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HIS LOVE OF PLAY
writing, reading, or minding our lessons so much as we were bidden. For memory and ability were not wanting to us, O Lord, for Thou didst graciously bestow them upon us according to our age; but we delighted in play ; and were corrected for this by those who did the same. But the trifles with which older persons are occupied are called business, but when boys occupy themselves with that which in their case corresponds with those trifles, they are punished by those elders; and no one pities either boys or men. For will any one of sound judgment approve of my being beaten, because as a boy, through playing at ball, I made less progress in those studies which would only render me, when a man, capable of playing at a worse game; for what else was he doing who chastised me, who, when overthrown in some petty controversy by a fellow-tutor, was more tormented by chagrin and envy, than I was when beaten by my play-fellow in a game of ball ?
Through love of Play and of performances, he is
drawn away from Study.
ND yet I did sin, O Lord God, Disposer and
Creator of all things natural, but only Disposer of sins : O Lord my God, I did wrong by acting contrary to the commands of my parents and of those masters. For I might have afterwards put to a good account that knowledge which, whatever their motive was, they wished me to acquire. For it was not from the choice of something better that I disobeyed them,
HE HAS A DANGEROUS ILLNESS
but through love of play ; delighting in the pride of victories in contests; and to have my ears tickled with false fables, that they might itch the more ; and the same curiosity made my eyes sparkle more and more at the sight of the plays and games of my elders. And although those who show them are held in such esteem that almost all would be glad for their children to do the same, yet are they willing that their children should be flogged, if by such games they are hindered from those studies, by the means of which they hope some time that they will become capable of the same performances.
Look mercifully on these things, O Lord ; and deliver us, who now call upon Thee ; deliver those, too, who have not yet called upon Thee, and grant that they may call upon Thee, and that Thou mayest deliver them.
Seized with Jllness, he earnestly asked for Baptism,
which his mother, after careful deliberation, deferred.
FOR "OR I had already heard, as a boy, of eternal life,
promised to us through the humility of our Lord God, descending to our pride ; and I was already signed with the sign of His cross, and salted with His salt,' even from the womb of my mother, who placed all her hope in Thee. Thou sawest, O Lord, when I was still but a boy, how one day I was suddenly seized
1 One of the rites used in the admission of a Catechumen, previous to Baptism, "founded on the Lord's words, 'Have salt in yourselves."
HE DESIRES TO BE BAPTIZED
in my stomach, became violently ill, and almost died -Thou sawest, my God (for Thou wert already my Keeper), with what earnestness and faith I begged of my loving mother and of Thy Church, which is the mother of us all, that I might receive the Baptism of Thy Christ my God and Lord. And the mother of my flesh, being much disturbed-since with a heart, pure in faith, she more lovingly travailed in birth of my eternal salvation – would with all speed have provided for my Baptism and cleansing by the sacraments of salvation, confessing Thee, O Lord Jesus, for the remission of sins, had I not suddenly recovered. Therefore my cleansing was put off, because should I live, I should inevitably get defiled again ; and sin after Baptism is of a deeper dye, and fraught with greater danger to the soul than sin before it. I then already believed ; and so did my mother, and all the household except my father ; yet my mother's piety had a stronger influence over me than his unbelief, so that I believed in Christ, in spite of him. For it was her one longing that Thou, my God, shouldest be a father unto me, rather than he ; and in this Thou didst help her to prevail over her husband, whom she obeyed, though she was better than he, as in thus fulfilling Thy command she also obeyed Thee.
I ask Thee, my God, I should like to know it if I may, why my Baptism was then put off? Was it for my good that the reins of sinning were, as it were, held loosely? or were they not held loosely? Or if not, why is it such a common saying on all sides, “ Let him alone, let him do it, for he is not yet baptized”? And yet we do not say the same as to bodily healın. “Let him alone, let him get worse, for he is not yet
HE HAS NO LOVE FOR STUDY
cured.” How much better, then, it would have been for me, had I been cured at once, and then by my own care, and that of my friends, the health of my soul, once restored, had been preserved safely in His keeping Who gave it? Better indeed! But how many and how great waves of temptation seem to hang over my childhood, my mother knew well ; and she preferred that the clay of which I should be afterwards moulded, should be exposed to them, rather than endanger the image itself.
He was forced to go on with his Studies, which,
however, God turned to his Profit.
than that of youth,—I had no love for study, and hated to be forced to it; and yet I was forced to it, and it was well for me that I was, though I did not profit much, but had I not been forced, I should not have learned at all. But no one does anything well if he does it unwillingly, even though it be a good work in itself. Yet neither did they do well who urged me, but good came to me from Thee, my God.
For they did not care to what account I turned what they pressed me to learn, save that it might satisfy the insatiable cravings of a wealthy poverty and an ignominious glory. But Thou, by Whom the hairs of our head are numbered, didst make the error of all those who urged me to learn, to minister to my good ; and my own error, in that I would not learn, Thou didst use for my punish
I Matt. x. 30.
IMPORTANCE OF FIRST LESSONS
ment-a punishment which I, so small a boy and yet so great a sinner, justly deserved. So Thou didst make instruments of my good, those who did not do good themselves; and my own fault, rightly brought back punishment upon myself
. For Thou hast ordered it, and so it comes to pass, that every inordinate affection should be to itself its own punishment.
In what Studies he chiefly delighted. BUT UT why I hated the Greek language, which I as
a boy studied, I do not even now know. For I loved Latin, not what I was first taught, but what I learned from those who are styled grammarians. For those first lessons in reading, writing, and arithmetic, were as troublesome and irksome to me as all my Greek. But from what did this also arise, but from the sin and vanity of this life, because “I was flesh, and a breath that passeth away and cometh not again.” For those first lessons were better, indeed, because more certain; for by them I acquired, and still possess the ability to read whatever comes in my way, and to write whatever I wish ; whereas afterwards I was forced to remember the wanderings of a certain Æneas, forgetful of my own, and to weep at the death of Dido, because she killed herself for love, whilst all the while I, wretched one, with dry eyes, endured myself dying amongst these things, far from Thee, O God,
For what could be more miserable than for me, a
Ps. lxxviii. 39.