. *' Eph. iii. 20. *' Ps. ii. 11. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 83 

wilt perfect Thy mercies in me, even to perfect peace, which my out- 
ward and inward man shall have with Thee, when death shall be 
swallowed up in victory.*' 

There is another evil of the day,** which I would were sufficient for 
it. For by eating and drinking we repair the daily decays of our 
body, until Thou destroy both belly and meat*^ when Thou shah 
slay my emptiness with a wonderful fulness, and clothe this cor- 
ruptible with an eternal incorruption.*' But now the necessity is 
sweet unto me, against which sweetness I fight, that I be not taken 
captive; and carry on a daily war by fastings; often bringing my 
body into subjection" and my pains are removed by pleasure. For 
hunger and thirst are in a manner pains; they burn and kill like a 
fever, unless the medicine of nourishments come to our aid. Which 
since it is at hand through the consolations of Thy gifts, with which 
land, and water, and air serve our weakness, our calamity is termed 
gratification. 

This hast Thou taught me, that I should set myself to take food as 
physic. But while I am passing from the discomfort of emptiness to 
the content of replenishing, in the very passage the snare of con- 
cupiscence besets me. For that passing, is pleasure, nor is there any 
other way to pass thither, whither we needs must pass. And health 
being the cause of eating and drinking, there joineth itself as an 
attendant a dangerous pleasure, which mostly endeavours to go be- 
fore it, so that I may for her sake do what I say I do, or wish to do, 
for health's sake. Nor have each the same measure; for what is 
enough for health, is too little for pleasure. And oft it is uncertain 
whether it be the necessary care of the body which is yet asking for 
sustenance, or whether a voluptuous deceivableness of greediness is 
proffering its services. In this uncertainty the unhappy soul rejoiceth, 
and therein prepares an excuse to shield itself, glad that it appeareth 
not what sufficeth for the moderation of health, that under the cloak 
of health, it may disguise the matter of gratification. These tempta- 
tions 1 daily endeavour to resist, and I call on Thy right hand, and to 
Thee do I refer my perplexities; because I have as yet no settled 
counsel herein. 

I hear the voice of my God commanding. Let not your hearts be 
** I Cor. XV. 54. "Matt. vi. 34. " i Cor. vi. 13. ^ i Cor. xv. 54. "Ibid. a. 27. 



184 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness.** Drunkenness is far 
from me; Thou wilt have mercy, that it come not near me. But full 
feeding sometimes creepeth upwn Thy servant; Thou wilt have 
mercy, that it may be far from me. For no one can be continent un- 
less Thou give it." Many things Thou givest us, praying for them; 
and what good soever we have received before we prayed, from Thee 
we received it; yea to the end we might afterwards know this, did we 
before receive it. Drunkard was I never, but drunkards have I known 
made sober by Thee. From Thee then it was, that they who never 
were such, should not so be, as from Thee it was, that they who 
have been, should not ever so be; and from Thee it was, that both 
might know from Whom it was. I hear another voice of Thine. Go 
not after thy lusts, and from thy pleasure turn away!" Yea by Thy 
favour have I heard that which I have much loved; neither if we eat, 
shall tve abound; neither if we eat not, shall we lacl^f"^ which is to 
say, neither shall the one make me plenteous nor the other miserable. 
I heard also another, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, 
therewith to be content; I }{now how to abound, and how to suffer 
need. I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me." 
Behold a soldier of the heavenly camp, not the dust which we are. 
But remember,^ Lord, that we are dust, and that of dust Thou hast 
made man;^* and he was lost and is found. ^ Nor could he of him- 
self do this, because he whom I so loved, saying this through the in- 
breathing of Thy inspiration, was of the same dust. / can do all 
things (saith he) through Him that strengtheneth me. Strengthen 
me, that / can. Give what Thou enjoinest, and enjoin what Thou 
wilt. He confesses to have received, and when he glorieth, in the 
Lord he glorieth!* Another have I heard begging that he might 
receive. Taf{e from me (saith he) the desires of the belly;" whence 
it appeareth, O my holy God, that Thou givest, when that is done 
which Thou commandest to be done. Thou hast taught me, good 
Father, that to the pure, all things are pure; but that it is evil unto 
the man that eateth with offence;^ and, that every creature of Thine 
is good, and nothing to be refused, which is received with than^s- 
** Luke xxi. 34. **Wisd. viti. 21. "Ecdus. xviii. 30. "i Cor. viii. 8. 
"Phil. iv. 11-13. Ts. ciii. 14. "Gen. iii. 19. "Luke xv. 32. 
" 1 Cor. i. 30, 31. "Ecdus. xxiii. 6. "Rom. xiv. 20. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 85 

givingf* and that meat commendeth us not to Godf^ and, that no 
man should judge us in meat or drink^*^ and, that he which eateth, 
let him not despise him that eateth not; and let him not that eateth 
not, judge him that eatethf^ These things have I learned, thanks be 
to Thee, praise to Thee, my God, my Master, knocking at my ears, 
enhghtening my heart; deliver me out of all temptation. I fear not 
uncleanness of meat, but the uncleanness of lusting. I know that 
Noah was permitted to eat all kind of flesh that was good for food;" 
that Elijah was fed with flesh;" that John, endued with an admi- 
rable abstinence, was not polluted by feeding on living creatures, 
locusts. I know also that Esau was deceived by lusting for lentiles;" 
and that David blamed himself for desiring a draught of water;" 
and that our King was tempted, not concerning flesh, but bread." 
And therefore the p)eople in the wilderness also deserved to be re- 
proved, not for desiring flesh, but because, in the desire of food, they 
murmured against the Lord." 

Placed then amid these temptations, I strive daily against con- 
cupiscence in eating and drinking. For it is not of such nature that 
I can setde on cutting it off once for all, and never touching it after- 
ward, as I could of concubinage. The bridle of the throat then is 
to be held attempered between slackness and stiffness. And who is 
he, O Lord, who is not some whit transported beyond the limits 
of necessity? whoever he is, he is a great one; let him make Thy 
Name great. But I am not such, for / am a sinful man^^ Yet do I 
too magnify Thy name; and He maketh intercession to Thee"' for 
my sins who hath overcome the worldj'^ numbering me among the 
weak^ members or His body;"" because Thine eyes have seen that of 
Him which is imperfect, and in Thy boo\ shall all be written^ 

With the allurements of smells, I am not much concerned. 
When absent, I do not miss them; when present, I do not refuse 
them; yet ever ready to be without them. So I seem to myself; per- 
chance I am deceived. For that also is a mournful darkness whereby 
my abilities within are hidden from me; so that my mind making 

'* I Tun. iv. 4. •* I Cor. viii. 8. •' Col. ii. 16. •* Rom. xiv. 3. 

"Gen. ix. 3. "i Kings xvii. 6. "Gen. xxv. 34. "a Sam. xxiii. 15-17. 

" Matt. iv. 3. •* Numb. xi. •• Luke v. 8. '" Rom. viiL 34. " John xvi. 33. 

'* I Cor. xii. 22. " Pi. czxxix. 16. 



1 86 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

enquiry into herself of her own powers, ventures not readily to 
believe herself; because even what is in it is mostly hidden unless 
experience reveal it. And no one ought to be secure in that life, the 
whole whereof is called a trid^* that he who hath been capable of 
worse to be made better, may not likewise of better be made worse. 
Our only hope, only confidence, only assured promise is Thy mercy. 

The delights of the ear had more firmly entangled and subdued 
me; but Thou didst loosen and free me. Now, in those melodies 
which Thy words breathe soul into, when sung with a sweet and 
attuned voice, I do little repose; yet not so to be held thereby, but 
that I can disengage myself when I will. But with the words which 
are their life and whereby they find admission into me, themselves 
seek in my affections a place of some estimation, and I can scarcely 
assign them one suitable. For at one time I seem to myself to give 
them more honour than is seemly, feeling our minds to be more 
holily and fervently raised unto a flame of devotion, by the holy 
words themselves when thus sung, than when not; and that the 
several affections of our spirit, by a sweet variety, have their own 
proper measures in the voice and singing, by some hidden corre- 
spondence wherewith they are stirred up. But this contentment of 
the flesh, to which the soul must not be given over to be enervated 
doth oft beguile me, the sense not so waiting upon reason as patiently 
to follow her; but having been admitted merely for her sake, it 
strives even to run before her, and lead her. Thus in these things I 
unawares sin, but afterwards am aware of it. 

At other times, shunning over-anxiously this very deception, I err 
in too great strictness; and sometimes to that degree, as to wish the 
whole melody of sweet music which is used to David's Psalter, ban- 
ished from my ears, and the Church's too; and that mode seems to 
me safer, which I remember to have been often told me of Atha- 
nasius. Bishop of Alexandria, who made the reader of the psalm 
utter it with so slight inflection of voice, that it was nearer speaking 
than singing. Yet again, when I remember the tears I shed at the 
Psalmody of Thy Church, in the beginning of my recovered faith; 
and how at this time I am moved not with the singing, but with the 
things sung, when they are sung with a clear voice and modulation 

Mjob vii. I. — Vulg. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 187 

most suitable, I acknowledge the great use of this institution. Thus 
I fluctuate between peril of pleasure and approved wholesomeness; 
inclined the rather (though not as pronouncing an irrevocable 
opinion) to approve of the usage of singing in the church; that so 
by the delight of the ears the weaker minds may rise to the feeding 
of devotion. Yet when it befalls me to be more moved with the voice 
than the words sung, I confess to have sinned penally, and then had 
rather not hear music. See now my state: weep with me, and weep 
for me, ye, whoso regulate your feelings within, as that good action 
ensues. For you who do not act, these things touch not you. But 
Thou, O Lord my God, hearken; behold, and see, and have mercy 
and heal w<r," Thou, in whose presence I have become a problem to 
myself; and that is my infirmityJ^ 

There remains the pleasure of these eyes of my flesh, on which to 
make my confessions in the hearing of the ears of Thy temple, these 
brotherly and devout ears: and so to conclude the temptations of the 
lust of the flesh, which yet assail me, groaning earnestly, and desir- 
ing to be clothed upon with my house from heaven." The eyes love 
fair and varied forms, and bright and soft colours. Let not these 
occupy my soul; let God rather occupy it, who made these things, 
very good^* indeed, yet is He my good, not they. And these affect 
me, waking, the whole day, nor is any rest given me from them, as 
there is from musical, sometimes in silence, from all voices. For this 
queen of colours, the light, bathing all which we behold, wherever 
I am through the day, gliding by me in varied forms, soothes me 
when engaged on other things, and not observing it. And so strongly 
doth it entwine itself, that if it be suddenly withdrawn, it is with 
longing sought for, and if absent long, saddeneth the mind. 

O Thou Light, which Tobias saw, when these eyes closed he 
taught his son the way of life;™ and himself went before with the 
feet of charity, never swerving. Or which Isaac saw, when his fleshly 
eyes being heavy'" and closed by old age, it was vouchsafed him, not 
knowingly, to bless his sons, but by blessing to know them. Or which 
Jacob saw, when he also, blind through great age, with illumined 
heart, in the persons of his sons shed light on the different races of 

"Ps. vL 3. "Ps. Ixxvii. 10. "2 Cor. v. 2. "'Gen. i. 31. 
"Tob. iv. "Gen. xxvii. 



1 88 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

the future people, in them foresignified; and laid his hands, mysti- 
cally crossed upon his grandchildren by Joseph, not as their father 
by his outward eye corrected them, but as himself inwardly dis- 
cerned." This is the light, it is one, and all are one, who see and love 
it. But that corporeal light whereof I spake, it seasoncth the life of 
this world for her blind lovers with an enticing and dangerous sweet- 
ness. But they who know how to praise Thee for it, "O Ail<reating 
Lord," take it up in Thy hymns, and are not taken up with it in their 
sleep. Such would I be. These seductions of the eves I resist, lest my 
feet wherewith I walk upon Thy way be ensnared; and I lift up mine 
invisible eyes to Thee that Thou wouldest plucl^^ my feet out of the 
snareJ^ Thou dost ever and anon pluck them out, for they are en- 
snared. Thou ceasest not to pluck them out, while I often entangle 
myself in the snares on all sides aid: because Thou that deepest Israel 
neither slumber nor sleeps 

What innumerable toys, made by divers arts and manufactures in 
our apparel, shoes, utensils and all sort of works, in pictures also in 
divers images, and these far exceeding all necessary and moderate 
use and all pious meaning, have men added to tempt their own eyes 
withal; outwardly following what themselves make, inwardly for- 
saking Him by whom themselves were made, and destroying that 
which themselves have been made! But I, my God and my Glory, 
do hence also sing a hymn to Thee, and do consecrate praise to Him 
who consecrateth me, because beautiful patterns which through 
men's souls are conveyed into their cunning hands, come from that 
Beauty, which is above our souls, which my soul day and night sigh- 
eth after. But the framers and followers of the outward beauties 
derive thence the rule of judging of them, but not of using them. 
And He is there, though they perceive Him not, that so they might 
not wander, but t{eep their strength for Thee,'* and not scatter it 
abroad upon pleasurable wearinesses. And I, though I speak and 
see this, entangle my steps with these outward beauties; but Thou 
pluckest me out, O Lord, Thou pluckest me out; because Thy lot/i>:g- 
f^indness is before my eyes^ For I am taken miserably, and Thou 
pluckest me out mercifully; sometimes not perceiving it, when I 

"Gen. xlviiL **Ps. xxv. 15. **Ps. cxxL 4. "Ps. ivUL — ^Vulg. 
**Ps. xxv. 3. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 89 

had but lightly lighted upon them; otherwhiles with pain, because 
I had stuck fast in them. 

To this is added another form of temptation more manifoldly 
dangerous. For besides that concupiscence of the flesh which con- 
sisteth in the delight of all senses and pleasures, wherein it slaves, 
who go far from Thee," waste and perish, the soul hath, through the 
same senses of the body, a certain vain and curious desire, veiled 
under the title of knowledge and learning, not of delighting in the 
flesh, but of making experiments through the flesh. The seat 
whereof being in the appetite of knowledge, and sight being the 
sense chiefly used for attaining knowledge, it is in Divine language 
called The lust of the eyes" For to see, belongeth properly to the 
eyes; yet we use this word of the other senses also, when we employ 
them in seeking knowledge. For we do not say, hark how it flashes, 
or smell how it glows, or taste how it shines, or feel how it gleams; 
for all these are said to be seen. And yet we say not only, see how 
it shineth, which the eyes alone can perceive; but also, see how it 
soundeth, see how it smelleth, see how it tasteth, see how hard it is. 
And so the general experience of the senses, as was said, is called 
The lust of the eyes, because the office of seeing, wherein the eyes 
hold the prerogative, the other senses by the way of similitude take 
to themselves when they make search after any knowledge. 

But by this may more evidently be discerned, wherein pleasure 
and wherein curiosity is the object of the senses; for pleasure seeketh 
objects beautiful, melodious, fragrant, savoury, soft; but curiosity, 
for trial's sake, the contrary as well, not for the sake of suffering 
annoyance, but out of the lust of making trial and knowing them. 
For what pleasure hath it, to see in a mangled carcase what will 
make you shudder? and yet if it be lying near, they flock thither, to 
be made sad, and to turn pale. Even in sleep they are afraid to see 
it. As if when awake, any one forced them to see it, or any report 
of its beauty drew them thither! Thus also in the other senses, which 
it were long to go through. From this disease of curiosity are all 
those strange sights exhibited in the theatre. Hence men go on to 
search out the hidden powers of nature (which is besides our end), 
which to know profits not, and wherein men desire nothing but to 
"Ps. IxxuL 27. "i John u. 16. 



ipO THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

know. Hence also, if with that same end of perverted knowledge 
magical arts be enquired by. Hence also in religion itself, is God 
tempted, when signs and wonders are demanded of Him, not 
desired for any good end, but merely to make trial of. 

In this so vast wilderness, full of snares and dangers, behold many 
of them, I have cut off, and thrust out of my heart, as Thou hast 
given me, O God of my salvation. And yet when dare I say, since 
so many things of this kind buzz on all sides about our daily life — 
when dare I say that nothing of this sort engages my attention or 
causes in me an idle interest? True, the theatres do not now carry 
me away, nor care I to know the courses of the stars, nor did my 
soul ever consult ghosts departed; all sacrilegious mysteries I detest. 
From Thee, O Lord my God, to whom I owe humble and single- 
hearted service, by what artifices and suggestions doth the enemy 
deal with me to desire some sign! But I beseech Thee by our King, 
and by our pure and holy country, Jerusalem, that as any consenting 
thereto is far from me, so may it ever be further and further. But 
when I pray Thee for the salvation of any, my end and intention is 
far different. Thou givest and wilt give me to follow Thee willingly, 
doing what Thou ivilt." 

Notwithstanding, in how many most petty and contemptible 
things is our curiosity daily tempted, and how often we give way, 
who can recount? How often do we begin as it were tolerating 
people telling vain stories, lest we offend the weak; then by degrees 
we take interest therein! I go not now to the circus to see a dog 
coursing a hare; but in the field, if passing, that coursing perad- 
venture will distract me even from some weighty thought, and draw 
me after it: not that I turn aside the body of my beast, yet still in- 
cline my mind thither. And unless Thou, having made me see my 
infirmity, didst speedily admonish me either through the sight itself, 
by some contemplation to rise towards Thee, or altogether to despise 
and pass it by, I dully stand fixed therein. What, when sitting at 
home, a lizard catching flies, or a spider entangling them rushing 
into her nets, ofttimes takes my attention? Is the thing different, 
because they are but small creatures? I go on from them to praise 
Thee the wonderful Creator and Orderer of all, but this does not 

•*John xxi. aa. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I9I 

first draw my attention. It is one thing to rise quickly, another not 
to fall. And of such things is my life full; and my one hope is Thy 
wonderful great mercy. For when our heart becomes the receptacle 
of such things and is overcharged with throngs of this abundant 
vanity, then are our prayers also thereby often interrupted and dis- 
tracted, and whilst in Thy presence we direct the voice of our heart 
to Thine ears, this so great concern is broken off, by the rushing in 
of I know not what idle thoughts. Shall we then account this also 
among things of slight concernment, or shall aught bring us back 
to hope, save Thy complete mercy, since Thou hast begun to 
change us? 

And Thou knowest how far Thou hast already changed me, who 
first healedst me of the lust of vindicating myself, that so Thou 
mightest forgive all the rest of my iniquities, and heal all my in- 
firmities, and redeem my life from corruption, and crown me with 
mercy and pity, and satisfy my desire with good things;''^ who didst 
curb my pride with Thy fear, and tame my neck to Thy yol{e. And 
now I bear it and it is llght^ unto me, because so hast Thou prom- 
ised, and hast made it; and verily so it was, and I knew it not, when 
I feared to take it. 

But, O Lord, Thou alone Lord without pride, because Thou art 
the only true Lord, who hast no Lord; hath this third kind of temp- 
tation also ceased from me, or can it cease through this whole life? 
To wish, namely, to be feared and loved of men, for no other end, 
but that we may have a joy therein which is no joy? A miserable 
life this and a foul boastfulness? Hence especially it comes that men 
do neither purely love nor fear Thee. And therefore dost Thou resist 
the proud, and givest grace to the humble:^^ yea, Thou thunderest 
down upon the ambitions of the world, and the foundations of the 
mountains tremble!'^ Because now certain offices of human society 
make it necessary to be loved and feared of men, the adversary of 
our true blessedness layeth hard at us, every where spreading his 
snares of "well-done, well-done;" that greedily catching at them, we 
may be taken unawares, and sever our joy from Thy truth, and set 
it in the deceivingness of men; and be pleased at being loved and 
feared, not for Thy sake, but in Thy stead: and thus having been 
'•P$. ciii. 3-5. •*Matt. xi. 30. "Jam. iv. 6. '^ Ps. xviii. 7. 



192 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

made like him, he may have them for his own, not in the bands of 
charity, but in the bonds of punishment: who purposed to set his 
throne in the north^ that dark and chilled they might serve him 
pervertedly and crookedly imitating Thee. But we, O Lord, behold 
we are Thy little flocf^;^* possess us as Thine, stretch Thy wings over 
us, and let us fly under them. Be Thou our glory; let us be loved 
for Thee, and Thy word feared in us. Who would be praised of 
men when Thou blamest, will not be defended of men when Thou 
judgest; nor delivered when Thou condemnest. But when — not the 
sinner is praised in the desires of his soul,^ nor he blessed who doth 
ungodlily," but — a man is praised for some gift which Thou hast 
given him, and he rejoices more at the praise for himself than that 
he hath the gift for which he is praised, he also is praised, while 
Thou dispraisest; and better is he who praised than he who is praised. 
For the one took pleasure in the gift of God in man; the other was 
better pleased with the gift of man, than of God. 

By these temptations we are assailed daily, O Lord: without ceas- 
ing are we assailed. Our daily furnace'^ is the tongue of men. And 
in this way also Thou commandest us continence. Give what Thou 
enjoinest, and enjoin what Thou wilt. Thou knowest on this matter 
the groans of my heart, and the floods of mine eyes. For I cannot 
learn how far I am more cleansed from this plague, and I much fear 
my secret sins," which Thine eyes know, mine do not. For in other 
kinds of temptations I have some sort of means of examining myself; 
in this, scarce any. For, in refraining my mind from the pleasures 
of the flesh and idle curiosity, I see how much I have attained to, 
when I do without them; foregoing, or not having them. For then 
I ask myself how much more or less troublesome it is to me not to 
have them? Then, riches, which are desired, that they may serve 
to some one or two or all of the three concupiscences," if the soul 
cannot discern whether, when it hath them, it despiseth them, they 
may be cast aside, that so it may prove itself. But to be without 
praise, and therein essay our powers, must we live ill, yea so aban- 
donedly and atrociously, that no one should know without detesting 
us.^ What greater madness can be said or thought of .^ But if praise 

••Is. xiv. 13, 14. •'Luke xiL 32. •'Ps. ix. 29. — Vulg. ••?$. x. 3. 

"Prov. xxviL 21. •"?». xix. 12. •• i John ii 16. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE I93 

useth and ought to accompany a good life and good works, we ought 
as Httle to forego its company, as good hfe itself. Yet I know not 
whether I can well or ill be without any thing, unless it be absent. 

What then do I confess unto Thee in this kind of temptation, O 
Lord? What, but that I am delighted with praise, but with truth 
itself, more than with praise? For were it proposed to me, whether 
I would, being frenzied in error on all things, be praised by all men, 
or being consistent and most settled in the truth be blamed by all, 
I see which I should choose. Yet fain would I that the approbation 
of another should not even increase my joy for any good in me. 
Yet I own, it doth increase it, and not so only, but dispraise doth 
diminish it. And when I am troubled at this my misery, an excuse 
occurs to me, which of what value it is. Thou God knowest, for it 
leaves me uncertain. For since Thou has commanded us not con- 
tinency alone, that is, from what things to refrain our love, but 
righteousness also, that is, whereon to bestow it, and hast willed us 
to love not Thee only, but our neighbour also; often, when pleased 
with intelligent praise, I seem to myself to be pleased with the pro- 
ficiency or towardliness of my neighbour, or to be grieved for evil 
in him, when I hear him dispraise either what he understands not, 
or is good. For sometimes I am grieved at my own praise, either 
when those things be praised in me, in which I mislike myself, or 
even lesser and slight goods are more esteemed than they ought. 
But again how know I whether I am therefore thus affected, because 
I would not have him who praiseth me differ from me about myself; 
not as being influenced by concern for him, but because those same 
good things which please me in myself, please me more when they 
please another also? For some how I am not praised when my judg- 
ment of myself is not praised; forasmuch as either those things are 
praised, which displease me; or those more, which please me less. 
Am I then doubtful of myself in this matter? 

Behold, in Thee, O Truth, I see that I ought not to be moved 
at my own praises, for my own sake, but for the good of my neigh- 
bour. And whether it be so with me, I know not. For herein I 
know less of myself than of Thee. I beseech now, O my God, dis- 
cover to me myself also, that I may confess unto my brethren, who 
are to pray for me, wherein I find myself maimed. Let me examine 



194 "^^^ CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

myself again more diligently. If in my praise I am moved with the 
good of my neighbour, why am I less moved if another be unjustly 
dispraised than if it be myself? Why am I more stung by reproach 
cast upon myself, than at that cast upon another, with the same 
injustice, before me? Know I not this also? or is it at last that 1 
deceive myself.^'" and do not the truth before Thee in my heart and 
tongue? This madness put far from me, O Lord, lest mine own 
mouth be to me the sinner's oil to maf^e fat my head}"^ I am poor 
and needy;"" yet best, while in hidden groanings I displease myself, 
and seek Thy mercy, until what is lacking in my defective state be 
renewed and perfected, on to that peace which the eye of the proud 
knoweth not. 

Yet the word which cometh out of the mouth, and deeds known 
to men, bring with them a most dangerous temptation through the 
love of praise: which to establish a certain excellency of our own, 
solicits and collects men's suffrages. It tempts, even when it is re- 
proved by myself in myself, on the very ground that it is reproved; 
and often glories more vainly of the very contempt of vainglory; and 
so it is no longer contempt of vainglory, whereof it glories; for it 
doth not contemn when it glorieth. 

Within also, within is another evil, arising out of a like tempta- 
tion; whereby men become vain, pleasing themselves in themselves, 
though they please not, or displease or care not to please others. But 
pleasing themselves, they much displease Thee, not only taking 
pleasure in things not good, as if good, but in Thy good things, as 
though their own; or even if as Thine, yet as though for their own 
merits; or even if as though from Thy grace, yet not with brotherly 
rejoicing, but envying that grace to others. In all these and the 
like perils and travails, Thou seest the trembling of my heart; 
and I rather feel my wounds to be cured by Thee, than not inflicted 
by me. 

Where hast Thou not walked with me, O Truth, teaching me 
what to beware, and what to desire; when I referred to Thee what 
I could discover here below, and consulted Thee ? With my outward 
senses, as I might, I surveyed the world and observed the life, which 
my body hath from me, and these my senses. Thence entered I the 
«» Gal. vi. 3; I John i. 8. "" P$. cxli. 5. "« P$. cix. 21. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 95 

recesses of my memory, those manifold and spacious chambers, won- 
derfully furnished with innumerable stores; and I considered, and 
stood aghast; being able to discern nothing of these things with- 
out Thee, and finding none of them to be Thee. Nor was I myself, 
who found out these things, who went over them all, and laboured 
to distinguish and to value every thing according to its dignity, 
taking some things upon the report of my senses, questioning about 
others which I felt to be mingled with myself, numbering and dis- 
tinguishing the reporters themselves, and in the large treasure-house 
of my memory revolving some things, storing up others, drawing out 
others. Nor yet was I myself when 1 did this, /. e., that my power 
whereby I did it, neither was it Thou, for Thou art the abiding light, 
which I consulted concerning all these, whether they were, what they 
were, and how to be valued; and I heard Thee directing and com- 
manding me; and this I often do, this delights me; and as far as I 
may be freed from necessary duties, unto this pleasure have I re- 
course. Nor in all these which I run over consulting Thee can I find 
any safe place for my soul, but in Thee; whither my scattered 
members may be gathered, and nothing of me depart from Thee. 
And sometimes Thou admittest me to an affection, very unusual, 
in my inmost soul; rising to a strange sweetness, which if it were 
perfected in me, I know not what in it would not belong to the life 
to come. But through my miserable encumbrances I sink down 
again into these lower things, and am swept back by former custom, 
and am held, and greatly weep, but am greatly held. So much doth 
the burden of a bad custom weigh us down. Here I can stay, but 
would not; there I would, but cannot; both ways, miserable. 

Thus then have I considered the sicknesses of my sins in that 
threefold concupiscence, and have called Thy right hand to my help. 
For with a wounded heart have I beheld Thy brightness, and stricken 
back I said, "Who can attain thither? / am cast away from the tight 
of Thine eyes."^'^ Thou art the Truth who presidest over all, but I 
through my covetousness would not indeed forego Thee, but would 
with Thee possess a lie; as no man would in such wise speak falsely, 
as himself to be ignorant of the truth. So then I lost Thee, because 
Thou vouchsafest not to be possessed with a lie. 

'"'Ps. XXXI. 22. 



196 THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 

Whom could I find to reconcile me to Thee ? was I to have recourse 
to Angels? by what prayers, by what sacraments? Many endeavour- 
ing to return unto Thee, and of themselves unable, have, as I hear, 
tried this, and fallen into the desire of curious visions, and been ac- 
counted worthy to be deluded. For they, being high minded, sought 
Thee by the pride of learning, swelling out rather than smiting upon 
their breasts, and so by the agreement of their heart, drew unto them- 
selves the princes of the air^'^ the fellow-conspirators of their pride, 
by whom, through magical influences, they were deceived, seeking a 
mediator, by whom they might be purged, and there was none. 
For the devil it was, transforming himself into an Angel of light."^ 
And it much enticed proud flesh, that he had no body of flesh. For 
they v/ere mortal, and sinners; but Thou, Lord, to whom they 
proudly sought to be reconciled, art immortal, and without sin. But, 
a mediator between God and man must have something like to God, 
something like to men; lest being in both like to man, he should be 
far from God: or if in both like God, too unlike man: and so not 
be a mediator. That deceitful mediator then, by whom in Thy secret 
judgments pride deserved to be deluded, hath one thing in common 
with man, that is sin; another he would seem to have in common 
with God; and not being clothed with the mortality of flesh, would 
vaunt himself to be immortal. But since the wages of sin is death,'"* 
this hath he in common with men, that with them he should be 
condemned to death. 

But the true Mediator, Whom in Thy secret mercy Thou hast 
showed to the humble, and sentest, that by His example also they 
might learn that same humility, that Mediator between God and 
man, the Man Christ Jestis.'"^ appeared betwixt mortal sinners and 
the immortal Just One; mortal with men, just with God: that be- 
cause the wages of righteousness is life and peace. He might by a 
righteousness conjoined with God make void that death of sinners, 
now made righteous, which He willed to have in common with 
them. Hence He was showed forth to holy men of old; that so they, 
through faith in His Passion to come, as we through faith of it 
passed, might be saved. For as Man, He was a Mediator; but as the 
'MEph. ii. 2. '"^z Cor. xi. 14. ""Rom. vi. 20. "" i Tim. iL 5. 



THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE 1 97 

Word, not in the middle between God and man, because equal to 
God, and God with God, and together one God. 

How hast Thou loved us, good Father, who sparedst not Thine 
only Son, but deliveredst Him up for us ungodly!"^ How hast Thou 
loved us, for whom He that thought it no robbery to be equal with 
Thee, was made subject even to the death of the cross}'^ He alone, 
free among the dead^^" having power to lay down his life, and power 
to take it again -.^^^ for us to Thee both Victor and Victim, and there- 
fore Victor, because the Victim; for us to Thee Priest and Sacrifice, 
and therefore Priest because the Sacrifice; making us to Thee, of 
servants, sons, by being born of Thee, and serving us. Well then 
is my hope strong in Him, that Thou wilt heal all my infirmities"* 
by Him Who sitteth at Thy right hand and ma/^eth intercession for 
us;"^ else should I despair. For many and great are my infirmities, 
many they are, and great; but Thy medicine is mightier. We might 
imagine that Thy Word was far from any union with man, and 
despair of ourselves, unless He had been made flesh and dwelt 
among «j.'" 

Affrighted with my sins and the burden of my misery, I had cast 

in my heart, and had purposed to flee to the wilderness:"^ but Thou 

forbadest me, and strengthenedst me, saying, Therefore Christ died 

for all, that they which live may now no longer live unto themselves, 

but unto Him that died for them."* See, Lord, I cast my care upon 

Thee}" that I may live, and consider wondrous things out of Thy 

law."* Thou knowest my unskilfulness, and my infirmities; teach 

me, and heal me. He, Thine only Son, in Whom are hid all the 

treasures of wisdom and knowledge,"* hath redeemed me with His 

blood. Let not the proud spea^ evil of me;'"' because I meditate on 

my Ransom, and eat and drink, and communicate it; and poor, 

desired to be satisfied from Him, amongst those that eat and are 

satisfied, and they shall praise the Lord who see\ Him."' 

'" Rom. viii. 32. "» Phil. ii. 6, 8. 

""Ps. Ixxxviii. 5. '"John X. 18. '" Ps. cii. 3. '" Rom. viii. 34. 

"*JohnLi2. "'Ps.lv. 7. "•2Cor. V. 15. "' Ps. Iv. 22. "» P$. cxix. 18. 

»»Col. iL 3. ""Ps. cxix. 122.— Vulg. '" pj ^^^ ^g 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

BY 

THOMAS A KEMPIS 

TRANSLATED BY 

REV. WILLIAM BENHAM 



INTRODUCTORY NOTE 

The treatise "Of the Imitation of Christ" appears to have been orig- 
inally written in Latin early in the fifteenth century. Its exact date and 
its authorship are still a matter of debate. Manuscripts of the Latin ver- 
sion survive in considerable numbers all over Western Europe, and they, 
with the vast list of translations and of printed editions, testify to its 
almost unparalleled popularity. One scribe attributes it to St. Bernard 
of Clairvaux; but the fact that it contains a quotation from St. Francis 
of Assisi, who was born thirty years after the death of St. Bernard, dis- 
poses of this theory. In England there exist many manuscripts of the 
first three books, called "Musica Ecclesiastica," frequently ascribed to the 
English mystic Walter Hilton. But Hilton seems to have died in 1395, 
and there is no evidence of the existence of the work before 1400. Many 
manuscripts scattered throughout Europe ascribe the book to Jean le 
Charlier de Gerson, the great Chancellor of the University of Paris, who 
was a leading figure in the Church in the earlier part of the fifteenth 
century. The most probable author, however, especially when the in- 
ternal evidence is considered, is Thomas Haemmerlein, known also as 
Thomas a Kempis, from his native town of Kempcn, near the Rhine, 
about forty miles north of Cologne. Haemmerlein, who was born in 1379 
or 1380, was a member of the order of the Brothers of Common Life, 
and spent the last seventy years of his life at Mount St. Agnes, a monas- 
tery of Augustinian canons in the diocese of Utrecht. Here he died on 
July 26, 1471, after an uneventful life spent in copying manuscripts, 
reading, and composing, and in the peaceful routine of monastic piety. 

With the exception of the Bible, no Christian writing has had so wide 
a vogue or so sustained a popularity as this. And yet, in one sense, it is 
hardly an original work at all. Its structure it owes largely to the writings 
of the medieval mystics, and its ideas and phrases are a mosaic from 
the Bible and the Fathers of the early Church. But these elements are 
interwoven with such delicate skill and a religious feeling at once so 
ardent and so sound, that it promises to remain, what it has been for five 
hundred years, the supreme call and guide to spiritual aspiration. 



CONTENTS 

BOOK I 

PAGE 

Admonitions Profitable for the Spirituai. Life 205 

CHAP. 

I. Of the Imitation of Christ, and of Contempt of the World and all 

its Vanities 205 

II. Of thinking humbly of Oneself 206 

III. Of the Knowledge of Truth 207 

IV. Of Prudence in Action ... 209 

V. Of the Reading of Holy Scripture 210 

VI. Of Inordinate Affections 210 

VII. Of fleeing from Vain Hope and Pride 211 

VIII. Of the Danger of too much Familiarity 212 

IX. Of Obedience and Subjection 212 

X. Of the Danger of Superfluity of Words 213 

XI. Of seeking Peace of Mind, and of Spiritual Progress 213 

XII. Of the Uses of Adversity 215 

XIII. Of resisting Temptation 215 

XIV. On avoiding Rash Judgment 217 

XV. Of Works of Charity 218 

XVI. Of bearing with the Faults of Others 219 

XVII. Of a Religious Life 220 

XVIII. Of the Example of the Holy Fathers 220 

XIX. Of the Exercises of a Religious Man 222 

XX. Of the Love of Solitude and Silence 224 

XXI. Of Compunction of Heart 226 

XXII. Of the Contemplation of Human Misery 228 

XXIII. Of Meditation upon Death 230 

XXIV. Of the Judgment and Punishment of the Wicked 232 

XXV. Of the Zealous Amendment of our Whole Life 234 

BOOK II 

PACE 

AoMONmoNt Concerning the Inner Life 238 

CHAP. 

I. Of the Inward Life 238 

II. Of Lowly Submission 240 

III. Of the Good, Peaceable Man 241 

IV. Of a Pure Mind and Simple Intention 242 

201 



202 CONTENTS 

CHAP. PACE 

V. Of Self-Esteem 243 

VI. Of the Joy of a Good Conscience 244 

VII. Of loving Jesus above all Things 245 

VIII. Of the Intimate Love of Jesus 246 

IX. Of the Lack of all Comfort 247 

X. Of Gratitude for the Grace of God 250 

XI. Of the Fewness of those who love the Cross of Jesus .251 

XII. Of the Royal Way of the Holy Cross 253 

BOOK III 

PACE 

On Inward Consolation 258 

CHAP. 

I. Of the Inward Voice of Christ to the Faithful Soul 258 

II. What the Truth saith inwardly without Noise of Words 259 

III. How all the Words of God are to be heard with Humility, and bow 

many consider them not 260 

IV. How wc must walk in Truth and Humility before God .... 361 

V. Of the Wonderful Power of the Divine Love 263 

VI. Of the Proving of the True Lover 265 

VII. Of hiding our Grace under the Guard of Humility 266 

VIII. Of a low Estimation of Self in the Sight of God 268 

IX. That all Things arc to be referred to God as the Final End 269 

X. That it is Sweet to despise the World and to serve God .... 270 

XI. That the Desires of the Heart arc to be Examined and Governed 272 
XII. Of the Inward Growth of Patience, and of the Struggle against 

Evil Desires 273 

XIII. Of the Obedience of One in Lowly Subjection after the Example of 

Jesus Christ 274 

XIV. Of Meditation upon the Hidden Judgments of God, that we may 

not be lifted up because of our Well-doing 275 

XV. How we must Stand and Speak in Everything that we desire 276 

XVI. That True Solace is to be sought in God alone 277 

XVII. That all Care is to be Cast upon God 278 

XVni. That Temporal Miseries are to be borne patiendy after the Example 

of Christ 279 

XIX. Of bearing Injuries, and who shall be approved as truly Patient . 380 

XX. Of Confession of our Infirmity and of the Miseries of this Life . 281 
XXI. That we must Rest in God above all Goods and Gifts .... 283 

XXII. Of the Recollection of God's Manifold Benefits 285 

XXIII. Of Four Things which bring Great Peace 286 

XXIV. Of avoiding Curious Inquiry into the Life of Another .... 288 
XXV. Wherein Firm Peace of Heart and True Profit consist .... 388 

XXVI. Of the Exaltation of a Free Spirit, which Humble Prayer more 

deserveth than doth Frequent Reading 290 



CONTENTS 203 

CHAP. PACE 

XXVII. That Personal Love gready hindereth from the Highest Good 291 

XXVIII. Against the Tongues o£ Detractors 292 

XXIX. How when Tribulation cometh we must call upon and bless CJod 292 

XXX. Of seeking Divine Help, and the Confidence of obtaining Grace . 293 

XXXI. Of the Neglect of every Creature, that the Creator may be found 295 

XXXII. Of Self-denial and the casting away all Selfishness 296 

XXXIII. Of InsUbility of the Heart, and of directing the Aim towards God 297 

XXXIV. That to Him who loveth God is Sweet above all Things and in all 

Things 298 

XXXV. That there is no Security against Temptation in this Life 299 

XXXVI. Against Vain Judgments of Men 300 

XXXVII. Of Pure and Entire Resignation of Self, for the obtaining Liberty 

of Heart 301 

XXXVIII. Of a Good Government in External Things, and of having Recourse 

to God in Dangers 302 

XXXIX. That Man must not be Immersed in Business 303 

XL. That Man hath no Good in Himself, and nothing whereof to Glory . 304 

XLI. Of Contempt of all Temporal Honour 305 

XLII. That our Peace is not to be placed in Men 306 

XLIII. Against Vain and Worldly Knowledge 307 

XLIV. Of not troubling Ourselves about Outward Things 308 

XLV. That we must not believe Everyone, and that we are prone to fall 

in our Words 308 

XL VI. Of having Confidence in God when Evil Words are cast at us 310 

XLVn. That all Troubles are to be endured for the sake of Eternal Life 312 

XL VIII. Of the Day of Eternity and of the Straitnesses of this Life 313 

XLIX. Of the Desire after Eternal Life, and how Great Blessings are 

promised to those who strive 315 

L. How a Desolate Man ought to commit Himself into the Hands of 

God 3>7 

LI, That we must give Ourselves to Humble Works when we are 

unequal to those that are Lofty 320 

Ln. That a Man ought not to reckon Himself worthy of Consolation, but 

more worthy of Chastisement 321 

Lin. That the Grace of God does not join itself to those who mind 

Earthly Things 322 

LIV. Of the Diverse Motions of Nature and of Grace 323 

LV. Of the Corruption of Nature and the Efficacy of Divine Grace 326 

LVI. That we ought to deny Ourselves, and to imitate Christ by Means of 

the Cross 328 

LVn. That a Man must not be too much Cast Down when he falleth into 

some Fault 329 

LVIII. Of Deeper Matters, and God's Hidden Judgments which are not to 

be Inquired into 330 

LIX. That all Hope and Trust is to be Fixed in God alone .... 333 



204 CONTENTS 

BOOK IV 

PAGE 

Of the Sacrament of the Altar 335 

CHAP. 

I. With how Great Reverence Christ must be Received 335 

II. That the Greatness and Charity of God is shown to Men in the 

Sacrament 339 

ni. That it is Profitable to Communicate often 341 

IV. That many Good Gifts are bestowed upon those who Communicate 

devoutly 343 

V. Of the Dignity of this Sacrament, and of the Office of the Priest 345 

VI. An Inquiry concerning Preparation for Communion 346 

VII. Of the Examination of Conscience and Purpose of Amendment 346 

VIII. Of the Oblation of Christ upon the Cross, and of Resignation of Self . 348 
IX. That we ought to offer Ourselves and all that is Ours to God, and 

to Pray for all 349 

X. That Holy Communion is not lightly to be omitted 350 

XI. That the Botly and Blood of Christ and the Holy Scriptures are 

most necessary to a Faithful Soul 353 

XII. That he who is about to Communicate with Christ ought to Prepare 

Himself with Great Diligence 355 

Xni. That the Devout Soul ought with the whole heart to yearn after 

Union with Christ in the Sacrament 357 

XIV. Of the Fervent Desire of certain devout Persons to receive the Body 

and Blood of Christ 358 

XV. That the Grace of Devotion is acquired by Humility and Self-Denial 359 

XVI. That we ought to lay open our Necessities to Christ and to require 

His Grace 360 

XVII. Of Fervent Love and Vehement Desire of receiving Christ 361 
XVIII. That a Man should not be a Curious Searcher of the Sacrament, but a 

humble Imitator of Christ, submitting his Sense to Holy Faith 363 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

THE FIRST BOOK 

ADMONITIONS PROFITABLE FOR THE 
SPIRITUAL LIFE 

CHAPTER I 

OF THE IMITATION OF CHRIST, AND OF CONTEMPT OF THE WORLD 
AND ALL ITS VANITIES 

"W JfE that foUotveth me shall not walk^ in dar\ness} saith the 
m m Lord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us 
^ ^ how far we must imitate His life and character, if we seek 
true illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let 
it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life of 
Jesus Christ. 

2. His teaching surpasseth all teaching of holy men, and such 
as have His Spirit find therein the hidden manna} But there are 
many who, though they frequently hear the Gospel, yet feel but 
little longing after it, because they have not the mind of Christ. He, 
therefore, that will fully and with true wisdom understand the words 
of Christ, let him strive to conform his whole life to that mind of 
Christ. 

3. What doth it profit thee to enter into deep discussion concern- 
ing the Holy Trinity, if thou lack humility, and be thus displeasing 
to the Trinity? For verily it is not deep words that make a man 
holy and upright; it is a good life which maketh a man dear to God. 
I had rather feel contrition than be skilful in the definition thereof. 
If thou knewest the whole Bible, and the sayings of all the philoso- 
phers, what should all this profit thee without the love and grace of 

I John viii. 12. ' Revdatiom ii. 17. 
205 



206 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

God? Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, save to love God, and Him 
only to serve. That is the highest wisdom, to cast the world behind 
us, and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom. 

4. It is vanity then to seek after, and to trust in, the riches that 
shall perish. It is vanity, too, to covet honours, and to lift up our- 
selves on high. It is vanity to follow the desires of the flesh and be 
led by them, for this shall bring misery at the last. It is vanity to 
desire a long life, and to have little care for a good life. It is vanity 
to take thought only for the life which now is, and not to look for- 
ward to the things which shall be hereafter. It is vanity to love that 
which quickly passeth away, and not to hasten where eternal joy 
abideth. 

5. Be ofttimes mindful of the saying,' The eye is not satisfied with 
feeing, nor the ear with hearing. Strive, therefore, to turn away thy 
heart from the love of the things that are seen, and to set it upon 
the things that are not seen. For they who follow after their own 
fleshly lusts, defile the conscience, and destroy the grace of God. 

CHAPTER II 

OF THINKING HUMBLY OF ONESELF 

There is naturally in every man a desire to know, but what 
profiteth knowledge without the fear of God.'' Better of a surety is 
a lowly peasant who serveth God, than a proud philosopher who 
watcheth the stars and neglecteth the knowledge of himself. He who 
knoweth himself well is vile in his own sight; neither regardeth he 
the praises of men. If I knew all the things that are in the world, 
and were not in charity, what should it help me before God, who is 
to judge me according to my deeds? 

2. Rest from inordinate desire of knowledge, for therein is found 
much distraction and deceit. Those who have knowledge desire to 
appear learned, and to be called wise. Many things there are to know 
which profiteth little or nothing to the soul. And foolish out of 
measure is he who attendeth upon other things rather than those 
which serve to his soul's health. Many words satisfy not the soul, 

' Ecclesiastes i. 8. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 10"] 

but a good life refresheth the mind, and a pure conscience giveth 
great confidence towards God. 

3. The greater and more complete thy knowledge, the more se- 
verely shalt thou be judged, unless thou hast lived holily. Therefore 
be not lifted up by any skill or knowledge that thou hast; but rather 
fear concerning the knowledge which is given to thee. If it seemeth 
to thee that thou knowest many things, and understandest them well, 
know also that there are many more things which thou knowest not. 
Be not high-minded , but rather confess thine ignorance. Why de- 
sirest thou to lift thyself above another, when there are found many 
more learned and more skilled in the Scripture than thou? If thou 
wilt know and learn anything with profit, love to be thyself unknown 
and to be counted for nothing. 

4. That is the highest and most profitable lesson, when a man 
truly knoweth and judgeth lowly of himself. To account nothing of 
one's self, and to think always kindly and highly of others, this is 
great and perfect wisdom. Even shouldest thou see thy neighbour 
sin openly or grievously, yet thou oughtest not to reckon thyself 
better than he, for thou knowest not how long thou shalt keep thine 
integrity. All of us are weak and frail; hold thou no man more 
frail than thyself. 

CHAPTER III 

OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF TRUTH 

Happy is the man whom Truth by itself doth teach, not by figures 
and transient words, but as it is in itself.' Our own judgment and 
feelings often deceive us, and we discern but little of the truth. What 
doth it profit to argue about hidden and dark things, concerning 
which we shall not be even reproved in the judgment, because we 
knew them not? Oh, grievous folly, to neglect the things which are 
profitable and necessary, and to give our minds to things which are 
curious and hurtful! Having eyes, we see not. 

2. And what have we to do with talk about genus and species! 
He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh is free from multiplied 
questionings. From this One Word are all things, and all things 
'Psalm xciv. 12; Numbers xii. 8. 



208 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

speak of Him; and this is the Beginning which also speaketh unto 
us.' No man without Him understandeth or rightly judgeth. The 
man to whom all things are one, who bringeth all things to one, who 
seeth all things in one, he is able to remain steadfast of spirit, and 
at rest in God. O God, who art the Truth, make me one with Thee 
in everlasting love. It wearieth me oftentimes to read and listen to 
many things; in Thee is all that I wish for and desire. Let all the 
doctors hold their peace; let all creation keep silence before Thee: 
speak Thou alone to me. 

3. The more a man hath unity and simplicity in himself, the more 
things and the deeper things he understandeth; and that without 
labour, because he receiveth the light of understanding from above. 
The spirit which is pure, sincere, and steadfast, is not distracted 
though it hath many works to do, because it doth all things to the 
honour of God, and striveth to be free from all thoughts of self- 
seeking. Who is so full of hindrance and annoyance to thee as thine 
own undisciplined heart? A man who is good and devout arrangeth 
beforehand within his own heart the works which he hath to do 
abroad; and so is not drawn away by the desires of his evil will, but 
subjecteth everything to the judgment of right reason. Who hath a 
harder battle to fight than he who striveth for self-mastery? And 
this should be our endeavour, even to master self, and thus daily to 
grow stronger than self, and go on unto perfection. 

4. All perfection hath some imperfection joined to it in this life, 
and all our f)ower of sight is not without some darkness. A lowly 
knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than the deep searchings 

' of man's learning. Not that learning is to be blamed, nor the taking 
account of anything that is good; but a good conscience and a holy 
life is better than all. And because many seek knowledge rather than 
good living, therefore they go astray, and bear little or no fruit. 

5. O if they would give that diligence to the rooting out of vice 
and the planting of virtue which they give unto vain questionings: 
there had not been so many evil doings and stumbling-blocks among 
the laity, nor such ill living among houses of religion. Of a surety, 
at the Day of Judgment it will be demanded of us, not what we have 
read, but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but 

* John viiL 25 (Vulg.). 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 209 

how holily we have lived. Tell me, where now are all those masters 
and teachers, whom thou knewest well, whilst they were yet with 
you, and flourished in learning? Their stalls are now filled by others, 
who perhaps never have one thought concerning them. Whilst they 
lived they seemed to be somewhat, but now no one speaks of them. 
6. Oh how quickly passeth the glory of the world away! Would 
that their life and knowledge had agreed together! For then would 
they have read and inquired unto good purpose. How many perish 
through empty learning in this world, who care little for serving 
God. And because they love to be great more than to be humble, 
therefore they "have become vain in their imaginations." He only 
is truly great, who hath great charity. He is truly great who deem- 
eth himself small, and counteth all height of honour as nothing. He 
is the truly wise man, who counteth all earthly things as dung that 
he may win Christ. And he is the truly learned man, who doeth the 
will of God, and forsaketh his own will. 

CHAPTER IV 

OF PRUDENCE IN ACTION 

We must not trust every word of others or feeling within our- 
selves, but cautiously and patiendy try the matter, whether it be of 
God. Unhappily we are so weak that we find it easier to believe and 
speak evil of others, rather than good. But they that are perfect, do 
not give ready heed to every news-bearer, for they know man's 
weakness that it is prone to evil and unstable in words. 

2. This is great wisdom, not to be hasty in action, or stubborn in 
our own opinions. A part of this wisdom also is not to believe 
every word we hear, nor to tell others all that we hear, even though 
we believe it. Take counsel with a man who is wise and of a good 
conscience; and seek to be instructed by one better than thyself, 
rather than to follow thine own inventions. A good life maketh a 
man wise toward God, and giveth him experience in many things. 
The more humble a man is in himself, and the more obedient 
towards God, the wiser will he be in all things, and the more shall 
his soul be at peace. 



210 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

CHAPTER V 

OF THE READING OF HOLY SCRIPTURES 

It is Truth which we must look for in Holy Writ, not cunning 
of words. All Scripture ought to be read in the spirit in which it 
was written. We must rather seek for what is profitable in Scripture, 
than for what ministereth to subtlety in discourse. Therefore we 
ought to read books which are devotional and simple, as well as 
those which are deep and difficult. And let not the weight of the 
writer be a stumbling-block to thee, whether he be of little or much 
learning, but let the love of the pure Truth draw thee to read. Ask 
not, who hath said this or that, but look to what he says. 

2. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. 
Without respect of persons God speaketh to us in divers manners. 
Our own curiosity often hindereth us in the reading of holy writ- 
ings, when we seek to understand and discuss, where we should pass 
simply on. If thou wouldst profit by thy reading, read humbly, 
simply, honestly, and not desiring to win a character for learning. 
Ask freely, and hear in silence the words of holy men; nor be dis- 
pleased at the hard sayings of older men than thou, for they are not 
uttered without cause. 

CHAPTER VI 

OF INORDINATE AFFECTIONS 

Whensoever a man desireth aught above measure, immediately 
he becometh restless. The proud and the avaricious man are never 
at rest; while the poor and lowly of heart abide in the multitude of 
peace. The man who is not yet wholly dead to self, is soon tempted, 
and is overcome in small and trifling matters. It is hard for him 
who is weak in spirit, and still in part carnal and inclined to the 
pleasures of sense, to withdraw himself altogether from earthly de- 
sires. And therefore, when he withdraweth himself from these, he 
is often sad, and easily angered too if any oppose his will. 

2. But if, on the other hand, he yield to his inclination, immedi- 
ately he is weighed down by the condemnation of his conscience; 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 211 

for that he hath followed his own desire, and yet in no way attained 
the peace which he hoped for. For true peace of heart is to be found 
in resisting passion, not in yielding to it. And therefore there is no 
peace in the heart of a man who is carnal, nor in him who is given 
up to the things that are without him, but only in him who is 
fervent towards God and living the life of the Spirit. 

CHAPTER VII 

OF FLEEING FROM VAIN HOPE AND PRIDE 

Vain is the life of that man who putteth his trust in men or in 
any created Thing. Be not ashamed to be the servant of others for 
the love of Jesus Christ, and to be reckoned poor in this life. Rest 
not upon thyself, but build thy hope in God. Do what lieth in 
thy power, and God will help thy good intent. Trust not in thy 
learning, nor in the cleverness of any that lives, but rather trust in 
the favour of God, who resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the 
humble. 

2. Boast not thyself in thy riches if thou hast them, nor in thy 
friends if they be powerful, but in God, who giveth all things, and 
in addition to all things desireth to give even Himself. Be not 
lifted up because of thy strength or beauty of body, for with only 
a slight sickness it will fail and wither away. Be not vain of thy 
skilfulness or ability, lest thou displease God, from whom cometh 
every good gift which we have. 

3. Count not thyself better than others, lest perchance thou appear 
worse in the sight of God, who knoweth what is in man. Be not 
proud of thy good works, for God's judgments are of another sort 
than the judgments of man, and what pleaseth man is ofttimes 
displeasing to Him. If thou hast any good, believe that others have 
more, and so thou mayest preserve thy humility. It is no harm to 
thee if thou place thyself below all others; but it is great harm if 
thou place thyself above even one. Peace is ever with the humble 
man, but in the heart of the proud there is envy and continual wrath. 



212 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

CHAPTER VIII 

OF THE DANGER OF TOO MUCH FAMILIAIUTY 

Open not thine heart to every man, but deal with one who is wise 
and feareth God. Be seldom with the young and with strangers. 
Be not a flatterer of the rich; nor willingly seek the society of the 
great. Let thy company be the humble and the simple, the devout 
and the gende, and let thy discourse be concerning things which 
edify. Be not familiar with any woman, but commend all good 
women alike unto God. Choose for thy companions God and His 
Angels only, and flee from the notice of men. 

2. We must love all men, but not make close companions of all. It 
sometimes falleth out that one who is unknown to us is highly re- 
garded through good report of him, whose actual person is never- 
theless unpleasing to those who behold it. We sometimes think to 
please others by our intimacy, and forthwith displease them the more 
by the faultiness or character which they perceive in us. 

CHAPTER IX 

OF OBEDIENCE AND SUBJECTION 

It is verily a great thing to live in obedience, to be under au- 
thority, and not to be at our own disposal. Far safer is it to live in 
subjection than in a place of authority. Many are in obedience from 
necessity rather than from love; these take it amiss, and repine for 
small cause. Nor will they gain freedom of spirit, unless with all 
their heart they submit themselves for the love of God. Though 
thou run hither and thither, thou wilt not find peace, save in humble 
subjection to the authority of him who is set over thee. Fancies 
about places and change of them have deceived many. 

2. True it is that every man willingly followeth his own bent, and 
is the more inclined to those who agree with him. But if Christ is 
amongst us, then it is necessary that we sometimes yield up our own 
opinion for the sake of peace. Who is so wise as to have perfect 
knowledge of all things? Therefore trust not too much to thine 
own opinion, but be ready also to hear the opinions of others. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 213 

Though thine own opinion be good, yet if for the love of God thou 
foregoest it, and followest that of another, thou shalt the more profit 
thereby. 

3. Ofttimes I have heard that it is safer to hearken and to receive 
counsel than to give it. It may also come to pass that each opinion 
may be good; but to refuse to hearken to others when reason or 
occasion requireth it, is a mark of pride or wilfulness. 

CHAPTER X 

OF THE DANGER OF SUPERFLUITY OF WORDS 

Avoid as far as thou canst the tumult of men; for talk concerning 
worldly things, though it be innocently undertaken, is a hindrance, 
so quickly are we led captive and defiled by vanity. Many a time I 
wish that I had held my peace, and had not gone amongst men. But 
why do we talk and gossip so continually, seeing that we so rarely 
resume our silence without some hurt done to our conscience? We 
like talking so much because we hope by our conversations to gain 
some mutual comfort, and because we seek to refresh our wearied 
spirits by variety of thoughts. And we very willingly talk and think 
of those things which we love or desire, or else of those which we 
most dislike. 

2. But alas! it is often to no purpose and in vain. For this outward 
consolation is no small hindrance to the inner comfort which cometh 
from God. Therefore must we watch and pray that time pass not 
idly away. If it be right and desirable for thee to speak, speak things 
which are to edification. Evil custom and neglect of our real profit 
tend much to make us heedless of watching over our lips. Never- 
theless, devout conversation on spiritual things helpeth not a little 
to spiritual progress, most of all where those of kindred mind and 
spirit find their ground of fellowship in God. 

CHAPTER XI 

OF SEEKING PEACE OF MIND AND OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESS 

We may enjoy abundance of peace if we refrain from busying 
ourselves with the sayings and doings of others, and things which 



214 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

concern not ourselves. How can he abide long time in peace who 
occupieth himself with other men's matters, and with things without 
himself, and meanwhile payeth little or rare heed to the self within? 
Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall have abundance of peace. 

2. How came it to pass that many of the Saints were so perfect, 
so contemplative of Divine things? Because they steadfastly sought 
to mortify themselves from all worldly desires, and so were enabled 
to cling with their whole heart to God, and be free and at leisure 
for the thought of Him. We are too much occupied with our own 
affections, and too anxious about transitory things. Seldom, too, do 
we entirely conquer even a single fault, nor are we zealous for 
daily growth in grace. And so we remain lukewarm and unspiritual. 

3. Were we fully watchful of ourselves, and not bound in spirit to 
outward things, then might we be wise unto salvation, and make 
progress in Divine contemplation. Our great and grievous stum- 
bling-block is that, not being freed from our affections and desires, 
we strive not to enter into the perfect way of the Saints. And when 
even a little trouble befalleth us, too quickly are we cast down, and 
fly to the world to give us comfort. 

4. If we would quit ourselves like men, and strive to stand firm 
in the battle, then should we see the Lord helping us from Heaven. 
For He Himself is alway ready to help those who strive and who 
trust in Him; yea, He provideth for us occasions of striving, to the 
end that we may win the victory. If we look upon our progress in 
religion as a progress only in outward observances and forms, our 
devoutness will soon come to an end. But let us lay the axe to the 
very root of our life, that, being cleansed from affections, we may 
possess our souls in peace. 

5. If each year should see one fault rooted out from us, we should 
go quickly on to perfection. But on the contrary, we often feel that 
we were better and holier in the beginning of our conversion than 
after many years of profession. Zeal and progress ought to increase 
day by day; yet now it seemeth a great thing if one is able to retain 
some portion of his first ardour. If we would put some slight stress 
on ourselves at the beginning, then afterwards we should be able to 
do all things with ease and joy. 

6. It is a hard thing to break through a habit, and a yet harder 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 215 

thing to go contrary to our own will. Yet if thou overcome not 
slight and easy obstacles, how shalt thou overcome greater ones? 
Withstand thy will at the beginning, and unlearn an evil habit, 
lest it lead thee little by little into worse difficulties. Oh, if thou 
knewest what peace to thyself thy holy life should bring to thyself, 
and what joy to others, methinketh thou wouldst be more zealous 
for spiritual profit. 

CHAPTER XII 

OF THE USES OF ADVERSnT 

It is good for us that we sometimes have sorrows and adversities, 
for they often make a man lay to heart that he is only a stranger 
and sojourner, and may not put his trust in any worldly thing. It 
is good that we sometimes endure contradictions, and are hardly 
and unfairly judged, when we do and mean what is good. For these 
things help us to be humble, and shield us from vain-glory. For 
then we seek the more earnesdy the witness of God, when men speak 
evil of us falsely, and give us no credit for good. 

2. Therefore ought a man to rest wholly upon God, so that he 
needeth not seek much comfort at the hand of men. When a man 
who feareth God is afflicted or tried or oppressed with evil thoughts, 
then he seeth that God is the more necessary unto him, since without 
God he can do no good thing. Then he is heavy of heart, he groan- 
eth, he crieth out for the very disquietness of his heart. Then he 
groweth weary of life, and would fain depart and be with Christ. 
By all this he is taught that in the world there can be no perfect 
security or fulness of peace. 

CHAPTER XIII 

OF RESISTING TEMPTATION 

So long as we live in the world, we cannot be without trouble and 
trial. Wherefore it is written in Job, The life of man upon the earth 
is a trials And therefore ought each of us to give heed concerning 

' Job viL I (Vulg.). 



2l6 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

trials and temptations, and watch unto prayer, lest the devil find 
occasion to deceive; for he never sleepeth, but goeth about seeking 
whom he may devour. No man is so perfect in hoHness that he 
hath never temptations, nor can we ever be wholly free from them. 

2. Yet, notwithstanding, temptations turn greatly unto our profit, 
even though they be great and hard to bear; for through them we 
are humbled, purified, instructed. All Saints have passed through 
much tribulation and temptation, and have profited thereby. And 
they who endured not temptation became reprobate and fell away. 
There is no position so sacred, no place so secret, that it is without 
temptations and adversities. 

3. There is no man wholly free from temptations so long as he 
liveth, because we have the root of temptation within ourselves, 
in that we are born in concupiscence. One temptation or sorrow 
passeth, and another cometh; and always we shall have somewhat 
to suffer, for we have fallen from perfect happiness. Many who 
seek to fly from temptations fall yet more deeply into them. By 
flight alone we cannot overcome, but by endurance and true humil- 
ity we are made stronger than all our enemies. 

4. He who only resisteth outwardly and pulleth not up by the root, 
shall profit fittle; nay, rather temptations will return to him the 
more quickly, and will be the more terrible. Little by Uttle, through 
patience and longsuffering, thou shalt conquer by the help of God, 
rather than by violence and thine own strength of will. In the midst 
of temptation often seek counsel; and deal not hardly with one 
who is tempted, but comfort and strengthen him as thou wouldest 
have done unto thyself. 

5. The beginning of all temptations to evil is instability of tem- 
per and want of trust in God; for even as a ship without a helm is 
tossed about by the waves, so is a man who is careless and infirm 
of purpose tempted, now on this side, now on that. As fire testeth 
iron, so doth temptation the upright man. Oftentimes we know not 
what strength we have; but temptation revealeth to us what we are. 
Nevertheless, we must watch, especially in the beginnings of temp- 
tation; for then is the foe the more easily mastered, when he is not 
suffered to enter within the mind, but is met outside the door as 
soon as he hath knocked. Wherefore one saith, 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 217 

Check the beginnings; once thou might'st have cured. 
But now 'tis past thy skill, too long hath it endured. 

For first cometh to the mind the simple suggestion, then the strong 
imagination, afterwards pleasure, evil affection, assent. And so little 
by little the enemy entereth in altogether, because he was not re- 
sisted at the beginning. And the longer a man delayeth his resist- 
ance, the weaker he groweth, and the stronger groweth the enemy 
against him. 

6. Some men suffer their most grievous temptations in the begin- 
ning of their conversion, some at the end. Some are sorely tried 
their whole life long. Some there are who are tempted but lightly, 
according to the wisdom and justice of the ordering of God, who 
knoweth the character and circumstances of men, and ordereth all 
things for the welfare of His elect. 

7. Therefore we ought not to despair when we are tempted, but 
the more fervently should cry unto God, that He will vouchsafe to 
help us in all our tribulation; and that He will, as St. Paul saith, 
with the temptation make a way to escape that we may be able to 
bear it* Let us therefore humble ourselves under the mighty hand 
of God in all temptation and trouble, for He will save and exalt such 
as are of an humble spirit. 

8. In temptations and troubles a man is proved, what progress 
he hath made, and therein is his reward the greater, and his virtue 
doth the more appear. Nor is it a great thing if a man be devout 
and zealous so long as he suffereth no affliction; but if he behave 
himself patiendy in the time of adversity, then is there hope of 
great progress. Some are kept safe from great temptations, but are 
overtaken in those which are litde and common, that the humilia- 
tion may teach them not to trust to themselves in great things, being 
weak in small things. 

CHAPTER XIV 

ON AVOIDING RASH JUDGMENT 

Look well unto thyself, and beware that thou judge not the doings 
of others. In judging others a man laboureth in vain; be often 
* I Corinthiam x. 13. 



2l8 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

erreth, and easily falleth into sin; but in judging and examining 
himself he always laboureth to good purpose. According as a 
matter toucheth our fancy, so oftentimes do we judge of it; for 
easily do we fail of true judgment because of our own personal 
feeling. If God were always the sole object of our desire, we should 
the less easily be troubled by the erring judgment of our fancy. 

2. But often some secret thought lurking within us, or even some 
outward circumstance, turneth us aside. Many are secretly seeking 
their own ends in what they do, yet know it not. They seem to 
live in good peace of mind so long as things go well with them, and 
according to their desires, but if their desires be frustrated and 
broken, immediately they are shaken and displeased. Diversity of 
feelings and opinions very often brings about dissensions between 
friends, between countrymen, between religious and godly men. 

3. Established custom is not easily relinquished, and no man is 
very easily led to see with the eyes of another. If thou rest more 
upon thy own reason or experience than upon the power of Jesus 
Christ, thy light shall come slowly and hardly; for God willeth us 
to be perfecdy subject unto Himself, and all our reason to be exalted 
by abundant love towards Him. 

CHAPTER XV 

OF WORKS OF CHARITY 

For no worldly good whatsoever, and for the love of no man, must 
anything be done which is evil, but for the help of the suffering a 
good work must sometimes be postponed, or be changed for a bet- 
ter; for herein a good work is not destroyed, but improved. Without 
charity no work profiteth, but whatsoever is done in charity, how- 
ever small and of no reputation it be, bringeth forth good fruit; 
for God verily considereth what a man is able to do, more than the 
greatness of what he doth. 

2. He doth much who loveth much. He doth much who doth 
well. He doth well who ministereth to the public good rather than 
to his own. Oftentimes that seemeth to be charity which is rather 
carnality, because it springeth from natural inclination, self-will, 
hope of repayment, desire of gain. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 219 

3. He who hath true and perfect charity, in no wise seeketh his 
own good, but desireth that God alone be ahogether glorified. He 
envieth none, because he longeth for no selfish joy; nor doth he 
desire to rejoice in himself, but longeth to be blessed in God as the 
highest good. He ascribeth good to none save to God only, the 
Fountain whence all good proceedeth, and the End, the Peace, the 
joy of all Saints. Oh, he who hath but a spark of true charity, hath 
verily learned that all worldly things are full of vanity. 

CHAPTER XVI 

OF BEARING WITH THE FAULTS OF OTHERS 

Those things which a man cannot amend in himself or in others, 
he ought patiently to bear, until God shall otherwise ordain. Be- 
think thee that perhaps it is better for thy trial and patience, without 
which our merits are but little worth. Nevertheless thou oughtest, 
when thou findeth such impediments, to beseech God that He would 
vouchsafe to sustain thee, that thou be able to bear them with a 
good will. 

2. If one who is once or twice admonished refuse to hearken, 
strive not with him, but commit all to God, that His will may be 
done and His honour be shown in His servants, for He knoweth 
well how to convert the evil unto good. Endeavour to be patient in 
bearing with other men's faults and infirmities whatsoever they 
be, for thou thyself also hast many things which have need to be 
borne with by others. If thou canst not make thine own self what 
thou desireth, how shalt thou be able to fashion another to thine 
own liking. We are ready to see others made perfect, and yet we 
do not amend our own shortcomings. 

3. We will that others be straitly corrected, but we will not be 
corrected ourselves. The freedom of others displeaseth us, but we 
are dissatisfied that our own wishes shall be denied us. We desire 
rules to be made restraining others, but by no means will we suffer 
ourselves to be restrained. Thus therefore doth it plainly appear 
how seldom we weigh our neighbour in the same balance with our- 
selves. If all men were perfect, what then should we have to suffer 
from others for God? 



220 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

4. But now hath God thus ordained, that we may learn to bear 
one another's burdens, because none is without defect, none without 
a burden, none sufficient of himself, none wise enough of himself; 
but it behoveth us to bear with one another, to comfort one another, 
to help, instruct, admonish one another. How much strength each 
man hath is best proved by occasions of adversity : for such occasions 
do not make a man frail, but show of what temper he is. 

CHAPTER XVII 

OF A RELIGIOUS LIFE 

It behoveth thee to learn to mortify thyself in many things, if 
thou wilt live in amity and concord with other men. It is no small 
thing to dwell in a religious community or congregation, and to 
live there without complaint, and therein to remain faithful even 
unto death. Blessed is he who hath lived a good life in such a body, 
and brought it to a happy end. If thou wilt stand fast and wilt profit 
as thou oughtest, hold thyself as an exile and a pilgrim upon the 
earth. Thou wilt have to be counted as a fool for Christ, if thou 
wilt lead a religious life. 

2. The clothing and outward appearance are of small account; 
it is change of character and entire mortification of the affections 
which make a truly religious man. He who seeketh aught save 
God and the health of his soul, shall find only tribulation and sor- 
row. Nor can he stand long in peace, who striveth not to be least 
of all and servant of all. 

3. Thou art called to endure and to labour, not to a life of ease 
and trifling talk. Here therefore are men tried as gold in the fur- 
nace. No man can stand, unless with all his heart he will humble 
himself for God's sake. 

CHAPTER XVIII 

OF THE EXAMPLE OF THE HOLY FATHERS 

Consider now the lively examples of the holy fathers, in whom 
shone forth real perfectness and religion, and thou shalt see how 
little, even as nothing, is all that we do. Ah! What is our life when 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 221 

compared to theirs? They, saints and friends of Christ as they were, 
served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in 
labour and weariness, in watchings and fastings, in prayer and holy 
meditations, in persecutions and much rebuke. 

2. O how many and grievous tribulations did the Apostles, Mar- 
tyrs, Ckinfessors, Virgins, endure; and all others who would walk 
in the footsteps of Christ. For they hated their souls in this world 
that they might keep them unto life eternal. O how strict and re- 
tired a life was that of the holy fathers who dwelt in the desert! 
what long and grievous temptations they did suffer! how often were 
they assaulted by the enemy! what frequent and fervid prayers did 
they offer unto God! what strict fasts did they endure! what fervent 
zeal and desire after spiritual profit did they manifest! how bravely 
did they fight that their vices might not gain the mastery! how en- 
tirely and steadfastly did they reach after God! By day they la- 
boured, and at night they gave themselves ofttimes unto prayer; yea, 
even when they were labouring they ceased not from mental prayer. 

3. They spent their whole time profitably; every hour seemed 
short for retirement with God; and through the great sweetness of 
contemplation, even the need of bodily refreshment was forgotten. 
They renounced all riches, dignities, honours, friends, kinsmen; they 
desired nothing from the world; they ate the bare necessaries of life; 
they were unwilling to minister to the body even in necessity. Thus 
were they poor in earthly things, but rich above measure in grace 
and virtue. Though poor to the outer eye, within they were filled 
with grace and heavenly benedictions. 

4. They were strangers to the world, but unto God they were as 
kinsmen and friends. They seemed unto themselves as of no reputa- 
tion, and in the world's eyes contemptible; but in the sight of God 
they were precious and beloved. They stood fast in true humility, 
they lived in simple obedience, they walked in love and patience; 
and thus they waxed strong in spirit, and obtained great favour 
before God. To all religious men they were given as an example, 
and they ought more to provoke us unto good livings than the num- 
ber of the lukewarm tempteth to carelessness of life. 

5. O how great was the love of all religious persons at the be- 
ginning of this sacred institution! O what devoutness of prayer! 



222 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

what rivalry in holiness! what strict discipline was observed! what 
reverence and obedience under the rule of the master showed they 
in all things! The traces of them that remain until now testify 
that they were truly holy and perfect men, who fighting so bravely 
trod the world underfoot. Now a man is counted great if only he 
be not a transgressor, and if he can only endure with patience what 
he hath undertaken. 

6. O the coldness and negligence of our times, that we so quickly 
decline from the former love, and it is become a weariness to live, 
because of sloth and lukewarmness. May progress in holiness not 
wholly fall asleep in thee, who many times hast seen so many exam- 
ples of devout men! 

CHAPTER XIX 

OF THE EXERCISES OF A RELIGIOUS MAN 

The life of a Christian ought to be adorned with all virtues, that 
he may be inwardly what he outwardly appeareth unto men. And 
verily it should be yet better within than without, for God is a dis- 
cerner of our heart, Whom we must reverence with all our hearts 
wheresoever we are, and walk pure in His presence as do the angels. 
We ought daily to renew our vows, and to kindle our hearts to zeal, 
as if each day were the first day of our conversion, and to say, "Help 
me, O God, in my good resolutions, and in Thy holy service, and 
grant that this day I may make a good beginning, for hitherto I 
have done nothing!" 

2. According to our resolution so is the rate of our progress, and 
much diligence is needful for him who would make good progress. 
For if he who resolveth bravely oftentimes falleth short, how shall 
it be with him who resolveth rarely or feebly? But manifold causes 
bring about abandonment of our resolution, yet a trivial omission 
of holy exercises can hardly be made without some loss to us. The 
resolution of the righteous dependeth more upon the grace of God 
than upon their own wisdom; for in Him they always put their 
trust, whatsoever they take in hand. For man proposeth, but God 
disposeth; and the way of a man is not in himself} 

' Jeremiah x. 23. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 223 

3. If a holy exercise be sometimes omitted for the sake of some 
act of piety, or of some brotherly kindness, it can easily be taken 
up afterwards; but if it be neglected through distaste or slothful- 
ness, then is it sinful, and the mischief will be felt. Strive as ear- 
nestly as we may, we shall still fall short in many things. Always 
should some distinct resolution be made by us; and, most of all, 
we must strive against those sins which most easily beset us. Both 
our outer and inner life should be straidy examined and ruled by 
us, because both have to do with our progress. 

4. If thou canst not be always examining thyself, thou canst at 
certain seasons, and at least twice in the day, at evening and at 
morning. In the morning make thy resolves, and in the evening 
inquire into thy life, how thou hast sped to-day in word, deed, and 
thought; for in these ways thou hast often perchance offended God 
and thy neighbour. Gird up thy loins like a man against the assaults 
of the devil; bridle thine appedte, and thou wilt soon be able to 
bridle every inclination of the flesh. Be thou never without some- 
thing to do; be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, 01 
doing something that is useful to the community. Bodily exercises, 
however, must be undertaken with discretion, nor are they to be 
used by all alike. 

5. The dudes which are not common to all must not be done 
openly, but are safest carried on in secret. But take heed that thou 
be not careless in the common duties, and more devout in the secret; 
but faithfully and honestly discharge the duties and commands 
which he upon thee, then afterwards, if thou hast sdll leisure, give 
thyself to thyself as thy devotion leadeth thee. All cannot have one 
exercise, but one suiteth better to this man and another to that. 
Even for the diversity of season different exercises are needed, some 
suit better for feasts, some for fasts. We need one kind in time of 
temptations and others in time of peace and quietness. Some are 
suitable to our times of sadness, and others when we are joyful in 
the Lord. 

6. When we draw near the time of the great feasts, good exer- 
cises should be renewed, and the prayers of holy men more fer- 
vently besought. We ought to make our resolutions from one Feasi 
to another, as if each were the period of our departure froir this 



224 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

world, and of entering into the eternal feast. So ought we to prepare 
ourselves earnesdy at solemn seasons, and the more solemnly to 
live, and to keep straightest watch upon each holy observance, as 
though we were soon to receive the reward of our labours at the 
hand of God. 

7. And if this be deferred, let us believe ourselves to be as yet 
ill-prepared, and unworthy as yet of the glory which shall be re- 
vealed in us at the appointed season; and let us study to prepare 
ourselves the better for our end. Blessed is that servant, as the 
Evangelist Luke hath it, whom, when the Lord cometh He shall 
find watching. Verily I say unto you He will ma]{e him ruler over 
all that He hath.* 

CHAPTER XX 

OF THE LOVE OF SOLITUDE AND SILENCE 

Seek a suitable time for thy meditation, and think frequendy of 
the mercies of God to thee. Leave curious questions. Study such 
matters as bring thee sorrow for sin rather than amusement. If thou 
withdraw thyself from trifling conversation and idle goings about, 
as well as from novelties and gossip, thou shalt find thy time suffi- 
cient and apt for good meditation. The greatest saints used to avoid 
as far as they could the company of men, and chose to live in secret 
with God. 

2. One hath said, "As oft as I have gone among men, so oft have 
I returned less a man." This is what we often experience when we 
have been long time in conversation. For it is easier to be alto- 
gether silent than it is not to exceed in word. It is easier to remain 
hidden at home than to keep sufficient guard upon thyself out of 
doors. He, therefore, that seeketh to reach that which is hidden and 
spiritual, must go with Jesus "apart from the multitude." No man 
safely goeth abroad who loveth not to rest at home. No man safely 
talketh but he who loveth to hold his peace. No man safely ruleth 
but he who loveth to be subject. No man safely commandeth but 
he who loveth to obey. 

3. No man safely rejoiceth but he who hath the testimony of a good 

'Luke xii. 43, 44 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 22$ 

conscience within himself. The boldness of the Saints was always 
full of the fear of God. Nor were they the less earnest and humble 
in themselves, because they shone forth with great virtues and grace. 
But the boldness of wicked men springeth from pride and pre- 
sumption, and at the last turneth to their own confusion. Never 
promise thyself security in this life, howsoever good a monk or 
devout a solitary thou seemest. 

4. Often those who stand highest in the esteem of men, fall the 
more grievously because of their over great confidence. Where- 
fore it is very profitable unto many that they should not be without 
inward temptation, but should be frequendy assaulted, lest they be 
over confident, lest they be indeed lifted up into pride, or else lean 
too freely upon the consolations of the world. O how good a con- 
science should that man keep, who never sought a joy that passeth 
away, who never became entangled with the world! O how great 
peace and quiet should he possess, who would cast off all vain care, 
and think only of healthful and divine things, and build his whole 
hope upon God! 

5. No man is worthy of heavenly consolation but he who hath 
diligently exercised himself in holy compunction. If thou wilt feel 
compunction within thy heart, enter into thy chamber and shut out 
the tumults of the world, as it is written. Commune with your own 
heart in your own chamber and be still} In retirement thou shah 
find what often thou wilt lose abroad. Retirement, if thou continue 
therein, groweth sweet, but if thou keep not in it, begetteth weari- 
ness. If in the beginning of thy conversation thou dwell in it and 
keep it well, it shall afterwards be to thee a dear friend, and a most 
pleasant solace. 

6. In silence and quiet the devout soul goeth forward and learn- 
eth the hidden things of the Scriptures. Therein findeth she a 
fountain of tears, wherein to wash and cleanse herself each night, 
that she may grow the more dear to her Maker as she dwelleth the 
further from all worldly distraction. To him who withdraweth him- 
self from his acquaintance and friends God with His holy angels 
will draw nigh. It is better to be unknown and take heed to oneself 

' Psalm iv, 4. 



226 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

than to neglect oneself and work wonders. It is praiseworthy for a 
religious man to go seldom abroad, to fly from being seen, to have 
no desire to see men. 

7. Why wouldest thou see what thou mayest not have? The 
world passeth away and the lust thereof. The desires of sensuality 
draw thee abroad, but when an hour is past, what dost thou bring 
home, but a weight upon thy conscience and distraction of heart? 
A merry going forth bringeth often a sorrowful return, and a merry 
evening maketh a sad morning? So doth all carnal joy begin pleas- 
antly, but in the end it gnaweth away and destroyeth. What canst 
thou see abroad which thou seest not at home? Behold the heaven 
and the earth and the elements, for out of these are all things made. 

8. What canst thou see anywhere which can continue long under 
the sun? Thou believest jjerchance that thou shalt be satisfied, but 
thou wilt never be able to attain unto this. If thou shouldest see all 
things before thee at once, what would it be but a vain vision ? Lift 
up thine eyes to God on high, and pray that thy sins and negli- 
gences may be forgiven. Leave vain things to vain men, and mind 
thou the things which God hath commanded thee. Shut thy door 
upon thee, and call unto thyself Jesus thy beloved. Remain with 
Him in thy chamber, for thou shalt not elsewhere find so great 
peace. If thou hadst not gone forth nor listened to vain talk, thou 
hadst better kept thyself in good peace. But because it sometimes 
delighteth thee to hear new things, thou must therefore suffer trouble 
of heart. 

CHAPTER XXI 

OF COMPUNCTION OF HEART 

If thou wilt make any progress keep thyself in the fear of God, 
and long not to be too free, but restrain all thy senses under disci- 
pline and give not thyself up to senseless mirth. Give thyself to 
compunction of heart and thou shalt find devotion. Compunction 
openeth the way for many good things, which dissoluteness is wont 
quickly to lose. It is wonderful that any man can ever rejoice heart- 
ily in this life who considereth and weigheth his banishment, and 
the manifold dangers which beset his soul. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 227 

2. Through lightness of heart and neglect of our shortcomings 
we feel not the sorrows of our soul, but often vainly laugh when we 
have good cause to weep. There is no true liberty nor real joy, save 
in the fear of God with a good conscience. Happy is he who can 
cast away every cause of distraction and bring himself to the one 
purpose of holy compunction. Happy is he who putteth away from 
him whatsoever may stain or burden his conscience. Strive man- 
fully; custom is overcome by custom. If thou knowest how to let 
men alone, they will gladly let thee alone to do thine own works. 

3. Busy not thyself with the affairs of others, nor entangle thyself 
with the business of great men. Keep always thine eye upon thy- 
self first of all, and give advice to thyself specially before all thy 
dearest friends. If thou hast not the favour of men, be not thereby 
cast down, but let thy concern be that thou boldest not thyself so 
well and circumspecdy, as becometh a servant of God and a devout 
monk. It is often better and safer for a man not to have many com- 
forts in this life, especially those which concern the flesh. But that 
we lack divine comforts or feel them rarely is to our own blame, 
because we seek not compunction of heart, nor utterly cast away 
those comforts which are vain and worldly. 

4. Know thyself to be unworthy of divine consolation, and worthy 
rather of much tribulation. When a man hath perfect compunction, 
then all the world is burdensome and bitter to him. A good man 
will find sufficient cause for mourning and weeping; for whether he 
considereth himself, or pondereth concerning his neighbour, he 
knoweth that no man liveth here without tribulation, and the more 
thoroughly he considereth himself, the more thoroughly he griev- 
eth. Grounds for just grief and inward compunction there are in 
our sins and vices, wherein we lie so entangled that we are but 
seldom able to contemplate heavenly things. 

5. If thou thoughtest upon thy death more often than how long 
thy life should be, thou wouldest doubtless strive more earnestly to 
improve. And if thou didst seriously consider the future pains of 
hell, I believe thou wouldest willingly endure toil or pain and fear 
not discipline. But because these things reach not the heart, and we 
still love pleasant things, therefore we remain cold and miserably 
indifferent. 



228 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

6. Oftentimes it is from poverty of spirit that the wretchea body 
is so easily led to complain. Pray therefore humbly unto the Lord 
that He will give thee the spirit of compunction and say in the 
language of the prophet, Feed me, O Lord, with bread of tears, and 
give me plenteousness of tears to drin\} 

CHAPTER XXII 

ON THE CONTEMPLATION OF HUMAN MISERY 

Thou art miserable wheresoever thou art, and whithersoever thou 
turnest, unless thou turn thee to God. Why art thou disquieted 
because it happeneth not to thee according to thy wishes and de- 
sires? Who is he that hath everything according to his will? Neither 
I, nor thou, nor any man upon the earth. There is no man in the 
world free from trouble or anguish, though he were King or Pope. 
Who is he who hath the happiest lot? Even he who is suong to 
suffer somewhat for God. 

2. There are many foolish and unstable men who say, "See what 
a prosperous life that man hath, how rich and how great he is, how 
powerful, how exalted." But lift up thine eyes to the good things of 
heaven, and thou shalt see that all these worldly things are nothing, 
they are utterly uncertain, yea, they are wearisome, because they 
are never possessed without care and fear. The happiness of man lieth 
not in the abundance of temporal things but a moderate portion 
sufficeth him. Our life upon earth is verily wretchedness. The more 
a man desireth to be spiritual, the more bitter doth the present life 
become to him; because he the better understandeth and seeth the 
defects of human corruption. For to eat, to drink, to watch, to 
sleep, to rest, to labour, and to be subject to the other necessities 
of nature, is truly a great wretchedness and affliction to a devout 
man, who would fain be released and free from all sin. 

3. For the inner man is heavily burdened with the necessities of 
the body in this world. Wherefore the prophet devoutly prayeth to 
be freed from them, saying. Deliver me from my necessities, O 
Lord? But woe to those who know not their own misery, and yet 
greater woe to those who love this miserable and corruptible life. 

'Psalm Ixxv. 5. 'Psalm xxv. 17. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 229 

For to such a degree do some cling to it (even though by labouring 
or begging they scarce procure what is necessary for subsistence) that 
if they might live here always, they would care nothing for the 
Kingdom of God. 

4. Oh foolish and faithless of heart, who lie buried so deep in 
worldly things, that they relish nothing save the things of the flesh! 
Miserable ones! they will too sadly find out at the last, how vile and 
worthless was that which they loved. The saints of God and all 
loyal friends of Christ held as nothing the things which pleased the 
flesh, or those which flourished in this life, but their whole hope 
and affection aspired to the things which are above. Their whole 
desire was borne upwards to everlasting and invisible things, lest 
they should be drawn downwards by the love of things visible. 

5. Lose not, brother, thy loyal desire of progress to things spiritual. 
There is yet time, the hour is not past. Why wilt thou put off thy 
resolution? Arise, begin this very moment, and say, "Now is the 
time to do: now is the time to fight, now is the proper time for 
amendment." When thou art ill at ease and troubled, then is the 
time when thou art nearest unto blessing. Thou must go through 
fire and water that God may bring thee into a wealthy place. Unless 
thou put force upon thyself, thou wilt not conquer thy faults. So 
long as we carry about with us this frail body, we cannot be with- 
out sin, we cannot live without weariness and trouble. Gladly would 
we have rest from all misery; but because through sin we have lost 
innocence, we have lost also the true happiness. Therefore must we 
be patient, and wait for the mercy of God, until this tyranny be over- 
past, and this mortality be swallowed up of life. 

6. O how great is the frailty of man, which is ever prone to evil! 
To-day thou confessest thy sins, and to-morrow thou committest 
again the sins thou didst confess. Now dost thou resolve to avoid a 
fault, and within an hour thou behavest thyself as if thou hadst 
never resolved at all. Good cause have we therefore to humble our- 
selves, and never to think highly of ourselves, seeing that we are 
so frail and unstable. And quickly may that be lost by our negli- 
gence, which by much labour was hardly attained through grace. 

7. What shall become of us at the end, if at the beginning we 
are lukewarm and idle? Woe unto us, if we choose to rest, as though 



230 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

it were a time of peace and security, while as yet no sign appeareth 
in our life of true holiness. Rather had we need that we might 
begin yet afresh, like good novices, to be instructed unto good liv- 
ing, if haply there might be hope of some future amendment and 
greater spiritual increase. 

CHAPTER XXIII 

OF MEDITATION UPON DEATH 

Very quickly will there be an end of thee here; take heed there- 
fore how it will be with thee in another world. To-day man is, and 
to-morrow he will be seen no more. And being removed out of 
sight, quickly also he is out of mind. O the dulness and hardness 
of man's heart, which thinketh only of the present, and looketh not 
forward to the future. Thou oughtest in every deed and thought 
so to order thyself, as if thou wert to die this day. If thou hadst a 
good conscience thou wouldst not greatly fear death. It were better 
for thee to watch against sin, than to fly from death. If to-day thou 
art not ready, how shalt thou be ready to-morrow? To-morrow is 
an uncertain day; and how knowest thou that thou shalt have a 
to-morrow ? 

2. What doth it profit to live long, when we amend so \Me? 
Ah! long life doth not always amend, but often the more increaseth 
guilt. Oh that we might spend a single day in this world as it ought 
to be sf)ent! Many there are who reckon the years since they were 
converted, and yet oftentimes how little is the fruit thereof. If it is 
a fearful thing to die, it may be perchance a yet more fearful thing 
to Hve long. Happy is the man who hath the hour of his death 
always before his eyes, and daily prepareth himself to die. If thou 
hast ever seen one die, consider that thou also shalt pass away by 
the same road. 

3. When it is morning reflect that it may be thou shalt not see the 
evening, and at eventide dare not to boast thyself of the morrow. 
Always be thou prepared, and so live that death may never find thee 
unprepared. Many die suddenly and unexpectedly. For at such an 
hour as ye thinf^ not, the Son of Man cometh} When that last hour 

' Matthew xxiv. 44. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 23 1 

shall come, thou wilt begin to think very differently of thy whole 
life past, and wilt mourn bitterly that thou hast been so negligent 
and slothful. 

4. Happy and wise is he who now striveth to be such in life as he 
would fain be found in death! For a perfect contempt of the world, 
a fervent desire to excel in virtue, the love of discipline, the painful- 
ness of repentance, readiness to obey, denial of self, submission to 
any adversity for love of Christ; these are the things which shall give 
great confidence of a happy death. Whilst thou art in health thou 
hast many opportunities of good works; but when thou art in sick- 
ness I know not how much thou wilt be able to do. Few are made 
better by infirmity: even as they who wander much abroad seldom 
become holy. 

5. Trust not thy friends and kinsfolk, nor put off the work of 
thy salvation to the future, for men will forget thee sooner than 
thou thinkest. It is better for thee now to provide in time, and to 
send some good before thee, than to trust to the help of others. If 
thou art not anxious for thyself now, who, thinkest thou, will be 
anxious for thee afterwards? Now the time is most precious. Now 
is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. But, alas! that 
thou spendest not well this time, wherein thou mightest lay up 
treasure which should profit thee everlastingly. The hour will come 
when thou shalt desire one day, yea, one hour, for amendment of 
life, and I know not whether thou shalt obtain. 

6. Oh, dearly beloved, from what danger thou mightest free thy- 
self, from what great fear, if only thou wouldst always live in fear, 
and in expectation of death! Strive now to live in such wise that 
in the hour of death thou mayest rather rejoice than fear. Learn now 
to die to the world, so shalt thou begin to live with Christ. Learn 
now to contemn all earthly things, and then mayest thou freely go 
unto Christ. Keep under thy body by penitence, and then shalt 
thou be able to have a sure confidence. 

7. Ah, foolish one! why thinkest thou that thou shalt live long, 
when thou art not sure of a single day? How many have been de- 
ceived, and suddenly have been snatched away from the body! How 
many times hast thou heard how one was slain by the sword, an- 
other was drowned, another falling from on high broke his neck, 



232 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

another died at the table, another whilst at play! One died by fire, 
another by the sword, another by the pestilence, another by the rob- 
ber. Thus Cometh death to all, and the life of men swiftly passeth 
away like a shadow. 

8. Who will remember thee after thy death? And who will en- 
treat for thee? Work, work now, oh dearly beloved, work all that 
thou canst. For thou knowest not when thou shalt die, nor what 
shall happen unto thee after death. While thou hast time, lay up 
for thyself undying riches. Think of nought but of thy salvation; 
care only for the things of God. Ma^e to thyself friends, by ven- 
erating the saints of God and walking in their steps, that when thou 
failest, thou mayest be received into everlasting habitations^ 

9. Keep thyself as a stranger and a pilgrim upon the earth, to 
whom the things of the world appertain not. Keep thine heart free, 
and lifted up towards God, for here have we no continuing city? 
To Him direct thy daily prayers with crying and tears, that thy 
spirit may be found worthy to pass happily after death unto its Lord. 
Amen. 

CHAPTER XXIV 

OF THE JUDGMENT AND PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED 

In all that thou doest, remember the end, and how thou wilt 
stand before a strict judge, from whom nothing is hid, who is not 
bribed with gifts, nor accepteth excuses, but will judge righteous 
judgment. O most miserable and foolish sinner, who art sometimes 
in fear of the countenance of an angry man, what wilt thou answer 
to God, who knoweth all thy misdeeds? Why dost thou not provide 
for thyself against the day of judgment, when no man shall be able 
to be excused or defended by means of another, but each one shall 
bear his burden himself alone? Now doth thy labour bring forth 
fruit, now is thy weeping acceptable, thy groaning heard, thy sor- 
row well pleasing to God, and cleansing to thy soul. 

2. Even here on earth the patient man findeth great occasion of 
purifying his soul. When suffering injuries he grieveth more for 
the other's malice than for his own wrong; when he prayeth heart- 
'Luke xvi. 9. 'Hebrews ziiL 14. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 233 

ily for those that despitefully use him, and forgiveth them from his 
heart; when he is not slow to ask pardon from others; when he is 
swifter to pity than to anger; when he frequently denieth himself 
and striveth altogether to subdue the flesh to the spirit. Better is it 
now to purify the soul from sin, than to cling to sins from which we 
must be purged hereafter. Truly we deceive ourselves by the inordi- 
nate love which we bear towards the flesh. 

3. What is it which that fire shall devour, save thy sins? The 
more thou sparest thyself and foUowest the flesh, the more heavy 
shall thy punishment be, and the more fuel art thou heaping up for 
the burning. For wherein a man hath sinned, therein shall he be 
the more heavily punished. There shall the slothful be pricked 
forward with burning goads, and the gluttons be tormented with 
intolerable hunger and thirst. There shall the luxurious and the 
lovers of pleasure be plunged into burning pitch and stinking brim- 
stone, and the envious shall howl like mad dogs for very grief. 

4. No sin will there be which shall not be visited with its own 
proper punishment. The proud shall be filled with utter confusion, 
and the covetous shall be pinched with miserable poverty. An hour's 
pain there shall be more grievous than a hundred years here of the 
bitterest penitence. No quiet shall be there, no comfort for the lost, 
though here sometimes there is respite from pain, and enjoyment of 
the solace of friends. Be thou anxious now and sorrowful for thy 
sins, that in the day of judgment thou mayest have boldness with 
the blessed. For then shall the righteous man stand in great boldness 
before the face of such as have afflicted him and made no account 
of his labours} Then shall he stand up to judge, he who now sub- 
mitteth himself in humility to the judgments of men. Then shall the 
poor and humble man have great confidence, while the proud is 
taken with fear on every side. 

5. Then shall it be seen that he was the wise man in this world 
who learned to be a fool and despised for Christ. Then shall all 
tribulation patiently borne delight us, while the mouth of the un- 
godly shall be stopped. Then shall every godly man rejoice, and 
every profane man shall mourn. Then the afflicted flesh shall more 
rejoice than if it had been alway nourished in delights. Then the 

« WUd. V. I. 



234 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

humble garment shall put on beauty, and the precious robe shall 
hide itself as vile. Then the little poor cottage shall be more com- 
mended than the gilded palace. Then enduring patience shall have 
more might than all the power of the world. Then simple obedi- 
ence shall be more highly exalted than all worldly wisdom. 

6. Then a pure and good conscience shall more rejoice than 
learned philosophy. Then contempt of riches shall have more weight 
than all the treasure of the children of this world. Then shalt thou 
find more comfort in having prayed devoutly than in having fared 
sumptuously. Then thou wilt rather rejoice in having kept silence 
than in having made long speech. Then holy deeds shall be far 
stronger than many fine words. Then a strict life and sincere peni- 
tence shall bring deeper pleasure than all earthly delight. Learn now 
to suffer a little, that then thou mayest be enabled to escape heavier 
sufferings. Prove first here, what thou art able to endure hereafter. 
If now thou art able to bear so little, how wilt thou be able to endure 
eternal torments? If now a little suffering maketh thee so im- 
patient, what shall hell-fire do then? Behold of a surety thou art 
not able to have two Paradises, to take thy fill or delight here in this 
world, and to reign with Christ hereafter. 

7. If even unto this day thou hadst ever lived in honours and 
pleasures, what would the whole profit thee if now death came to 
thee in an instant? All therefore is vanity, save to love God and 
to serve Him only. For he who loveth God with all his heart feareth 
not death, nor punishment, nor judgment, nor hell, because perfect 
love giveth sure access to God. But he who still delighteth in sin, 
no marvel if he is afraid of death and judgment. Nevertheless it is 
a good thing, if love as yet cannot restrain thee from evil, that at 
least the fear of hell should hold thee back. But he who putteth aside 
the fear of God cannot long continue in good, but shall quickly fall 
into the snares of the devil. 

CHAPTER XXV 

OF THE ZEALOUS AMENDMENT OF OUR WHOLE LIFE 

Be thou watchful and diligent in God's service, and bethink thee 
often why thou hast renounced the world. Was it not that thou 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 235 

mightest live to God and become a spiritual man? Be zealous, there- 
fore, for thy spiritual profit, for thou shalt receive shortly the reward 
of thy labours, and neither fear nor sorrow shall come any more 
into thy borders. Now shalt thou labour a little, and thou shalt find 
great rest, yea everlasting joy. If thou shalt remain faithful and 
zealous in labour, doubt not that God shall be faithful and bounti- 
ful in rewarding thee. It is thy duty to have a good hope that thou 
wilt attain the victory, but thou must not fall into security lest thou 
become slothful or lifted up. 

2. A certain man being in anxiety of mind, continually tossed 
about between hope and fear, and being on a certain day over- 
whelmed with grief, cast himself down in prayer before the altar in 
a church, and meditated within himself, saying, "Oh! if I but knew 
that I should still persevere," and presently heard within him a 
voice from God, "And if thou didst know it, what wouldst thou do? 
Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou shalt be very secure." 
And straightway being comforted and strengthened, he committed 
himself to the will of God and the perturbation of spirit ceased, 
neither had he a mind any more to search curiously to know what 
should befall him hereafter, but studied rather to inquire what was 
the good and acceptable will of God, for the beginning and per- 
fecting of every good work. 

3. Hope in the Lord and be doing good, saith the Prophet; dwell 
in the land and thou shalt be jed^ with its riches. One thing there 
is which holdcth back many from progress and fervent amendment, 
even the dread of difficulty, or the labour of the conflict. Neverthe- 
less they advance above all others in virtue who strive manfully to 
conquer those things which are most grievous and contrary to them, 
for there a man profiteth most and meriteth greater grace where he 
most overcometh himself and mortifieth himself in spirit. 

4. But all men have not the same passions to conquer and to mor- 
tify, yet he who is diligent shall attain more profit, although he 
have stronger passions, than another who is more temperate of dis- 
position, but is withal less fervent in the pursuit of virtue. Two 
things specially avail unto improvement in holiness, namely firmness 
to withdraw ourselves from the sin to which by nature we are most 

' Pulm xzxviL 3. 



236 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

inclined, and earnest zeal for that good in which we are most lack- 
ing. And strive also very earnestly to guard against and subdue 
those faults which displease thee most frequently in others. 

5. Gather some profit to thy soul wherever thou art, and wher- 
ever thou seest or hearest good examples, stir thyself to follow them, 
but where thou seest anything which is blameworthy, take heed that 
thou do not the same; or if at any time thou hast done it, strive 
quickly to amend thyself. As thine eye observeth others, so again 
are the eyes of others upon thee. How sweet and pleasant is it to see 
zealous and godly brethren temperate and of good discipline; and 
how sad is it and grievous to see them walking disorderly, not 
practising the duties to which they are called. How hurtful a thing 
it is to neglect the purpose of their calling, and turn their inclina- 
tions to things which are none of their business. 

6. Be mindful of the duties which thou hast undertaken, and set 
always before thee the remembrance of the Crucified. Truly ought- 
est thou to be ashamed as thou lookest upon the life of Jesus Christ, 
because thou hast not yet endeavoured to conform thyself more 
unto Him, though thou hast been a long time in the way of God. A 
religious man who exercises himself seriously and devoutly in the 
most holy life and passion of our Lord shall find there abundandy 
all things that are profitable and necessary for him, neither is there 
need that he shall seek anything better beyond Jesus. Oh! if Jesus 
crucified would come into our hearts, how quickly, and completely 
should we have learned all that we need to know! 

7. He who is earnest receiveth and beareth well all things that are 
laid upon him. He who is careless and lukewarm hath trouble 
upon trouble, and suffereth anguish upon every side, because he is 
without inward consolation, and is forbidden to seek that which is 
outward. He who is living without discipline is exposed to griev- 
ous ruin. He who seeketh easier and lighter discipline shall always 
be in distress, because one thing or another will give him displeasure. 

8. O! if no other duty lay upon us but to praise the Lord our 
God with our whole heart and voice! Oh! if thou never hadst need 
to eat or drink, or sleep, but wert always able to praise God, and 
to give thyself to spiritual exercises alone; then shouldst thou be far 
happier than now, when for so many necessities thou must serve the 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 237 

flesh. O! that these necessities were not, but only the spiritual 
refreshments of the soul, which alas we taste too seldom. 

9. When a man hath come to this, that he seeketh comfort from 
no created thing, then doth he perfectly begin to enjoy God, then also 
will he be well contented with whatsoever shall happen unto him. 
Then will he neither rejoice for much nor be sorrowful for little, 
but he committeth himself altogether and with full trust unto God, 
who is all in all to him, to whom nothing perisheth nor dieth, but 
all things live to Him and obey His every word without delay. 

10. Remember always thine end, and how the time which is lost 
returneth not. Without care and diligence thou shalt never get 
virtue. If thou beginnest to grow cold, it shall begin to go ill with 
thee, but if thou givest thyself unto zeal thou shalt find much peace, 
and shalt find thy labour the lighter because of the grace of God 
and the love of virtue. A zealous and diligent man is ready for all 
things. It is greater labour to resist sins and passions than to toil in 
bodily labours. He who shunneth not small faults falleth little by 
litde into greater. At eventide thou shalt always be glad if thou 
spend the day profitably. Watch over thyself, stir thyself up, admon- 
ish thyself, and howsoever it be with others, neglect not thyself. The 
more violence thou dost unto thyself, the more thou shall profit. 
Amen. 



THE SECOND BOOK 

ADMONJTIONS COT^CERMNG THE 

INNER LIFE 

CHAPTER I 

OF THE INWARD LIFE 

rHE kingdom of God is within you^ saith the Lord. Turn 
thee with all thine heart to the Lord and forsake this mis- 
erable world, and thou shalt find rest unto thy soul. Learn 
to despise outward things and to give thyself to things inward, and 
thou shalt see the kingdom of God come within thee. For the king- 
dom of God is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, and it is not given 
to the wicked. Christ will come to thee, and show thee His consola- 
tion, if thou prepare a worthy mansion for Him within thee. All 
His glory and beauty is from within, and there it pleaseth Him to 
dwell. He often visiteth the inward man and holdeth with him 
sweet discourse, giving him soothing consolation, much peace, 
friendship exceeding wonderful. 

2. Go to, faithful soul, prepare thy heart for this bridegroom that 
he may vouchsafe to come to thee and dwell within thee, for so He 
saith, /'/ any man loveth me he will f{eep my words: and my Father 
will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with 
him} Give, therefore, place to Christ and refuse entrance to all 
others. When thou hast Christ, thou art rich, and hast sufficient. 
He shall be thy provider and faithful watchman in all things, so 
that thou hast no need to trust in men, for men soon change and 
swiftly pass away, but Christ remaineth for ever and standeth by us 
firmly even to the end. 

3. There is no great trust to be placed in a frail and mortal man, 
even though he be useful and dear to us, neither should much sor- 

'Luke xvii. 31. 'John xiv. 23. 
238 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 239 

row arise within us if sometimes he oppose and contradict us. They 
who are on thy side to-day, may to-morrow be against thee, and 
often are they turned round like the wind. Put thy whole trust in 
God and let Him be thy fear and thy love, He will answer for thee 
Himself, and will do for thee what is best. Here hast thou no con- 
tinuing city,' and wheresoever thou art, thou art a stranger and a 
pilgrim, and thou shalt never have rest unless thou art closely united 
to Christ within thee. 

4. Why dost thou cast thine eyes hither and thither, since this is 
not the place of thy rest? In heaven ought thy habitation to be, 
and all earthly things should be looked upon as it were in the 
passing by. All things pass away and thou equally with them. Look 
that thou cleave not to them lest thou be taken with them and 
perish. Let thy contemplation be on the Most High, and let thy 
supplication be directed unto Christ without ceasing. If thou canst 
not behold high and heavenly things, rest thou in the passion of 
Christ and dwell willingly in His sacred wounds. For if thou de- 
voutly fly to the wounds of Jesus, and the precious marks of the 
nails and the spear, thou shalt find great comfort in tribulation, nor 
will the slights of men trouble thee much, and thou wilt easily bear 
their unkind words. 

5. Christ also, when He was in the world, was despised and re- 
jected of men, and in His greatest necessity was left by His acquaint- 
ance and friends to bear these reproaches. Christ was willing to 
suffer and be despised, and darest thou complain of any? Christ 
had adversaries and gainsayers, and dost thou wish to have all men 
thy friends and benefactors? Whence shall thy patience attain her 
crown if no adversity befall thee? If thou art unwilling to suffer 
any adversity, how shalt thou be the friend of Christ? Sustain thy- 
self with Christ and for Christ if thou wilt reign with Christ. 

6. If thou hadst once entered into the mind of Jesus, and hadst 
tasted yea even a litde of his tender love, then wouldst thou care 
nought for thine own convenience or inconvenience, but wouldst 
rather rejoice at trouble brought upon thee, because the love of 
Jesus maketh a man to despise himself. He who loveth Jesus, and 
is inwardly true and free from inordinate affections, is able to turn 

'Hebrews xiii. 14. 



240 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

himself readily unto God, and to rise above himself in spirit, and to 
enjoy fruitful peace. 

7. He who knoweth things as they are and not as they are said or 
seem to be, he truly is wise, and is taught of God more than of men. 
He who knoweth how to walk from within, and to set little value 
upon outward things, requireth not places nor waiteth for seasons, 
for holding his intercourse with God. The inward man quickly 
recollecteth himself, because he is never entirely given up to outward 
things. No outward labour and no necessary occupations stand in 
his way, but as events fall out, so doth he fit himself to them. He 
who is rightly disposed and ordered within careth not for the 
strange and fjerverse conduct of men. A man is hindered and 
distracted in so far as he is moved by outward things. 

8. If it were well with thee, and thou wert purified from evil, all 
things would work together for thy good and profiting. For this 
cause do many things displease thee and often trouble thee, that 
thou art not yet perfectly dead to thyself nor separated from all 
earthly things. Nothing so defileth and entangleth the heart of man 
as impure love towards created things. If thou rejectest outward 
comfort thou wilt be able to contemplate heavenly things and fre- 
quently to be joyful inwardly. 

CHAPTER II 

OF LOWLY SUBMISSION 

Make no great account who is for thee or against thee, but mind 
only the present duty and take care that God be with thee in what- 
soever thou doest. Have a good conscience and God will defend 
thee, for he whom God will help no man's perverseness shall be 
able to hurt. If thou knowest how to hold thy peace and to suffer, 
without doubt thou shalt see the help of the Lord. He knoweth the 
time and the way to deliver thee, therefore must thou resign thyself 
to Him. To God it belongeth to help and to deliver from all con- 
fusion. Oftentimes it is very profitable for keeping us in greater 
humility, that others know and rebuke our faults. 

2. When a man humbleth himself for his defects, he then easily 
pacifieth others and quickly satisfieth those that are angered against 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 24I 

him. God protecteth and delivereth the humble man, He loveth and 
comforteth the humble man, to the humble man He inclineth Him- 
self, on the humble He bestoweth great grace, and when he is cast 
down He raiseth him to glory: to the humble He revealeth His 
secrets, and sweedy draweth and inviteth him to Himself. The 
humble man having received reproach, is yet in sufficient peace, 
because he resteth on God and not on the world. Reckon not thyself 
to have profited in anywise unless thou feel thyself to be inferior 
to all. 

CHAPTER III 

OF THE GOOD, PEACEABLE MAN 

First keep thyself in peace, and then shalt thou be able to be a 
peacemaker towards others. A peaceable man doth more good than 
a well-learned. A passionate man turneth even good into evil and 
easily believeth evil; a good, peaceable man converteth all things 
into good. He who dwelleth in peace is suspicious of none, but he 
who is discontented and resdess is tossed with many suspicions, and 
is neither quiet himself nor suflereth others to be quiet. He often 
saith what he ought not to say, and omitteth what it were more 
expedient for him to do. He considereth to what duties others are 
bound, and neglecteth those to which he is bound himself. There- 
fore be zealous first over thyself, and then mayest thou righteously be 
zealous concerning thy neighbour. 

2. Thou knowest well how to excuse and to colour thine own 
deeds, but thou wilt not accept the excuses of others. It would be 
more just to accuse thyself and excuse thy brother. If thou wilt that 
others bear with thee, bear thou with others. Behold how far thou 
art as yet from the true charity and humility which knows not how 
to be angry or indignant against any save self alone. It is no great 
thing to mingle with the good and the meek, for this is naturally 
pleasing to all, and every one of us willingly enjoyeth peace and 
liketh best those who think with us: but to be able to live peaceably 
with the hard and perverse, or with the disorderly, or those who 
oppose us, this is a great grace and a thing much to be commended 
and most worthy of a man. 



242 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

3. There are who keep themselves in peace and keep peace also 
with others, and there are who neither have peace nor suffer others 
to have peace; they are troublesome to others, but always more trou- 
blesome to themselves. And there are who hold themselves in p)eace, 
and study to bring others unto peace; nevertheless, all our peace in 
this sad life lieth in humble suffering rather than in not feeling ad- 
versities. He who best knoweth how to suffer shall possess the most 
peace; that man is conqueror of himself and lord of the world, the 
friend of Christ, and the inheritor of heaven. 

CHAPTER IV 

OF A PURE MIND AND SIMPLE INTENTION 

By two wings is man lifted above earthly things, even by sim- 
plicity and purity. Simplicity ought to be in the intention, purity in 
the affection. Simplicity reacheth towards God, purity apprehendeth 
Him and tasteth Him. No good action will be distasteful to thee 
if thou be free within from inordinate affection. If thou reachest 
after and seekest, nothing but the will of God and the benefit of 
thy neighbour, thou wilt entirely enjoy inward liberty. If thine 
heart were right, then should every creature be a mirror of life and 
a book of holy doctrine. There is no creature so small and vile but 
that it showeth us the goodness of God. 

2. If thou wert good and pure within, then wouldst thou look 
upon all things without hurt and understand them aright. A pure 
heart seeth the very depths of heaven and hell. Such as each one is 
inwardly, so judgeth he outwardly. If there is any joy in the world 
surely the man of pure heart possesseth it, and if there is anywhere 
tribulation and anguish, the evil conscience knoweth it best. As iron 
cast into the fire loseth rust and is made altogether glowing, so 
the man who turneth himself altogether unto God is freed from 
slothfulness and changed into a new man. 

3. When a man beginneth to grow lukewarm, then he feareth a 
little labour, and willingly accepteth outward consolation; but when 
he beginneth perfectly to conquer himself and to walk manfully 
in the way of God, then he counteth as nothing those things which 
aforetime seemed to be so grievous unto him. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 243 

CHAPTER V 
OF SELF-ESTEEM 

We cannot place too little confidence in ourselves, because grace 
and understanding are often lacking to us. Little light is there 
within us, and what we have we quickly lose by negligence. Often- 
times we perceive not how great is our inward blindness. We often 
do ill and excuse it worse. Sometimes we are moved by passion and 
count it zeal; we blame little faults in others and pass over great 
faults in ourselves. Quickly enough we feel and reckon up what we 
bear at the hands of others, but we reflect not how much others are 
bearing from us. He who would weigh well and rightly his own 
doings would not be the man to judge severely of another. 

2. The spiritually-minded man putteth care of himself before all 
cares; and he who diligently attendeth to himself easily keepeth 
silence concerning others. Thou wilt never be spiritually minded 
and godly unless thou art silent concerning other men's matters and 
take full heed to thyself. If thou think wholly upon thyself and 
upon God, what thou seest out of doors shall move thee little. 
Where art thou when thou art not present to thyself? and when 
thou hast overrun all things, what hath it profited thee, thyself 
being neglected? If thou wouldst have peace and true unity, thou 
must put aside all other things, and gaze only upon thyself. 

3. Then thou shalt make great progress if thou keep thyself free 
from all temporal care. Thou shalt lamentably fall away if thou 
set a value upon any worldly thing. Let nothing be great, nothing 
high, nothing pleasing, nothing acceptable unto thee, save God Him- 
self or the things of God. Reckon as altogether vain whatsoever con- 
solation comes to thee from a creature. The soul that loveth God 
looketh not to anything that is beneath God. God alone is eternal 
and incomprehensible, filling all things, the solace of the soul, and 
the true joy of the heart. 



244 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

CHAPTER VI 

OF THE JOY OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE 

The testimony of a good conscience is the glory of a good man. 
Have a good conscience and thou shalt ever have joy. A good con- 
science is able to bear exceeding much, and is exceeding joyful in 
the midst of adversities; an evil conscience is ever fearful and un- 
quiet. Thou shalt rest sweedy if thy heart condemn thee not. Never 
rejoice unless when thou hast done well. The wicked have never 
true joy, nor feel internal peace, for there is no peace, saith my God, 
to the wicked} And if they say "we are in peace, there shall no 
harm happen unto us, and who shall dare to do us hurt?" believe 
them not, for suddenly shall the wrath of God rise up against them, 
and their deeds shall be brought to nought, and their thoughts shall 
perish. 

2. To glory in tribulation is not grievous to him who loveth; for 
such glorying is glorying in the Cross of Christ. Brief is the glory 
which is given and received of men. Sadness always goeth hand in 
hand with the glory of the world. The glory of the good is in their 
conscience, and not in the report of men. The joy of the upright 
is from God and in God, and their joy is in the truth. He who de- 
sireth true and eternal glory careth not for that which is temporal; 
and he who seeketh temporal glory, or who despiseth it from his 
heart, is proved to bear little love for that which is heavenly. He 
who careth for neither praises nor reproaches hath great tranquillity 
of heart. 

3. He will easily be contented and filled with peace, whose con- 
science is pure. Thou art none the holier if thou art praised, nor the 
viler if thou art reproached. Thou art what thou art; and thou canst 
not be better than God pronounceth thee to be. If thou considerest 
well what thou art inwardly, thou wilt not care what men will say 
to thee. Man lool^eth on the outward appearance , but the Lord 
loo^eth on the heart} man looketh on the deed, but God considereth 
the intent. It is the token of a humble spirit always to do well, and 

'Isaiah IviL 21. ' i Samuel xvi. 7. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 245 

to set little by oneself. Not to look for consolation from any created 
thing is a sign of great purity and inward faithfulness. 

4. He that seeketh no outward witness on his own behalf, show- 
eth plainly that he hath committed himself wholly to God. For not 
he that commendeth himself is approved, as St. Paul saith, but whom 
the Lord commendeth? To walk inwardly with God, and not to be 
held by any outer affections, is the state of a spiritual man. 

CHAPTER VII 

OF LOVING JESUS ABOVE ALL THINGS 

Blessed is he who understandeth what it is to love Jesus, and to 
despise himself for Jesus' sake- He must give up all that he loveth 
for his Beloved, for Jesus will be loved alone above all things. The 
love of created things is deceiving and unstable, but the love of Jesus 
is faithful and lasting. He who cleaveth to created things will fall 
with their slipperiness; but he who embraceth Jesus will stand up- 
right for ever. Lx)ve Him and hold Him for thy friend, for He will 
not forsake thee when all depart from thee, nor will he suffer thee 
to perish at the last. Thou must one day be separated from all, 
whether thou wilt or wilt not. 

2. Cleave thou to Jesus in life and death, and commit thyself unto 
His faithfulness, who, when all men fail thee, is alone able to help 
thee. Thy Beloved is such, by nature, that He will suffer no rival, 
but alone will possess thy heart, and as a king will sit upon His own 
throne. If thou wouldst learn to put away from thee every created 
thing, Jesus would freely take up His abode with thee. Thou wilt 
find all trust little better than lost which thou hast placed in men, 
and not in Jesus. Trust not nor lean upon a reed shaken with the 
wind, because all flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof falleth as 
the flower of the field} 

3. Thou wilt be quickly deceived if thou lookest only upon the 
outward appearance of men, for if thou seekest thy comfort and 
profit in others, thou shalt too often experience loss. If thou seekest 
Jesus in all things thou shalt verily find Jesus, but if thou seekest 

' 3 Corinthians x. 18. ' Isaiah xl. 6. 



246 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

thyself thou shah also find thyself, but to thine own hurt. For if a 
man seeketh not Jesus he is more hurtful to himself than all the 
world and all his adversaries. 

CHAPTER VIII 

OF THE INTIMATE LOVE OF JESUS 

When Jesus is present all is well and nothing seemeth hard, but 
when Jesus is not present everything is hard. When Jesus speaketh 
not within, our comfort is nothing worth, but if Jesus speaketh 
but a single word great is the comfort we experience. Did not 
Mary Magdalene rise up quickly from the place where she wept 
when Martha said to her. The Master is come and calleth for thee?^ 
Happy hour when Jesus calleth thee from tears to the joy of the 
spirit! How dry and hard art thou without Jesus! How senseless 
and vain if thou desirest aught beyond Jesus! Is not this greater loss 
than if thou shouldst lose the whole world? 

2. What can the world profit thee without Jesus? To be without 
Jesus is the nethermost hell, and to be with Jesus is sweet Paradise. 
If Jesus were with thee no enemy could hurt thee. He who findeth 
Jesus findeth a good treasure, yea, good above all good; and he 
who loseth Jesus loseth exceeding much, yea, more than the whole 
world. Most poor is he who liveth without Jesus, and most rich is 
he who is much with Jesus. 

3. It is great skill to know how to live with Jesus, and to know 
how to hold Jesus is great wisdom. Be thou humble and peaceable 
and Jesus shall be with thee. Be godly and quiet, and Jesus will 
remain with thee. Thou canst quickly drive away Jesus and lose 
His favour if thou wilt turn away to the outer things. And if thou 
hast put Him to flight and lost Him, to whom wilt thou flee, and 
whom then wilt thou seek for a friend? Without a friend thou 
canst not live long, and if Jesus be not thy friend above all thou 
shalt be very sad and desolate. Madly therefore doest thou if thou 
trusteth or findest joy in any other. It is preferable to have the whole 
world against thee, than Jesus offended with thee. Therefore of all 
that are dear to thee, let Jesus be specially loved. 

' John xi. 28. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 247 

4. Let all be loved for Jesus' sake, but Jesus for His own. Jesus 
Christ alone is to be sp)ecially loved, for He alone is found good and 
faithful above all friends. For His sake and in Him let both ene- 
mies and friends be dear to thee, and pray for them all that they may 
all know and love Him. Never desire to be specially praised or 
loved, because this belongeth to God alone, who hath none like unto 
Himself. Nor wish thou that any one set his heart on thee, nor do 
thou give thyself up to the love of any, but let Jesus be in thee and 
in every good man. 

5. Be pure and free within thyself, and be not entangled by any 
created thing. Thou oughtest to bring a bare and clean heart to 
God, if thou dcsirest to be ready to see how gracious the Lord is. 
And in truth, unless thou be prevented and drawn on by His grace, 
thou wilt not attain to this, that having cast out and dismissed all 
else, thou alone art united to God. For when the grace of God 
cometh to a man, then he becometh able to do all things, and when 
it departeth then he will be poor and weak and given up unto 
troubles. In these thou art not to be cast down nor to despair, but 
to rest with calm mind on the will of God, and to bear all things 
which come upon thee unto the praise of Jesus Christ; for after 
winter cometh summer, after night returneth day, after the tempest 
a great calm. 

CHAPTER IX 

OF THE LACK OF ALL COMFORT 

It is no hard thing to despise human comfort when divine is pres- 
ent. It is a great thing, yea very great, to be able to bear the loss 
both of human and divine comfort; and for the love of God will- 
ingly to bear exile of heart, and in nought to seek oneself, nor to 
look to one's own merit. What great matter is it, if thou be cheerful 
of heart and devout when favour cometh to thee? That is an hour 
wherein all rejoice. Pleasantly enough doth he ride whom the grace 
of God carrieth. And what marvel, if he feeleth no burden who 
is carried by the Almighty, and is led onwards by the Guide from 
on high? 

2. We are willing to accept anything for comfort, and it is diffi- 



248 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

cult for a man to be freed from himself. The holy martyr Laurence 
overcame the love of the world and even of his priestly master, be- 
cause he despised everything in the world which seemed to be 
pleasant; and for the love of Christ he calmly suffered even God's 
chief priest, Sixtus, whom he dearly loved, to be taken from him. 
Thus by the love of the Creator he overcame the love of man, and 
instead of human comfort he chose rather God's good pleasure. So 
also learn thou to resign any near and beloved friend for the love 
of God. Nor take it amiss when thou hast been deserted by a friend, 
knowing that we must all be parted from one another at last. 

3. Mightily and long must a man strive within himself before he 
learn altogether to overcome himself, and to draw his whole affec- 
tion towards God. When a man resteth upon himself, he easily slip- 
|)eth away unto human comforts. But a true lover of Christ, and 
a diligent seeker after virtue, falleth not back upon those comforts, 
nor seeketh such sweetnesses as may be tasted and handled, but 
desireth rather hard exercises, and to undertake severe labours for 
Christ. 

4. When, therefore, spiritual comfort is given by God, receive it 
with giving of thanks, and know that it is the gift of God, not 
thy desert. Be not lifted up, rejoice not overmuch nor foolishly pre- 
sume, but rather be more humble for the gift, more wary and 
more careful in all thy doings; for that hour will pass away, and 
temptation will follow. When comfort is taken from thee, do not 
straightway despair, but wait for the heavenly visitation with humil- 
ity and patience, for God is able to give thee back greater favour and 
consolation. This is not new nor strange to those who have made 
trial of the way of God, for with the great saints and the ancient 
prophets there was often this manner of change. 

5. Wherefore one said when the favour of God was present with 
him, / said in my prosperity I shall never be moved} but he goeth 
on to say what he felt within himself when the favour departed: 
Thou didst turn Thy face from me, and I was troubled. In spite 
whereof he in no wise despaireth, but the more instandy entreateth 
God, and saith. Unto Thee, O Lord, will I cry, and will pray unto 
my God; and then he receiveth the fruit of his prayer, and testifieth 

' Psalm XXX. 6. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 249 

how he hath been heard, saying, The Lord heard me and had mercy 
upon me, the Lord was my helper. But wherein ? Thou hast turned 
my heaviness into joy, Thou hast put off my sacf(cloth and girded 
me with gladness. If it was thus with the great saints, we who are 
poor and needy ought not to despair if we are sometimes in the 
warmth and sometimes in the cold, for the Spirit cometh and goeth 
according to the good pleasure of His will. Wherefore holy Job 
saith, Thou dost visit him in the morning, and suddenly Thou dost 
prove him} 

6. Whereupon then can I hope, or wherein may I trust, save only 
in the great mercy of God, and the hope of heavenly grace? For 
whether good men are with me, godly brethren or faithful friends, 
whether holy books or beautiful discourses, whether sweet hymns 
and songs, all these help but little, and have but little savour when I 
am deserted by God's favour and left to mine own poverty. There 
is no better remedy, then, than patience and denial of self, and an 
abiding in the will of God. 

7. I have never found any man so religious and godly, but that 
he felt sometimes a withdrawal of the divine favour, and lack of 
fervour. No saint was ever so filled with rapture, so enlightened, but 
that sooner or later he was tempted. For he is not worthy of the great 
vision of God, who, for God's sake, hath not been exercised by some 
temptation. For temptation is wont to go before as a sign of the 
comfort which shall follow, and heavenly comfort is promised to 
those who are proved by temptation. As it is written, To him that 
overcometh I will give to eat of the tree of life.' 

8. Divine comfort is given that a man may be stronger to bear 
adversities. And temptation followeth, lest he be lifted up because 
of the benefit. The devil sleepeth not; thy flesh is not yet dead; 
therefore, cease thou not to make thyself ready unto the battle, for 
enemies stand on thy right hand and on thy left, and they are never 
at rest. 

'Job viL 18. 'Revelation ii. 7. 



250 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

CHAPTER X 

OF GRATITUDE FOR THE GRACE OF COD 

Why seekest thou rest when thou art born to labour? Prepare 
thyself for patience more than for comforts, and for bearing the 
cross more than for joy. For who among the men of this world 
would not gladly receive consolation and spiritual joy if he might 
always have it? For spiritual comforts exceed all the delights of 
the world, and all the pleasures of the flesh. For all worldly delights 
are either empty or unclean, whilst spiritual delights alone are pleas- 
ant and honourable, the offspring of virtue, and poured forth by God 
into pure minds. But no man can always enjoy these divine comforts 
at his own will, because the season of temptation ceaseth not for long. 

2. Great is the difference between a visitation from above and 
false liberty of spirit and great confidence in self. God doeth well 
in giving us the grace of comfort, but man doeth ill in not immedi- 
ately giving God thanks thereof. And thus the gifts of grace are 
not able to flow unto us, because we are ungrateful to the Author of 
them, and return them not wholly to the Fountain whence they 
flow. For grace ever becometh the portion of him who is grateful 
and that is taken away from the proud, which is wont to be given 
to the humble. 

3. I desire no consolation which taketh away from me compunc- 
tion, I love no contemplation which leadeth to pride. For all that 
is high is not holy, nor is everything that is sweet good; every desire 
is not pure; nor is everything that is dear to us pleasing unto God. 
Willingly do I accept that grace whereby I am made humbler and 
more wary and more ready to renounce myself. He who is made 
learned by the gift of grace and taught wisdom by the stroke of the 
withdrawal thereof, will not dare to claim any good thing for him- 
self, but will rather confess that he is poor and needy. Gice unto God 
the thing tvhich is God's} and ascribe to thyself that which is thine; 
that is, give thanks unto God for His grace, but for thyself alone 
confess thy fault, and that thy punishment is deserved for thy fault. 

4. Sit thou down always in the lowest room and thou shalt be 

' Matthew xxii. 21. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 25 1 

given the highest place.' For the highest cannot be without the 
lowest. For the highest saints of God are least in their own sight, 
and the more glorious they are, so much the lowlier are they in them- 
selves; full of grace and heavenly glory, they are not desirous of vain- 
glory; resting on God and strong in His might, they cannot be lifted 
up in any wise. And they who ascribe unto God all the good which 
they have received, "seek not glory one of another, but the glory 
which cometh from God only," and they desire that God shall be 
praised in Himself and in all His Saints above all things, and they are 
always striving for this very thing. 

5. Be thankful, therefore, for the least benefit and thou shall be 
worthy to receive greater. Let the least be unto thee even as the great- 
est, and let that which is of little account be unto thee as a special 
gift. If the majesty of the Giver be considered, nothing that is given 
shall seem small and of no worth, for that is not a small thing which 
is given by the Most High God. Yea, though He gave punishment 
and stripes, we ought to be thankful, because He ever doth for our 
profit whatever He suffereth to come upon us. He who seeketh to 
retain the favour of God, let him be thankful for the favour which is 
given, and patient in respect of that which is taken away. Let him 
pray that it may return; let him be wary and humble that he lose 
it not. 

CHAPTER XI 

OF THE FEWNESS OF THOSE WHO LOVE THE CROSS OF JESUS 

Jesus hath many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers 
of His Cross. He hath many seekers of comfort, but few of tribula- 
tion. He findcth many companions of His table, but few of His 
fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to undergo 
anything for His sake. Many follow Jesus that they may eat of His 
loaves, but few that they may drink of the cup of His passion. Many 
are astonished at His Miracles, few follow after the shame of His 
Cross. Many love Jesus so long as no adversities happen to them. 
Many praise Him and bless Him, so long as they receive any com- 
forts from Him. But if Jesus hide Himself and withdraw from 

' Luke xiv. 10. 



252 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

them a little while, they fall either into complaining or into too 
great dejection of mind. 

2. But they who love Jesus for Jesus' sake, and not for any con- 
solation of their own, bless Him in all tribulation and anguish of 
heart as in the highest consolation. And if He should never give 
them consolation, nevertheless they would always praise Him and 
always give Him thanks. 

3. Oh what power hath the pure love of Jesus, unmixed with any 
gain or love of self! Should not all they be called mercenary who 
are always seeking consolations? Do they not prove themselves 
lovers of self more than of Christ who are always seeking their own 
gain and advantage? Where shall be found one who is willing to 
serve God altogether for nought? 

4. Rarely is any one found so spiritual as to be stripped of all 
selfish thoughts, for who shall find a man truly poor in spirit and 
free of all created things? "His value is from afar, yea from the ends 
of the earth." A man may give away all his goods, yet that is noth- 
ing; and if he do many deeds of penitence, yet that is a small thing; 
and though he understand all knowledge, yet that is afar off; and if 
he have great virtue and zealous devotion, yet much is lacking unto 
him, yea, one thing which is the most necessary to him of all. What 
is it then? That having given up all things besides, he give up him- 
self and go forth from himself utterly, and retain nothing of self- 
love; and having done all things which he knoweth to be his duty 
to do, that he feel that he hath done nothing. Let him not reckon 
that much which might be much esteemed, but let him pronounce 
himself to be in truth an unprofitable servant, as the Truth Him- 
self saith. When ye have done all things that are commanded you, 
say, we are unprofitable servants} Then may he be truly poor and 
naked in spirit, and be able to say with the Prophet, As for me, I 
am poor and needy} Nevertheless, no man is richer than he, no 
man stronger, no man freer. For he knoweth both how to give up 
himself and all things, and how to be lowly in his own eyes. 

•Luke xvii. 10. 'Psalm xxv. 16. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 253 

CHAPTER XII 

OF THE ROYAL WAY OF THE HOLY CROSS 

That seemeth a hard saying to many, // any man will come after 
Me, let him deny himself and tal{e up his Cross and follow Me} But 
it will be much harder to hear that last sentence, Depart from me, ye 
wielded, into eternal fire} For they who now willingly hear the 
word of the Cross and follow it, shall not then fear the hearing of 
eternal damnation. This sign of the Cross shall be in heaven when 
the Lord cometh to Judgment. Then all servants of the Cross, who 
in life have conformed themselves to the Crucified, shall draw nigh 
unto Christ the Judge with great boldness. 

2. Why fearest thou then to take up the cross which leadeth to a 
kingdom? In the Cross is health, in the Cross is life, in the Cross is 
protection from enemies, in the Cross is heavenly sweetness, in the 
Cross strength of mind, in the Cross joy of the spirit, in the Cross 
the height of virtue, in the Cross perfection of holiness. There is no 
health of the soul, no hope of eternal life, save in the Cross. Take 
up therefore, thy cross and follow Jesus and thou shalt go into eternal 
life. He went before thee bearing His Cross and died for thee upon 
the Cross, that thou also mayest bear thy cross and mayest love to 
be crucified upon it. For if thou be dead with Him, thou shalt also 
live with Him, and if thou be a partaker of His sufferings thou shalt 
be also of His glory. 

3. Behold everything dependeth upon the Cross, and everything 
lieth in dying; and there is none other way unto life and to true 
inward peace, except the way of the Holy Cross and of daily morti- 
fication. Go where thou wilt, seek whatsoever thou wilt, and thou 
shalt find no higher way above nor safer way below, than the way 
of the Holy Cross. Dispose and order all things according to thine 
own will and judgment, and thou shalt ever find something to suffer 
either willingly or unwillingly, and thus thou shalt ever find thy 
cross. For thou shalt either feel pain of body, or tribulation of spirit 
within thy soul. 

4. Sometimes thou wilt be forsaken of God, sometimes thou wilt 

' Matthew xvL 24. * Matthew xxv. 41. 



254 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

be tried by thy neighbour, and which is more, thou wilt often be 
wearisome to thyself. And still thou canst not be delivered nor 
eased by any remedy or consolation, but must bear so long as God 
will. For God will have thee learn to suffer tribulation without con- 
solation, and to submit thyself fully to it, and by tribulation be made 
more humble. No man understandeth the Passion of Christ in his 
heart so well as he who hath had somewhat of the like suffering 
himself. The Cross therefore is always ready, and every where 
waiteth for thee. Thou canst not flee from it whithersoever thou 
hurriest, for whithersoever thou comest, thou bearest thyself with 
thee, and shalt ever find thyself. Turn thee above, turn thee below, 
turn thee without, turn thee within, and in them all thou shalt find 
the Cross; and needful is it that thou everywhere possess patience 
if thou wilt have internal peace and gain the everlasting crown. 

5. If thou willingly bear the Cross, it will bear thee, and will bring 
thee to the end which thou seekest, even where there shall be the 
end of suffering; though it shall not be here. If thou bear it un- 
willingly, thou makest a burden for thyself and greatly increaseth 
thy load, and yet thou must bear it. If thou cast away one cross, 
without doubt thou shalt find another and perchance a heavier. 

6. Thinkest thou to escape what no mortal hath been able to 
avoid? Which of the saints in the world hath been without the cross 
and tribulation ? For not even Jesus Christ our Lord was one hour 
without the anguish of His Passion, so long as He lived. // behooved. 
He said, Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and so enter into 
his glory? And how dost thou seek another way than this royal way, 
which is the way of the Holy Cross? 

7. The whole life of Christ was a cross and martyrdom, and dost 
thou seek for thyself rest and Joy? Thou art wrong, thou art 
wrong, if thou seekest aught but to suffer tribulations, for this whole 
mortal life is full of miseries, and set round with crosses. And the 
higher a man hath advanced in the spirit, the heavier crosses he will 
often find, because the sorrow of his banishment increaseth with the 
strength of his love. 

8. But yet the man who is thus in so many wise afflicted, is not 

' Luke xxiv. 46. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 255 

without refreshment of consolation, because he feeleth abundant 
fruit to be growing within him out of the bearing of his cross. For 
whilst he willingly submitteth himself to it, every burden of tribu- 
lation is turned into an assurance of divine comfort, and the more 
the flesh is wasted by affliction, the more is the spirit strengthened 
mightily by inward grace. And ofttimes so greatly is he comforted 
by the desire for tribulation and adversity, through love of con- 
formity to the Cross of Christ, that he would not be without sorrow 
and tribulation; for he believeth that he shall be the more acceptable 
to God, the more and the heavier burdens he is able to bear for His 
sake. This is not the virtue of man, but the grace of Christ which hath 
such power and energy in the weak flesh, that what it naturally 
hateth and fleeth from, this it draweth to and loveth through fer- 
vour of spirit. 

9. It is not in the nature of man to bear the cross, to love the cross, 
to keep under the body and to bring it into subjection, to fly from 
honours, to bear reproaches meekly, to despise self and desire to be 
despised, to bear all adversities and losses, and to desire no pros- 
perity in this world. If thou lookest to thyself, thou wilt of thyself 
be able to do none of this; but if thou trustest in the Lord, endur- 
ance shall be given thee from heaven, and the world and the flesh 
shall be made subject to thy command. Yea, thou shalt not even 
fear thine adversary the devil, if thou be armed with faith and signed 
with the Cross of Christ. 

10. Set thyself, therefore, like a good and faithful servant of Christ, 
to the manful bearing of the Cross of thy Lord, who out of love was 
crucified for thee. Prepare thyself for the bearing many adversities 
and manifold troubles in this wretched life; because so it shall be 
with thee wheresoever thou art, and so in very deed thou shalt find 
it, wherever thou hide thyself. This it must be; and there is no 
means of escaping from tribulation and sorrow, except to bear them 
patiently. Drink thou lovingly thy Lord's cup if thou desirest to 
be His friend and to have thy lot with Him. Leave consolations 
to God, let Him do as seemeth best to Him concerning them. But 
do thou set thyself to endure tribulations, and reckon them the best 
consolations; for the sufferings of this present time are not worthy 



256 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us* nor 
would they be even if thou wert to endure them all. 

11. When thou hast come to this, that tribulation is sweet and 
pleasant to thee for Christ's sake, then reckon that it is well with thee, 
because thou hast found paradise on earth. So long as it is hard to 
thee to suffer and thou desirest to escape, so long it will not be well 
with thee, and tribulations will follow thee everywhere. 

12. If thou settest thyself to that thou oughtest, namely, to suffer 
and to die, it shall soon go better with thee, and thou shalt find 
peace. Though thou shouldest be caught up with Paul unto the 
third heaven,'' thou art not on that account secure from suffering 
evil. / will show him, saith Jesus, what great things he must suffer 
for My Name's sake* It remaineth, therefore, to thee to suffer, if 
thou wilt love Jesus and serve Him continually. 

13. Oh that thou wert worthy to suffer something for the name 
of Jesus, how great glory should await thee, what rejoicing among 
all the saints of God, what bright example also to thy neighbour! 
For all men commend patience, although few be willing to practise 
it. Thou oughtest surely to suffer a little for Christ when many suffer 
heavier things for the world. 

14. Know thou of a surety that thou oughtest to lead the life of a 
dying man. And the more a man dieth to himself, the more he 
beginneth to live towards God. None is fit for the understanding of 
heavenly things, unless he hath submitted himself to bearing ad- 
versities for Christ. Nothing more acceptable to God, nothing more 
healthful for thyself in this world, than to suffer willingly for Christ. 
And if it were thine to choose, thou oughtest rather to wish to suffer 
adversities for Christ, than to be refreshed with manifold consola- 
tions, for thou wouldest be more like Christ and more conformed 
to all saints. For our worthiness and growth in grace lieth not in 
many delights and consolations, but rather in bearing many troubles 
and adversities. 

15. If indeed there had been anything better and more profitable 
to the health of men than to suffer, Christ would surely have shown 
it by word and example. For both the disciples who followed Him, 
and all who desire to follow Him, He plainly exhorteth to bear 

* Romans viii. 18. '2 Corinthians xii. 2. 'Acts. ix. 16. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 257 

their cross, and saith, // any man will come after Me, let him deny 
himself and taf^e up his cross, and follow Mr.' So now that we have 
thoroughly read and studied all things, let us hear the conclusion of 
the whole matter. We must through much tribulation enter into the 
/(ingdom of God* 

'Luke ix. 23. 'Acts xiv. 21. 



THE THIRD BOOK 

ON INWARD CONSOLATION 

CHAPTER I 

OF THE INWARD VOICE OF CHRIST TO THE FAITHFUL SOUL 

/WILL hearken what the Lard God shall say within me} 
Blessed is the soul which heareth the Lord speaking within 
it, and receiveth the word of consolation from His mouth. 
Blessed are the ears which receive the echoes of the soft whisper of 
God, and turn not aside to the whisperings of this world. Blessed 
truly are the ears which listen not to the voice that soundeth without, 
but to that which teacheth truth inwardly. Blessed are the eyes 
which are closed to things without, but are fixed upon things within. 
Blessed are they who search inward things and study to prepare 
themselves more and more by daily exercises for the receiving of 
heavenly mysteries. Blessed are they who long to have leisure for 
God, and free themselves from every hindrance of the world. Think 
on these things, O my soul, and shut the doors of thy carnal desires, 
so mayest thou hear what the Lord God will say within thee. 

2. These things saith thy Beloved, "I am thy salvation, I am thy 
peace and thy life. Keep thee unto Me, and thou shalt find peace." 
Put away thee all transitory things, seek those things that are eternal. 
For what are all temporal things but deceits, and what shall all 
created things help thee if thou be forsaken by the Creator? There- 
fore put all things else away, and give thyself to the Creator, to be 
well pleasing and faithful to Him, that thou mayest be able to attain 
true blessedness. 

< Psalm Ixxxv. 8. 



258 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 259 

CHAPTER II 

WHAT THE TRUTH SAITH INWARDLY WITHOUT NOISE OF WORDS 

Speak Lord, for thy servant heareth} I am Thy servant; O give 
me understanding that I may know Thy testimonies. Incline my 
heart unto the words of Thy mouth. ^ Let thy speech distil as the 
dew. The children of Israel spake in old time to Moses, Speal{ thou 
unto us and we will hear, but let not the Lord spea/{ unto us lest 
we die.* Not thus, O Lord, not thus do I pray, but rather with 
Samuel the prophet, I beseech Thee humbly and earnestly, Speal{, 
Lord, for Thy servant heareth. Let not Moses speak to me, nor any 
prophet, but rather speak Thou, O Lord, who didst inspire and 
illuminate all the prophets; for Thou alone without them canst f)er- 
fectly fill me with knowledge, whilst they without Thee shall profit 
nothing. 

2. They can indeed utter words, but they give not the spirit. They 
speak with exceeding beauty, but when Thou art silent they kindle 
not the heart. They give us scriptures, but Thou makest known 
the sense thereof. They bring us mysteries, but Thou revealest the 
things which are signified. They utter commandments, but Thou 
helpest to the fulfilling of them. They show the way, but Thou 
givest strength for the journey. They act only outwardly, but Thou 
dost instruct and enlighten the heart. They water, but Thou givest 
the increase. They cry with words, but Thou givest understanding 
to the hearer. 

3. Therefore let not Moses speak to me, but Thou, O Lord my 
God, Eternal Truth; lest I die and bring forth no fruit, being out- 
wardly admonished, but not enkindled within; lest the word heard 
but not followed, known but not loved, believed but not obeyed, rise 
up against me in the judgment. Spea\, Lord, for Thy servant hear- 
eth; Thou hast the words of eternal life.* Speak unto me for some 
consolation unto my soul, for the amendment of my whole life, and 
for the praise and glory and eternal honour of Thy Name. 

' I Samuel iii. 9. 'Psalm cxix. 125. 'Exodus xx. 19. ^John vi. 68. 



26o THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

CHAPTER III 

HOW ALL THE WORDS OF GOD ARE TO BE HEARD WITH HUMILITY, 
AND HOW MANY CONSIDER THEM NOT 

"My Son, hear My words, for My words are most sweet, surpass- 
ing all the knowledge of the philosophers and wise men of this 
world. My words are spirit, and they are life,^ and are not to be 
weighed by man's understanding. They are not to be drawn forth 
for vain approbation, but to be heard in silence, and to be received 
with all humility and with deep love." 

2. And I said, "Blessed is the man whom Thou teachest, O Lord, 
and instriictest him in Thy law, that Thou mayest give him rest in 
time of adversity^ and that he be not desolate in the earth." 

3. "I," saith the Lord, "taught the prophets from the beginning, 
and even now cease I not to speak unto all; but many are deaf and 
hardened against My voice; many love to listen to the world rather 
than to God, they follow after the desires of the flesh more readily 
than after the good pleasure of God. The world promiseth things 
that are temporal and small, and it is served with great eagerness. 
I promise things that are great and eternal, and the hearts of mor- 
tals are slow to stir. Who serveth and obeyeth Me in all things, with 
such carefulness as he serveth the world and its rulers.? 

Be thou ashamed, O Sidon, saith the sea;' 
And if thou reason seekest, hear thou me. 
For a litde reward men make a long journey; for eternal life many 
will scarce lift a foot once from the ground. Mean reward is sought 
after; for a single piece of money sometimes there is shameful 
striving; for a thing which is vain and for a trifling promise, men 
shrink not from toiling day and night." 

4. "But, O shame! for an unchangeable good, for an inestimable 
reward, for the highest honour and for a glory that fadeth not away, 
it is irksome to them to toil even a little. Be thou ashamed there- 
fore, slothful and discontented servant, for they are found readier 
unto perdition than thou unto life. They rejoice more heartily in 
vanity than thou in the truth. Sometimes, indeed, they are disap- 

' John vi. 63. 'Psalm zciv. 13. 'Itaiah xxiii. ^. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 26 1 

pointed of their hope, but my promise faileth no man, nor sendeth 
away empty him who trusteth in Me. What I have promised I will 
give; what I have said I will fulfil; if only a man remain faithful 
in My love unto the end. Therefore am 1 the rewarder of all good 
men, and a strong approver of all who are godly. 

5. "Write My words in thy heart and consider them diligently, 
for they shall be very needful to thee in time of temptation. What 
thou understandest not when thou readest, thou shalt know in the 
time of thy visitation. I am wont to visit Mine elect in twofold 
manner, even by temptation and by comfort, and I teach them two 
lessons day by day, the one in chiding their faults, the other in 
exhorting them to grow in grace. He who hath My words and 
rejecteth them, hath one who shall judge him at the last day." 

A PRAYER FOR THE SPIRIT OF DEVOTION 

6. O Lord my God, Thou art all my good, and who am I that I 
should dare to speak unto Thee? I am the very poorest of Thy serv- 
ants, an abject worm, much poorer and more despicable than I know 
or dare to say. Nevertheless remember, O Lord, that I am nothing, 
I have nothing, and can do nothing. Thou only art good, just and 
holy; Thou canst do all things, art over all things, fillest all things, 
leaving empty only the sinner. Call to mind Thy tender mercies, and 
fill my heart with Thy grace, Thou who wilt not that Thy work 
should return to Thee void. 

7. How can I bear this miserable life unless Thy mercy and grace 
strengthen me? Turn not away Thy face from me, delay not Thy 
visitation. Withdraw not Thou Thy comfort from me, lest my soul 
"gasp after thee as a thirsty land." Lord, teach me to do Thy will, 
teach me to walk humbly and uprightly before Thee, for Thou art 
my wisdom, who knowest me in truth, and knewest me before 
the world was made and before I was born into the world. 

CHAPTER IV 

HOW WE MUST WALK IN TRUTH AND HUMILITY BEFORE GOD 

"My Son! walk before Me in truth, and in the simplicity of thy 
heart seek Me continually. He who walketh before Me in the truth 



262 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

shall be safe from evil assaults, and the truth shall deliver him from 
the wiles and slanders of the wicked. If the truth shall make thee 
free, thou shalt be free indeed, and shalt not care for the vain words 
of men." 

2. Lord, it is true as Thou sayest; let it, I pray Thee, be so with 
me; let Thy truth teach me, let it keep me and preserve me safe unto 
the end. Let it free me from all evil and inordinate affection, and 
I will walk before Thee in great freedom of heart. 

3. "I will teach thee," saith the Truth, "the things which are right 
and pleasing before Me. Think upon thy sins with great displeasure 
and sorrow, and never think thyself anything because of thy good 
works. Verily thou art a sinner, liable to many passions, yea, tied 
and bound with them. Of thyself thou always tendest. unto nothing, 
thou wilt quickly fall, quickly be conquered, quickly disturbed, 
quickly undone. Thou hast nought whereof to glory, but many 
reasons why thou shouldest reckon thyself vile, for thou art far 
weaker than thou art able to comprehend. 

4. "Let, therefore, nothing which thou doest seem to thee great; 
let nothing be grand, nothing of value or beauty, nothing worthy 
of honour, nothing lofty, nothing praiseworthy or desirable, save 
what is eternal. Let the eternal truth please thee above all things, 
let thine own great vileness displease thee continually. Fear, de- 
nounce, flee nothing so much as thine own faults and sins, which 
ought to be more displeasing to thee than any loss whatsoever of 
goods. There are some who walk not sincerely before me, but being 
led by curiosity and pride, they desire to know my secret things and 
to understand the deep things of God, whilst they neglect themselves 
and their salvation. These often fall into great temptations and sins 
because of their pride and curiosity, for I am against them. 

5. "Fear thou the judgments of God, fear greatly the wrath of 
the Almighty. Shrink from debating upon the works of the Most 
High, but search narrowly thine own iniquities into what great sins 
thou hast fallen, and how many good things thou hast neglected. 
There are some who carry their devotion only in books, some in 
pictures, some in outward signs and figures; some have Me in their 
mouths, but litde in their hearts. Others there are who, being en- 
lightened in their understanding and purged in their affections, con- 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 263 

tinually long after eternal things, hear of earthly things with 
unwillingness, obey the necessities of nature with sorrow. And these 
understand what the Spirit of truth speaketh in them; for He teach- 
eth them to despise earthly things and to love heavenly; to neglect 
the world and to desire heaven all the day and night." 

CHAPTER V 

OF THE WONDERFUL POWER OF THE DIVINE LOVE 

I BLESS Thee, O Heavenly Father, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, 
for that Thou hast vouchsafed to think of me, poor that I am. O, 
Father of Mercies and God of all comfort^ I give thanks unto Thee, 
who refreshest me sometimes with thine own comfort, when I am 
unworthy of any comfort. I bless and glorify Thee continually, 
with thine only begotten Son and the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete, for 
ever and ever. O Lord God, Holy lover of my soul, when Thou 
shalt come into my heart, all my inward parts shall rejoice. Thou 
art my glory and the joy of my heart. Thou art my hope and my 
refuge in the day of my trouble. 

2. But because I am still weak in love and imperfect in virtue, I 
need to be strengthened and comforted by Thee; therefore visit Thou 
me often and instruct me with Thy holy ways of discipline. De- 
liver me from evil passions, and cleanse my heart from all inordinate 
affections, that, being healed and altogether cleansed within, I may 
be made ready to love, strong to suffer, steadfast to endure. 

3. Love is a great thing, a good above all others, which alone 
maketh every heavy burden light, and equaliseth every inequality. 
For it beareth the burden and maketh it no burden, it maketh every 
bitter thing to be sweet and of good taste. The surpassing love of 
Jesus impelleth to great works, and exciteth to the continual desir- 
ing of greater perfection. Love willeth to be raised up, and not to be 
held down by any mean thing. Love willeth to be free and aloof 
from all worldly affection, lest its inward power of vision be hin- 
dered, lest it be entangled by any worldly prosperity or overcome by 
adversity. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing stronger, nothing 
loftier, nothing broader, nothing pleasanter, nothing fuller or better 

' 2 Corinthians i. 3. 



264 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

in heaven nor on earth, for love was born of. God and cannot rest 
save in God above all created things. 

4. He who loveth flyeth, ruAneth, and is glad; he is free and not 
hindered. He giveth all things for all things, and hath all things in 
all things, because he resteth in One who is high above all, from 
whom every good floweth and proceedeth. He looketh not for gifts, 
but turneth himself to the Giver above all good things. Love often- 
times knoweth no measure, but breaketh out above all measure; love 
feeleth no burden, reckoneth not labours, striveth after more than 
it is able to do, pleadeth not impossibility, because it judgeth all 
things which are lawful for it to be possible. It is suong therefore for 
all things, and it fulfilleth many things, and is successful where he 
who loveth not faileth and lieth down. 

5. Love is watchful, and whilst sleeping still keepeth wadch; 
though fatigued it is not weary, though pressed it is not forced, 
though alarmed it is not terrified, but like the living flame and the 
burning torch, it breaketh forth on high and securely triumpheth. 
If a man loveth, he knoweth what this voice crieth. For the ardent 
affection of the soul is a great clamour in the ears of God, and 
it saith: My God, my Beloved! Thou art all mine, and I am all 
Thine. 

6. Enlarge Thou me in love, that I may learn to taste with the 
innermost mouth of my heart how sweet it is to love, to be dis- 
solved, and to swim in love. Let me be holden by love, mounting 
above myself through exceeding fervour and admiration. Let me 
sing the song of love, let me follow Thee my Beloved on high, let 
my soul exhaust itself in Thy praise, exulting with love. Let me love 
Thee more than myself, not loving myself except for Thy sake, and 
all men in Thee who truly love Thee, as the law of love command- 
eth which shineth forth from Thee. 

7. Love is swift, sincere, pious, pleasant, gende, strong, patient, 
faithful, prudent, long-suffering, manly, and never seeking her own; 
for wheresoever a man seeketh his own, there he faileth from love. 
Love is circumspect, humble, and upright; not weak, not fickle, nor 
intent on vain things; sober, chaste, steadfast, quiet, and guarded 
in all the senses. Love is subject and obedient to all that are in au- 
thority, vile and lowly in its own sight, devout and grateful towards 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 265 

God, faithful and always trusting in Him even when God hideth 
His face, for without sorrow we cannot live in love. 

8. He who is not ready to suffer all things, and to conform to the 
will of the Beloved, is not worthy to be called a lover of God. It 
behoveth him who loveth to embrace willingly all hard and bitter 
things for the Beloved's sake, and not to be drawn away from Him 
because of any contrary accidents. 

CHAPTER VI 

OF THE PROVING OF THE TRUE LOVER 

"My Son, thou art not yet strong and prudent in thy love." 

2. Wherefore, O my Lord? 

3. "Because for a little opposition thou fallest away from thy un- 
dertakings, and too eagerly seekest after consolation. The strong 
lover standeth fast in temptations, and believeth not the evil per- 
suasions of the enemy. As in prosperity I please him, so in adversity 
I do not displease. 

4. "The prudent lover considereth not the gift of the lover so much 
as the love of the giver. He looketh for the affection more than the 
value, and setteth all gifts lower than the Beloved. The noble lover 
resteth not in the gift, but in Me above every gift. 

5. "All is not lost, though thou sometimes think of Me or of My 
saints, less than thou shouldest desire. That good and sweet affec- 
tion which thou sometimes perceivest is the effect of present grace 
and some foretaste of the heavenly country; but hereon thou must 
not too much depend, for it goeth and cometh. But to strive against 
the evil motions of the mind which come to us, and to resist the 
suggestions of the devil, is a token of virtue and great merit. 

6. "Therefore let not strange fancies disturb thee, whencesoever 
they arise. Bravely observe thy purpose and thy upright intentions 
towards God. It is not an illusion when thou art sometimes sud- 
denly carried away into rapture, and then suddenly art brought back 
to the wonted vanities of thy heart. For thou dost rather unwillingly 
undergo them than cause them; and so long as they displease thee 
and thou strivest against them, it is a merit and no loss. 

7. "Know thou that thine old enemy altogether striveth to hinder 



266 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

thy pursuit after good, and to deter thee from every godly exercise, 
to wit, the contemplation of the Saints, the pious remembrance of 
My passion, the profitable recollection of sin, the keeping of thy 
own heart, and the steadfast purpose to grow in virtue. He sug- 
gesteth to thee many evil thoughts, that he may work in thee weari- 
ness and terror, and so draw thee away from prayer and holy reading. 
Humble confession displeaseth him, and if he were able he would 
make thee to cease from Communion. Believe him not, nor heed 
him, though many a time he hath laid for thee the snares of deceit. 
Account it to be from him, when he suggesteth evil and unclean 
thoughts. Say unto him, 'Depart unclean spirit; put on shame, 
miserable one; horribly unclean art thou, who bringest such things 
to mine ears. Depart from me, detestable deceiver; thou shalt have no 
part in me; but Jesus shall be with me, as a strong warrior, and 
thou shalt stand confounded. Rather would I die and bear all suffer- 
ing, than consent unto thee. Hold thy peace and be dumb; I will not 
hear thee more, though thou plottest more snares against me. The 
Lord is my light and my salvation: whom then shall I fear? Though 
a host of men should rise up against me, yet shall not my heart be 
afraid. The Lord is my strength and my Redeemer.'^ 

8. "Strive thou like a good soldier; and if sometimes thou fail 
through weakness, put on thy strength more bravely than before, 
trusting in My more abundant grace, and take thou much heed of 
vain confidence and pride. Because of it many are led into error, 
and sometimes fall into blindness well-nigh irremediable. Let this 
ruin of the proud, who foolishly lift themselves up, be to thee for a 
warning and a continual exhortation to humility." 

CHAPTER VII 

OF HIDING OUR GRACE UNDER THE GUARD OF HUMILITY 

"My Son, it is better and safer for thee to hide the grace of devo- 
tion, and not to lift thyself up on high, nor to speak much thereof, 
nor to value it greatly; but rather to despise thyself, and to fear as 
though this grace were given to one unworthy thereof. Nor must 
thou depend too much upon this feeling, for it can very quickly be 

'Psalms xxvii. 1-3; xix 14. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 267 

turned into its opposite. Think when thou art in a state of grace how 
miserable and p)oor thou art wont to be without grace. Nor is there 
advance in spiritual Ufe in this alone, that thou hast the grace of 
consolation, but that thou humbly and unselfishly and patiently 
takest the withdrawal thereof; so that thou cease not from the exer- 
cise of prayer, nor sulTer thy other common duties to be in anywise 
neglected; rather do thy task more readily, as though thou hadst 
gained more strength and knowledge; and do not altogether neglect 
thyself because of the dearth and anxiety of spirit which thou feelest. 

2. "For there are many who, when things have not gone prosper- 
ous with them, become forthwith impatient or slothful. For the way 
of a man is not in himself,^ but it is God's to give and to console, 
when He will, and as much as He will, and whom He will, as it 
shall please Him, and no further. Some who were presumptuous 
because of the grace of devotion within them, have destroyed them- 
selves, because they would do more than they were able, not consider- 
ing the measure of their own littleness, but rather following the 
impulse of the heart than the judgment of the reason. And because 
they presumed beyond what was well-pleasing unto God, therefore 
they quickly lost grace. They became poor and were left vile, who 
had built for themselves their nest in heaven; so that being humbled 
and stricken with poverty, they might learn not to fly with their own 
wings, but to put their trust under My feathers. They who are as 
yet new and unskilled in the way of the Lord, unless they rule them- 
selves after the counsel of the wise, may easily be deceived and led 
away. 

3. "But if they wish to follow their own fancies rather than trust 
the experience of others, the result will be very dangerous to them if 
they still refuse to be drawn away from their own notion. Those 
who are wise in their own conceits, seldom patiently endure to be 
ruled by others. It is better to have a small portion of wisdom with 
humility, and a slender understanding, than great treasures of sci- 
ences with vain self-esteem. It is better for thee to have less than 
much of what may make thee proud. He doeth not very discreedy 
who giveth himself entirely to joy, forgetting his former helpless- 
ness and the chaste fear of the Lord, which feareth to lose the grace 

' Jeremiah x. 33. 



268 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

offered. Nor is he very wise, after a manly sort, who in time of ad- 
versity, or any trouble whatsoever, beareth himself too despairingly, 
and feeleth concerning Me less trustfully than he ought. 

4. "He who in time of peace willeth to be oversecure shall be 
often found in time of war overdispirited and full of fears. If thou 
knewest always how to continue humble and moderate in thyself, 
and to guide and rule thine own spirit well, thou wouldest not so 
quickly fall into danger and mischief. It is good counsel that when 
fervour of spirit is kindled, thou shouldest meditate how it will be 
with thee when the light is taken away. Which when it doth happen, 
remember that still the light may return again, which I have taken 
away for a time for a warning to thee, and also for mine own glory. 
Such a trial is often more useful than if thou hadst always things 
prosperous according to thine own will. 

5. "For merits are not to be reckoned by this, that a man hath 
many visions or consolations, or that he is skilled in the Scriptures, 
or that he is placed in a high situation; but that he is grounded upon 
true humility and filled with divine charity, that he always purely 
and uprightly seeketh the honour of God, that he setteth not by him- 
self, but unfeignedly despiseth himself, and even rejoiceth to be 
despised and humbled by others more than to be honoured." 



CHAPTER VIII 

OF A LOW ESTIMATION OF SELF IN THE SIGHT OF COD 

I WILL speak unto my Lord who am but dust and ashes. If I count 
myself more, behold Thou standest against me, and my iniquities 
bear true testimony, and I cannot gainsay it. But if I abase myself, 
and bring myself to nought, and shrink from all self-esteem, and 
grind myself to dust, which I am. Thy grace will be favourable 
unto me, and Thy light will be near unto my heart; and all self- 
esteem, how little soever it be, shall be swallowed up in the depths 
of my nothingness, and shall perish for ever. There Thou showest 
to me myself, what I am, what I was, and whither I have come: so 
joolish was I and ignorant} If I am left to myself, behold I am 

' Psalm Ixxiii. 12. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 269 

nothing, I am all weakness; but if suddenly Thou look upon me, im- 
mediately I am made strong, and filled with new joy. And it is 
great marvel that I am so suddenly lifted up, and so graciously 
embraced by Thee, since I am always being carried to the deep by 
my own weight. 

2. This is the doing of Thy love which freely goeth before me 
and succoureth me in so many necessities, which guardeth me also in 
great dangers and snatcheth me, as I may truly say, from innumer- 
able evils. For verily, by loving myself amiss, I lost myself, and by 
seeking and sincerely loving Thee alone, I found both myself and 
Thee, and through love I have brought myself to yet deeper noth- 
ingness: because Thou, O most sweet Lord, dealest with me beyond 
all merit, and above all which I dare ask or think. 

3. Blessed be Thou, O my God, because though I be unworthy of 
all Thy benefits. Thy bountiful and infinite goodness never ceaseth 
to do good even to ingrates and to those who are turned far from 
Thee. Turn Thou us unto Thyself, that we may be grateful, humble, 
and godly, for Thou art our salvation, our courage, and our strength. 

CHAPTER IX 

THAT ALL THINGS ARE TO BE REFERRED TO GOD, AS THE FINAL END 

"My Son, I must be thy Supreme and final end, if thou desirest 
to be truly happy. Out of such purpose thy affection shall be puri- 
fied, which too often is sinfully bent upon itself and upon created 
things. For if thou seekest thyself in any matter, straightway thou 
wilt fail within thyself and grow barren. Therefore refer everything 
to Me first of all, for it is I who gave thee all. So look upon each 
blessing as flowing from the Supreme Good, and thus all things are 
to be attributed to Me as their source. 

2. "From Me the humble and great, the poor and the rich, draw 
water as from a living fountain, and those who serve Me with a 
free and faithful spirit shall receive grace for grace. But he who will 
glory apart from Me, or will be delighted with any good which lieth 
in himself, shall not be established in true joy, nor shall be enlarged 
in heart, but shall be gready hindered and thrown into tribulation. 



270 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

Therefore thou must not ascribe any good to thyself, nor look upon 
virtue as belonging to any man, but ascribe it all unto God, without 
whom man hath nothing. I gave all, I will receive all again, and 
with great strictness require I the giving of thanks. 

3. "This is the Truth, and by it the vanity of boasting is put to 
flight. And if heavenly grace and true charity shall enter into thee, 
there shall be no envy, nor straitening of the heart, nor shall any 
self-love take possession of thee. For divine charity conquereth all 
things, and enlargeth all the powers of the soul. If thou art truly 
wise, thou wilt rejoice in Me alone, thou wilt hope in Me alone; for 
there is none good but one, that is God) Who is to be praised above 
all things, and in all things to receive blessing." 

CHAPTER X 

THAT rr IS SWEET TO DESPISE THE WORLD AND TO SERVE GOD 

Now will I speak again, O my Lord, and hold not my peace; I 
will say in the ears of my God, my Lord, and my King, who is 
exalted above all. Oh how plentijul is Thy goodness which Thou 
hast laid up for them that fear Thee!* But what art Thou to those 
who love Thee? What to those who serve Thee with their whole 
heart? Truly unspeakable is the sweetness of the contemplation of 
Thee, which Thou bestowest upon those who love Thee. In this most 
of all Thou hast showed me the sweetness of Thy charity, that when 
I was not. Thou madest me, and when I wandered far from Thee, 
Thou broughtest me back that I might serve Thee, and commandedst 
me to love Thee. 

2. O Fountain of perpetual love, what shall I say concerning Thee? 
How shall I be unmindful of Thee, who didst vouchsafe to remem- 
ber me, even after I pined away and perished? Thou hast had mercy 
beyond all hope upon Thy servant, and hast showed Thy grace and 
friendship beyond all deserving. What reward shall I render Thee 
for this Thy grace? For it is not given unto all to renounce this 
world and its affairs, and to take up a religious life. For is it a great 
'Luke xviii. 19. 'Psalm xxxi. 21. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 271 

thing that I should serve Thee, whom every creature ought to serve? 
It ought not to seem a great thing to me to serve Thee; but rather 
this appeareth to me a great and wonderful thing, that Thou vouch- 
safest to receive as Thy servant one so poor and unworthy, and to 
Join him unto Thy chosen servants. 

3. Behold all things which I have are Thine, and with them I 
serve Thee. And yet verily it is Thou who servest me, rather than 
I Thee. Behold the heaven and the earth which Thou hast created 
for the service of men; they are at Thy bidding, and perform daily 
whatsoever Thou dost command. Yea, and this is little; for Thou 
hast even ordained the Angels for the service of man. But it sur- 
passeth even all these things, that Thou Thyself didst vouchsafe to 
minister unto man, and didst promise that Thou wouldest give 
Thyself unto him. 

4. What shall I render unto Thee for all these Thy manifold 
mercies? Oh that I were able to serve Thee all the days of my life! 
Oh that even for one day I were enabled to do Thee service worthy 
of Thyself! For verily Thou art worthy of all service, all honour, 
and praise without end. Verily Thou art my God, and I am Thy 
poor servant, who am bound to serve Thee with all my strength, nor 
ought I ever to grow weary of Thy praise. This is my wish, this 
is my exceeding great desire, and whatsoever is lacking to me, vouch- 
safe Thou to supply. 

5. It is great honour, great glory to serve Thee, and to despise 
all for Thy sake. For they shall have great grace who of their own 
will shall submit themselves to Thy most holy service. They who for 
Thy love have cast away every carnal delight shall find the sweetest 
consolation of the Holy Ghost. They who enter the narrow way of 
life for Thy Name's sake, and have put away all worldly cares, 
shall attain great liberty of spirit. 

6. Oh grateful and delightsome service of God, whereby man is 
made truly free and holy! Oh sacred condition of the religious serv- 
ant, which maketh man equal to the Angels, well-pleasing unto God, 
terrible to evil spirits, and acceptable to all faithful ones! Oh service 
to be embraced and ever desired, in which the highest good is prom- 
ised, and joy is gained which shall remain for evermore! 



272 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

CHAPTER XI 

THAT THE DESIRES OF THE HEART ARE TO BE EXAMINED AND GOVERNED 

"My Son, thou hast still many things to learn, which thou hast 
not well learned yet." 

2. What are they, Lord? 

3. "To place thy desire altogether in subjeaion to My good pleas- 
ure, and not to be a lover of thyself, but an earnest seeker of My 
will. Thy desires often excite and urge thee forward; but consider 
with thyself whether thou art not more moved for thine own ob- 
jects than for My honour. If it is Myself that thou seekest, thou 
shalt be well content with whatsoever I shall ordain; but if any pur- 
suit of thine own lieth hidden within thee, behold it is this which 
hindereth and weigheth thee down. 

4. "Beware, therefore, lest thou strive too earnestly after some 
desire which thou hast conceived, without taking counsel of Me; lest 
haply it repent thee afterwards, and that displease thee which before 
pleased, and for which thou didst long as for a great good. For not 
every affection which seemeth good is to be forthwith followed; 
neither is every opposite affection to be immediately avoided. Some- 
times it is expedient to use restraint even in good desires and wishes, 
lest through importunity thou fall into distraction of mind, lest 
through want of discipline thou become a stumbling-block to others, 
or lest by the resistance of others thou be suddenly disturbed and 
brought to confusion. 

5. "Sometimes, indeed, it is needful to use violence, and manfully 
to strive against the sensual appetite, and not to consider what the 
flesh may or not will; but rather to strive after this, that it may be- 
come subject, however unwillingly, to the spirit. And for so long it 
ought to be chastised and compelled to undergo slavery, even until 
it be ready for all things, and learn to be contented with little, to be 
delighted with things simple, and never to murmur at any incon- 
venience." 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 273 

CHAPTER XII 

OF THE INWARD GROWTH OF PATIENCE, AND OF THE STRUGGLE 
AGAINST EVIL DESIRES 

O Lord God, I see that patience is very necessary unto me; for 
many things in this life fall out contrary. For howsoever I may have 
contrived for my peace, my life cannot go on without strife and 
trouble. 

2. "Thou speakest truly. My Son. For I will not that thou seek 
such a peace as is without trials, and knoweth no adversities; but 
rather that thou shouldest judge thyself to have found peace, when 
thou art tried with manifold tribulations, and proved by many ad- 
versities. If thou shalt say that thou art not able to bear much, how 
then wilt thou sustain the fire hereafter? Of two evils we should 
always choose the less. Therefore, that thou mayest escajje eternal 
torments hereafter, strive on God's behalf to endure present evils 
bravely. Thinkest thou that the children of this world suffer nought, 
or but little? Thou wilt not find it so, even though thou find out the 
most prosperous. 

3. " 'But,' thou wilt say, 'they have many delights, and they fol- 
low their own wills, and thus they bear lightly their tribulations.' 

4. "Be it so, grant that they have what they list; but how long, 
thinkest thou, will it last? Behold, like the smoke those who are 
rich in this world will pass away, and no record shall remain of their 
past joys. Yea, even while they yet live, they rest not without bitter- 
ness and weariness and fear. For from the very same thing wherein 
they find delight, thence they oftentimes have the punishment of 
sorrow. Justly it befalleth them, that because out of measure they 
seek out and pursue pleasures, they enjoy them not without con- 
fusion and bitterness. Oh how short, how false, how inordinate and 
wicked are all these pleasures! Yet because of their sottishness and 
blindness men do not understand; but like brute beasts, for the sake 
of a litde pleasure of this corruptible life, they incur death of the 
soul. Thou therefore, my son, go not after thy lusts, but refrain 
thyself from thine appetites} Delight thou in the Lord, and He shall 
give thee thy heart's desire} 

' Ecclcsiastes xviii. 30. ' Psalm xxxvii. 4. 



274 "'^^ IMITATION OF CHRIST 

5. "For if thou wilt truly find delight, and be abundantly com- 
forted of Me, behold in the contempt of all worldly things and in 
the avoidance of all worthless pleasures shall be thy blessing, and 
fulness of consolation shall be given thee. And the more thou with- 
drawest thyself from all solace of creatures, the more sweet and pow- 
erful consolations shah thou find. But at the first thou shalt not 
attain to them, without some sorrow and hard striving. Long-accus- 
tomed habit will oppose, but it shall be overcome by better habit. 
The flesh will murmur again and again, but will be restrained by 
fervour of spirit. The old serpent will urge and embitter thee, but 
will be put to flight by prayer; moreover, by useful labour his 
entrance will be greatly obstructed." 

CHAPTER XIII 

OF THE OBEDIENCE OF ONE IN LOWLY SUBJECTION AFTER THE 
EXAMPLE OF JESUS CHRIST 

"My Son, he who striveth to withdraw himself from obedience, 
withdraweth himself also from grace, and he who seeketh private 
advantages, loseth those which are common unto all. If a man sub- 
mit not freely and willingly to one set over him, it is a sign that his 
flesh is not yet perfectly subject to himself, but often resisteth and 
murmureth. Learn therefore quickly to submit thyself to him who 
is over thee, if thou seekest to bring thine own flesh into subjection. 
For the outward enemy is very quickly overcome if the inner man 
have not been laid low. There is no more grievous and deadly enemy 
to the soul than thou art to thyself, if thou art not led by the Spirit. 
Thou must not altogether conceive contempt for thyself, if thou 
wilt prevail against flesh and blood. Because as yet thou inordi- 
nately lovest thyself, therefore thou shrinkest from yielding thyself 
to the will of others. 

2. "But what great thing is it that thou, who art dust and noth- 
ingness, yieldest thyself to man for God's sake, when I, the Almighty 
and the Most High, who created all things out of nothing, subjected 
Myself to man for thy sake? I became the most humble and 
despised of men, that by My humility thou mightest overcome thy 
pride. Learn to obey, O dust! Learn to humble thyself, O earth and 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 275 

day, and to bow thyself beneath the feet of all. Learn to crush thy 
passions, and to yield thyself in all subjection. 

3. "Be zealous against thyself, nor suffer pride to live within thee, 
but so show thyself subject and of no reputation, that all may be 
able to walk over thee, and tread thee down as the clay in the streets. 
What hast thou, O foolish man, of which to complain? What, O 
vile sinner, canst thou answer those who speak against thee, seeing 
thou hast so often offended God, and many a time hast deserved 
hell? But Mine eye hath spared thee, because thy soul was precious 
in My sight; that thou mightest know My love, and mightest be 
thankful for My benefits; and that thou mightest give thyself alto- 
gether to true subjection and humility, and patiendy bear the con- 
tempt which thou meritest." 

CHAPTER XIV 

OF MEDITATION UPON THE HIDDEN JUDGMENTS OF COD, THAT WE 
MAY NOT BE LIFTED UP BECAUSE OF OUR WELL-DOING 

Thou sendest forth Thy judgments against me, O Lord, and 
shakest all my bones with fear and trembling, and my soul trembleth 
exceedingly. I stand astonished, and remember that the heavens 
are not clean in thy sight} If Thou chargest Thine angels with jolly, 
and didst spare them not, how shall it be unto me? Stars have fallen 
from heaven, and what shall I dare who am but dust? They whose 
works seemed to be praiseworthy, fell into the lowest depths, and 
they who did eat Angels' food, them have I seen delighted with the 
husks that the swine do eat. 

2. There is therefore no holiness, if Thou O Lord, withdraw 
Thine hand. No wisdom profiteth, if Thou leave off to guide the 
helm. No strength availeth, if Thou cease to preserve. No purity is 
secure, if Thou protect it not. No self-keeping availeth, if Thy holy 
watching be not there. For when we are left alone we are swallowed 
up and perish, but when we are visited, we are raised up, and we 
live. For indeed we are unstable, but are made strong through Thee; 
we grow cold, but are rekindled by Thee. 

'Job XV. 15. 



276 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

3. Oh, how humbly and abjectly must I reckon of myself, how 
must I weigh it as nothing, if I seem to have nothing good! Oh, 
how profoundly ought I to submit myself to Thy unfathomable 
judgments, O Lord, when I find myself nothing else save nothing, 
and again nothing! Oh weight unmeasurable, oh ocean which 
cannot be crossed over, where I find nothing of myself save nothing 
altogether! Where, then, is the hiding-place of glory, where the con- 
fidence begotten of virtue? All vain-glory is swallowed up in the 
depths of Thy judgments against me. 

4. What is all flesh in Thy sight? For how shall the clay boast 
against Him that fashioned it?' How can he be lifted up in vain 
speech whose heart is subjected in truth to God? The whole world 
shall not lift him up whom Truth hath subdued; nor shall he be 
moved by the mouth of all who praise him, who hath placed all 
his hope in God. For they themselves who speak, behold, they are 
all nothing; for they shall cease with the sound of their words, but 
the truth of the Lord endureth for ever? 

CHAPTER XV 

HOW WE MUST STAND AND SPEAK, IN EVERYTHING THAT WE DESIKE 

"My Son, speak thou thus in every matter, 'Lord, if it please Thee, 
let this come to pass. Lord, if this shall be for Thine honour, let it 
be done in Thy Name. Lord, if thou see it good for me, and approve 
it as useful, then grant me to use it for Thy honour. But if thou 
knowest that it shall be hurtful unto me, and not profitable for the 
health of my soul, take the desire away from me'! For not every 
desire is from the Holy Ghost, although it appear to a man right 
and good. It is difficult to judge with certainty whether a good or 
an evil spirit move thee to desire this or that, or whether thou art 
moved by thine own spirit. Many have been deceived at the last, 
who seemed at the beginning to be moved by a good spirit. 

2. "Therefore, whatsoever seemeth to thee desirable, thou must 
always desire and seek after it with the fear of God and humility 
of heart, and most of all, must altogether resign thyself, and com- 
' Psalm xxix. 16. 'Psalm cxviL a. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 277 

mit all unto Me and say, 'Lord, thou knowest what is best; let this 
or that be, according as Thou wilt. Give what Thou wilt, so much 
as Thou wilt, when Thou wilt. Do with me as Thou knowest best, 
and as best shall please Thee, and as shall be most to Thine honour. 
Place me where Thou wilt, and freely work Thy will with me in all 
things. I am in Thine hand, and turn me in my course. Behold, I 
am Thy servant, ready for all things; for I desire to live not to myself 
but to Thee. Oh, that I might live worthily and perfecdy.' " 

A PKAYER TO BE ENABLED TO DO GOo's WILL PERFECTLY 

3. Grant me Thy grace, most merciful Jesus, that it may be with 
me, and work in me, and persevere with me, even unto the end. 
Grant that I may ever desire and wish whatsoever is most pleasing 
and dear unto Thee. Let Thy will be mine, and let my will alway 
follow Thine, and entirely accord with it. May I choose and reject 
whatsoever Thou dost; yea, let it be impossible for me to choose or 
reject except according to Thy will. 

4. Grant that I may die to all worldly things, and for Thy sake 
love to be despised and unknown in this world. Grant unto me, 
above all things that I can desire, to rest in Thee, and that in Thee 
my heart may be at peace. Thou art the true peace of the heart. 
Thou alone its rest; apart from Thee all things are hard and un- 
quiet. In Thee alone, the supreme and eternal God, / will lay me 
down in peace and take my rest} Amen. 

CHAPTER XVI 

THAT TRUE SOLACE IS TO BE SOUGHT IN COD ALONE 

Whatsoever I am able to desire or to think of for my solace, I look 
for it not here, but hereafter. For if I alone had all the solaces of 
this world, and were able to enjoy all its delights, it is certain that 
they could not endure long. Wherefore, O my soul, thou canst be 
fully comforted and perfecdy refreshed, only in God, the Comforter 
of the poor, and the lifter up of the humble. Wait but a little while, 
my soul, wait for the Divine promise, and thou shalt have abundance 

' Psalm iv. 9. 



278 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

of all good things in heaven. If thou longest too inordinately for 
the things which are now, thou shalt lose those which are eternal 
and heavenly. Let temporal things be in the use, eternal things in 
the desire. Thou canst not be satisfied with any temporal good, for 
thou wast not created for the enjoyment of these. 

2. Although thou hadst all the good things which ever were 
created, yet couldst not thou be happy and blessed; all thy blessed- 
ness and thy felicity lieth in God who created all things; not such 
felicity as seemeth good to the foolish lover of the world, but such 
as Christ's good and faithful servants wait for, and as the spiritual 
and pure in heart sometimes taste, whose conversation is in heaven} 
All human solace is empty and short-lived; blessed and true is that 
solace which is felt inwardly, springing from the truth. The godly 
man everywhere beareth about with him his own Comforter, Jesus, 
and saith unto Him: "Be with me. Lord Jesus, always and every- 
where. Let it be my comfort to be able to give up cheerfully all 
human comfort. And if Thy consolation fail me, let Thy will and 
righteous approval be alway with me for the highest comfort. For 
Thou wilt not always be chiding, neither l^eepest Thou Thine anger 
for ever." * 

CHAPTER XVII 

THAT ALL CARE IS TO BE CAST UPON GOD 

"My Son, suffer me to do with thee what I will; I know what is 
expedient for thee. Thou thinkest as a man, in many things thou 
judgest as human affection persuadeth thee." 

2. Lord, what Thou sayest is true. Greater is Thy care for me 
than all the care which I am able to take for myself. For too inse- 
curely doth he stand who casteth not all his care upon Thee. Lord, 
so long as my will standeth right and firm in Thee, do with me what 
Thou wilt, for whatsoever Thou shalt do with me cannot be aught 
but good. Blessed be Thou if Thou wilt leave me in darkness: 
blessed also be Thou if Thou wilt leave me in light. Blessed be Thou 
if Thou vouchsafe to comfort me, and always blessed be Thou if 
Thou cause me to be troubled. 

' Philippiant iii. 20. ' Psalm cii. 9. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 279 

3. "My Son! even thus thou must stand if thou desirest to walk 
with Me. Thou must be ready alike for suffering or rejoicing. Thou 
must be poor and needy as willingly as full and rich." 

4. Lord, I will willingly bear for Thee whatsoever Thou wilt have 
to come upon me. Without choice I will receive from Thy hand 
good and evil, sweet and bitter, joy and sadness, and will give Thee 
thanks for all things which shall happen unto me. Keep me from all 
sin, and I will not fear death nor hell. Only cast me not away for 
ever, nor blot me out of the book of life. Then no tribulation which 
shall come upon me shall do me hurt. 

CHAPTER XVIII 

THAT TEMPORAL MISEKIES ARE TO BE BORNE PATIENTLY AFTER 
THE EXAMPLE OF CHRIST 

"My Son I I came down from heaven for thy salvation; I took 
upon Me thy miseries not of necessity, but drawn by love that thou 
mightest learn patience and mightest bear temporal miseries without 
murmuring. For from the hour of My birth, until My death upon 
the Cross, I ceased not from bearing of sorrow; I had much lack 
of temporal things; I oftentimes heard many reproaches against My- 
self; I gendy bore contradictions and hard words; I received ingrati- 
tude for benefits, blasphemies for My miracles, rebukes for My 
doctrine." 

2. Lord, because Thou wast patient in Thy life, herein most of 
all fulfilling the commandment of Thy Father, it is well that I, 
miserable sinner, should patiendy bear myself according to Thy will, 
and as long as Thou wilt have it so, should bear about with me for 
my salvation, the burden of this corruptible life. For although the 
present life seemeth burdensome, it is nevertheless already made very 
full of merit through Thy grace, and to those who are weak it be- 
cometh easier and brighter through Thy example and the footsteps 
of Thy saints; but it is also much more full of consolation than it 
was of old, under the old Testament, when the gate of heaven 
remained sl.ut; and even the way to heaven seemed more obscure 
when so few cared to seek after the heavenly kingdom. But not even 



280 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

those who were then just and in the way of salvation were able, 
before Thy Passion and the ransom of Thy holy Death, to enter the 
kingdom of heaven. 

3. Oh what great thanks am I bound to give Thee, who hast 
vouchsafed to show me and all faithful people the good and right 
way to Thine eternal kingdom, for Thy way is our way, and by holy 
patience we walk to Thee who art our Crown. If Thou hadst not 
gone before and taught us, who would care to follow ? Oh, how far 
would they have gone backward if they had not beheld Thy glorious 
example! Behold we are still lukewarm, though we have heard of 
Thy many signs and discourses; what would become of us if we 
had not such a light to help us follow Thee? 

CHAPTER XIX 

OF BEARING INJURIES, AND WHO SHALL BE APPROVED 
AS TRULY PATIENT 

"What sayest thou, My Son? Cease to complain; consider My 
suffering and that of My saints. Thou hast not yet resisted unto 
blood} It is litde which thou sufferest in comparison with those 
who have suffered so many things, have been so strongly tempted, 
so grievously troubled, so manywise proved and tried. Thou ought- 
est therefore to call to mind the more grievous sufferings of others 
that thou mightest bear thy lesser ones more easily, and if they 
seem not to thee little, see that it is not thy impatience which is the 
cause of this. But whether they be litde or whether they be great, 
study to bear them all with patience. 

2, "So far as thou settest thyself to bear patiendy, so far thou 
dost wisely and art deserving of the more merit; thou shalt also 
bear the more easily if thy mind and habit are carefully trained 
hereunto. And say not 'I cannot bear these things from such a man, 
nor are things of this kind to be borne by me, for he hath done me 
grievous harm and imputeth to me what I had never thought: but 
from another I will suffer patiently, such things as I see I ought to 
suffer.' Foolish is such a thought as this, for it considereth not the 

' Hebrews xii. 4. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 28 1 

virtue of patience, nor by whom that virtue is to be crowned, but it 
rather weigheth persons and offences against self. 

3. "He is not truly patient who will only suffer as far as seemeth 
right to himself and from whom he pleaseth. But the truly patient 
man considereth not by what man he is tried, whether by one above 
him, or by an equal or inferior, whether by a good and holy man, 
or a perverse and unworthy; but indifferently from every creature, 
whatsoever or how often soever adversity happeneth to him, he 
gratefully accepteth all from the hand of God and counteth it great 
gain: for with God nothing which is borne for His sake, however 
small, shall lose its reward. 

4. "Be thou therefore ready for the fight if thou wilt have the 
victory. Without striving thou canst not win the crown of patience; 
if thou wilt not suffer thou refusest to be crowned. But if thou 
desirest to be crowned, strive manfully, endure patiently. Without 
labour thou drawest not near to rest, nor without fighting comest 
thou to victory." 

5. Make possible to me, O Lord, by grace what seemeth impossible 
to me by nature. Thou knowest how little I am able to bear, and 
how quickly I am cast down when a like adversity riseth up against 
me. Whatsoever trial of tribulation may come to me, may it become 
unto me pleasing and acceptable, for to suffer and be vexed for Thy 
sake is exceeding healthful to the soul. 

CHAPTER XX 

OF CONFESSION OF OUR INFIRMITY AND OF THE MISERIES OF THIS LIFE 

/ WILL acknowledge my sin unto Thee;^ I will confess to Thee, 
Lord, my infirmity. It is often a small thing which casteth me down 
and maketh me sad. I resolve that I will act bravely, but when a 
little temptation cometh, immediately I am in a great strait. Won- 
derfully small sometimes is the matter whence a grievous temptation 
cometh, and whilst I imagine myself safe for a little space; when I 
am not considering, I find myself often almost overcome by a little 
puff of wind. 

2. Behold, therefore, O Lord, my humility and my frailty, which 

' Psalm xxxii. 5. 



282 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

is altogether known to Thee. Be merciful unto me, and draw me 
out of the mire that I sin^ not^ lest I ever remain cast down. This is 
what frequently throweth me backward and confoundeth me before 
Thee, that I am so liable to fall, so weak to resist my passions. And 
though their assault is not altogether according to my will, it is 
violent and grievous, and it altogether wearieth me to live thus daily 
in conflict. Herein is my infirmity made known to me, that hateful 
fancies always rush in far more easily than they depart. 

3. Oh that Thou, most mighty God of Israel, Lover of all faithful 
souls, wouldst look upon the labour and sorrow of Thy servant, and 
give him help in all things whereunto he striveth. Strengthen me 
with heavenly fortitude, lest the old man, this miserable flesh, not 
being yet fully subdued to the spirit, prevail to rule over me; against 
which I ought to strive so long as I remain in this most miserable life. 
Oh what a life is this, where tribulations and miseries cease not, 
where all things are full of snares and of enemies, for when one 
tribulation or temptation goeth, another cometh, yea, while the 
former conflict is yet raging others come more in number and 
unexpected. 

4. And how can the life of man be loved, seeing that it hath so 
many bitter things, that it is subjected to so many calamities and 
miseries. How can it be even called life, when it produces so many 
deaths and plagues? The world is often reproached because it is 
deceitful and vain, yet notwithstanding it is not easily given up, 
because the lusts of the flesh have too much rule over it. Some draw 
us to love, some to hate. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, 
and the pride of life, these draw to love of the world; but the punish- 
ments and miseries which righteously follow these things, bring forth 
hatred of the world and weariness. 

5. But, alas! an evil desire conquereth a mind given to the world, 
and thinketh it happiness to be under the nettles' because it savour- 
eth not nor perceiveth the sweetness of God nor the inward grace- 
fulness of virtue. But they who perfectly despise the world and 
strive to live unto God in holy discipline, these are not ignorant of 
the divine sweetness promised to all who truly deny themselves and 
see clearly how grievously the world erreth, and in how many ways 
it is deceived. 

'Psalm lix. 16. 'Job xxx. 7. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 283 

CHAPTER XXI 

THAT WE MUST REST IN GOD ABOVE ALL GOODS AND GIFTS 

Above all things and in all things thou shalt rest alway in the 
Lord, O my soul, for he himself is the eternal rest of the saints. 
Grant me, most sweet and loving Jesus, to rest in Thee above every 
creature, above all health and beauty, above all glory and honour, 
above all power and dignity, above all knowledge and skilfulness, 
above all riches and arts, above all joy and exultation, above all fame 
and praise, above all sweetness and consolation, above all hojDe and 
promise, above all merit and desire, above all gifts and rewards 
which Thou canst give and pour forth, above all joy and jubilation 
which the mind is able to receive and feel; in a word, above Angels 
and Archangels and all the army of heaven, above all things visi- 
ble and invisible, and above everything which Thou, O my God, 
art not. 

2. For Thou, O Lord, my God, art best above all things; Thou 
only art the Most High, Thou only the Almighty, Thou only the 
All-sufficient, and the Fulness o£ all things; Thou only the All- 
delightsome and the All<omforting; Thou alone the altogether 
lovely and altogether loving; Thou alone the Most Exalted and 
Most Glorious above all things; in Whom all things are, and were, 
and ever shall be, altogether and all-perfect. And thus it falleth 
short and is insufficient whatsoever Thou givest to me without Thy- 
self or whatsoever Thou revealest or dost promise concerning Thy- 
self, whilst Thou art not seen or fully possessed: since verily my 
heart cannot truly rest nor be entirely content, except it rest in Thee, 
and go beyond all gifts and every creature. 

3. O my most beloved Spouse, Jesus Christ, most holy lover of 
my soul. Ruler of this whole Creation, who shall give me the wings 
of true liberty, that I may flee to Thee and find rest? Oh when shall 
it be given me to be open to receive Thee to the full, and to see how 
sweet Thou art, O Lord my God? When shall I collect myself 
altogether in Thee, that because of Thy love I may not feel myself 
at all, but may know Thee only above every sense and measure, in 
measure not known to others. But now I ofttimes groan, and bear 
my sad estate with sorrow; because many evils befall me in this vale 



284 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

of miseries which continually disturb and fill me with sorrow, and 
encloud me, continually hinder and fill me with care, allure and 
entangle me, that I cannot have free access to Thee, nor enjoy that 
sweet intercourse which is always near at hand to the blessed spirits. 
Let my deep sighing come before Thee, and my manifold desolation 
on the earth. 

4. O Jesus, Light of Eternal Glory, solace of the wandering soul, 
before Thee my mouth is without sjjeech, and my silence sjjeaketh to 
Thee. How long will my Lord delay to come unto me? Let Him 
come unto me, His poor and humble one, and make me glad. Let 
Him put forth His hand, and deliver His holy one from every snare. 
Come, Oh come; for without Thee shall be no joyful day or hour, 
for Thou art my joy, and without Thee is my table empty. I am 
miserable, and in a manner imprisoned and loaded with fetters, until 
Thou refresh me by the light of Thy presence, and give me liberty, 
and show Thy loving countenance. 

5. Let others seek some other thing instead of Thee, whatsoever it 
shall please them; but for my part nothing else pleaseth or shall 
please, save Thou, my God, my hope, my eternal salvation. I will 
not hold my peace, nor cease to implore, until Thy grace return, and 
until Thou speak to me within. 

6. "Behold, here I am! Behold, I come to thee, for thou didst call 
Me. Thy tears and the longing of thy soul, thy humbleness and con- 
trition of heart have inclined Me, and brought Me to thee." 

7. And I said Lord, I have called upon Thee, and 1 have longed 
to enjoy Thee, being ready to reject everything for Thy sake. For 
Thou didst first move me to seek Thee. Therefore, blessed be Thou, 
O Lord, who has wrought this good work upon Thy servant, ac- 
cording to the multitude of Thy mercy. What then hath Thy servant 
to say in Thy presence, save to humble himself greatly before Thee, 
being alway mindful of his own iniquity and vileness. For there 
is none like unto Thee in all marvels of heaven and earth. Excellent 
are Thy works, true are Thy judgments, and by Thy Providence 
are all things governed. Therefore praise and glory be unto Thee, 
O Wisdom of the Father, let my mouth and my soul and all created 
things praise and bless Thee together. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 285 

CHAPTER XXII 

OF THE RECOLLECTION OF GODS MANIFOLD BENEFITS 

Open, O Lord, my heart in Thy law, and teach me to walk in the 
way of Thy commandments. Grant me to understand Thy will and 
to be mindful of Thy benefits, both general and special, with great 
reverence and diligent meditation, that thus I may be able worthily 
to give Thee thanks. Yet I know and confess that I cannot render 
Thee due praises for the least of Thy mercies. I am less than the least 
of all the good things which Thou gavest me; and when I consider 
Thy majesty, my spirit faileth because of the greatness thereof. 

2. Ail things which we have in the soul and in the body, and 
whatsoever things we possess, whether outwardly or inwardly, natu- 
rally or supernaturally, are Thy good gifts, and prove Thee, from 
whom we have received them all, to be good, gende, and kind. 
Although one receiveth many things, and another fewer, yet all are 
Thine, and without Thee not even the least thing can be possessed. 
He who hath received greater cannot boast that it is of his own merit, 
nor lift himself up above others, nor contemn those beneath him; 
for he is the greater and the better who ascribeth least to himself, 
and in giving thanks is the humbler and more devout; and he who 
holdeth himself to be viler than all, and judgeth himself to be the 
more unworthy, is the apter for receiving greater things. 

3. But he who hath received fewer gifts, ought not to be cast down, 
nor to take it amiss, nor to envy him who is richer; but rather ought 
he to look unto Thee, and to greatly extol Thy goodness, for Thou 
pourest forth Thy gifts so richly, so freely and largely, without re- 
spect of persons. All things come of Thee; therefore in all things 
shalt thou be praised. Thou knowest what is best to be given to each; 
and why this man hath less, and that more, is not for us but for 
Thee to understand, for unto Thee each man's deservings are fully 
known. 

4. Wherefore, O Lord God, I reckon it even a great benefit, not 
to have many things, whence praise and glory may appear outwardly, 
and after the thought of men. For so it is that he who considereth his 
own poverty and vileness, ought not only to draw therefrom no grief 



286 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

or sorrow, or sadness of spirit, but rather comfort and cheerfulness; 
because Thou, Lord, hast chosen the poor and humble, and those 
who are poor in this world, to be Thy friends and acquaintance. 
So give all Thine apostles witness whom Thou hast made princes 
in all lands. Yet they had their conversation in this world blame- 
less, so humble and meek, without any malice or deceit, that they 
even rejoiced to suffer rebukes for Thy Name's sa^e^ and what 
things the world hateth, they embraced with great joy. 

5. Therefore ought nothing so much to rejoice him who loveth 
Thee and knoweth Thy benefits, as Thy will in him, and the good 
pleasure of Thine eternal Providence, wherewith he ought to be so 
contented and comforted, that he would as willingly be the least as 
any other would be the greatest, as peaceable and contented in the 
lowest as in the highest place, and as willingly held of small and 
low account and of no name or reputation as to be more honour- 
able and greater in the world than others. For Thy will and the 
love of Thine honour ought to go before all things, and to please and 
comfort him more, than all benefits that are given or may be given 
to himself. 

CHAPTER XXIII 

OF FOUR THINGS WHICH BRING GREAT PEACE 

"My Son, now will I teach thee the way of peace and of true 
liberty." 

2. Do, O my Lord, as Thou sayest, for this is pleasing unto me 
to hear. 

3. "Strive, My Son, to do another's will rather than thine own. 
Choose always to have less rather than more. Seek always after the 
lowest place, and to be subject to all. Wish always and pray that 
the will of God be fulfilled in thee. Behold, such a man as this enter- 
eth into the inheritance of peace and quietness." 

4. O my Lord, this Thy short discourse hath in itself much of f)er- 
fectness. It is short in words but full of meaning, and abundant in 
fruit. For if it were possible that I should fully keep it, disturbance 
would not so easily arise within me. For as often as I feel myself 

'Acts V. 41. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 287 

disquieted and weighed down, I find myself to have gone back from 
this teaching. But Thou, Who art Almighty, and always lovest prog- 
ress in the soul, vouchsafe more grace, that I may be enabled to 
fulfil Thy exhortation, and work out my salvation. 

A PKAYER AGAINST EVIL THOUGHTS 

5. Lord my God, be not Thou jar from me, my God, haste Thee 
to help me^ for many thoughts and great fears have risen up against 
me, afflicting my soul. How shall I pass through them unhurt? how 
shall I break through them? 

6. "/," saith He, "will go before thee, and ma\e the crooked places 
straight."^ I will open the prison doors, and reveal to thee the secret 
places. 

7. Do, Lord, as Thou sayest; and let all evil thoughts fly away 
before Thy face. This is my hope and my only comfort, to fly unto 
Thee in all tribulation, to hope in Thee, to call upon Thee from my 
heart and patiendy wait for Thy loving kindness. 

A PRAYEK FOR ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE MIND 

8. Enlighten me. Blessed Jesus, with the brightness of Thy inner 
light, and cast forth all darkness from the habitation of my heart. 
Restrain my many wandering thoughts, and carry away the tempta- 
tions which strive to do me hurt. Fight Thou mightily for me, and 
drive forth the evil beasts, so call I alluring lusts, that peace may be 
within Thy walls and plenteousness of praise within Thy palaces* 
even in my pure conscience. Command Thou the winds and the 
storms, say unto the sea, "Be still," say unto the stormy wind, "Hold 
thy peace," so shall there be a great calm. 

9. Oh send forth Thy light and Thy truth^ that they may shine 
upon the earth; for I am but earth without form and void until 
Thou give me light. Pour forth Thy grace from above; water my 
heart with the dew of heaven; give the waters of devotion to water 
the face of the earth, and cause it to bring forth good and perfect 
fruit. Lift up my mind which is oppressed with the weight of sins, 
and raise my whole desire to heavenly things; that having tasted the 

'Psalm IxzL is. 'Isaiah xlv. 2. 'Psalm cxxii. 7. ^ Psalm xliiL 3. 



288 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

sweetness of the happiness which is from above, it may take no 
pleasure in thinking of things of earth. 

10. Draw me and deHver me from every unstable comfort of crea- 
tures, for no created thing is able to satisfy my desire and to give 
me comfort. Join me to Thyself by the inseparable bond of love, 
for Thou alone art sufficient to him that loveth Thee, and without 
Thee all things are vain toys. 

CHAPTER XXIV 

OF AVOroiNG OF CURIOUS INQUIRY INTO THE LIFE OF ANOTHER 

"My Son, be not curious, nor trouble thyself with vain cares. 
What is that to thee? Follow thou Me} For what is it to thee 
whether a man be this or that, or say or do thus or thus? Thou hast 
no need to answer for others, but thou must give an answer for 
thyself. Why therefore dost thou entangle thyself? Behold, I know 
all men, and I behold all things which are done under the sun; and 
I know how it standeth with each one, what he thinketh, what he 
willeth, and to what end his thoughts reach. All things therefore 
are to be committed to Me; watch thou thyself in godly peace, and 
leave him who is unquiet to be unquiet as he will. Whatsoever he 
shall do or say, shall come unto him, for he cannot deceive Me. 

2. "Trouble not thyself about the shadow of a great name, nor 
about the friendship of many, nor about the love of men towards 
thee. For these things beget distraction and great sorrows of heart. 
My word should speak freely unto thee, and I would reveal secrets, 
if only thou didst diligently look for My appearing, and didst open 
unto Me the gates of thy heart. Be sober and watch unto prayer* 
and humble thyself in all things." 

CHAPTER XXV 

WHEREIN FIRM PEACE OF HEART AND TRUE PROFIT CONSIST 

"My Son, I have said, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give 
unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you* All men desire 
peace, but all do not care for the things which belong unto true 

' John xxi. 12. *i Peter iv. 7. *John xiv. 27. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 289 

peace. My peace is with the humble and lowly in heart. Thy peace 
shall be in much patience. If thou heardest Me, and didst follow 
My voice, thou shouldest enjoy much peace." 

2. What then shall I do, Lord? 

3. "In everything take heed to thyself what thou doest, and what 
thou sayest; and direct all thy purpose to this, that thou please Me 
alone, and desire or seek nothing apart from Me. But, moreover, 
judge nothing rashly concerning the words or deeds of others, nor 
meddle with matters which are not committed to thee; and it may 
be that thou shalt be disturbed little or rarely. Yet never to feel any 
disquiet, nor to suffer any pain of heart or body, this belongeth not 
to the present life, but is the state of eternal rest. Therefore count 
not thyself to have found true peace, if thou hast felt no grief; nor 
that then all is well if thou hast no adversary; nor that this is p)erfect 
if all things fall out according to thy desire. Nor then reckon thy- 
self to be anything great, or think that thou art specially beloved, 
if thou art in a state of great fervour and sweetness of spirit; for 
not by these things is the true lover of virtue known, nor in them 
doth the profit and perfection of man consist." 

4. In what then, Lord? 

5. "In offering thyself with all thy heart to the Divine Will, in not 
seeking the things which are thine own, whether great or small, 
whether temporal or eternal; so that thou remain with the same 
steady countenance in giving of thanks between prosperity and ad- 
versity, weighing all things in an equal balance. If thou be so 
brave and long-suffering in hope that when inward comfort is taken 
from thee, thou even prepare thy heart for the more endurance, and 
justify not thyself, as though thou oughtest not to suffer these heavy 
things, but dost justify Me in all things that I appoint, and dost bless 
My Holy Name, then dost thou walk in the true and right way of 
peace, and shalt have a sure hope that thou shalt again behold My 
face with joy. For if thou come to an utter contempt of thyself, 
know that then thou shalt enjoy abundance of peace, as much as is 
possible where thou art but a wayfaring man." 



290 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

CHAPTER XXVI 

OF THE EXALTATION OF A FREE SPIRIT, WHICH HUMBLE PRAYER MORE 
DESERVETH THAN DOTH FREQUENT READING 

Lord, this is the work of a perfect man, never to slacken his mind 
from attention to heavenly things, and among many cares to pass 
along as it were without care, not after the manner of one indiffer- 
ent, but rather with the privilege of a free mind, cleaving to no 
creature with inordinate affection. 

2. I beseech Thee, my most merciful Lord God, preserve me from 
the cares of this life, lest I become too much entangled; from many 
necessities of the body, lest I be taken captive by pleasure; from all 
obstacles of the spirit, lest I be broken and cast down with cares. I 
say not from those things which the vanity of the world goeth about 
after with all eagerness, but from those miseries, which by the uni- 
versal curse of mortality weigh down and hold back the soul of thy 
servant in punishment, that it cannot enter into liberty of spirit, so 
often as it would. 

3. O my God, sweetness unspeakable, turn into bitterness all my 
fleshly consolation, which draweth me away from the love of eternal 
things, and wickedly allureth toward itself by setting before me some 
present delight. Let not, O my God, let not flesh and blood prevail 
over me, let not the world and its short glory deceive me, let not the 
devil and his craftiness supplant me. Give me courage to resist, 
patience to endure, constancy to persevere. Grant, in place of all con- 
solations of the world, the most sweet unction of Thy Spirit, and in 
place of carnal love, pour into me the love of Thy Name. 

4. Behold, food and drink and clothing, and all the other needs 
appertaining to the support of the body, are burdensome to the 
devout spirit. Grant that I may use such things with moderation, 
and that I be not entangled with inordinate affection for them. To 
cast away all these things is not lawful, because nature must be sus- 
tained, but to require superfluities and things which merely minister 
delight, the holy law forbiddeth; for otherwise the flesh would wax 
insolent against the spirit. In all these things, I beseech Thee, let 
Thy hand guide and teach me, that I in no way exceed. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 29 1 

CHAPTER XXVII 

THAT PERSONAL LOVE GREATLY HINDERETH FROM THE HIGHEST GOOD 

"My Son, thou must give all for all, and be nothing of thine own. 
Know thou that the love of thyself is more hurtful to thee than 
anything in the world. According to the love and inclination which 
thou hast, everything more or less cleaveth to thee. If thy love be 
pure, sincere, well-regulated, thou shalt not be in captivity to any- 
thing. Do not covet what thou mayest not have; do not have what 
is able to hinder thee, and to rob thee of inward liberty. It is won- 
derful that thou committest not thyself to Me from the very bottom 
of thy heart, with all things which thou canst desire or have. 

2. "Why art thou consumed with vain sorrow? Why art thou 
wearied with superfluous cares? Stand thou by My good pleasure, 
and thou shalt suffer no loss. If thou seekest after this or that, and 
wilt be here or there, according to thine own advantage or the ful- 
filUng of thine own pleasure, thou shalt never be in quiet, nor free 
from care, because in everything somewhat will be found lacking, 
and everywhere there will be somebody who opposeth thee. 

3. "Therefore it is not gaining or multiplying of this thing or 
that which advantageth thee, but rather the despising it and cutting 
it by the root out of thy heart; which thou must not only under- 
stand of money and riches, but of the desire after honour and vain 
praise, things which all pass away with the world. The place avail- 
eth little if the spirit of devotion is wanting; nor shall that peace 
stand long which is sought from abroad, if the state of thy heart is 
without the true foundation, that is, if it abide not in Me. Thou 
mayest change, but thou canst not better thyself; for when occasion 
ariseth and is accepted thou shalt find what thou didst fly from, 
yea more." 

A PRAYER FOR CLEANSING OF THE HEART AND FOR HEAVENLY WISDOM 

4. Strengthen me, O God, by the grace of Thy Holy Spirit. Give 
me virtue to be strengthened with might in the inner man, and to 
free my heart from all fruidess care and trouble, and that I be not 
drawn away by various desires after any things whatsoever, whether 



292 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

of little value or great, but that I may look upon all as passing 
away, and myself as passing away with them; because there is no 
profit under the sun, and all is vanity and vexation of spirit} Oh 
how wise is he that considereth thus! 

5. Give me, O Lord, heavenly wisdom, that I may learn to seek 
Thee above all things and to find Thee; to relish Thee above all 
things and to love Thee; and to understand all other things, even 
as they are, according to the order of Thy wisdom. Grant me pru- 
dently to avoid the flatterer, and patiently to bear with him that 
opposeth me; for this is great wisdom, not to be carried by every 
wind of words, nor to give ear to the wicked flattering Siren; for 
thus do we go safely on in the way we have begun. 

CHAPTER XXVIII 

AGAINST THE TONGUES OF DETRACTORS 

"My Son, take it not sadly to heart, if any think ill of thee, and 
say of thee what thou art unwilling to hear. Thou oughtest to 
think worse of thyself, and to believe no man weaker than thyself. 
If thou walkest inwardly, thou wilt not weigh flying words above 
their value. It is no small prudence to keep silence in an evil time 
and to turn inwardly unto Me, and not to be troubled by human 
judgment. 

2. "Let not thy peace depend upon the word of men; for whether 
they judge well or ill of thee, thou art not therefore any other man 
than thyself. Where is true peace or true glory? Is it not in Me? 
And he who seeketh not to please men, nor feareth to displease, 
shall enjoy abundant peace. From inordinate love and vain fear 
ariseth all disquietude of heart, and all distraction of the senses." 

CHAPTER XXIX 

HOW WHEN TRIBULATION COMETH WE MUST CALL UPON AND BLESS GOD 

Blessed be thy name, O Lord, for evermore, who hast willed this 
temptation and trouble to come upon me. I cannot escape it, but 
have need to flee unto Thee, that Thou mayest succour me and turn 

' Ecclcsiastcs ii. 1 1 . 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 293 

it unto me for good. Lord, now am I in tribulation, and it is not 
well within my heart, but I am sore vexed by the suffering which 
lieth upon me. And now, O dear Father, what shall I say? I am 
taken among the snares. Save me from this hour, but for this cause 
came I unto this hour} that Thou mightest be glorified when I am 
deeply humbled and am delivered through Thee, het it be Thy 
pleasure to deliver me^ for what can I do who am poor, and without 
Thee whither shall I go? Give patience this time also. Help me, O 
Lord my God, and I will not fear how much soever I be weighed 
down. 

2. And now amid these things what shall I say? Lord, Thy will 
be done. I have well deserved to be troubled and weighed down. 
Therefore I ought to bear, would that it be with patience, until the 
tempest be overpast and comfort return. Yet is Thine omnipotent 
arm able also to take this temptation away from me, and to lessen 
its power that I fall not utterly under it, even as many a time past 
thou has helped me, O God, my merciful God. And as much as this 
deliverance is difficult to me, so much is it easy to Thee, O right 
hand of the most Highest. 

CHAPTER XXX 

OF SEEKING DIVINE HELP, AND THE CONFIDENCE OF OBTAINING GRACE 

"My Son, I the Lord am a stronghold in the day of trouble.' Come 
unto Me, when it is not well with thee. 

"This it is which chiefly hindereth heavenly consolation, that thou 
too slowly betakest thyself unto prayer. For before thou earnesdy 
seekest unto Me, thou dost first seek after many means of comfort, 
and refresheth thyself in outward things: so it cometh to pass that 
all things profit thee but litde until thou learn that it is I who 
deliver those who trust in Me; neither beside Me is there any strong 
help, nor profitable counsel, nor enduring remedy. But now, recov- 
ering courage after the tempest, grow thou strong in the light of 
My mercies, for I am nigh, saith the Lord, that I may restore all 
things not only as they were at the first, but also abundantly and 
one upon another. 

']oho xii. 27. * Psalm xl. 16. 'Nahum i. 7. 



294 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

2. "For is anything too hard for Me, or shall I be like unto one who 
saith and doeth not? Where is thy faith? Stand fast and with per- 
severance. Be long-suffering and strong. Consolation will come 
unto thee in its due season. Wait for Me; yea, wait; I will come 
and heal thee. It is temptation which vexeth thee, and a vain fear 
which terrifieth thee. What doth care about future events bring 
thee, save sorrow upon sorrow? Sufficient for the day is the evil 
thereof.* It is vain and useless to be disturbed or lifted up about 
future things which (jerhaps will never come. 

3. "But it is the nature of man to be deceived by fancies of this 
sort, and it is a sign of a mind which is still weak to be so easily 
drawn away at the suggestion of the enemy. For he careth not 
whether he deceive and beguile by true means or false; whether he 
throw thee down by the love of the present or fear of the future. 
Therefore let not thy heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 
BeUeve in Me, and put thy trust in My mercy.' When thou think- 
est thyself far removed from Me, I am often the nearer. When thou 
reckonest that almost all is lost, then often is greater opportunity of 
gain at hand. All is not lost when something goeth contrary to thy 
wishes. Thou oughtest not to judge according to present feeling, 
nor so to take or give way to any grief which befalleth thee, as if 
all hope of escape were taken away. 

4. "Think not thyself totally abandoned, although for the time I 
have sent to thee some tribulation, or have even withdrawn some 
cherished consolation; for this is the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. 
And without doubt it is better for thee and for all My other servants, 
that ye should be proved by adversities, than that ye should have all 
things as ye would. I know thy hidden thoughts: and that it is 
very needful for thy soul's health that sometimes thou be left with- 
out relish, lest perchance thou be lifted up by prosperity, and de- 
sirous to please thyself in that which thou art not. What I have 
given I am able to take away, and to restore again at My good 
pleasure. 

5. "When I shall have given, it is Mine; when I shall have taken 
away, I have not taken what is thine; for every good gift and every 
perfect gift' is from me. If I shall have sent upon thee grief or 

'Matthew vi. 34. *John xiv. 27; Psalm xiii. 5. 'James i. 17. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 295 

any vexation, be not angry, nor let thy heart be sad; I am able 
quickly to lift thee up and to change every burden into joy. But I 
am just and greatly to be praised, when I do thus unto thee. 

6. "If thou righdy consider, and look upon it with truth, thou 
oughtest never to be so sadly cast down because of adversity, but 
rather shouldst rejoice and give thanks; yea, verily to count it the 
highest joy that I afflict thee with sorrows and spare thee not. As 
My Father hath loved Me, so love I youf thus have I spoken unto 
My beloved disciples: whom I sent forth not unto worldly joys, but 
to great strivings; not unto honours, but unto contempt; not unto 
ease, but to labours; not unto rest, but to bring forth much fruit with 
patience. My son, remember these words." 

CHAPTER XXXI 

OF THE NEGLECT OF EVERY CREATURE, THAT THE CREATOR MAY BE FOUNB 

O Lord, I still need more grace, if I would arrive where neither 
man nor any other creature may hinder me. For so long as any- 
thing keepeth me back, I cannot freely fly unto Thee. He desired 
eagerly thus to fly, who cried, saying. Oh that I had wings lil{e a 
dove, for then would I flee away and be at rest. What is more 
peaceful than the single eye? And what more free than he that de- 
sireth nothing upon earth? Therefore must a man rise above every 
creature, and perfectly forsake himself, and with abstracted mind 
to stand and behold that Thou, the Creator of all things, hast among 
Thy creatures nothing like unto Thyself. And except a man be 
freed from all creatures, he will not be able to reach freely after 
Divine things. Therefore few are found who give themselves to 
contemplation, because few know how to separate themselves 
entirely from perishing and created things. 

2. For this much grace is necessary, which may lift up the soul 
and raise it above itself. And except a man be lifted up in the spirit, 
and freed from all creatures, and altogether united to God, whatso- 
ever he knoweth, whatsoever even he hath, it mattereth but little. 
He who esteemeth anything great save the one only incompre- 
hensible, eternal, good, shall long time be little and lie low. For 

'John XT. 9. 



296 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

whatsoever is not God is nothing, and ought to be counted for noth- 
ing. Great is the difference between a godly man, illuminated with 
wisdom, and a scholar learned in knowledge and given to books. 
Far nobler is that doctrine which floweth down from the divine ful- 
ness above, than that which is acquired laboriously by human study. 

3. Many are found who desire contemplation, but they do not 
strive to practice those things which are required thereunto. It is 
also a great impediment, that much is made of symbols and external 
signs, and too little of thorough mortification. I know not how it 
is, and by what spirit we are led, and what we who would be deemed 
spiritual are aiming at, that we give so great labour and so eager 
solicitude for transitory and worthless things, and scarcely ever 
gather our senses together to think at all of our inward condition. 

4. Ah, me! Forthwith after a little recollection we rush out of 
doors, and do not subject our actions to a strict examination. Where 
our affections are set we take no heed, and we weep not that all 
things belonging to us are so defiled. For because all flesh had cor- 
rupted itself upon the earth, the great deluge came. Since therefore 
our inmost affections are very corrupt, it foUoweth of necessity that 
our actions also are corrupt, being the index of a deficient inward 
strength. Out of a pure heart proceedeth the fruit of good living. 

5. We demand, how much a man hath done; but from how much 
virtue he acted, is not so narrowly considered. We ask if he be 
strong, rich, handsome, clever, whether he is a good writer, good 
singer, good workman; but how poor he may be in spirit, how 
patient and gentle, how devout and meditative, on these things 
many are silent. Nature looketh upon the outward appearance of a 
man, grace turneth its thought to the heart. The former frequently 
judgeth amiss; the latter trusteth in God, that it may not be deceived. 

CHAPTER XXXII 

OF SELF-DENIAL AND THE CASTING AWAY ALL SELFISHNESS 

"My Son, thou canst not possess perfect liberty unless thou alto- 
gether deny thyself. All they are enslaved who are possessors of 
riches, they who love themselves, the selfish, the curious, the rest- 
less; those who ever seek after soft things, and not after the things 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 297 

of Jesus Christ; those who continually plan and devise that which 
will not stand. For whatsoever cometh not of God shall perish. 
Hold fast the short and complete saying, 'Renounce all things, and 
thou shalt find all things; give up thy lust, and thou shall find rest.' 
Dwell upon this in thy mind, and when thou art full of it, thou shalt 
understand all things." 

2. O Lord, this is not the work of a day, nor children's play; 
verily in this short saying is enclosed all the perfection of the 
religious. 

3. "My son, thou oughtest not to be turned aside, nor imme- 
diately cast down, 'oecause thou hast heard the way of the perfect. 
Rather oughtest thou to be provoked to higher aims, and at the 
least to long after the desire thereof. Oh that it were so with thee, 
and that thou hadst come to this, that thou wert not a lover of thine 
own self, but wert ready always to My nod, and to his whom I have 
placed over thee as thy father. Then shouldest thou please Me 
exceedingly, and all thy life should go on in joy and jjeace. Thou 
hast still many things to renounce, which if thou resign not utterly 
to Me, thou shalt not gain what thou seekest. / counsel thee to buy 
of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich} that is heav- 
enly wisdom, which despiseth all base things. Put away from thee 
earthly wisdom, and all pleasure, whether common to men, or thine 
own. 

4. "I tell thee that thou must buy vile things with those which 
are costly and great in the esteem of men. For wonderfully vile and 
small, and almost given up to forgetfulness, doth true heavenly 
wisdom appear, which thinketh not high things of itself, nor seeketh 
to be magnified upon the earth; many honour it with their lips, 
but in heart are far from it; it is indeed the precious pearl, which is 
hidden from many." 

CHAPTER XXXIII 

OF INSTABILITY OF THE HEART, AND OF DIRECTING THE AIM TOWARDS GOD 

"My Son, trust not thy feeling, for that which is now will be 
quickly changed into somewhat else. As long as thou livest thou art 

' Rcvelation iiL 18. 



298 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

subject to change, howsoever unwilling; so that thou art found now 
joyful, now sad; now at peace, now disquieted; now devout, now 
indevout; now studious, now careless; now sad, now cheerful. But 
the wise man, and he who is truly learned in spirit, standeth above 
fhese changeable things, attentive not to what he may feel in him- 
self, or from what quarter the wind may blow, but that the whole 
intent of his mind may carry him on to the due and much-desired 
end. For thus will he be able to remain one and the same and un- 
shaken, the single eye of his desire being steadfastly fixed, through 
the manifold changes of the world, upon Me. 

2. "But according as the eye of intention be the more pure, even 
so will a man make his way steadfastly through the manifold storms. 
But in many the eye of pure intention waxeth dim; for it quickly 
resteth itself upon anything pleasant which occurreth, and rarely 
is any man found altogether free from the blemish of self-seeking. 
So the Jews of old came to Bethany, to the house of Martha and 
Mary, that they might see not Jesus, but Lazarus, whom he had 
raised from the dead.' Therefore must the eye of the intention be 
cleansed, that it may be single and right, and above all things which 
come in its way, may be directed unto Me." 

CHAPTER XXXIV 

THAT TO HIM WHO LOVETH COD IS SWEET ABOVE ALL THINGS 
AND IN ALL THINGS 

Behold, God is mine, and all things are mine! What will I more, 
and what more happy thing can I desire? O delightsome and sweet 
world I that is, to him that loveth the Word, not the world, neither 
the things that are in the worlds My God, my all! To him that 
understandeth, that word sufficeth, and to repeat it often is pleasing 
to him that loveth it. When Thou art present all things are pleas- 
ant; when Thou art absent, all things are wearisome. Thou makest 
the heart to be at rest, givest it deep peace and festal joy. Thou 
makest it to think rightly in every matter, and in every matter to 
give Thee praise; neither can anything please long without Thee but 
if it would be pleasant and of sweet savour. Thy grace must be 
there, and it is Thy wisdom which must give unto it a sweet savour. 
'John xii. 9. ^ i John ii. 15. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 299 

2. To him who tasteth Thee, what can be distasteful? And to 
him who tasteth Thee not, what is there which can make him 
joyous? But the worldly wise, and they who enjoy the flesh, these 
fail in Thy wisdom; for in the wisdom of the world is found utter 
vanity, and to be carnally minded is death. But they who follow 
after Thee through contempt of worldly things, and mortification 
of the flesh, are found to be the truly wise because they are carried 
from vanity to verity, from the flesh to the spirit. They taste that 
the Lord is good, and whatsoever good they find in creatures, they 
count it all unto the praise of the Creator. Unlike, yea, very unlike 
is the enjoyment of the Creator to enjoyment of the Creature, the 
enjoyment of eternity and of time, of light uncreated and of light 
reflected. 

3. O Light everlasting, surpassing all created lights, dart down 
Thy ray from on high which shall pierce the inmost depths of my 
heart. Give purity, joy, clearness, life to my spirit that with all its 
powers it may cleave unto Thee with rapture passing man's under- 
standing. Oh when shall that blessed and longed-for time come 
when Thou shalt satisfy me with Thy presence, and be unto me 
All in all? So long as this is delayed, my joy shall not be full. Still, 
ah me! the old man liveth in me: he is not yet all crucified, not yet 
quite dead; still he lusteth fiercely against the spirit, wageth inward 
wars, nor suffereth the soul's kingdom to be in peace. 

4. But Thou who rulest the raging of the sea, and stillest the waves 
thereof when they arise, rise up and help me. Scatter the people that 
delight in war} Destroy them by Thy p)ower. Show forth, I be- 
seech Thee, Thy might, and let Thy right hand be glorified, for I 
have no hope, no refuge, save in Thee, O Lord my God. 

CHAPTER XXXV 

THAT THERE IS NO SECURITY AGAINST TEMPTATION IN THIS LIFE 

"My Son, thou art never secure in this life, but thy spiritual armour 
will always be needful for thee as long as thou livest. Thou dwell- 
est among foes, and art attacked on the right hand and on the left. 
If therefore thou use not on all sides the shield of patience, thou 
wilt not remain long unwounded. Above all, if thou keep not thy 

' Psalm Ixviii. 30. 



300 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

heart fixed upon Me with steadfast purpose to bear all things for My 
sake, thou shalt not be able to bear the fierceness of the attack, nor 
to attain to the victory of the blessed. Therefore must thou struggle 
bravely all thy life through, and put forth a strong hand against 
those things which oppose thee. For to him that overcometh is the 
hidden manna given,' but great misery is reserved for the slothful. 

2. "If thou seek rest in this life, how then wilt thou attain unto the 
rest which is eternal ? Set not thyself to attain much rest, but much 
patience. Seek the true peace, not in earth but in heaven, not in 
man nor in any created thing, but in God alone. For the love of 
God thou must willingly undergo all things, whether labours or 
sorrows, temptations, vexations, anxieties, necessities, infirmities, in- 
juries, gainsayings, rebukes, humiliations, confusions, corrections, 
despisings; these things help unto virtue, these things prove the 
scholar of Christ; these things fashion the heavenly crown. I will 
give thee an eternal reward for short labour, and infinite glory for 
transient shame. 

3. "Thinkest thou that thou shalt always have spiritual consola- 
tions at thy will? My Saints had never such, but instead thereof 
manifold griefs, and divers temptations, and heavy desolations. But 
patiently they bore themselves in all, and trusted in God more than 
in themselves, knowing that the sufferings of this present time are 
not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed 
in us.* Wouldst thou have that immediately which many have 
hardly attained unto after many tears and hard labours? Wait for 
the Lord, quit thyself like a man and be strong; be not faint- 
hearted, nor go aside from Me, but constantly devote thy body and 
soul to the glory of God. I will reward thee plenteously, / will be 
with thee in trouble.'" 

CHAPTER XXXVI 

AGAINST VAIN JUDGMENTS OF MEN 

"My Son, anchor thy soul firmly upon God, and fear not man's 
judgment, when conscience pronounceth thee pious and innocent. It 
is good and blessed thus to suffer; nor will it be grievous to the 
' Revelation ii. 17. ' Romans viii. 17. ' Pulm xci. 15. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 3OI 

heart which is humble, and which trusteth in God more than in 
itself. Many men have many opinions, and therefore little trust is 
to be placed in them. But moreover it is impossible to please all. 
Although Paul studied to please all men in the Lord, and to become 
all things to all men} yet nevertheless with him it was a very small 
thing that he should he judged by man's judgment."^ 

2. He laboured abundantly, as much as in him lay, for the build- 
ing up and the salvation of others; but he could not avoid being 
sometimes judged and despised by others. Therefore he committed 
all to God, who knew all, and by patience and humility defended 
himself against evil speakers, or foolish and false thinkers, and those 
who accused him according to their pleasure. Nevertheless, from 
time to time he replied, lest his silence should become a stumbling- 
block to those who were weak. 

3. "Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that 
shall die? To-day he is, and to-morrow his place is not found. Fear 
God and thou shalt not quail before the terrors of men. What can 
any man do against thee by words or deeds? He hurteth himself 
more than thee, nor shall he escape the judgment of God, whosoever 
he may be. Have thou God before thine eyes, and do not contend 
with fretful words. And if for the present thou seem to give way, 
and to suffer confusion which thou hast not deserved, be not angry 
at this, nor by impatience diminish thy reward; but rather look up 
to Me in heaven, for 1 am able to deliver thee from all confusion 
and hurt, and to render to every man according to his works." 

CHAPTER XXXVII 

OF PURE AND ENTIRE RESIGNATION OF SELF, FOR THE OBTAINING 
LIBERTY OF HEART 

"My Son, lose thyself and thou shalt find Me. Stand still without 
all choosing and all thought of self, and thou shalt ever be a gainer. 
For more grace shall be added to thee, as soon as thou resignest thy- 
self, and so long as thou dost not turn back to take thyself again." 

2. O Lord, how often shall I resign myself, and in what things 
shall I lose myself? 

' 1 Corinthians ix. 22. ' i Corinthians iv. 3. 



302 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

3. "Always; every hour: in that which is little, and in that which 
is great. I make no exception, but will that thou be found naked in 
all things. Otherwise how canst thou be Mine and I thine, unless 
thou be inwardly and outwardly free from every will of thine own.' 
The sooner thou dost this, the better shall it be with thee; and the 
more fully and sincerely, the more thou shalt please Me, and the 
more abundantly shalt thou be rewarded. 

4. "Some resign themselves, but with certain reservations, for they 
do not fully trust in God, therefore they think that they have some 
provision to make for themselves. Some again at first offer every- 
thing; but afterwards being pressed by temptation they return to 
their own devices, and thus make no progress in virtue. They will 
not attain to the true liberty of a pure heart, nor to the grace of 
My sweet companionship, unless they first entirely resign them- 
selves and daily offer themselves up as a sacrifice; without this the 
union which bringeth forth fruit standeth not nor will stand. 

5. "Many a time I have said unto thee, and now say again. Give 
thyself up, resign thyself, and thou shalt have great inward peace. 
Give all for all; demand nothing, ask nothing in return; stand sim- 
ply and with no hesitation in Me, and thou shalt possess Me. Thou 
shalt have liberty of heart, and the darkness shall not overwhelm 
thee. For this strive thou, pray for it, long after it, that thou mayest 
be delivered from all possession of thyself, and nakedly follow Jesus 
who was made naked for thee; mayest die unto thyself and live 
eternally to Me. Then shall all vain fancies disappear, all evil dis- 
turbings, and superfluous cares. Then also shall immoderate fear 
depart from thee, and inordinate love shall die." 



CHAPTER XXXVIII 

OF A GOOD GOVERN\fENT IN EXTERNAL THINGS, AND OF HAVING 
RECOURSE TO GOD IN DANCERS 

"My Son, for this thou must diligendy make thy endeavour, that 
in every place and outward action or occupation thou mayest be 
free within, and have (xjwer over thyself; and that all things be 
under thee, not thou under them; that thou be master and ruler of 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 303 

thy actions, not a slave or hireling, but rather a free and true He- 
brew, entering into the lot and the liberty of the children of God, who 
stand above the present and look upon the eternal, who with the 
left eye behold things transitory, and with the right things heavenly; 
whom temporal things draw not to cleave unto, but who rather 
draw temporal things to do them good service, even as they were 
ordained of God to do, and appointed by the Master Workman, 
who hath left nought in His creation without aim and end. 

2. "And if in any chance of life thou stand not in outward ap- 
pearances, nor judgest things which are seen and heard by the 
fleshy sense, but straightway in every cause enterest with Moses 
into the tabernacle to ask counsel of God; thou shalt hear a divine 
response and come forth instructed concerning many things that are 
and shall be. For always Moses had recourse to the tabernacle for 
the solving of all doubts and questionings; and fled to the help of 
prayer to be delivered from the dangers and evil deeds of men. 
Thus also oughtest thou to fly to the secret chamber of thy heart, 
and earnestly implore the divine succour. For this cause we read 
that Joshua and the children of Israel were deceived by the Gibeon- 
ites, that they asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord} but 
being too ready to listen to fair speeches, were deceived by pretended 
piety." 

CHAPTER XXXIX 

THAT MAN MUST NOT BE IMMERSED IN BUSINESS 

"My Son, always commit thy cause to Me; I will dispose it aright 
in due time. Wait for My arrangement of it, and then thou shalt 
find it for thy profit." 

2. O Lord, right freely I commit all things to Thee; for my plan- 
ning can profit but little. Oh that I did not dwell so much on future 
events, but could offer myself altogether to Thy pleasures without 
delay. 

3. "My Son, a man often striveth vehemendy after somewhat 
which he desireth; but when he hath obtained it he beginneth to 
be of another mind, because his affections towards it are not lasting, 

'Joshua ix. 14. 



304 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

but rather rush on from one thing to another. Therefore it is not 
really a small thing, when in small things we resist self." 

4. The true progress of man lieth in self-denial, and a man who 
denieth himself is free and safe. But the old enemy, opposer of all 
good things, ceaseth not from temptation; but day and night setteth 
his wicked snares, if haply he may be able to entrap the unwary. 
Watch and pray, saith the Lord, lest ye enter into temptation} 

CHAPTER XL 

THAT MAN HATH NO GOOD IN HIMSELF, AND NOTHING 
WHEREOF TO GLORY 

LORD, what is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son 
of man that Thou visitest him?^ What hath man deserved, that 
Thou shouldest bestow thy favour upon him ? Lord, what cause can 
I have of complaint, if Thou forsake me? Or what can I justly 
allege, if Thou refuse to hear my petition? Of a truth, this I may 
truly think and say. Lord, I am nothing, I have nothing that is 
good of myself, but I fall short in all things, and ever tend unto 
nothing. And unless I am helped by Thee and inwardly supported, 
I become altogether lukewarm and reckless. 

2. But Thou, O Lord, art always the same, and endurest for ever, 
always good, righteous, and holy; doing all things well, righteously, 
and holily, and disposing all in Thy wisdom. But I who am more 
ready to go forward than backward, never continue in one stay, 
because changes sevenfold pass over me. Yet it quickly becometh 
better when it so pleaseth Thee, and Thou puttest forth Thy hand 
to help me; because Thou alone canst aid without help of man, 
and canst so strengthen me that my countenance shall be no more 
changed, but my heart shall be turned to Thee, and rest in Thee 
alone. 

3. Wherefore, if I but knew well how to reject all human con- 
solations, whether for the sake of gaining devotion, or because of 
the necessity by which I was compelled to seek Thee, seeing there is 
no man who can comfort me; then could I worthily trust in Thy 
grace, and rejoice in the gift of new consolation. 

' Matthew xxvi. 4 1 . ' Psalm viii. 4. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 305 

4. Thanks be to Thee, from whom all cometh, whensoever it 
goeth well with me! But I am vanity and nothing in Thy sight, 
a man inconstant and weak. What then have I whereof to glory, 
or why do I long to be held in honour? Is it not for nought? This 
also is utterly vain. Verily vain glory is an evil plague, the great- 
est of vanities, because it draweth us away from the true glory, and 
robbeth us of heavenly grace. For whilst a man pleaseth himself he 
displeaseth Thee; whilst he gapeth after the praises of man, he is 
deprived of true virtues. 

5. But true glory and holy rejoicing lieth in glorying in Thee 
and not in self; in rejoicing in Thy Name, not in our own virtue; 
in not taking delight in any creature, save only for Thy sake. Let 
thy Name, not mine be praised; let Thy work, not mine be mag- 
nified; let Thy holy Name be blessed, but to me let nought be given 
of the praises of men. Thou art my glory. Thou art the joy of my 
heart. In Thee will I make my boast and be glad all the day long, 
but for myself let me not glory save only in my infirmities? 

6. Let the Jews seek the honour which cometh from one another; 
but I will ask for that which cometh from God only.* Truly all 
human glory, all temporal honour, all worldly exultation, compared 
to Thy eternal glory, is but vanity and folly. O God my Truth 
and my Mercy, Blessed Trinity, to Thee alone be all praise, honour, 
power, and glory for ever and for ever. Amen. 

CHAPTER XLI 

OF CONTEMPT OF ALL TEMPORAL HONOUR 

"My Son, make it no matter of thine, if thou see others honoured 
and exalted, and thyself despised and humbled. Lift up thine heart 
to Me in heaven, and then the contempt of men upon earth will 
not make thee sad." 

2. O Lord, we are in blindness, and are quickly seduced by 
vanity. If I look rightly within myself, never was injury done unto 
me by any creature, and therefore I have nought whereof to com- 
plain before Thee. But because I have many times and grievously 
' 2 Corinthians xii. 5. * John v. 44. 



306 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

sinned against Thee, all creatures do justly take arms against me. 
Therefore to me confusion and contempt are justly due, but to 
Thee praise and honour and glory. And except I dispose myself 
for this, namely, to be willing that every creature should despise and 
desert me, and that I should be esteemed altogether as nothing, I 
cannot be inwardly filled with peace and strength, nor spiritually 
enlightened, nor fully united to Thee. 

CHAPTER XLII 

THAT OUR PEACE IS NOT TO BE PLACED IN MEN 

"My Son, if thou set thy peace on any person because thou hast 
high opinion of him, and art familiar with him, thou shalt be 
unstable and entangled. But if thou betake thyself to the ever- 
living and abiding Truth, the desertion or death of a friend shall 
not make thee sad. In Me ought the love of thy friend to subsist, 
and for My sake is every one to be loved, whosoever he be, who 
appeareth to thee good, and is very dear to thee in this life. With- 
out Me friendship hath no strength or endurance, neither is that 
love true and pure, which I unite not. Thou oughtest to be so dead 
to such affections of beloved friends, that as far as in thee lieth, 
thou wouldst rather choose to be without any companionship of 
men. The nearer a man approacheth to God, the further he recedeth 
from all earthly solace. The deeper also he descendeth into him- 
self, and the viler he appeareth in his own eyes, the higher he 
ascendeth towards God. 

2. "But he who attributeth anything good to himself, hindereth 
the grace of God from coming to him, because the grace of the 
Holy Ghost ever seeketh the humble heart. If thou couldst make 
thyself utterly nothing, and empty thyself of the love of every crea- 
ture, then should it be My part to overflow unto thee with great 
grace. When thou settest thine eyes upon creatures, the face of the 
Creator is withdrawn from thee. Learn in all things to conquer 
thyself for thy Creator's sake, then shalt thou be able to attain unto 
divine knowledge. How small soever anything be, if it be loved 
and regarded inordinately, it holdeth us back from the highest good, 
and corrupteth." 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 307 

CHAPTER XLIII 

AGAINST VAIN AND WORLDLY KNOWLEDGE 

"My Son, let not the fair and subtle sayings o£ men move thee. 
For the f^ingdom of God is not in word, but in power} Give ear 
to My words, for they kindle the heart and enlighten the mind, they 
bring contrition, and they supply manifold consolations. Never read 
thou the word that thou mayest appear more learned or wise; but 
study for the mortification of thy sins, for this will be far more 
profitable for thee than the knowledge of many difficult questions. 

2. "When thou hast read and learned many things, thou must 
always return to one first principle. I am He that teacheth man 
\nowledge^ and I give unto babes clearer knowledge than can be 
taught by man. He to whom I speak will be quickly wise and shall 
grow much in the spirit. Woe unto them who inquire into many 
curious questions from men, and take little heed concerning the 
way of My service. The time will come when Christ will appear, 
the Master of masters, the Lord of the Angels, to hear the lessons 
of all, that is to examine the consciences of each one. And then will 
He search Jerusalem with candles^ and the hidden things of darl{- 
ness* shall be made manifest, and the arguings of tongues shall be 
silent. 

3. "I am He who in an instant lift up the humble spirit, to learn 
more reasonings of the Eternal Truth, than if a man had studied 
ten years in the schools. I teach without noise of words, without 
confusion of opinions, without striving after honour, without clash 
of arguments. I am He who teach men to despise earthly things, to 
loathe things present, to seek things heavenly, to enjoy things eter- 
nal, to flee honours, to endure offences, to place all hope in Me, to 
desire nothing apart from Me, and above all things to love Me 
ardently. 

4. "For there was one, who by loving Me from the bottom of 
his heart, learned divine things, and spake things that were won- 
derful; he profited more by forsaking all things than by studying 

' I Corinthians iv. 20. ' Psalm xciv. 10. 

' Zephaniah i. ii. * i Corinthians iv. 5. 



308 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

subtleties. But to some I speak common things, to others special; 
to some I appear gently in signs and figures, and again to some I 
reveal mysteries in much light. The voice of books is one, but it 
informeth not all alike; because I inwardly am the Teacher of truth, 
the Searcher of the heart, the Discerner of the thoughts, the Mover 
of actions, distributing to each man, as I judge meet." 

CHAPTER XLIV 

OF NOT TROUBLING OURSELVES ABOUT OUTWARD THINGS 

"My Son, in many things it behoveth thee to be ignorant, and to 
esteem thyself as one dead upon the earth, and as one to whom the 
whole world is crucified. Many things also thou must pass by with 
deaf ear, and must rather think upon those things which belong 
unto thy peace. It is more profitable to turn away thine eyes from 
those things that displease, and to leave each man to his own opin- 
ion, than to give thyself to discourses of strife. If thou stand well 
with God and hast His judgment in thy mind, thou wilt verily 
easily bear to be as one conquered." 

2. O Lord, to what have we come? Behold a temporal loss is 
mourned over; for a trifling gain we labour and hurry; and spiritual 
loss passeth away into forgetfulness, and we rarely recover it. That 
which profiteth litde or nothing is looked after, and that which is 
altogether necessary is negligently passed by; because the whole 
man slideth away to outward things, and unless he quickly recov- 
ereth himself in outward things he willingly lieth down. 

CHAPTER XLV 

THAT WE MUST NOT BELIEVE EVERYONE, AND THAT WE ARE PRONE 
TO FALL IN OUR WORDS 

LORD, be thou my help in trouble, for vain is the help of man} 
How often have I failed to find faithfulness, where I thought I 
possessed it. How many times I have found it where I least ex- 
pected. Vain therefore is hope in men, but the salvation of the 

'Psalm Ix. II. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 309 

just, O God, is in Thee. Blessed be thou, O Lord my God, in all 
things which happen unto us. We are weak and unstable, we are 
quickly deceived and quite changed. 

2. Who is the man who is able to keep himself so warily and cir- 
cumspecdy as not sometimes to come into some snare of perplexity? 
But he who trusteth in Thee, O Lord, and seeketh Thee with an 
unfeigned heart, doth not so easily slip. And if he fall into any 
tribulation, howsoever he may be entangled, yet very quickly he 
shall be delivered through Thee, or by Thee shall be comforted, 
because Thou wilt not forsake him that trusteth in Thee unto the 
end. A friend who continueth faithful in all the distresses of his 
friend is rare to be found. Thou, O Lord, Thou alone art most 
faithful in all things, and there is none other like unto Thee. 

3. Oh, how truly wise was that holy soul which said, "My mind 
is steadfastly fixed, and it is grounded in Christ."^ If thus it were 
with me, the fear of man should not so easily tempt me, nor the 
arrows of words move me. Who is sufficient to foresee all things, who 
to guard beforehand against future ills? If even things which are 
foreseen sometimes hurt us, what can things which are not foreseen 
do, but grievously injure? But wherefore have I not better provided 
for myself, miserable that I am? Why, too, have I given such heed 
to others? But we are men, nor are we other than frail men, even 
though by many we are reckoned and called angels. Whom shall 
I trust, O Lord, whom shall I trust but Thee? Thou art the Truth, 
and deceivest not, nor canst be deceived. And on the other hand. 
Every man is a liar,' weak, unstable and frail, especially in his 
words, so that one ought scarcely ever to believe what seemeth to 
sound right on the face of it. 

4. With what wisdom hast thou warned us beforehand to beware 
of men, and that a man's joes are they of his own household,* and 
that we must not believe if one say unto us Lo here, or Lo there? 
I have been taught by my loss, and O that I may prove more careful 
and not foolish hereby. "Be cautious," saith some one: "be cautious, 
keep unto thyself what I tell thee." And whilst I am silent and be- 
lieve that it is hid with me, he himself cannot keep silence concern- 

*St. Agatha. 'Psalm cxvi. 11; Romans iii. 4. * Matthew x. 17, 36. 
'Matthew xxiv. 23. 



310 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

ing it, but straightway betrayeth me and himself, and goeth his 
way. Protect me, O Lord, from such mischief-making and reckless 
men; let me not fall into their hands, nor ever do such things my- 
self. Put a true and steadfast word into my mouth, and remove a 
deceitful tongue far from me. What I would not suffer, I ought by 
all means to beware of doing. 

5. Oh, how good and peacemaking a thing it is to be silent con- 
cerning others, and not carelessly to believe all reports, nor to hand 
them on further; how good also to lay one's self open to few, to 
seek ever to have Thee as the beholder of the heart; not to be car- 
ried about with every wind of words, but to desire that all things 
inward and outward be done according to the good pleasure of Thy 
will! How safe for the preserving of heavenly grace to fly from 
human approval, and not to long after the things which seem to 
win admiration abroad, but to follow with all earnestness those 
things which bring amendment of life and heavenly fervour! How 
many have been injured by their virtue being made known and 
too hastily praised. How truly profitable hath been grace preserved 
in silence in this frail life, which, as we are told, is all temptation 
and warfare. 

CHAPTER XLVI 

OF HAVING CONFroENCE IN COD WHEN EVIL WORDS ARE CAST AT US 

"My Son, stand fast and believe in Me. For what are words but 
words? They fly through the air, but they bruise no stone. If thou 
are guilty, think how thou wouldst gladly amend thyself; if thou 
knowest nothing against thyself, consider that thou wilt gladly bear 
this for God's sake. It is little enough that thou sometimes hast 
to bear hard words, for thou art not yet able to bear hard blows. 
And wherefore do such trivial matters go to thine heart, except 
that thou art yet carnal, and regardest men more than thou ought- 
est? For because thou fearest to be despised, thou art unwilling to 
be reproved for thy faults, and seekest paltry shelters of excuses. 

2. "But look better into thyself, and thou shalt know that the 
world is still alive in thee, and the vain love of pleasing men. For 
when thou fleest away from being abased and confounded for thy 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 3 II 

faults, it is plain that thou art neither truly humble nor truly dead 
to the world, and that the world is not crucified to thee. But 
hearken to My word, and thou shalt not care for ten thousand 
words of men. Behold, if all things could be said against thee which 
the utmost malice could invent, what should it hurt thee if thou 
wert altogether to let it go, and make no more account of it than 
of a mote? Could it pluck out a single hair of thy head? 

3. "But he that hath no heart within him, and hath not God 
before his eyes, is easily moved by a word of reproach; but he who 
trusteth in Me, and seeketh not to abide by his own judgment, shall 
be free from the fear of men. For I am the Judge and the Discerner 
of all secrets; I know how the thing hath been done; I know both the 
injurer and the bearer. From Me went forth that word, by My per- 
mission this hath happened, that the thoughts of many hearts may 
be revealed.^ I shall judge the guilty and the innocent; but before- 
hand I have willed to try them both by a secret judgment. 

4. "The testimony of men often deceiveth. My judgment is true; 
it will stand, and it shall not be overturned. It commonly lieth hid, 
and only to few in certain cases is it made known; yet it never 
erreth, nor can err, although it seem not right to the eyes of foolish 
men. To Me, therefore, must men have recourse in all judgment, 
and must not lean to their opinion. For there shall no evil happen to 
the just^ whatsoever may be sent to him by God. Even though 
some unjust charge be brought against him, he will care little; nor, 
again, will he exult above measure, if through others he be clearly 
vindicated. For he considereth that I am He who try the hearts and 
reins* who judge not outwardly and according to human appear- 
ance; for often in Mine eyes that is found blameworthy which in the 
judgment of men is held worthy of praise." 

5. O Lord God, O Judge, just, strong, and patient, who knowest 
the frailty and sinfulness of men, be Thou my strength and my 
whole confidence; for my own conscience sufficeth me not. Thou 
knowest what I know not; and therefore ought I under all rebuke 
to humble myself, and to bear it meekly. Therefore mercifully for- 
give me as often as I have not done this, and grant me the next 
time the grace of greater endurance. For better unto me is Thine 

'Luke u. 35. 'Proverbs xii. 31. 'Psalm viL 9. 



312 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

abundant pity for the attainment of Thy pardon, than the righteous- 
ness which I beUeve myself to have for defence against my con- 
science, which heth wait against me. Ahhough / }{now nothing 
against myself, yet am I not hereby justified* because if Thy mercy 
were removed away, in Thy sight should no man living be justified^ 

CHAPTER XLVII 

THAT ALL TROUBLES ARE TO BE ENDURED FOR THE SAKE OF 
ETERNAL LIFE 

"My Son, let not the labours which thou hast undertaken for Me 
break thee down, nor let tribulations cast thee down in any wise, 
but let my promise strengthen and comfort thee in every event. I am 
sufficient to reward thee above all measure and extent. Not long 
shalt thou labour here, nor always be weighed down with sorrows. 
Wait yet a litde while, and thou shalt see a speedy end of thine 
evils. An hour shall come when all labour and confusion shall 
cease. Little and short is all that passeth away with time. 

2. "Do earnesdy what thou dost; labour faithfully in My vine- 
yard; I will be thy reward. Write, read, sing, weep, be silent, pray, 
endure adversities manfully; eternal life is worthy of all these con- 
flicts, yea, and of greater. Peace shall come in one day which is 
f{nown to the Lord; which shall be neither day nor night^ but light 
eternal, infinite clearness, steadfast peace, and undisturbed rest. 
Thou shalt not say then. Who shall deliver me from the body of 
this death?* nor cry out. Woe is me, for my sojourning is prolonged* 
because death will be utterly destroyed, and there shall be salva- 
tion which can never fail, no more anxiety, happy delight, sweet and 
noble society. 

3. "Oh, if thou sawest the unfading crowns of the Saints in 
heaven, and with what great glory they now rejoice, who aforetime 
were reckoned by this world contemptibly and as it were unworthy 
of life, truly thou wouldst immediately humble thyself even to the 
earth, and wouldst desire rather to be in subjection to all, than to 

*I Corinthians iv. 4. 'Psalm cxiiii. 2. 'Zechariah xiv. 7. * Romans vii. 24. 

* Psalm cxx. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 313 

have authority over one; nor wouldst thou long for pleasant days 
of this life, but wouldst more rejoice to be afflicted for God's sake, 
and wouldst esteem it gain to be counted for nought amongst men. 
4. "Oh, if these things were sweet to thy taste, and moved thee to 
the bottom of thine heart, how shouldst thou dare even once to 
complain? Are not all laborious things to be endured for the sake 
of eternal life? It is no small thing, the losing or gaining the King- 
dom of God. Lift up therefore thy face to heaven. Behold, I and 
all My Saints with Me, who in this world had a hard conflict, now 
rejoice, are now comforted, are now secure, are now at peace, and 
shall remain with Me evermore in the Kingdom of My Father." 



CHAPTER XLVIII 

OF THE DAY OF ETERNITY AND OF THE STRAITNESSES OF THIS LIFE 

Oh most blessed mansion of the City which is above! Oh most 
clear day of eternity which the night obscureth not, but the Supreme 
Truth ever enlighteneth! Day always joyful, always secure and 
never changing its state into those which are contrary. Oh would 
that this day might shine forth, and that all these temporal things 
would come to an end. It shineth indeed upon the Saints, glowing 
with unending brightness, but only from afar and through a glass, 
upon those who are pilgrims on the earth. 

2. The citizens of heaven know how glorious that day is; the 
exiled sons of Eve groan, because this is bitter and wearisome. The 
days of this life are few and evil, full of sorrows and straits, where 
man is defiled with many sins, ensnared with many passions, bound 
fast with many fears, wearied with many cares, distracted with many 
questionings, entangled with many vanities, compassed about with 
many errors, worn away with many labours, weighed down with 
temptations, enervated by pleasures, tormented by poverty. 

3. Oh when shall there be an end of these evils? When shall I 
be delivered from the wretched slavery of my sins? When shall I 
be mindful, O Lord, of Thee alone? When shall I rejoice in Thee 
to the full? When shall I be in true liberty without any impedi- 
ment, without any burden on mind or body ? When shall there be 



314 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

solid peace, peace immovable and secure, peace within and without, 
peace firm on every side? Blessed Jesus, when shall I stand to behold 
Thee? When shall I gaze upon the glory of Thy kingdom? When 
shalt Thou be to me all in all? Oh when shall I be with Thee in 
Thy Kingdom which Thou hast prepared from the foundation of 
the world for them that love Thee? I am left destitute, an exile in 
a hostile land, where are daily wars and grievous misfortunes. 

4. Console my exile, mitigate my sorrow, for towards Thee all my 
desire longeth. For all is to me a burden, whatsoever this world 
offereth for consolation. I yearn to enjoy Thee intimately, but I 
cannot attain unto it. I long to cleave to heavenly things, but tem- 
poral things and unmortified passions press me down. In my mind 
I would be above all things, but in my flesh 1 am unwillingly com- 
pelled to be beneath them. So, wretched man that I am, I fight with 
myself, and am made grievous even unto myself, while the spirit 
seeketh to be above and the flesh to be beneath. 

5. Oh how I suffer inwardly, while with the mind I discourse on 
heavenly things, and presently a crowd of carnal things rusheth 
upon me whilst I pray. My God, be not Thou jar from me, nor 
depart in wrath from Thy servant. Cast forth Thy lightning and 
scatter them; send out Thine arrows^ and let all delusions of my 
enemy be confounded. Recall my senses unto Thyself, cause me to 
forget all worldly things; grant me quickly to cast away and despise 
the imaginations of sin. Succour me, O Eternal Truth, that no 
vanity may move me. Come unto me, O Heavenly Sweetness, and 
let all impurity flee from before Thy face. Pardon me also, and of 
Thy mercy deal gently with me, whensoever in prayer I think on 
anything besides Thee; for truly I confess that I am wont to be con- 
tinually distracted. For often and often, where in the body I stand 
or sit, there I myself am not; but rather am I there, whither I am 
borne by my thoughts. Where my thought is, there am I; and there 
commonly is my thought where that which I love is. That readily 
occurreth to me, which naturally delighteth, or pleaseth through 
custom. 

6. Wherefore Thou, who art the Truth, hast plainly said. Where 
your treasure is, there will your heart be also} If I love heaven, I 

'Psalm Ixxi. 12. 'Matthew vi. 21. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 315 

gladly meditate on heavenly things. If I love the world, I rejoice in 
the delights of the world, and am made sorry by its adversities. If 
I love the flesh, I am continually imagining the things which belong 
to the flesh; if I love the spirit, I am delighted by meditating on 
spiritual things. For whatsoever things I love, on these I readily 
converse and listen, and carry home with me the images of them. 
But blessed is that man who for Thy sake, O Lord, is willing to 
part from all creatures; who doth violence to his fleshly nature and 
crucifieth the lusts of the flesh by the fervour of his spirit, so that 
with serene conscience he may offer unto Thee a pure prayer, and 
be made worthy to enter into the angelic choirs, having shut out 
from himself, both outwardly and inwardly, all worldly things. 

CHAPTER XLIX 

OF THE DESIRE AFTER ETERNAL LIFE, AND HOW GREAT BLESSINGS ARE 
PROMISED TO THOSE WHO STRIVE 

"My Son, when thou feelest the desire of eternal happiness to be 
poured into thee from above, and longest to depart from the taber- 
nacle of this body, that thou mayest contemplate My glory without 
shadow of turning, enlarge thine heart, and take in this holy inspira- 
tion with all thy desire. Give most hearty thanks to the Supreme 
Goodness, who dealeth with thee so graciously, visiteth thee so 
lovingly, stirreth thee up so fervently, raiseth thee so powerfully, 
lest thou sink down through thine own weight, to earthly things. 
For not by thine own meditating or striving dost thou receive this 
gift, but by the sole gracious condescension of Supreme Grace and 
Divine regard; to the end that thou mayest make progress in virtue 
and in more humility, and prepare thyself for future conflicts, and 
cleave unto Me with all the affection of thy heart, and strive to 
serve Me with fervent will. 

2. "My Son, often the fire burneth, but the flame ascendeth not 
without smoke. So also the desires of some men burn towards heav- 
enly things, and yet they are not free from the temptation of carnal 
affection. Thus therefore they are not acting with an altogether 
simple desire for God's glory when they pray to Him so earnestly. 



3l6 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

Such, too, is oftentimes thy desire, when thou hast imagined it to 
be so earnest. For that is not pure and perfect which is tainted with 
thine own self-seeking. 

3. "Seek thou not what is pleasant and advantageous to thyself, 
but what is acceptable and honourable unto Me; for if thou judgest 
rightly, thou must choose and follow after My appointment rather 
than thine own desire; yea, rather than anything that can be de- 
sired. I know thy desire, and I have heard thy many groanings. 
Already thou longest to be in the glorious liberty of the children 
of God; already the eternal home delighteth thee, and the heavenly 
country full of joy; but the hour is not yet come; there remaineth 
still another season, even a season of warfare, a season of labour and 
probation. Thou desirest to be filled with the Chief Good, but thou 
canst not attain it immediately. I am that Good; wait for Me, until 
the Kingdom of God shall come. 

4. "Thou must still be tried upon earth, and be exercised in many 
things. Consolation shall from time to time be given thee, but 
abundant satisfying shall not be granted. Be strong therefore, and 
be thou brave both in working and in suffering things which are 
against thy nature. Thou must put on the new man, and be 
changed into another man. Thou must often do what thou wouldst 
not; and thou must leave undone what thou wouldst do. What 
pleaseth others shall have good success, what pleaseth thee shall have 
no prosperity. What others say shall be listened to; what thou sayest 
shall receive no heed. Others shall ask and receive; thou shah ask 
and not obtain. Others shall be great in the report of men, but about 
thee shall nothing be spoken. To others this or that shall be 
entrusted; thou shah be judged useful for nought. 

5. "For this cause nature shall sometimes be filled with sadness; 
and it is a great thing if thou bear it silently. In this and many like 
things the faithful servant of the Lord is wont to be tried, how far 
he is able to deny himself and bring himself into subjection in all 
things. Scarcely is there anything in which thou hast need to mor- 
tify thyself so much as in seeing things which are adverse to thy will; 
especially when things are commanded thee to be done which seem 
to thee inexpedient or of little use to thee. And because thou darest 
not resist a higher power, being under authority, therefore it seem- 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 317 

eth hard for thee to shape thy course according to the nod of 
another, and to forego thine own opinion. 

6. "But consider, My Son, the fruit of these labours, the swift 
end, and the reward exceeding great; and thou shalt find it no pain 
to bear them then, but rather the strongest solace of thy patience. 
For even in exchange for this trifling desire which thou hast readily 
forsaken, thou shalt always have thy will in Heaven. There verily 
thou shalt find all that thou wouldst, all that thou canst long for. 
There thou shalt have all good within thy power without the fear 
of losing it. There thy will, ever at one with Mine, shall desire 
nothing outward, nothing for itself. There no man shall withstand 
thee, none shall complain of thee, none shall hinder, nothing shall 
stand in thy path; but all things desired by thee shall be present 
together, and shall refresh thy whole affection, and fill it up even to 
the brim. There I will glory for the scorn suffered here, the gar- 
ment of praise for sorrow, and for the lowest place a throne in the 
Kingdom, for ever. There shall appear the fruit of obedience, the 
labour of repentance shall rejoice, and humble subjection shall be 
crowned gloriously. 

7. "Now therefore bow thyself humbly under the hands of all 
men; nor let it trouble thee who said this or who ordered that; but 
take special heed that whether thy superior, thy inferior, or thy 
equal, require anything from thee, or even show a desire for it; take 
it all in good part, and study with a good will to fulfil the desire. 
Let one seek this, another that; let this man glory in this, and that 
man in that, and be praised a thousand thousand times, but rejoice 
thou only in the contempt of thyself, and in Mine own good pleasure 
and glory. This is what thou art to long for, even that whether 
by life or by death God may be ever magnified in thee."^ 

CHAPTER L 

HOW A DESOLATE MAN OUGHT TO COMMIT HIMSELF INTO 
THE HANDS OF GOD 

O Lord, Holy Father, be Thou blessed now and evermore; be- 
cause as Thou wilt so it is done, and what Thou doest is good. Let 

' Philippians i. 20. 



3l8 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

Thy servant rejoice in Thee, not in himself, nor in any other; 
because Thou alone art the true joy, Thou art my hope and my 
crown, Thou art my joy and my honour, O Lord. What hath Thy 
servant, which he received not from Thee, even without merit of 
his own? Thine are all things which Thou hast given, and 
which Thou hast made. / am poor and in misery even from my 
youth up^ and my soul is sorrowful unto tears, sometimes also it is 
disquieted within itself, because of the sufferings which are coming 
upon it. 

2. I long after the joy of peace; for the peace of Thy children 
do I beseech, for in the light of Thy comfort they are fed by Thee. 
If Thou give peace, if Thou pour into me holy joy, the soul of Thy 
servant shall be full of melody, and devout in Thy praise. But if 
Thou withdraw Thyself as too often Thou art wont, he will not 
be able to run in the way of Thy commandments, but rather he will 
smite his breast and will bow his knees; because it is not with him 
as yesterday and the day before, when Thy candle shined upon his 
head^ and he waltzed under the shadow of Thy wings^ from the 
temptations which beset him. 

3. O Father, righteous and ever to be praised, the hour cometh 
when Thy servant is to be proved. O beloved Father, it is well that 
in this hour Thy servant suffer somewhat for Thy sake. O Father, 
evermore to be adored, as the hour cometh which Thou foreknewest 
from everlasting, when for a little while Thy servant should out- 
wardly bow down, but always live inwardly with Thee; when for a 
litde while he should be litde regarded, humbled, and fail in the 
eyes of men; should be wasted with sufferings and weaknesses, to 
rise again with Thee in the dawn of the new light, and be glorified 
in the heavenly places. O Holy Father, thou hast ordained it so, and 
so hast willed it; and that is done which Thou Thyself hast com- 
manded. 

4. For this is Thy favour to Thy friend, that he should suffer and 
be troubled in the world for Thy love's sake, how often soever, and 
by whomsoever and whosoever Thou hast suffered it to be done. 
Without Thy counsel and providence, and without cause, nothing 
cometh to pass on the earth. It is good for me, Lord, that I had been 

'Psalm Ixxxviii. 15. *)ob xxix. 3. 'Psalm xvii. 8. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 319 

in trouble, thai I may learn Thy statutes* and may cast away all 
pride of heart and presumption. It is profitable for me that con- 
fusion hath covered my face, that I may seek to Thee for consola- 
tion rather than unto men. By this also I have learned to dread 
Thine unsearchable judgment, who afflictest the just with the 
wicked, but not without equity and justice. 

5. Thanks be unto Thee, because Thou hast not spared my sins, 
but hast beaten me with stripes of love, inflicting pains, and send- 
ing troubles upon me without and within. There is none who can 
console me, of all things which are under heaven, but Thou only, 

Lord my God, Thou heavenly Physician of souls, who dost 
scourge and hast mercy, who leadest down to hell and bringest up 
again^ Thy discipline over me, and Thy rod itself shall teach me. 

6. Behold, O beloved Father, I am in Thy hands, I bow myself 
under the rod of Thy correction. Smite my back and my neck that 

1 may bend my crookedness to Thy will. Make me a pious and 
lowly disciple, as Thou wert wont to be kind, that I may walk 
according to every nod of Thine. To Thee I commend myself and 
all that 1 have for correction; better is it to be punished here than 
hereafter. Thou knowest all things and each of them; and nothing 
remaineth hid from Thee in man's conscience. Before they are, 
thou knowest that they will be, and Thou needest not that any man 
teach Thee or admonish Thee concerning the things which are done 
upon the earth. Thou knowest what is expedient for my profit, and 
how greatly trouble serveth unto the scrubbing off the rust of sin. 
Do with me according to Thy desired good pleasure, and despise 
not my life which is full of sin, known to none so entirely and fully 
as to Thee alone. 

7. Grant me, O Lord, to know that which ought to be known; 
to love that which ought to be loved; to praise that which pleaseth 
Thee most, to esteem that which is precious in Thy sight, to blame 
that which is vile in Thine eyes. Suffer me not to judge according to 
the sight of bodily eyes, nor to give sentence according to the hear- 
ing of the ears of ignorant men; but to discern in true judgment 
between visible and spiritual things, and above all things to be ever 
seeking after the will of Thy good pleasure. 

* Psalm cxix. 71. ^]ob xiiL 3. 



320 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

8. Oftentimes the senses of men are deceived in judging; the lovers 
of the world also are deceived in that they love only visible things. 
What is a man better because by man he is reckoned very great? 
The deceiver deceiveth the deceiver, the vain man the vain, the blind 
man the blind, the weak man the weak, when they exalt one an- 
other; and in truth they rather put to shame, while they foolishly 
praise. For as humble St. Francis saith, "What each one is in Thine 
eyes, so much he is, and no more." 

CHAPTER LI 

THAT WE MUST GIVE OURSELVES TO HUMBLE WORKS WHEN WE ARE 
UNEQUAL TO THOSE THAT ARE LOFTY 

"My Son, thou art not always able to continue in very fervent 
desire after virtues, nor to stand fast in the loftier region of con- 
templation; but thou must of necessity sometimes descend to lower 
things because of thine original corruption, and bear about the bur- 
den of corruptible life, though unwillingly and with weariness. So 
long as thou wearest a mortal body, thou shalt feel weariness and 
heaviness of heart. Therefore thou oughtest to groan often in the 
flesh because of the burden of the flesh, inasmuch as thou canst not 
give thyself to spiritual studies and divine contemplation unceas- 
ingly. 

2. "At such a time it is expedient for thee to flee to humble and 
external works, and to renew thyself with good actions; to wait for 
My coming and heavenly visitation with sure confidence; to bear 
thy exile and drought of mind with patience, until thou be visited 
by Me again, and be freed from all anxieties. For I will cause thee 
to forget thy labours, and altogether to enjoy eternal peace. I will 
spread open before thee the pleasant pastures of the Scriptures, that 
with enlarged heart thou mayest begin to run in the way of My 
commandments. And thou shalt say, 'The sufferings of this present 
time are not tvorthy to be compared tvith the glory u/hich shall be 
revealed in us.' "' 

' Romans viii. i8. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 32 1 

CHAPTER LII 

THAT A MAN OUGHT NOT TO RECKON HIMSELF WORTHY OF CONSOLATION, 
BUT MORE WORTHY OF CHASTISEMENT 

O Lord, I am not worthy of Thy consolation, nor of any spiritual 
visitation; and therefore Thou dealest justly with me, when Thou 
leavest me poor and desolate. For if I were able to pour forth tears 
like the sea, still should I not be worthy of Thy consolation. There- 
fore am I nothing worthy save to be scourged and punished, because 
I have grievously and many a time offended Thee, and in many 
things have greatly sinned. Therefore, true account being taken, 
I am not worthy even of the least of Thy consolations. But Thou, 
gracious and merciful God, who wiliest not that Thy works should 
perish, to show forth the riches of Thy mercy upon the vessels of 
mercy,' vouchsafest even beyond all his own deserving, to comfort 
Thy servant above the measure of mankind. For Thy consolations 
are not like unto the discoursings of men. 

2. What have I done, O Lord, that Thou shouldst bestow any 
heavenly comfort upon me? I remember not that I have done any 
good, but have been ever prone to sin and slow to amendment. It 
is true and I cannot deny it. If I should say otherwise, Thou wouldst 
rise up against me, and there would be none to defend me. What 
have I deserved for my sins but hell and everlasting fire? In very 
truth I confess that I am worthy of all scorn and contempt, nor is it 
fit that I should be remembered among Thy faithful servants. And 
although I be unwilling to hear this, nevertheless I will for the 
Truth's sake, accuse myself of my sins, that the more readily I may 
prevail to be accounted worthy of Thy mercy. 

3. What shall I say, guilty that I am and filled with confusion? I 
have no mouth to utter, unless it be this word alone, "I have sinned. 
Lord, I have sinned; have mercy upon me, forgive me." Let me 
alone, that I may take comfort a little before I go whence I shall 
not return even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death.' 
What dost Thou so much require of a guilty and miserable sinner, 
as that he be contrite, and humble himself for his sins? In true con- 

' Romans ix. 23. ' Job x. 20, 21. 



322 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

trition and humiliation of heart is begotten the hope of pardon, the 
troubled conscience is reconciled, lost grace is recovered, a man is 
preserved from the wrath to come, and God and the penitent soul 
hasten to meet each other with a holy kiss.' 

4. The humble contrition of sinners is an acceptable sacrifice unto 
Thee, O Lord, sending forth a smell sweeter far in Thy sight than 
the incense. This also is that pleasant ointment which Thou wouldst 
have poured upon Thy sacred feet, jor a bro/^en and contrite heart 
Thou hast never despised.^ There is the place of refuge from the 
wrathful countenance of the enemy. There is amended and washed 
away whatsoever evil hath elsewhere been contracted. 

CHAPTER LIU 

THAT THE GRACE OF GOD DOTH NOT JOIN ITSELF TO THOSE WHO 
MIND EARTHLY THINGS 

"My Son, precious is My grace, it suffereth not itself to be joined 
with outward things, nor with earthly consolations. Therefore thou 
oughtest to cast away all things which hinder grace, if thou longest 
to receive the inpouring thereof. Seek a secret place for thyself, love 
to dwell alone with thyself, desire the conversation of no one; but 
rather pour out thy devout prayer to God, that thou mayest possess 
a contrite mind and a pure conscience. Count the whole world as 
nought; seek to be alone with God before all outward things. For 
thou canst not be alone with Me, and at the same time be delighted 
with transitory things. Thou oughtest to be separated from thy 
acquaintances and dear friends, and keep thy mind free from all 
worldly comfort. So the blessed Apostle Peter beseecheth, that 
Christ's faithful ones bear themselves in this world as strangers and 
pilgrims.' 

2, "Oh how great a confidence shall there be to the dying man 
whom no affection to anything detaineth in the world ? But to have 
a heart so separated from all things, a sickly soul doth not yet compre- 
hend, nor doth the carnal man know the liberty of the spiritual 
man. But if indeed he desire to be spiritually minded, he must re- 
nounce both those who are far off, and those who are near, and to 

'Luke XV. 20. * Psalm li. 17. 'I Peter ii. 11. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 323 

beware of no man more than himself. If thou perfectly conquer 
thyself, very easily shalt thou subdue all things besides. Perfect 
victory is the triumph over oneself. For whoso keepeth himself in 
subjection, in such manner that the sensual affections obey the reason, 
and the reason in all things obeyeth Me, he truly is conqueror of 
himself, and lord of the world. 

3. "If thou desire to climb to this height, thou oughtest to start 
bravely, and to lay the axe to the root, to the end that thou mayest 
pull up and destroy the hidden inordinate inclination towards thy- 
self, and towards all selfish and earthly good. From this sin, that 
a man loveth himself too inordinately, almost everything hangeth 
which needeth to be utterly overcome: when that evil is conquered 
and put under foot, there shall be great peace and tranquillity con- 
tinually. But because few strive earnestly to die pericctly to them- 
selves, and do not heartily go forth from themselves, therefore do 
they remain entangled in themselves, and cannot be raised in spirit 
above themselves. But he who desireth to walk at liberty with Me, 
must of necessity mortify all his evil and inordinate affections, and 
must cling to no creature with selfish love." 

CHAPTER LIV 

OF THE DIVERSE MOTIONS OF NATURE AND OF GRACE 

"My Son, pay diligent heed to the motions of Nature and of Grace, 
because they move in a very contrary and subtle manner, and are 
hardly distinguished save by a spiritual and inwardly enlightened 
man. All men indeed seek good, and make pretence of something 
good in all that they say or do; and thus under the appearance of 
good many are deceived. 

2. "Nature is deceitful and draweth away, ensnareth, and de- 
ceiveth many, and always hath self for her end; but Grace walketh 
in simplicity and turneth away from every appearance of evil, maketh 
no false pretences, and doeth all entirely for the sake of God, in 
whom also she finally resteth. 

3. "Nature is very unwilling to die, and to be pressed down, 
and to be overcome, and to be in subjection, and to bear the yoke 
readily; but Grace studieth self-mortification, resisteth sensuality. 



324 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

seeketh to be subdued, longeth to be conquered, and willeth not to 
use her own liberty. She loveth to be held by discipline, and not to 
have authority over any, but always to live, to remain, to have her 
being under God, and for God's sake is ready to be humbly subject 
to every ordinance of man. 

4. "Nature laboureth for her own advantage, and considereth 
what profit she may gain from another; but Grace considereth more, 
not what may be useful and convenient to self, but what may be 
profitable to the many. 

5. "Nature willingly receiveth honour and reverence; but Grace 
faithfully ascribeth all honour and glory to God. 

6. "Nature feareth confusion and contempt, but Grace rejoiceth 
to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. 

7. "Nature loveth ease and bodily quiet; Grace cannot be unem- 
ployed, but gladly embraceth labour. 

8. "Nature seeketh to possess things curious and attractive, and 
abhorreth those which are rough and cheap; Grace is delighted with 
things simple and humble, despiseth not those which are rough, nor 
refuseth to be clothed with old garments. 

9. "Nature hath regard to things temporal, rejoiceth in earthly 
lucre, is made sad by loss, vexed by any little injurious word; but 
Grace reacheth after things eternal, deaveth not to those which are 
temporal, is not perturbed by losses, nor embittered by any hard 
words, because she hath placed her treasure and joy in heaven where 
nought perisheth. 

10. "Nature is covetous, and receiveth more willingly than she 
giveth, loveth things that are personal and private to herself; while 
Grace is kind and generous, avoideth selfishness, is contented with a 
little, believeth that it is more blessed to give than to receive. 

11. "Nature inclineth thee to created things, to thine own flesh, to 
vanities and dissipation; but Grace draweth to God and to virtues, 
renounceth creatures, fleeth from the world, hateth the desires of 
the flesh, restraineth vagaries, blusheth to be seen in public. 

12. "Nature is glad to receive some outward solace in which the 
senses may have delight; but Grace seeketh to be comforted in 
God alone, and to have delight in the chief good above all visible 
things. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 325 

13. "Nature doeth everything for her own gain and profit, can do 
nothing as a free favour, but hopeth to attain something as good 
or better, or some praise or favour for her benefits; and she loveth 
that her own deeds and gifts should be highly valued; but Grace 
seeketh nothing temporal, nor requireth any other gift of reward 
than God alone; neither longeth she for more of temporal necessi- 
ties than such as may suffice for the attaining of eternal life. 

14. "Nature rejoiceth in many friends and kinsfolk, she boasteth 
of noble place and noble birth, she smileth on the powerful, flatter- 
eth the rich, applaudeth those who are like herself; but Grace loveth 
even her enemies, and is not lifted up by the multitude of friends, 
setteth no store upon high place or high birth, unless there be greater 
virtue therewith; favoureth the poor man more than the rich, hath 
more sympathy with the innocent than with the powerful; rejoiceth 
with the truthful, not with the liar; always exhorteth the good to 
strive after better gifts of grace, and to become by holiness like unto 
the Son of God. 

15. "Nature quickly complaineth of poverty and of trouble; Grace 
beareth want with constancy. 

16. "Nature looketh upon all things in reference to herself; 
striveth and argucth for self; but Grace bringeth back all things to 
God from whom they came at the beginning; ascribeth no good to 
herself nor arrogantly presumeth; is not contentious, nor preferreth 
her own opinion to others, but in every sense and understanding 
submitteth herself to the Eternal wisdom and the Divine judgment. 

17. "Nature is eager to know secrets and to hear new things; she 
loveth to appear abroad, and to make experience of many things 
through the senses; she desireth to be acknowledged and to do those 
things which win praise and admiration; but Grace careth not to 
gather up new or curious things, because all this springeth from the 
old corruption, whereas there is nothing new or lasting upon earth. 
So she teacheth to restrain the senses, to shun vain complacency and 
ostentation, to hide humbly those things which merit praise and real 
admiration, and from everything and in all knowledge to seek after 
useful fruit, and the praise and honour of God. She desireth not to 
receive praise for herself or her own, but longeth that God be blessed 
in all His gifts, who out of unmingled love bestoweth all things." 



326 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

18. This Grace is a supernatural light, and a certain special gift 
of God, and the proper mark of the elect, and the pledge of eternal 
salvation; it exalteth a man from earthly things to love those that are 
heavenly; and it maketh the carnal man spiritual. So far therefore 
as Nature is utterly pressed down and overcome, so far is greater 
Grace bestowed and the inner man is daily created anew by fresh 
visitations, after the image of God. 

CHAPTER LV 

OF THE CORRUFnON OF NATURE AND THE EFFICACY OF DIVINE GRACE 

O Lord my God, who hast created me after thine own image and 
similitude, grant me this grace, which Thou hast shown to be so 
great and so necessary for salvation, that I may conquer my wicked 
nature, which draweth me to sin and to f)erdition. For I feel in my 
flesh the law of sin, contradicting the law of my mind, and bringing 
me into captivity to the obedience of sensuality in many things; nor 
can I resist its passions, unless Thy most holy grace assist me, fer- 
vently poured into my heart. 

2. There is need of Thy grace, yea, and of a great measure thereof, 
that my nature may be conquered, which hath alway been prone 
to evil from my youth. For being fallen through the first man Adam, 
and corrupted through sin, the punishment of this stain descended 
upon all men; so that Nature itself, which was framed good and 
right by Thee, is now used to express the vice and infirmity of cor- 
rupted Nature; because its motion left unto itself draweth men away 
to evil and to lower things. For the little power which remaineth 
is as it were one spark lying hid in the ashes. This is Natural reason 
itself, encompassed with thick clouds, having yet a discernment of 
good and evil, a distinction of the true and the false, though it be 
powerless to fulfil all that it approveth, and possess not yet the full 
light of truth, nor healthfulness of its aflections. 

3. Hence it is, O my God, that / delight in Thy law after the 
inward man^ knowing that Thy commandment is holy and just and 
good; reproving also all evil, and the sin that is to be avoided: yet 
with the flesh I serve the law of sin, whilst I obey sensuality rather 

' Romans vii. 12, 32. 25. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 327 

than reason. Hence it is that to will to do good is present with me, 
but how to perform it I find not} Hence I ofttimes purpose many 
good things; but because grace is lacking to help mine infirmities, 
I fall back before a little resistance and fail. Hence it cometh to pass 
that I recognize the way of perfectness, and see very clearly what 
things I ought to do; but pressed down by the weight of my own 
corruption, I rise not to the things which are more perfect. 

4. Oh how entirely necessary is Thy grace to me, O Lord, for a 
good beginning, for progress, and for bringing to perfection. For 
without it I can do nothing, but / can do all things through Thy 
grace which strengtheneth me} O truly heavenly grace, without 
which our own merits are nought, and no gifts of Nature at all are 
to be esteemed. Arts, riches, beauty, strength, wit, eloquence, they 
all avail nothing before Thee, O Lord, without Thy grace. For the 
gifts of Nature belong to good and evil alike; but the proper gift 
of the elect is grace — that is, love — and they who bear the mark 
thereof are held worthy of everlasting life. So mighty is this grace, 
that without it neither the gift of prophecy nor the working of 
miracles, nor any speculation, howsoever lofty, is of any value at all. 
But neither faith, nor hope, nor any other virtue is accepted with 
Thee without love and grace. 

5. O most blessed grace that makest the poor in spirit rich in 
virtues, and renderest him who is rich in many things humble in 
spirit, come Thou, descend upon me, fill me early with Thy conso- 
lation, lest my soul fail through weariness and drought of mind. I 
beseech thee, O Lord, that I may find grace in Thy sight, for Thy 
grace is sufficient for me} when I obtain not those things which 
Nature longeth for. If I be tempted and vexed with many tribula- 
tions, I will fear no evil, while Thy grace remaineth with me. This 
alone is my strength, this bringeth me counsel and help. It is more 
powerful than all enemies, and wiser than all the wise men in 
the world. 

6. It is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline, the light of 
the heart, the solace of anxiety, the banisher of sorrow, the deliverer 
from fear, the nurse of devotion, the drawer forth of tears. What am 
I without it, save a dry tree, a useless branch, worthy to be cast away! 

'Romans vii. 18. 'Philippians iv. 13. ^2 Corinthians xii. 9. 



328 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

"Let Thy grace, therefore, O Lord, always prevent and follow me^ 
and make me continually given to all good works, through Jesus 
Christ, Thy Son. Amen." 



CHAPTER LVI 

THAT WE OUGHT TO DENY OURSELVES, AND TO IMFTATE CHRIST BY 
MEANS OF THE CROSS 

My Son, so far as thou art able to go out of thyself so far shall 
thou be able to enter into Me. As to desire no outward thing work- 
eth internal peace, so the forsaking of self inwardly joineth unto God. 
I will that thou learn perfect self-denial, living in My will without 
contradiction or complaint. Follow Me: / am the way, the truth, 
and the life.^ Without the way thou canst not go, without the truth 
thou canst not know, without the life thou canst not live. I am the 
Way which thou oughtest to follow; the Truth which thou oughtest 
to believe; the Life which thou oughtest to hope for. I am the Way 
unchangeable; the Truth infallible; the Life everlasting. I am the 
Way altogether straight, the Truth suprenje, the true Life, the blessed 
Life, the uncreated Life. If thou remain in My way thou shalt know 
the Truth, and the truth shall make thee jree^ and thou shalt lay 
hold on eternal life. 

2. "// thou wilt enter into life, k^eep the commandments* If thou 
wilt know the truth, believe in Me. // thou wilt be perfect, sell all 
that thou hast. If thou wilt be My disciple, deny thyself. If thou 
wouldst possess the blessed life, despise the life which now is. If 
thou wilt be exalted in heaven, humble thyself in the world. If thou 
wilt reign with Me, bear the cross with Me; for only the servants 
of the cross find the way of blessedness and of true light." 

3. O Lord Jesu, forasmuch as Thy life was straitened and de- 
spised by the world, grant unto me to imitate Thee in despising the 
world, for the servant is not greater than his lord, nor the disciple 
abot/e his master* Let Thy servant be exercised in Thy life, because 
there is my salvation and true holiness. Whatsoever I read or hear 
besides it, it refresheth me not, nor giveth me delight. 

'John xiv. 6. 'John viii. 32 'Matthew xix. 17, 21. ^Matthew x. 24. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 329 

4. "My son, because thou knowest these things and hast read them 
all, blessed shalt thou be if thou doest them. He who hath My com- 
mandments and }{eepeth them, he it is that loveth Me, and I will love 
him, and will manifest Myself to him!" and I will make him to sit 
down with Me in My Father's Kingdom." 

5. O Lord Jesu, as Thou hast said and promised, even so let it be 
unto me, and grant me to prove worthy. I have received the cross at 
Thy hand; I have carried it, and will carry it even unto death, as 
Thou hast laid it upon me. Truly the life of a truly devoted servant 
is a cross, but it leadeth to paradise. I have begun; I may not return 
back nor leave it. 

6. Come, my brothers, let us together go forward. Jesus shall be 
with us. For Jesus' sake have we taken up this cross, for Jesus' sake 
let us persevere in the cross. He will be our helper, who was our 
Captain and Forerunner. Behold our King entereth in before us, 
and He will fight for us. Let us follow bravely, let no man fear 
terrors; let us be prepared to die bravely in battle, and let us not so 
stain our honour^ as to fly from the cross. 

CHAPTER LVII 

THAT A MAN MUST NOT BE TOO MUCH CAST DOWN WHEN HE 
FALLETH INTO SOME FAULTS 

"My Son, patience and humility in adversities are more pleasing 
to Me than much comfort and devotion in prosperity. Why doth a 
litde thing spoken against thee make thee sad ? If it had been more, 
thou still oughtest not to be moved. But now suffer it to go by; it 
is not the first, it is not new, and it will not be the last, if thou live 
long. Thou art brave enough, so long as no adversity meeteth thee. 
Thou givest good counsel also, and knowest how to strengthen 
others with thy words; but when tribulation suddenly knocketh at 
thine own door, thy counsel and strength fail. Consider thy great 
frailty, which thou dost so often experience in trifling matters never- 
theless, for thy soul's health these things are done when they and 
such like happen unto thee. 

'John xiv. 21. • I Mac. ix. 10. 



330 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

2. "Put them away from thy heart as well as thou canst, and if 
tribulation hath touched thee, yet let it not cast thee down nor en- 
tangle thee long. At the least, bear patiently, if thou canst not joy- 
fully. And although thou be very unwilling to hear it, and feel indig- 
nation, yet check thyself, and suffer no unadvised word to come 
forth from thy lips, whereby the litde ones may be offended. Soon 
the storm which hath been raised shall be stilled, and inward grief 
shall be sweetened by returning grace. I yet live, saith the Lord, 
ready to help thee, and to give thee more than wonted consobtion 
if thou put thy trust in Me, and call devoutly upon Me. 

3. "Be thou more calm of spirit, and gird thyself for greater endur- 
ance. All is not frustrated, though thou find thyself very often 
afflicted or grievously tempted. Thou art man, not God; thou art 
flesh, not an angel. How shouldst thou be able to remain alway in 
the same state of virtue, when an angel in heaven fell, and the first 
man in paradise? I am He who lifteth up the mourners to deliver- 
ance, and those who know their own infirmity I raise up to my 
own nature." 

4. O Lord, blessed be Thy word, sweeter to my mouth than 
honey and the honeycomb. What should I do in my so great tribu- 
lations and anxieties, unless Thou didst comfort me with Thy holy 
words? If only I may attain unto the haven of salvation, what mat- 
ter is it what things or how many I suffer? Give me a good end, 
give me a happy passage out of this world. Remember me, O my 
God, and lead me by the right way unto Thy Kingdom. Amen. 

CHAPTER LVIII 

OF DEEPER MATTERS, AND COd's HIDDEN JUDGMENTS WHICH ARE 
NOT TO BE INQUIRED INTO 

"My Son, beware thou dispute not of high matters and of the 
hidden judgments of God; why this man is thus left, and that man 
is taken into so great favour; why also this man is so gready afflicted, 
and that so highly exalted. These things pass all man's power of 
judging, neither may any reasoning or disputation have power to 
search out the divine judgments. When therefore the enemy sug- 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 33 1 

gesteth these things to thee, or when any curious people ask such 
questions, answer with that word of the Prophet, Just art Thou, O 
Lord, and true is Thy judgment^ and with this. The judgments of 
the Lord are true, and righteous altogether^ My judgments are to 
be feared, not to be disputed on, because they are incomprehensible 
to human understanding. 

2. "And be not given to inquire or dispute about the merits of 
the Saints, which is hoher than another, or which is the greater in 
the Kingdom of Heaven. Such questions often beget useless strifes 
and contentions: they also nourish pride and vain glory, whence 
envyings and dissensions arise, while one man arrogantly endeav- 
oureth to exalt one Saint and another another. But to wish to know 
and search out such things bringeth no fruit, but it rather displeaseth 
the Saints; for I am not the God of confusion but of peacef which 
f)eace consisteth more in true humility than in self-exaltation. 

3. "Some are drawn by zeal of love to greater aiTection to these 
Saints or those; but this is human affection rather than divine. I am 
He Who made all the Saints: I gave them grace, I brought them 
glory; I know the merits of every one; / prevented them with the 
blessings of My goodness* I foreknew my beloved ones from ever- 
lasting, / chose them out of the world!" they did not choose Me. I 
called them by My grace, drew them by My mercy, led them on 
through sundry temptations. I poured mighty consobtions upon 
them, I gave them perseverance, I crowned their patience. 

4. "I acknowledge the first and the last; I embrace all with in- 
estimable love. I am to be praised in all My Saints; I am to be blessed 
above all things, and to be honoured in every one whom I have so 
gloriously exalted and predestined, without any preceding merits of 
their own. He therefore that shall despise one of the least of these 
My people, honoureth not the great; because I made both small 
and great.' And he who speaketh against any of My Saints speaketh 
against Me, and against all others in the Kingdom of Heaven." 

They are all one through the bond of charity; they think the 
same thing, will the same thing, and all are united in love one to 
another. 

'Psalm cxix. 137. 'Psalm xix. 9. 'Corinthians xiv. 33. 
♦Psalm xxi. 3. *John xv. 19. 'Wisd. vi. 8. 



332 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

5. "But yet (which is far better) they love Me above themselves 
and their own merits. For being caught up above themselves, and 
drawn beyond self-love, they go all straightforward to the love of 
Me, and they rest in Me in perfect enjoyment. There is nothing 
which can turn them away or press them down; for being full of 
Eternal Truth, they burn with the fire of inextinguishable charity. 
Therefore let all carnal and natural men hold their peace concern- 
ing the state of the Saints, for they know nothing save to love their 
own p)ersonal enjoyment. They take away and add according to their 
own inclination, not as it pleaseth the Eternal Truth. 

6. "In many men this is ignorance, chiefly is it so in those who, 
being little enlightened, rarely learn to love any one with perfect 
spiritual love. They are still much drawn by natural affection and 
human friendship to these or to those: and as they reckon of them- 
selves in lower matters, so also do they frame imaginations of thing? 
heavenly. But there is an immeasurable difference between those 
things which they imperfectly imagine, and these things which 
enlightened men behold through supernatural revelation. 

7. "Take heed, therefore, My son, that thou treat not curiously 
those things which surpass thy knowledge, but rather make this thy 
business and give attention to it, namely, that thou seek to be found, 
even though it be the least, in the Kingdom of God. And even if 
any one should know who were holier than others, or who were held 
greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven; what should that knowledge 
profit him, unless through this knowledge he should humble him- 
self before Me, and should rise up to give greater praise unto My 
name? He who considereth how great are his own sins, how small 
his virtues, and how far he is removed from the perfection of the 
Saints, doeth far more acceptably in the sight of God, than he who 
disputeth about their greatness or littleness. 

8. "They are altogether well content, if men would learn to be 
content, and to refrain from vain babbling. They glory not of their 
own merits, seeing they ascribe no good unto themselves, but all unto 
Me, seeing that I of my infinite charity have given them all things. 
They are filled with so great love of the Divinity, and with such 
overflowing joy, that no glory is lacking to them, neither can any 
felicity be lacking. All the Saints, the higher they are exalted in 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 333 

glory, the humbler are they in themselves, and the nearer and dearer 
are they unto Me. And so thou hast it written that they cast their 
crowns before God and fell on their faces before the Lamb, and 
worshipped Him that liveth for ever and ever.' 

9. "Many ask who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, who 
know not whether they shall be worthy to be counted among the 
least. It is a great thing to be even the least in Heaven, where all 
are great, because all shall be called, and shall be, the sons of God. 
A little one shall become a thousand, but the sinner being an hun- 
dred years old shall be accursed. For when the disciples asked tvho 
should be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, they received no 
other answer than this. Except ye be converted and become as little 
children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. But who- 
soever shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be 
greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." ' 

10. Woe unto them who disdain to humble themselves willingly 
with the little children; for the low gate of the kingdom of Heaven 
will not suffer them to enter in. Woe also to them who are rich, who 
have their consolation here;' because whilst the poor enter into 
the kingdom of God, they shall stand lamenting without. Rejoice 
ye humble, and exult ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God if 
only ye walk in the truth. 

CHAPTER LIX 

THAT ALL HOPE AND TRUST IS TO BE FIXED IN GOD ALONE 

O Lord, what is my trust which I have in this life, or what is my 
greatest comfort of all the things which are seen under Heaven? 
Is it not Thou, O Lord my God, whose mercies are without num- 
ber? Where hath it been well with me without Thee? Or when 
could it be evil whilst Thou wert near? I had rather be poor for 
Thy sake, than rich without Thee. I choose rather to be a pilgrim 
upon the earth with Thee than without Thee to possess heaven. 
Where Thou art, there is heaven; and where Thou are not, behold 
there death and hell. Thou art all my desire, and therefore must 
I groan and cry and earnestly pray after Thee. In short I can con- 
' Revelation iv. 10; V. 14. 'Matthew xviii. 3. *Philippians ii. 21. 



334 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

fide fully in none to give me ready help in necessities, save in Thee 
alone, O my God. Thou art my hope, Thou art my trust, Thou art 
my Comforter, and most faithful in all things. 

2. All men see){ their otvn;^ Thou settest forward only my salva- 
tion and my profit, and turnest all things unto my good. Even 
though Thou dost expose me to divers temptations and adversities, 
Thou ordainest all this unto my advantage, for Thou are wont to 
prove Thy beloved ones in a thousand ways. In which proving Thou 
oughtest no less to be loved and praised, than if Thou wert filling me 
full of heavenly consolations. 

3. In Thee, therefore, O Lord God, I put all my hope and my 
refuge, on Thee I lay all my tribulation and anguish; because I find 
all to be weak and unstable whatsoever I behold out of Thee. For 
many friends shall not profit, nor strong helf)ers be able to succour, 
nor prudent counsellors to give a useful answer, nor the books of the 
learned to console, nor any precious substance to deliver, nor any 
secret and beautiful place to give shelter, if Thou Thyself do not 
assist, help, strengthen, comfort, instruct, keep in safety. 

4. For all things which seem to belong to the attainment of peace 
and felicity are nothing when Thou art absent, and bring no felicity 
at all in reality. Therefore art Thou the end of all good, and the 
fulness of Life, and the soul of eloquence; and to hope in Thee above 
all things is the strongest solace of Thy servants. Mine eyes loo\ unto 
Thee^ in Thee is my trust, O my God, Father of mercies. 

5. Bless and sanctify my soul with heavenly blessing that it may 
become Thy holy habitation, and the seat of Thy eternal glory; and 
let nothing be found in the Temple of Thy divinity which may 
offend the eyes of Thy majesty. According to the greatness of Thy 
goodness and the multitude of Thy mercies look upon me, and hear 
the prayer of Thy fxxir servant, far exiled from Thee in the land of 
the shadow of death. Protect and preserve the soul of Thy least 
servant amid so many dangers of corruptible life, and by Thy grace 
accompanying me, direct it by the way of peace unto its home of 
perpetual light. Amen. 

' Luke vi. * Psalm cxli. 8. 



THE FOURTH BOOK 
OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR 

A DEVOUT EXHORTATION TO THE HOLY COMMUNION 

The Voice of Christ 
Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I tvill refresh 
you,' saith the Lord. The bread that I will give is My flesh which I give 
for the life of the world} Ta/^e, eat: this is My Body, which is given for 
you; this do in remembrance of Me} He that eateth My flesh and drin\- 
eth My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him. The words that I speal{_ 
unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.* 

CHAPTER I 

WITH HOW GREAT REVERENCE CHRIST MUST BE RECEIVED 

The Voice of the Disciple 

THESE are Thy words, O Christ, Eternal Truth; though 
not uttered at one time nor written together in one place 
of Scripture. Because therefore they are Thy words and 
true, I must gratefully and faithfully receive them all. They are 
Thine, and Thou hast uttered them; and they are mine also, be- 
cause Thou didst speak them for my salvation. Gladly I receive them 
from Thy mouth, that they may be more deeply implanted in my 
heart. Words of such great grace arouse me, for they are full of 
sweetness and love; but my own sins terrify me, and my impure 
conscience driveth me away from receiving so great mysteries. The 
sweetness of Thy words encourageth me, but the multitude of my 
faults presseth me down. 

2. Thou commandest that I draw near to Thee with firm confi- 
dence, if I would have part with Thee, and that I receive the food 

'Matthew xL 28. 'John vi. 51. ^Matthew xxL 36; Luke xxiL 19. 
*John vi. 51. 63. 

335 



336 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

of immortality, if I desire to obtain eternal life and glory. Come unto 
Me, sayest Thou, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will 
refresh yiu. Oh, sweet and lovely word in the ear of the sinner, that 
Thou, O Lord my God, dost invite the poor and needy to the Com- 
munion of Thy most holy body and blood. But who am I, O Lord, 
that I should presume to approach unto Thee ? Behold the heaven of 
heavens cannot contain Thee, and yet Thou sayest, Come ye all 
unto Me. 

3. What meaneth this most gracious condescension, this most 
lovely invitation? How shall I dare to come, who know no good 
thing of myself, whence I might be able to presume? How shall I 
bring Thee within my house, seeing that I so often have sinned in 
Thy most loving sight? Angels and Archangels stand in awe of 
Thee, the Saints and just men fear Thee, and Thou sayest. Come 
unto Me! Except Thou, Lord, hadst said it, who should believe it 
true? And except Thou hadst commanded, who should attempt to 
draw near? 

4. Behold, Noah, that just man, laboured for a hundred years in 
building the ark, that he might be saved with the few; and I, how 
shall I be able in one hour to prepare myself to receive the Builder 
of the world with reverence? Moses, Thy servant, Thy great and 
especial friend, made an ark of incorruptible wood, which also he 
covered with purest gold, that he might lay up in it the tables of 
the law, and I, a corruptible creature, shall I dare thus easily to 
receive Thee, the Maker of the Law and the Giver of life? Solomon, 
the wisest of the kings of Israel, was seven years building his mag- 
nificent temple to the praise of Thy Name, and for eight days cele- 
brated the feast of its dedication, offered a thousand peace offerings, 
and solemnly brought up the Ark of the Covenant to the place pre- 
pared for it, with the sound of trumpets and great joy, and I, un- 
happy and poorest of mankind, how shall I bring Thee into my 
house, who scarce know how to spend half an hour in devotion? 
And oh that it were even one half hour worthily spent! 

5. O my God, how earnestly these holy men strove to please Thee! 
And alas! how litde and trifling is that which I do! how short a 
time do I spend, when I am disposing myself to Communion. Rarely 
altogether collected, most rarely cleansed from all distraction. And 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 337 

surely in the saving presence of Thy Godhead no unmeet thought 
ought to intrude, nor should any creature take possession of me, 
because it is not an Angel but the Lord of the Angels, that I am 
about to receive as my Guest, 

6. Yet there is a vast difference between the Ark of the Covenant 
with its relics, and Thy most pure Body with its ineffable virtues, 
between those sacrifices of the law, which were figures of things to 
come, and the true sacrifice of Thy Body, the completion of all the 
ancient sacrifices. 

7. Wherefore then do I not yearn more ardently after Thy ador- 
able presence? Why do I not prepare myself with greater solicitude 
to receive Thy holy things, when those holy Patriarchs and Prophets 
of old, kings also and princes, with the whole people, manifested so 
great affection of devotion towards Thy Divine Service? 

8. The most devout king David danced with all his might before 
the Ark of God, calling to mind the benefits granted to his fore- 
fathers in days past; he fashioned musical instruments of various 
sorts, put forth Psalms, and appointed them to be sung with joy, 
played also himself ofttimes on the harp, being inspired with the 
grace of the Holy Ghost; he taught the people of Israel to praise 
God with the whole heart, and with unity of voice to bless and 
praise Him every day. If so great devotion was then exercised, and 
celebration of divine praise was carried on before the Ark of the 
Testimony, how great reverence and devotion ought now to be 
shown by me and all Christian people at the ministering of the Sacra- 
ment, at receiving the most precious Body and Blood of Christ. 

9. Many run to diverse places to visit the memorials of departed 
Saints, and rejoice to hear of their deeds and to look upon the beauti- 
ful buildings of their shrines. And behold. Thou art present here 
with me, O my God, Saint of Saints, Creator of men and Lord of 
the Angels. Often in looking at those memorials men are moved 
by curiosity and novelty, and very little fruit of amendment is borne 
away, especially when there is so much careless trifling and so little 
true contrition. But here in the Sacrament of the Altar, Thou art 
present altogether, My God, the Man Christ Jesus; where also abun- 
dant fruit of eternal life is given to every one soever that receiveth 
Thee worthily and devoudy. But to this no levity draweth, no curi- 



338 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

osity, nor sensuality, only steadfast faith, devout hope, and sincere 
charity. 

10. O God, invisible Creator of the world, how wondrously dost 
Thou work with us, how sweetly and graciously Thou dealest with 
Thine elect, to whom Thou offerest Thyself to be received in this 
Sacrament! For this surpasseth all understanding, this specially 
draweth the hearts of the devout and enkindleth their affections. For 
even thy true faithful ones themselves, who order their whole life to 
amendment, oftentimes gain from this most excellent Sacrament 
great grace of devotion and love of virtue. 

11. Oh admirable and hidden grace of the Sacrament, which only 
Christ's faithful ones know, but the faithless and those who serve sin 
cannot experience! In this Sacrament is conferred spiritual grace, 
and lost virtue is regained in the soul, and the beauty which was 
disfigured by sin returneth again. So great sometimes is this grace 
that out of the fulness of devotion given, not only the mind but also 
the weak body feeleth that more strength is supplied unto it. 

12. But gready must we mourn and lament over our lukewarm- 
ness and negligence, that we are not drawn by greater affection to 
become partakers of Christ, in whom all the hope and the merit of 
those that are to be saved consist. For He Himself is our sanctifica- 
tion and redemption} He is the consolation of pilgrims and the 
eternal fruition of the Saints. Therefore it is grievously to be la- 
mented that many so little consider this health-giving mystery, which 
maketh heaven glad and preserveth the whole world. Alas for the 
blindness and hardness of man's heart, that he considereth not more 
this unspeakable gift, and even slippeth down through the daily 
use, into carelessness. 

13. For if this most holy Sacrament were celebrated in one place 
only, and were consecrated only by one priest in the whole world, 
with what great desire thinkest thou, would men be affected towards 
that place and towards such a priest of God, that they might behold 
the divine mysteries celebrated? But now are many men made 
priests and in many places the Sacrament is celebrated, that the grace 
and love of God towards men might the more appear, the more 
widely the Holy Conununion is spread abroad over all the world. 

' I Corinthiani i. 30. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 339 

Thanks be unto Thee, O good Jesus, Eternal Shepherd, who hast 
vouchsafed to refresh us, poor and exiled ones, with Thy precious 
Body and Blood, and to invite us to partake these holy mysteries 
by the invitation from Thine own mouth, saying, Come unto Me, 
ye who labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. 

CHAPTER II 

THAT THE GREATNESS AND CHARITY OF GOD IS SHOWN TO MEN 
IN THE SACRAMENT 

The Voice of the Disciple 

Trusting in Thy goodness and great mercy, O Lord, I draw near, 
the sick to the Healer, the hungering and thirsting to the Fountain 
of life, the poverty-stricken to the King of heaven, the servant to the 
Lord, the creature to the Creator, the desolate to my own gentle 
Comforter. But whence is this unto me, that Thou comest unto me? 
Who am I that Thou shouldest offer me Thyself? How doth a 
sinner dare to appear before Thee? And how dost thou vouchsafe 
to come to the sinner? Thou knowest Thy servant, and Thou 
knowest that he hath in him no good thing for which Thou should- 
est grant him this grace. I confess therefore mine own vileness, I 
acknowledge Thy goodness, 1 praise Thy tenderness, and I give Thee 
thanks for Thine exceeding great love. For Thou doest this for 
Thine own sake, not for my merits, that Thy goodness may be more 
manifest unto me, Thy charity more abundantly poured out upon 
me, and Thy humility more perfectly commended unto me. There- 
fore because this pleaseth Thee and Thou hast commanded that thus 
it shall be. Thy condescension pleaseth me also; and oh that mine 
iniquity hinder it not. 

2. O most sweet and tender Jesus, what reverence, what giving 
of thanks is due to Thee with perpetual praise for the receiving of 
Thy sacred Body and Blood, the dignity whereof no man is found 
able to express. But what shall I think upon in this Communion in 
approaching my Lord, whom I am not able worthily to honour, 
and nevertheless whom I long devoutly to receive? What shall be 
better and more healthful meditation for me, than utter humiliation 



340 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

of myself before Thee, and exaltation of Thine infinite goodness 
towards me? I praise Thee, O my God, and exalt Thee for ever- 
more. I despise myself, and cast myself down before Thee into the 
deep of my vileness. 

3. Behold, Thou art the Saint of saints and I the refuse of sinners; 
behold. Thou stoopest unto me who am not worthy to look upon 
Thee; behold. Thou comest unto me. Thou wiliest to be with me, 
Thou invitest me to Thy feast. Thou wiliest to give me the heavenly 
food and bread of angels to eat; none other, in truth, than Thyself, 
The living bread, which didst descend from heaven; and givest life 
to the world} 

4. Behold, whence this love proceedeth! what manner of con- 
descension shineth forth herein. What great giving of thanks and 
praise is due unto Thee for these benefits! Oh how salutary and 
profitable Thy purpose when Thou didst ordain this! How sweet 
and pleasant the feast when Thou didst give Thyself for food! Oh 
how admirable is thy working, O Lord, how mighty Thy power, 
how unspeakable Thy truth! For Thou didst speak the word, 
and all things were made; and this is done which Thou hast com- 
manded. 

5. A thing wonderful, and worthy of faith, and surpassing all the 
understanding of man, that Thou, O Lord my God, very God and 
very man, givest Thyself altogether to us in a little bread and wine, 
and art so our inexhaustible food. Thou, O Lord of all, who hast 
need of nothing, hast willed to dwell in us through Thy Sacrament. 
Preserve my heart and my body undefiled, that with a joyful and 
pure conscience I may be able very often to [celebrate, and]^ receive 
to my perf)etual health. Thy mysteries, which Thou hast consecrated 
and instituted both for Thine own honour, and for a perpetual 
memorial. 

6. Rejoice, O my soul, and give thanks unto God for so great a 
gift and precious consolation, left unto thee in this vale of tears. 
For so oft as thou callest this mystery to mind and receivest the body 
of Christ, so often dost thou celebrate the work of thy redemption, 
and art made partaker of all the merits of Christ. For the charity of 
Christ never groweth less, and the greatness of His propitiation is 

' John vi. 3 1 . ' The words in brackets are only suitable for a priest. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 34 1 

never exhausted. Therefore, by continual renewal of thy spirit, thou 
oughtest to dispose thyself hereunto and to weigh the great mystery 
of salvation with attentive consideration. So great, new, and joyful 
ought it to appear to thee when thou comest to communion, as if on 
this self-same day Christ for the first time were descending into the 
Virgin's womb and becoming man, or hanging on the cross, suffer- 
ing and dying for the salvation of mankind. 

CHAPTER III 

THAT IT IS PROFrTABLE TO COMMUNICATE OFTEN 

The Voice of the Disciple 

Behold I come unto Thee, O Lord, that I may be blessed through 
Thy gift, and be made joyful in Thy holy feast which Thou, O God, 
of Thy goodness hast prepared for the poor.^ Behold in Thee is all 
that I can and ought to desire. Thou art my salvation and redemp- 
tion, my hope and strength, my honour and glory. Therefore rejoice 
the soul of Thy servant this day, for unto Thee, O Lord Jesus, do I 
lift up my soul} I long now to receive Thee devoutly and rever- 
ently, I desire to bring Thee into my house, so that with Zacchxus 
I may be counted worthy to be blessed by Thee and numbered 
among the children of Abraham. My soul hath an earnest desire 
for Thy Body, my heart longeth to be united with Thee. 

2. Give me Thyself and it sufficeth, for besides Thee no consola- 
tion availeth. Without Thee I cannot be, and without Thy visitation 
I have no power to live. And therefore I must needs draw nigh 
unto Thee often, and receive Thee for the healing of my soul, lest 
haply I faint by the way if I be deprived of heavenly food. For so 
Thou, most merciful Jesus, preaching to the people and healing 
many sick, didst once say, / will not send them away fasting to their 
own homes, lest they faint by the way? Deal therefore now to me 
in like manner, for Thou left Thyself for the consolation of the 
faithful in the Sacrament. For Thou art the sweet refreshment of 
the soul, and he who shall eat Thee worthily shall be partaker and 
inheritor of the eternal glory. Necessary indeed it is for me, who so 
' Psalm Ixviii. 10. ' Psalm IxxxvL 4. ' Matthew zv. 32. 



342 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

often slide backwards and sin, so quickly wax cold and faint, to 
renew, cleanse, enkindle myself by frequent prayers and penitences 
and receiving of Thy sacred Body and Blood lest haply by too long 
abstinence, I fall short of my holy resolutions. 

3. For the imaginations of man's heart are evil from his youth* 
and except divine medicine succour him, man slideth away con- 
tinually unto the worse. The Holy Communion therefore draweth 
us back from evil, and strengtheneth us for good. For if I now be 
so negligent and lukewarm when I communicate [or celebrate], 
how should it be with me, if I receive not this medicine, and sought 
not so great a help.? [And though I am not every day fit nor well 
prepared to celebrate, I will nevertheless give diligent heed at due 
season, to receive the divine mysteries, and to become partaker of 
so great grace]. For this is the one principal consolation of a faithful 
soul, so long as it is absent from Thee in mortal body, that being 
continually mindful of its God, it receiveth its Beloved with devout 
spirit. 

4. Oh wonderful condescension of Thy pity surrounding us, that 
Thou, O Lord God, Creator and Quickener of all spirits, deignest 
to come unto a soul so poor and weak, and to appease its hunger 
with Thy whole Deity and Humanity. Oh happy mind and blessed 
soul, to which is granted devoutly to receive Thee its Lord God, 
and in so receiving Thee to be filled with all spiritual joy! Oh how 
great a Lord doth it entertain, how beloved a Guest doth it bring in, 
how delightful a Companion doth it receive, how faithful a Friend 
doth it welcome, how beautiful and exalted a Spouse, above every 
other Beloved, doth it embrace, One to be loved above all things 
that can be desired! Oh my most sweet Beloved, let heaven and 
earth and all the glory of them, be silent in Thy presence; seeing 
whatsoever praise and beauty they have it is of Thy gracious bounty; 
and they shall never reach unto the loveliness of Thy Name, Whose 
Wisdom is infinite* 

* Genesis viii. 21. * Psalm cxivii. 5. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 343 

CHAPTER IV 

THAT MANY GOOD GIFTS ARE BESTOWED UPON THOSE WHO 
COMMUNICATE DEVOUTLY 

The Voice of the Disciple 

O Lord my God, prevent Thou Thy servant with the blessings of 
Thy sweetness, that I may be enabled to draw near worthily and 
devoutly to Thy glorious Sacrament. Awaken my heart towards 
Thee, and deliver me from heavy slumber. Visit me with Thy 
salvation that I may in spirit taste Thy sweetness, which plentifully 
lieth hid in this Sacrament as in a fountain. Lighten also mine eyes 
to behold this so great mystery, and strengthen me that I may believe 
it with undoubting faith. For it is Thy word, not human power; 
it is Thy holy institution, not the invention of man. For no man is 
found fit in himself to receive and to understand these things, which 
transcend even the wisdom of the Angels. What portion then shall 
I, unworthy sinner, who am but dust and ashes, be able to search 
into and comprehend of so deep a Sacrament? 

2. O Lord, in the simplicity of my heart, in good and firm faith, 
and according to Thy will, I draw nigh unto Thee with hope and 
reverence, and truly believe that Thou art here present in the Sacra- 
ment, God and man. Thou wiliest therefore that I receive Thee and 
unite myself to Thee in charity. Wherefore 1 beseech Thy mercy, 
and implore Thee to give me Thy special grace, to this end, that I 
may be wholly dissolved and overflow with love towards Thee, and 
no more suffer any other consolation to enter into me. For this 
most high and most glorious Sacrament is the health of the soul 
and the body, the medicine of all spiritual sickness, whereby I am 
healed of my sins, my passions are bridled, temptations are con- 
quered or weakened, more grace is poured into me, virtue begun is 
increased, faith is made firm, hope is strengthened, and charity is 
enkindled and enlarged. 

3. For in this Sacrament Thou hast bestowed many good things 
and still bestowest them continually on Thine elect who communi- 
cate devoutly, O my God, Lifter up of my soul, Repairer of human 
infirmity, and Giver of all inward consolation. For Thou pourest 



344 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

into them much consolation against all sorts of tribulation, and out 
of the deep of their own misery Thou liftest them up to the hope 
of Thy protection, and with ever new grace, dost inwardly refresh 
and enlighten them; so that they who felt themselves to be anxious 
and without affection before Communion, afterwards being re- 
freshed with heavenly food and drink, find themselves changed for 
the better. And even in such wise Thou dealest severally with Thine 
elect, that they may truly acknowledge and clearly make proof that 
they have nothing whatsoever of their own, and what goodness and 
grace come to them from Thee; because being in themselves cold, 
hard of heart, indevout, through Thee they become fervent, zealous, 
and devout. For who is there coming humbly to the fountain of 
sweetness, carrieth not away thence at the least some little of that 
sweetness? Or who standing by a large fire, feeleth not from thence 
a little of its heat? And Thou art ever a full and overflowing foun- 
tain, a fire continually burning, and never going out. 

4. Wherefore if it is not suffered to me to draw from the fulness 
of the fountain, nor to drink unto satisfying, yet will I set my lips 
to the mouth of the heavenly conduit, that at least I may receive 
a small drop to quench my thirst, that I dry not up within my heart. 
And if I am not yet able to be altogether heavenly and so enkindled 
as the Cherubim and Seraphim, yet will I endeavour to give myself 
unto devotion, and to prepare my heart, that I may gain if it be but 
a little flame of the divine fire, through the humble receiving of the 
life-giving Sacrament. But whatsoever is wanting unto me, O merci- 
ful Jesus, Most Holy Saviour, do Thou of Thy kindness and grace 
supply, who hast vouchsafed to call all unto Thee, saying. Come 
unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will refresh you. 

5. I indeed labour in the sweat of my face, I am tormented with 
sorrow of heart, I am burdened with sins, I am disquieted with 
temptations, I am entangled and oppressed with many passions, and 
there is none to help me, there is none to deliver and ease me, but 
Thou, O Lord God, my Saviour, to whom I commit myself and 
all things that are mine, that Thou mayest preserve me and lead me 
unto life eternal. 

Receive me unto the praise and glory of Thy name, who hast 
prepared Thy Body and Blood to be my meat and drink. Grant, O 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 345 

Lord God my Saviour, that with coming often to Thy mysteries the 
zeal of my devotion may increase. 

CHAPTER V 

OF THE DIGNITY OF THIS SACRAMENT, AND OF THE OFFICE OF THE PRIEST 

The Voice of the Beloved 

If thou hadst angeUc purity and the hoUness of holy John the 
Baptist, thou wouldest not be worthy to receive or to minister this 
Sacrament. For this is not deserved by merit of man that a man 
should consecrate and minister the Sacrament of Christ, and take 
for food the bread of Angels. Vast is the mystery, and great is the 
dignity of the priests, to whom is given what is not granted to 
Angels. For priests only, rightly ordained in the church, have the 
power of consecrating and celebrating the Body of Christ. The priest 
indeed is the minister of God, using the Word of God by God's 
command and institution; nevertheless God is there the principal 
Author and invisible Worker, that to whom all that He willeth is 
subject, and all He commandeth is obedient. 

2. Therefore thou must believe God Almighty in this most excel- 
lent Sacrament, more than thine own sense or any visible sign at 
all. And therefore with fear and reverence is this work to be ap- 
proached. Take heed therefore and see what it is of which the 
ministry is committed to thee by the laying on of the Bishop's hand. 
Behold thou art made a priest and art consecrated to celebrate. See 
now that thou do it before God faithfully and devoutly at due 
time, and shew thyself without blame. Thou hast not lightened thy 
burden, but art now bound with a straiter bond of discipline, and 
art pledged to a higher degree of holiness. A priest ought to be 
adorned with all virtues and to afford to others an example of good 
life. His conversation must not be with the popular and common 
ways of men, but with Angels in Heaven or with perfect men on 
earth. 

3. A priest clad in holy garments taketh Christ's place that he 
may pray unto God with all supplication and humility for himself 
and for the whole people. He must always remember the Passion of 



346 THE IMITATION OV CHRIST 

Christ. He must diligently look upon Christ's footsteps and £er- 
vendy endeavour himself to follow them. He must bear meekly for 
God whatsoever ills are brought upon him by others. He must 
mourn for his own sins, and for the sins committed by others, and 
may not grow careless of prayer and holy oblation, until he prevail 
to obtain grace and mercy. When the priest celebrateth, he honour- 
eth God, giveth joy to the Angels, buildeth up the Church, helpeth 
the living, hath communion with the departed, and maketh himself 
a partaker of all good things. 

CHAPTER VI 

AN INQUIRY CONCERNING PREPARATION FOR COMMUNION 

The Voice of the Disciple 

When I consider Thy dignity, O Lord, and mine own vileness, I 
tremble very exceedingly, and am confounded within myself. For 
if I approach not, I fly from life; and if I intrude myself unworthily, 
I run into Thy displeasure. What then shall I do, O my God, Thou 
helper and Counsellor in necessities. 

2. Teach Thou me the right way; propound unto me some short 
exercise befitting Holy Communion. For it is profitable to know 
how I ought to prepare my heart devoutly and reverently for Thee, 
to the intent that I may receive Thy Sacrament to my soul's health 
[or it may be also for the celebrating this so great and divine 
mystery]. 

CHAPTER VII 

OF THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE, AND PURPOSE OF AMENDMENT 

The Voice of the Beloved 

Above all things the priest of God must draw nigh, with all hu- 
mility of heart and supplicating reverence, with full faith and pious 
desire for the honour of God, to celebrate, minister, and receive this 
Sacrament. Diligently examine thy conscience and with all thy 
might with true contrition and humble confession cleanse and purify 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 347 

it, so that thou mayest feel no burden, nor know anything which 
bringeth thee remorse and impedeth thy free approach. Have dis- 
pleasure against all thy sins in general, and specially sorrow and 
mourn because of thy daily transgressions. And if thou have time, 
confess unto God in the secret of thine heart, all miseries of thine 
own passion. 

2. Lament grievously and be sorry, because thou art still so carnal 
and worldly, so unmortified from thy passions, so full of the mo- 
tion of concupiscence, so unguarded in thine outward senses, so 
often entangled in many vain fancies, so much inclined to outward 
things, so negligent of internal; so ready to laughter and dissolute- 
ness, so unready to weeping and contrition; so prone to ease and 
indulgence of the flesh, so dull to zeal and fervour; so curious to 
hear novelties and behold beauties, so loth to embrace things humble 
and despised; so desirous to have many things, so grudging in giv- 
ing, so close in keeping; so inconsiderate in speaking, so reluctant 
to keep silence; so disorderly in manners, so inconsiderate in actions; 
so eager after food, so deaf towards the Word of God; so eager after 
rest, so slow to labour; so watchful after tales, so sleepy towards holy 
watchings; so eager for the end of them, so wandering in attention 
to them; so negligent in observing the hours of prayer, so lukewarm 
in celebrating, so unfruitful in communicating; so quickly dis- 
tracted, so seldom quite collected with thyself; so quickly moved 
to anger, so ready for displeasure at others; so prone to judging, so 
severe at reproving; so joyful in prosperity, so weak in adversity; so 
often making many good resolutions and bringing them to so little 
effect, 

3. When thou hast confessed and bewailed these and thy other 
shortcomings, with sorrow and sore displeasure at thine own infirm- 
ity, make then a firm resolution of continual amendment of life 
and of progress in all that is good. Then moreover with full resig- 
nation and entire will offer thyself to the honour of My name on the 
altar of thine heart as a perpetual whole burnt-offering, even by 
faithfully presenting thy body and soul unto Me, to the end that 
thou mayest so be accounted worthy to draw near to offer this sacri- 
fice of praise and thanksgiving to God, and to receive the Sacra- 
ment of My Body and Blood to thy soul's health. For there is no 



348 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

oblation worthier, no satisfaction greater for the destroying of sin, 
than that a man offer himself to God purely and entirely with the 
oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Communion. 
If a man shall have done what in him lieth, and shall repent him 
truly, then how often soever he shall draw nigh unto Me for pardon 
and grace. As I live, saith the Lord. I have no pleasure in the death of 
a sinner, but rather that he should be converted, and live. All his 
transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned 
unto him} 

CHAPTER VIII 

OF THE OBLATION OF CHRIST UPON THE CROSS, AND OF 
RESIGNATION OF SELF 

The Voice of the Beloved 

As I of my own will offered myself unto God the Father on the 
Cross for thy sins with outstretched hands and naked body, so that 
nothing remained in Me that did not become altogether a sacrifice 
for the Divine propitiation; so also oughtest thou every day to offer 
thyself willingly unto Me for a pure and holy oblation with all thy 
strength and affections, even to the utmost powers of thine heart. 
What more do I require of thee than thou study to resign thyself 
altogether unto Me.' Whatsoever thou givest besides thyself, I 
nothing care for, for I ask not thy gift, but thee. 

2. As it would not be sufficient for thee if thou hadst all things 
except Me, even so whatsoever thou shalt give Me, if thou give Me 
not thyself, it cannot please Me. Offer thyself to Me, and give thy- 
self altogether for God, so shall thy offering be accepted. Behold 
I offered Myself altogether to the Father for thee, I give also My 
whole body and blood for food, that thou mightest remain altogether 
Mine and I thine. But if thou stand in thyself, and offer not thyself 
freely to My will, thy offering is not perfect, neither shall the union 
betwixt us be complete. Therefore ought the freewill offering of 
thyself into the hands of God to go before all thy works, if thou 
wilt attain liberty and grace. For this is the cause that so few are 
inwardly enlightened and made free, that they know not how to 
' EzH(iel xviii, 22, 23. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 349 

deny themselves entirely. My word standeth sure, Except a man 
jorsakc all, he cannot be My disciple} Thou therefore, if thou wilt 
be My disciple, offer thyself to Me with all thy affections. 

CHAPTER IX 

THAT WE OUGHT TO OFFER OURSELVES AND ALL THAT IS OURS TO 
COD, AND TO PRAY FOR ALL 

The Voice of the Disciple 

Lord, all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine} I desire 
to offer myself up unto thee as a freewill offering, and to continue 
Thine for ever. Lord, in the uprightness of mine heart I willingly 
offet^ myself to Thee to-day to be Thy servant for ever, in humble 
submission and for a sacrifice of perpetual praise. Receive me with 
this holy Communion of Thy precious Body, which I celebrate be- 
fore Thee this day in the presence of the Angels invisibly surround- 
ing, that it may be for the salvation of me and of all Thy people. 

2. Lord, I lay before Thee at this celebration all my sins and 
offences which I have committed before Thee and Thy holy Angels, 
from the day whereon I was first able to sin even unto this hour; 
that Thou mayest consume and burn them every one with the fire 
of Thy charity, and mayest do away all the stains of my sins, and 
cleanse my conscience from all offence, and restore me to Thy favour 
which by sinning I have lost, fully forgiving me all, and mercifully 
admitting me to the kiss of peace. 

3. What can I do concerning my sins, save humbly to confess 
and lament them and unceasingly to beseech Thy propitiation? I 
beseech Thee, be propitious unto me and hear me, when I stand 
before Thee, O my God. All my sins displease me grievously: I 
will never more commit them; but I grieve for them and will grieve 
so long as I live, steadfasdy purposing to repent me truly, and to 
make restitution as far as I can. Forgive, O God, forgive me my sins 
for Thy holy Name's sake; save my soul, which Thou hast redeemed 
with Thy precious blood. Behold I commit myself to Thy mercy, I 
resign myself to Thy hands. Deal with me according to Thy loving- 
kindness, not according to my wickedness and iniquity. 

' Luke xiv. 33. * I Chronicles xxix. 11. ' i Chronicles xxix. 17. 



350 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

4. I offer also unto Thee all my goodness, though it is exceedingly 
little and imperfect, that Thou mayest mend and sanctify it, that 
Thou mayest make it well pleasing and acceptable in Thy sight, and 
ever draw it on towards perfection ; and furthermore bring me safely, 
slothful and useless poor creature that I am, to a happy and 
blessed end. 

5. Moreover I offer unto Thee all pious desires of the devout, 
necessities of parents, friends, brothers, sisters, and all who are dear 
to me, and of those who have done good to me, or to others for 
Thy love; and those who have desired and besought my prayers 
for themselves and all belonging to them; that all may feel them- 
selves assisted by Thy grace, enriched by consolation, protected from 
dangers, freed from pains; and that being delivered from all evils 
they may joyfully give Thee exceeding thanks. 

6. I offer also to Thee prayers and Sacramental intercessions for 
those specially who have injured me in aught, made me sad, or 
spoken evil concerning me, or have caused me any loss or dis- 
pleasure; for all those also whom I have at any time made sad, dis- 
turbed, burdened, and scandalized, by words or deeds, knowingly or 
ignorantly; that to all of us alike, Thou mayest equally pardon our 
sins and mutual offences. Take away, O Lord, from our hearts all 
suspicion, indignation, anger, and contention, and whatsoever is able 
to injure charity and diminish brotherly love. Have mercy, have 
mercy. Lord, on those who entreat Thy mercy; give grace to the 
needy; and make us such that we may be worthy to enjoy Thy 
grace, and go forward to the life eternal. Amen. 

CHAPTER X 

THAT HOLY COMMUNION IS NOT LIGHTLY TO BE OMITTED 

The Voice of the Beloved 

Thou must frequently betake thee to the Fountain of grace and 
divine mercy, to the Fountain of goodness and all purity; to the 
end that thou mayest obtain the healing of thy passions and vices, 
and mayest be made stronger and more watchful against all tempta- 
tions and wiles of the devil. The enemy, knowing what profit and 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 35 1 

exceeding strong remedy lieth in the Holy Communion, striveth by 
all means and occasions to draw back and hinder the faithful and 
devout, so far as he can. 

2. For when some set about to prepare themselves for Holy Com- 
munion, they suffer from the more evil suggestions of Satan. The 
very evil spirit himself (as is written in Job), cometh among the 
sons of God that he may trouble them by his accustomed evil deal- 
ing, or make them over timid and perplexed; to the intent that he 
may diminish their affections, or take away their faith by his at- 
tacks, if haply he may prevail upon them to give up Holy Com- 
munion altogether, or to come thereto with lukewarm hearts. But 
his wiles and delusions must not be heeded, howsoever wicked and 
terrible they be; but all his delusion must be cast back upon his own 
head. The wretch must be despised and laughed to scorn: neither 
must Holy Communion be omitted because of his insults and the 
inward troubles which he stirreth up. 

3. Often also too much carefulness or some anxiety or other touch- 
ing confession hindereth from obtaining devotion. Do thou accord- 
ing to the counsel of wise men, and lay aside anxiety and scruple, 
because it hindereth the grace of God and destroyeth devotion of 
mind. Because of some litde vexation or trouble do not thou neglect 
Holy Communion, but rather hasten to confess it, and forgive freely 
all offences committed against thee. And if thou hast offended any 
man, humbly beg for pardon, and God shall freely forgive thee. 

4. What profiteth it to put off for long time the confession of thy 
sins, or to defer Holy Communion ? Cleanse thyself forthwith, spit 
out the poison with all speed, hasten to take the remedy, and thou 
shalt feel thyself better than if thou didst long defer it. If to-day thou 
defer it on one account, to-morrow perchance some greater obstacle 
will come, and so thou mayest be long time hindered from Com- 
munion and become more unfit. As soon as thou canst, shake thy- 
self from thy present heaviness and sloth, for it profiteth nothing 
to be long anxious, to go long on thy way with heaviness of heart, 
and because of daily little obstacles to sever thyself from divine 
things: nay it is exceeding hurtful to defer thy Communion long, 
for this commonly bringeth on great torpor. Alas! there are some, 
lukewarm and undisciplined, who willingly find excuses for delay- 



352 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

ing repentance, and desire to defer Holy Communion, lest they 
should be bound to keep stricter watch upon themselves. 

5. Alas! how little charity, what flagging devotion, have they 
who so lightly put off Holy Communion. How happy is he, how 
acceptable to God, who so liveth, and in such purity of conscience 
keepeth himself, that any day he could be ready and well inclined 
to communicate, if it were in his power, and might be done with- 
out the notice of others. If a man sometimes abstaineth for the sake 
of humility or some sound cause, he is to be commended for his 
reverence. But if drowsiness have taken hold of him, he ought to 
rouse himself and to do what in him lieth; and the Lord will help 
his desire for the good will which he hath, which God specially 
approveth. 

6. But when he is hindered by sufficient cause, yet will he ever 
have a good will and pious intention to communicate; and so he 
shall not be lacking in the fruit of the Sacrament. For any devout 
man is able every day and every hour to draw near to spiritual 
communion with Christ to his soul's health and without hindrance. 
Nevertheless on certain days and at the appointed time he ought to 
receive the Body and Blood of his Redeemer with affectionate rev- 
erence, and rather to seek after the praise and honour of God, than 
his own comfort. For so often doth he communicate mystically, and 
is invisibly refreshed, as he devoutly calleth to mind the mystery of 
Christ's incarnation and His Passion, and is inflamed with the love 
of Him. 

7. He who only prepareth himself when a festival is at hand or 
custom compelleth, will too often be unprepared. Blessed is he who 
offereth himself to God for a whole burnt-offering, so often as he 
celebrateth or communicateth! Be not too slow nor too hurried in 
thy celebrating, but preserve the good received custom of those with 
whom thou livest. Thou oughtest not to produce weariness and 
annoyance in others, but to observe the received custom, according 
to the institution of the elders; and to minister to the profit of others 
rather than to thine own devotion or feeling. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 353 

CHAPTER XI 

THAT THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST AND THE HOLY SCRIPTURES 
ARE MOST NECESSARY TO A FAITHFUL SOUL 

The Voice of the Disciple 

O MOST sweet Lord Jesus, how great is the blessedness of the 
devout soul that feedeth with Thee in Thy banquet, where there 
is set before it no other food than Thyself its only Beloved, more to 
be desired than all the desires of the heart? And to me it would 
verily be sweet to pour forth my tears in Thy presence from the very 
bottom of my heart, and with the pious Magdalene to water Thy 
feet with my tears. But where is this devotion? Where the abund- 
ant flowing of holy tears? Surely in Thy presence and in the pres- 
ence of the holy Angels my whole heart ought to burn and to weep 
for joy; for I have Thee in the Sacrament verily present, although 
hidden under other form. 

2. For in Thine own Divine brightness, mine eyes could not en- 
dure to behold Thee, neither could the whole world stand before the 
splendour of the glory of Thy Majesty. In this therefore Thou hast 
consideration unto my weakness, that Thou hidest Thyself under 
the Sacrament. I verily possess and adore Him whom the Angels 
adore in heaven; I yet for a while by faith, but they by sight and 
without a veil. It is good for me to be content with the light of true 
faith, and to walk therein until the day of eternal brightness dawn, 
and the shadows of figures flee away.' But when that which is per- 
fect is come, the using of Sacraments shall cease, because the Blessed 
in heavenly glory have no need of Sacramental remedy. For they 
rejoice unceasingly in the presence of God, beholding His glory 
face to face, and being changed from glory to glory^ of the infinite 
God, they taste the Word of God made flesh, as He was in the 
beginning and remaineth for everlasting. 

3. When I think on these wondrous things, even spiritual com- 
fort whatsoever it be becometh sore weariness to me; for so long as I 
see not openly my Lord in His own Glory, I count for nothing all 
which I behold and hear in the world. Thou, O God, art my wit- 

*Cant. ii. 17. '2 Corinthians iii. i8. 



354 ""^E IMITATION OF CHRIST 

ness that nothing is able to comfort me, no creature is able to give 
me rest, save Thou, O my God, whom I desire to contemplate ever- 
lastingly. But this is not possible, so long as I remain in this mortal 
state. Therefore ought I to set myself unto great patience, and 
submit myself unto Thee in every desire. For even Thy Saints, O 
Lord, who now rejoice with Thee in the kingdom of heaven, waited 
for the coming of Thy glory whilst they lived here, in faith and 
great glory. What they believed, that believe I; what they hoped, I 
hope; whither they have attained to, thither through Thy grace 
hope I to come. I will walk meanwhile in faith, strengthened by the 
examples of the Saints. I will have also holy books for comfort and 
for a mirror of life, and above them all Thy most holy Body and 
Blood shall be for me a special remedy and refuge. 

4. For two things do I feel to be exceedingly necessary to me in 
this life, without which this miserable life would be intolerable to 
me; being detained in the prison of this body, I confess that I need 
two things, even food and light. Thou hast therefore given to me 
who am so weak. Thy sacred Body and Blood, for the refreshing 
of my soul and body, and hast set Thy Word for a lantern to my 
feet} Without these two I could not properly live; for the Word 
of God is the light of my soul, and Thy Sacrament the bread of 
life. These may also be called the two tables, placed on this side and 
on that, in the treasury of Thy holy Church. One table is that of 
the Sacred Altar, bearing the holy bread, that is the precious Body 
and Blood of Christ; the other is the table of the Divine Law, con- 
taining holy doctrine, teaching the true faith, and leading stead- 
fastly onwards even to that which is within the veil, where the Holy 
of Holies is. 

5. Thanks be unto Thee, O Lord Jesus, Light of Light everlast- 
ing, for that table of holy doctrine which Thou has furnished unto 
us by Thy servants the Prophets and Apostles and other teachers. 
Thanks be to Thee, O Creator and Redeemer of men, who to make 
known Thy love to the whole world has prepared a great supper, 
in which Thou hast set forth for good not the typical lamb, but 
Thine own most Holy Body and Blood; making all Thy faithful 
ones joyful with this holy banquet and giving them to drink the 

^ Psalm czix. 105. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 355 

cup of salvation, wherein are all the delights of Paradise, and the 
holy Angels do feed with us, and with yet happier sweetness. 

6. Oh how great and honourable is the office of the priests, to 
whom it is given to consecrate the Sacrament of the Lord of 
majesty with holy words, to bless it with the lips, to hold it in their 
hands, to receive it with their own mouth, and to administer it to 
others! Oh how clean ought those hands to be, how pure the mouth, 
how holy the body, how unspotted the heart of the priest, to whom 
so often the Author of purity entereth in! From the mouth of the 
priest ought naught to proceed but what is holy, what is honest and 
profitable, because he so often receiveth the Sacrament of Christ. 

7. His eyes ought to be single and pure, seeing they are wont to 
look upon the Body of Christ; the hands should be pure and lifted 
towards heaven, which are wont to hold within them the Creator 
of heaven and earth. To priests is it specially said in the Law, Be 
ye holy, for I the Lord your God am holy* 

8. Assist us with Thy grace, O Almighty God, that we who have 
taken upon us the priestly office, may be able to converse worthily 
and devoutly with Thee in all purity and good conscience. And if 
we are not able to have our conversation in such innocency of life 
as we ought, yet grant unto us worthily to lament the sins which 
we have committed, and in the spirit of humility and full purpose of 
a good will, to serve Thee more earnesdy for the future. 

CHAPTER XII 

THAT HE WHO IS ABOUT TO COMMUNICATE WITH CHRIST OUGHT TO 
PREPARE HIMSELF WITH GREAT DILIGENCE 

The Voice of the Beloved 

I AM the Lover of purity, and Giver of sanctity. I seek a pure 
heart, and there is the place of My rest. Prepare for Me the larger 
upper room furnished, and / will keep the Passover at thy house 
with my disciples} If thou wilt that 1 come unto thee and abide 
with thee, purge out the old leaven^ and cleanse the habitation of 
thy heart. Shut out the whole world, and all the throng of sins; 

* Leviticus xix. 2. 'Mark xiv. 14, 15. ' i Corinthians v. 7. 



356 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

sit as a sparrow alone upon the house-top* and think upon thy 
transgressions with bitterness o£ thy soul. For everyone that loveth 
prepareth the best and fairest place for his beloved, because hereby 
the affection of him that entertaineth his beloved is known. 

2. Yet know thou that thou canst not make sufficient prepara- 
tion out of the merit of any action of thine, even though thou 
shouldest prepare thyself for a whole year, and hadst nothing else 
in thy mind. But out of My tenderness and grace alone art thou 
permitted to draw nigh unto My table; as though a beggar were 
called to a rich man's dinner, and had no other recompense to offer 
him for the benefits done unto him, but to humble himself and 
to give him thanks. Do therefore as much as lieth in thee, and do 
it diligently, not of custom, nor of necessity, but with fear, rever- 
ence, and affection, receive the Body of thy beloved Lord God, who 
vouchsafeth to come unto thee. I am He who hath called thee; I 
commanded it to be done; I will supply what is lacking to thee; 
come and receive Me. 

3. When I give the grace of devotion, give thanks unto thy God; 
it is not because thou art worthy, but because I had mercy on thee. 
If thou hast not devotion, but rather feelest thyself dry, be instant 
in prayer, cease not to groan and knock; cease not until thou prevail 
to obtain some crumb or drop of saving grace. Thou hast need of 
Me, I have no need of thee. Nor dost thou come to sanctify Me, 
but I come to sanctify thee and make thee better. Thou comest 
that thou mayest be sanctified by Me, and be united to Me; that 
thou mayest receive fresh grace, and be kindled anew to amendment 
of life. See that thou neglect not this grace, but prepare thy heart 
with all diligence, and receive thy Beloved unto thee. 

4. But thou oughtest not only to prepare thyself for devotion be- 
fore Communion, thou must also keep thyself with all diligence 
therein after receiving the Sacrament; nor is less watchfulness 
needed afterwards, than devout preparation beforehand: for good 
watchfulness afterwards becometh in turn the best preparation for 
the gaining more grace. For hereby is a man made entirely indis- 
posed to good, if he immediately return from Communion to give 
himself up to outward consolations. Beware of much speaking; 

'Psalm cii. 7. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 357 

remain in a secret place, and hold communion with thy God; for 
thou hast Him whom the whole world cannot take away from thee. 
I am He to whom thou oughtest wholly to give thyself; so that 
now thou mayest live not wholly in thyself, but in Me, free from all 
anxiety. 

CHAPTER XIII 

THAT THE DEVOUT SOUL OUGHT WITH THE WHOLE HEART TO YEARN AFTER 
UNION WITH CHRIST IN THE SACRAMENT 

The Voice of the Disciple 

Who shall grant unto me, O Lord, that I may find Thee alone, 
and open all my heart unto Thee, and enjoy Thee as much as my 
soul desireth; and that no man may henceforth look upon me, nor 
any creature move me or have respect unto me, but Thou alone 
speak unto me and I unto Thee, even as beloved is wont to speak 
unto beloved, and friend to feast with friend? For this do I pray, 
this do I long for, that I may be wholly united unto Thee, and may 
withdraw my heart from all created things, and by means of Holy 
Communion and frequent celebration may learn more and more to 
relish heavenly and eternal things. Ah, Lord God, when shall I be 
entirely united and lost in Thee, and altogether forgetful of myself? 
Thou in me, and I in Thee;^ even so grant that we may in like 
manner continue together in one. 

2. Verily Thou art my Beloved, the choicest among ten thousand,* 
in whom my soul delighteth to dwell all the days of her life. Verily 
Thou art my Peacemaker, in Whom is perfect peace and true rest, 
apart from Whom is labour and sorrow and infinite misery. Verily 
Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, and Thy counsel is not with 
the wicked, but Thy Word is with the humble and the simple. O 
how sweet, O Lord, is Thy spirit, who that Thou mightest manifest 
Thy sweetness towards Thy children, dost vouchsafe to refresh 
them with the bread which is full of sweetness, which cometh down 
from heaven. Verily there is no other nation so great, which hath 
its gods drawing nigh to them, as Thou, our God, art present unto 
all Thy faithful ones,' unto whom for their daily solace, and for 
' Joha XV. 4. *Cant. v. 10. 'Deuteronomy iv. 7. 



358 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

lifting up their heart unto heaven, Thou givest Thyself for their 
food and delight. 

3. For what other nation is there so renowned as the Christian 
people? Or what creature is so beloved under heaven as the devout 
soul to which God entereth in, that he may feed it with His glorious 
flesh? O unspeakable grace! O wonderful condescension! O im- 
measurable love specially bestowed upon men! But what reward 
shall I give unto the Lord for this grace, for charity so mighty? 
There is nothing which I am able to present more acceptable than to 
give my heart altogether unto God, and to join it inwardly to 
Him. Then all my inward parts shall rejoice, when my soul shall be 
perfectly united unto God. Then shall He say unto me, "If thou 
wilt be with Me, I will be with thee." And I will answer Him, 
"Vouchsafe, O Lord, to abide with me, I will gladly be with Thee; 
this is my whole desire, even that my heart be united unto Thee." 

CHAPTER XIV 

OF THE FERVENT DESIRE OF CERTAIN DEVOUT PERSONS TO RECEIVE 
THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST 

The Voice of the Disciple 

O BOW great is the abundance of Thy sweetness, O Lord, which 
Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee. When I call to mind 
some devout persons who draw nigh to Thy Sacrament, O Lord, 
with the deepest devotion and affection, then very often I am con- 
founded in myself and blush for shame, that I approach Thine 
altar and table of Holy Communion so carelessly and coldly, that I 
remain so dry and without affection, that I am not wholly kindled 
with love before Thee, my God, nor so vehemently drawn and 
affected as many devout persons have been, who out of the very 
earnest desire of the Communion, and tender affection of heart, could 
not refrain from weeping, but as it were with mouth of heart and 
body alike panted inwardly after Thee, O God, O Fountain of 
Life, having no power to appease or satiate their hunger, save by 
receiving Thy Body with all joyfulness and spiritual eagerness. 

2. O truly ardent faith of those, becoming a very proof of Thy 
Sacred Presence! For they verily know their Lord in the breal{ing 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 359 

of bread, whose heart so ardently bumeth within them^ when Jesus 
walketh with them by the way. Ah me! far from me for the most 
part is such love and devotion as this, such vehement love and 
ardour. Be merciful unto me, O Jesus, good, sweet, and kind, and 
grant unto Thy poor suppliant to feel sometimes, in Holy Com- 
munion, though it be but a little, the cordial affection of Thy love, 
that my faith may grow stronger, my hope in Thy goodness in- 
crease, and my charity, once kindled within me by the tasting of the 
heavenly manna, may never fail. 

3. But Thy mercy is able even to grant me the grace which I 
long for, and to visit me most tenderly with the spirit of fervour 
when the day of Thy good pleasure shall come. For, although I 
burn not with desire so vehement as theirs who are specially devout 
towards Thee, yet, through Thy grace, I have a desire after that 
greatly inflamed desire, praying and desiring to be made partaker 
with all those who so fervently love Thee, and to be numbered 
among their holy company. 

CHAPTER XV 

THAT THE GRACE OF DEVOTION IS ACQUIRED BY HUMILITY 
AND SELF-DENIAL 

The Voice of the Beloved 

Thou oughtest to seek earnestly the grace of devotion, to ask it 
fervendy, to wait for it patiently and faithfully, to receive it grate- 
fully, to preserve it humbly, to work with it diligently, and to leave 
to God the time and manner of heavenly visitation until it come. 
Chiefly oughtest thou to humble thyself when thou feelest inwardly 
litde or no devotion, yet not to be too much cast down, nor to 
grieve out of measure. God ofttimes giveth in one short moment 
what He hath long time denied; He sometimes giveth at the end 
what at the beginning of prayer He hath deferred to give. 

2. If grace were always given immediately, and were at hand at 
the wish, it would be hardly bearable to weak man. Wherefore the 
grace of devotion is to be waited for with a good hope and with 
humble patience. Yet impute it to thyself and to thy sins when it 

' Luke xxiv. 32. 



360 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

is not given, or when it is mysteriously taken away. It is some- 
times a small thing which hindereth and hideth grace; (if indeed 
that ought to be called small and not rather great, which hindereth 
so great a good) ; but if thou remove this, be it small or great, and 
perfectly overcome it, thou wilt have what thou hast asked. 

3. For immediately that thou hast given thyself unto God with 
all thine heart, and hast sought neither this nor that according to 
thine own will and pleasure, but hast altogether settled thyself in 
Him, thou shah find thyself united and at peace; because nothing 
shall give thee so sweet relish and delight, as the good pleasure of 
the Divine will. Whosoever therefore shall have lifted up his will 
unto God with singleness of heart, and shall have delivered him- 
self from every inordinate love or dislike of any created thing, he 
will be the most fit for receiving grace, and worthy of the gift of 
devotion. For where the Lord findeth empty vessels,' there giveth 
He His blessing. And the more perfectly a man forsaketh things 
which cannot profit, and the more he dieth to himself, the more 
quickly doth grace come, the more plentifully doth it enter in, and 
the higher doth it lift up the free heart. 

4. Then shall he see, and flow together, and wonder, and his 
heart shall be enlarged within him,^ because the hand of the Lord 
is with him, and he hath put himself wholly in His hand, even for 
ever. Lo, thus shall the man be blessed, that seeketh God with all 
his heart, and receiveth not his soul in vain. This man in receiving 
the Holy Eucharist obtaineth the great grace of Divine Union; 
because he hath not regard to his own devotion and comfort, but, 
above all devotion and comfort, to the glory and honour of God. 

CHAPTER XVI 

THAT WE OUGHT TO LAY OPEN OUR NECESSITIES TO CHRIST AND 
TO REQUIRE HIS GRACE 

The Voice of the Disciple 

O MOST sweet and loving Lord, whom now I devoudy desire to 
receive. Thou knowest my infirmity and the necessity which I suffer, 
in what evils and vices I lie; how often I am weighed down, 
' 2 Kings iv. ' Isaiah Ix. ;. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 36 1 

tempted, disturbed, and defiled. I come unto Thee for remedy, I 
beseech of Thee consolation and support. I speak unto Thee who 
knowest all things, to whom all my secrets are open, and who alone 
art able perfectly to comfort and help me. Thou knowest what good 
thing I most stand in need of, and how p)oor I am in virtues. 

2. Behold, I stand poor and naked before Thee, requiring grace, 
and imploring mercy. Refresh the hungry suppliant, kindle my 
coldness with the fire of Thy love, illuminate my blindness with the 
brightness of Thy presence. Turn thou all earthly things into bit- 
terness for me, all grievous and contrary things into patience, all 
things worthless and created into contempt and oblivion. Lift up 
my heart unto Thee in Heaven, and suffer me not to wander over 
the earth. Be Thou alone sweet unto me from this day forward for 
ever, because Thou alone art my meat and drink, my love and joy, 
my sweetness and my whole good. 

3. Oh that Thou wouldest altogether by Thy presence, kindle, 
consume, and transform me into Thyself; that I may be made one 
spirit with Thee, by the grace of inward union, and the melting of 
earnest love! Suffer me not to go away from Thee hungry and dry; 
but deal mercifully with me, as oftentimes Thou hast dealt won- 
drously with Thy saints. What marvel if I should be wholly 
kindled from Thee, and in myself should utterly fail, since Thou 
art fire always burning and never failing, love purifying the heart 
and enlightening the understanding. 

CHAPTER XVII 

OF FERVENT LOVE AND VEHEMENT DESIRE OF RECEIVING CHRIST 

The Voice of the Disciple 

With the deepest devotion and fervent love, with all affection 
and fervour of heart, I long to receive Thee, O Lord, even as many 
Saints and devout persons have desired Thee in communicating, 
who were altogether well pleasing to Thee by their sanctity of life, 
and dwelt in all ardent devotion. O my God, Eternal Love, my 
whole Good, Happiness without measure, I long to receive Thee 
with the most vehement desire and becoming reverence which any 
Saint ever had or could have. 



362 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

2. And although I be unworthy to have all those feelings of devo- 
tion, yet do I offer Thee the whole affection of my heart, even as 
though I alone had all those most grateful inflamed desires. Yea, 
also, whatsoever things a pious mind is able to conceive and long 
for, all these with the deepest veneration and inward fervour do I 
offer and present unto Thee. I desire to reserve nothing unto my- 
self, but freely and entirely to offer myself and all that I have unto 
Thee for a sacrifice. O Lord my God, my Creator and Redeemer! 
with such affection, reverence, praise, and honour, with such grati- 
tude, worthiness, and love, with such faith, hope, and purity do I 
desire to receive Thee this day, as Thy most blessed Mother, the 
glorious Virgin Mary, received and desired Thee, when she humbly 
and devoutly answered the Angel who brought unto her the glad 
tidings of the mystery of the Incarnation. Behold the handmaid of 
the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word} 

3. And as Thy blessed forerunner, the most excellent of Saints, 
John Baptist, being full of joy in Thy presence, leapt while yet in 
the womb of his mother, for joy in the Holy Ghost; and afterwards 
discerning Jesus walking amongst men, humbled himself exceed- 
ingly, and said, with devout affection. The friend of the bridegroom, 
who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the 
bridegroom's voiced even so I wish to be inflamed with great and 
holy desires, and to present myself unto Thee with my whole heart. 
Whence also, on behalf of myself and of all commended to me in 
prayer, I offer and present unto Thee the jubilation of all devout 
hearts, their ardent affections, their mental ecstasies, and super- 
natural illuminations and heavenly visions, with all the virtues and 
praises celebrated and to be celebrated by every creature in heaven 
and earth; to the end that by all Thou mayest worthily be praised 
and glorified for ever. 

4. Receive my prayers, O Lord my God, and my desires of giving 
Thee infinite praise and unbounded benediction, which, according 
to the multitude of Thine unspeakable greatness, are most justly 
due unto Thee. These do I give Thee, and desire to give every day 
and very moment; and with beseechings and affectionate desires I 

' Luke i. 38. * John iii. 29. 



THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 363 

call upon all celestial spirits and all Thy faithful people to join with 
me in rendering Thee thanks and praises. 

5. Let all peoples, nations, and tongues praise Thee, and magnify 
Thy holy and sweet-sounding Name, with highest jubilations and 
ardent devotion. And let all who reverently and devoutly celebrate 
Thy most high Sacrament, and receive it with full assurance of 
faith, be accounted worthy to find grace and mercy with Thee, and 
intercede with all supplication for me a sinner; and when they shall 
have attained unto their wished-for devotion and joyous union with 
Thee, and shall depart full of comfort and wondrously refreshed 
from Thy holy, heavenly table, let them vouchsafe to be mindful 
of me, for I am poor and needy. 

CHAPTER XVIII 

THAT A MAN SHOULD NOT BE A CURIOUS SEARCHER OF THE SACRAMENT, 

BUT A HUMBLE IMITATOR OF CHRIST, SUBMITTING HIS 

SENSE TO HOLY FAITH 

The Voice of the Beloved 

Thou must take heed of curious and useless searching into this 
most profound Sacrament, if thou wilt not be plunged into the abyss 
of doubt. He that is a searcher of Majesty shall be oppressed by the 
glory thereof} God is able to do more than man can understand. A 
pious and humble search after truth is to be allowed, when it is 
always ready to be taught, and striving to walk after the wholesome 
opinions of the fathers. 

2. Blessed is the simplicity which leaveth alone the difficult paths 
of questionings, and followeth the plain and firm steps of God's 
commandments. Many have lost devotion whilst they sought to 
search into deeper things. Faith is required of thee, and a sincere 
life, not loftiness of intellect, nor deepness in the mysteries of God. 
If thou understandest not nor comprehendest the things which are 
beneath thee, how shalt thou comprehend those which are above 
thee? Submit thyself unto God, and humble thy sense to faith, and 
the light of knowledge shall be given thee, as shall be profitable and 
necessary unto thee. ' Proverbs xxv. 27 (Vulg.). 



364 THE IMITATION OF CHRIST 

3. There are some who are grievously tempted concerning faith 
and the Sacrament; but this is not to be imputed to themselves but 
rather to the enemy. Care not then for this, dispute not with thine 
own thoughts, nor make answer to the doubts which are cast into 
thee by the devil; but believe the words of God, believe His Saints 
and Prophets, and the wicked enemy shall flee from thee. Often it 
profiteth much, that the servant of God endureth such things. For 
the enemy tempteth not unbelievers and sinners, because he already 
hath secure possession of them; but he tempteth and harasseth the 
faithful and devout by various means. 

4. Go forward therefore with simple and undoubting faith, and 
draw nigh unto the Sacrament with supplicating reverence. And 
whatsoever thou art not enabled to understand, that commit without 
anxiety to Almighty God. God deceiveth thee not; he is deceived 
who believeth too much in himself. God walketh with the simple, 
revealeth Himself to the humble, giveth understanding to babes, 
openeth the sense to pure minds, and hideth grace from the curious 
and proud. Human reason is weak and may be deceived; but true 
faith cannot be deceived. 

5. All reason and natural investigation ought to follow faith, not 
to precede, nor to break it. For faith and love do here especially 
take the highest place, and work in hidden ways in this most holy 
and exceeding excellent Sacrament. God who is eternal and incom- 
prehensible, and of infinite power, doth great and inscrutable things 
in heaven and in earth, and His wonderful works are past finding 
out. If the works of God were of such sort that they might easily be 
comprehended by human reason, they should no longer be called 
wonderful or unspeakable. 



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