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LAWS OF GOD ABOVE LAWS OF GRAMMAR 27
imitation, who, if in relating some action of theirs, not bad, they were guilty of some incorrect or ungrammatical expression, were filled with shame when censured for it; but when they described their own immoral conduct, in proper, rich, and elegant words and sentences, they gloried in the praises they received? Thou seest these things, O Lord, and holdest Thy peace, for Thou art "long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth." Wilt Thou for ever hold Thy peace? And now Thou dost rescue from this most dreadful gulf the soul that seeks Thee, and thirsts for Thy delights, and whose "heart saith to Thee, I have sought Thy Face;" "Thy Face, Lord, will I seek."2 For I was far from Thy Face by darkened affections. Indeed we do not leave Thee and return to Thee with our feet or by change of place. Nor did that son, Thy younger one, procure horses, or carriages, or ships, of fly with visible wings, or make his journey upon his legs, that in a far country he might waste in riotous living what Thou gavest him when he set out. Thou wast a loving Father for giving it to him, and more loving still to him when he returned empty. It is by sensual, for that is, by darkened affections, we leave Thee, and that is the country which is far from Thy Face.
Behold, O Lord God, and behold with Thy accustomed Patience, how diligently the sons of men observe the laws of letters and syllables which have been received from former speakers, and the eternal covenant of everlasting salvation, delivered by Thee, they neglect; so that he who holds or teaches the old laws of pronunciation, if he should, contrary 1 Ps. lxxxvi. 15. 2 Ps. xxvii. 8.
28 MEN OF MORE VALUE THAN WORDS
to the rules of grammar, drop an "h," would more offend men; than if he, a man himself, hated a man,1 contrary to Thy precepts. As if the hatred he bears to any one, were not a more injurious enemy to himself, than the one he hates; or, as if another who persecuted him could do him more harm, than he does to his own heart by bearing malice. And certainly no science of letters is so deeply imprinted within us as that law of conscience-" not to do to another what we would not have done to ourselves." How hidden art Thou, “dwelling on high,”2 O God, alone Great, Who by an unwearied law spreadest penal blindness upon lawless desires! When a man is desirous of being accounted eloquent, standing before a human judge, and in the presence of a crowd of men, inveighing against his enemy with the fiercest hatred, he will be most cautious, lest by a slip of the tongue he should make a grammatical error; but he will take no care, lest through his furious spirit he should take away a man's life.
Of childish Faults which pass on to mature Hears.
HIS was the moral atmosphere into which I, wretched boy, was first introduced, and this was the stage, where I feared rather to fall into a grammatical error than, having done so, to envy those who had kept clear of it. I say these things and confess There is a play on the Latin word 'homo' (man) in the original.
Isa. xxxiii. 5.
FAULTS REMAIN, THOUGH OBJECTS CHANGE 29
them to Thee, my God; things which formerly brought me praise, from those whom I then thought it a virtue to please. For I did not see the abyss of foulness, into which "I was cast away from Thine Eyes." For in Thy sight what could be more vile than I myself already was, when I was offensive even to such as were like me, deceiving my tutors, masters, and parents with numberless lies, through my love of play, eagerness for sight-seeing, and restless desire to imitate such fooleries? Then I committed thefts from the cellar and table of my parents, either for the sake of gratifying my appetite, or that I might have to give to other boys, who sold their play to me, in which they took the same delight as I did. In this play, too, I often cheated-myself conquered by the vain desire to excel. But the very thing I could so little tolerate, or when I caught any one in it, was so fierce in denounc ing, was I not myself doing to others? and when detected in it, if upbraided, I chose rather to fall into a passion than to yield. Is this your childish innocence? No, no, O Lord; I pray to Thee, my God, for mercy. For these sinful ways continue, when we grow older, though related to different objects; and tutors, masters, nuts, balls, and sparrows are replaced by magistrates, rulers, gold, estates, and possessions; just as the rod is followed by severer forms of chastisement. Therefore it must have been because of their littleness, that Thou, our King, didst commend children, as emblems of humility, when Thou didst "of such is the kingdom of heaven.' 2 Matt. xix. 14.
I Ps. xxxi. 22.
30 THANKS GOD, HE WAS
For the Blessings conferred upon him in Childhood, he gives Thanks to God.
BUT yet, O Lord, to Thee-most excellent and good
Creator and Ruler of the universe-our God,
thanks were due, even if Thou hast willed that I should not survive the age of childhood. For even then I existed, I lived, and I felt; I had intrusted to me a completeness of being-a trace of that most secret Unity whence I was derived; I guarded the integrity of all my senses by an inward sense, and in little ways, and in my thoughts about little things, I began to delight in truth. I disliked to be deceived, I had a strong memory, I had facility of speech, I found a comfort in friendship, I shrunk from pain, reproach, and ignorance. What was not wonderful, and a ground for praise, in that little life? But these are all the gifts of my God; I did not give them to myself; and they are good, and all these are myself. Good, then, is He Who made me, and He Himself is my good; and before Him do I rejoice for all those goods which were mine when I was a boy. For this was my sin, that not in Him, but in His creatures-in myself and other creatures, I sought for pleasures, honours, and realities; and so rushed headlong into trouble, shame, and error. Thanks be to Thee, my Sweetness, my Glory, and my Confidence, my God: thanks be to Thee for Thy gifts; but do Thou preserve them to me. For in so doing, Thou wilt preserve me; and Thy gifts shall be increased and perfected, and I shall be with Thee myself, for my very being is Thy gift.
He passes to another age, that which commenced at sixteen, when having given up study in his father's house, he indulged his own will and desires; he remembers this time with deep remorse, and marvels at the way he was betrayed into committing a theft, and yet the human heart is not led into evil, unless in some way evil presents itself under the form of good.
He reflects upon his Condition and the Vices of his Youth.
WISH now to recall the foulness of my past life,
and the carnal corruptions of my soul: not for love of them, but for love of Thee, my God. Through love of Thy Love I do this, reviewing my most wicked ways in the bitterness of my remembrance, that Thou mayest become sweet to me-a sweetness not deceptive but blessed and abiding, gathering me from that dissipation in which I was torn to pieces, when turned away from Thee as from the only One, I lost myself in many directions. I burned in my youth to be satisfied with things below, and I dared to run wild with manifold and shadowy loves; and "my beauty consumed away," and I became loathsome in Thine Eyes; pleasing myself, and desiring to please in the eyes of