The Confessions of St. Augustine; Book 13: Chapters 13-15

CHAPTER XIII—THAT THE RENEWAL OF MAN IS NOT COMPLETED IN THIS WORLD.

But as yet by faith and not by sight, for by hope we are saved; but hope that is seen, is not hope. As yet doth deep call unto deep, but now in the voice of Thy water-spouts. As yet doth he that saith, I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even he as yet, doth not think himself to have apprehended, and forgetteth those things which are behind, and reacheth forth to those which are before, and groaneth being burthened, and his soul thirsteth after the Living God, as the hart after the water-brooks, and saith, When shall I come? desiring to be clothed upon with his house which is from heaven, and calleth upon this lower deep, saying, Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. And, be not children in understanding, but in malice, be ye children, that in understanding ye may be perfect; and O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you?

But now no longer in his own voice; but in Thine who sentest Thy Spirit from above; through Him who ascended up on high, and set open the flood-gates of His gifts, that the force of His streams might make glad the city of God. Him doth this friend of the Bridegroom sigh after, having now the first-fruits of the Spirit laid up with Him, yet still groaning within himself, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of his body; to Him he sighs, a member of the Bride; for Him he is jealous, as being a friend of the Bridegroom; for Him he is jealous, not for himself; because in the voice of Thy water-spouts, not in his own voice, doth he call to that other depth, over whom being jealous he feareth, lest as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so their minds should be corrupted from the purity that is in our Bridegroom Thy only Son. O what a light of beauty will that be, when we shall see Him as He is, and those tears be passed away, which have been my meat day and night, whilst they daily say unto me, Where is now Thy God?

 

CHAPTER XIV—THAT OUT OF THE CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT AND OF THE DARKNESS, CHILDREN OF THE LIGHT AND DAY ARE MADE.

Behold, I too say, O my God, Where art Thou? see, where Thou art! in Thee I breathe a little, when I pour out my soul by myself in the voice of joy and praise, the sound of him that keeps holy-day. And yet again it is sad, because it relapseth, and becomes a deep, or rather perceives itself still to be a deep. Unto it speaks my faith which Thou hast kindled to enlighten my feet in the night, Why art thou sad, O my soul, and why dost thou trouble me? Hope in the Lord; His word is a lantern unto thy feet: hope and endure, until the night, the mother of the wicked, until the wrath of the Lord, be overpast, whereof we also were once children, who were sometimes darkness, relics whereof we bear about us in our body, dead because of sin; until the day break, and the shadows fly away. Hope thou in the Lord; in the morning I shall stand in Thy presence, and contemplate Thee: I shall forever confess unto Thee. In the morning I shall stand in Thy presence, and shall see the health of my countenance, my God, who also shall quicken our mortal bodies, by the Spirit that dwelleth in us, because He hath in mercy been borne over our inner darksome and floating deep: from Whom we have in this pilgrimage received an earnest, that we should now be light: whilst we are saved by hope, and are the children of light, and the children of the day, not the children of the night, nor of the darkness, which yet sometimes we were. Betwixt whom and us, in this uncertainty of human knowledge, Thou only dividest; Thou, who provest our hearts, and callest the light, day, and the darkness, night. For who discerneth us, but Thou? And what have we, that we have not received of Thee? out of the same lump vessels are made unto honour, whereof others also are made unto dishonour.

 

CHAPTER XV—ALLEGORICAL EXPLANATION OF THE FIRMAMENT AND UPPER WORKS, VER. 6.

Or who, except Thou, our God, made for us that firmament of authority over us in Thy Divine Scripture? as it is said, For heaven shall be folded up like a scroll; and now is it stretched over us like a skin. For Thy Divine Scripture is of more eminent authority, since those mortals by whom Thou dispensest it unto us, underwent mortality. And Thou knowest, Lord, Thou knowest, how Thou with skins didst clothe men, when they by sin became mortal. Whence Thou hast like a skin stretched out the firmament of Thy book, that is, Thy harmonizing words, which by the ministry of mortal men Thou spreadest over us. For by their very death was that solid firmament of authority, in Thy discourses set forth by them, more eminently extended over all that be under it; which whilst they lived here, was not so eminently extended. Thou hadst not as yet spread abroad the heaven like a skin; Thou hadst not as yet enlarged in all directions the glory of their deaths.

Let us look, O Lord, upon the heavens, the work of Thy fingers; clear from our eyes that cloud, which Thou hast spread under them. There is Thy testimony, which giveth wisdom unto the little ones: perfect, O my God, Thy praise out of the mouth of babes and sucklings. For we know no other books, which so destroy pride, which so destroy the enemy and the defender, who resisteth Thy reconciliation by defending his own sins. I know not, Lord, I know not any other such pure words, which so persuade me to confess, and make my neck pliant to Thy yoke, and invite me to serve Thee for nought. Let me understand them, good Father: grant this to me, who am placed under them: because for those placed under them, hast Thou established them.

Other waters there be above this firmament, I believe immortal, and separated from earthly corruption. Let them praise Thy Name, let them praise Thee, the supercelestial people, Thine angels, who have no need to gaze up at this firmament, or by reading to know of Thy Word. For they always behold Thy face, and there read without any syllables in time, what willeth Thy eternal will; they read, they choose, they love. They are ever reading; and that never passes away which they read; for by choosing, and by loving, they read the very unchangeableness of Thy counsel. Their book is never closed, nor their scroll folded up; seeing Thou Thyself art this to them, and art eternally; because Thou hast ordained them above this firmament, which Thou hast firmly settled over the infirmity of the lower people, where they might gaze up and learn Thy mercy, announcing in time Thee Who madest times. For Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens, and Thy truth reacheth unto the clouds. The clouds pass away, but the heaven abideth. The preachers of Thy word pass out of this life into another; but Thy Scripture is spread abroad over the people, even unto the end of the world. Yet heaven and earth also shall pass away, but Thy words shall not pass away. Because the scroll shall be rolled together: and the grass over which it was spread, shall with the goodliness of it pass away; but Thy Word remaineth forever, which now appeareth unto us under the dark image of the clouds, and through the glass of the heavens, not as it is: because we also, though the well-beloved of Thy Son, yet it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. He looketh through the lattice of our flesh, and He spake us tenderly, and kindled us, and we ran after His odours. But when He shall appear, then shall we be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. As He is, Lord, will our sight be.

Saint Augustine Bishop of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine

Leave a Reply