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successive stages of his history, and trading | her shores the King of the Trojans, drew the course of his mental development, from the listeners great applause, on account through those dark and stormy phases which of the deep passion and dignity wherewith preceded the strong and serene faith of the he personated the great Queen of Heaven. meridian prime, and closing years of his life, He had gone to Madaura—a neighboring we see Augustine training for the post which city—to study literature, whence he returned he so long and so bravely filled.
to Tagaste in his sixteenth year, with the Aurelius Augustinus was born on the 13th view of being sent to Carthage. At this of November, A. D. 354, at Tagaste, the period he was ambitious, yet wild and dissomodern Tajelt, an obscure village in Nu- lute. The robbing of a pear-tree, which he midia.
relates, with shame and sorrow, as one of his His father Patricius was a Pagan, but juvenile escapades, will not of itself be retowards the close of his life became a cate- garded as proof of any uncommon degree of chumen, and died in the bosom of the church. depravity. But other circumstances which His mother Monica, of whom in the “Con- he records, with all allowance for the prefessions " we have such touching notices, was vailing morals of a semi-pagan community, a woman of deep piety, who like a guardian and the sombre shade of penitence in which angel watched and wept for her gifted, the sins of his boyhood are set in his “ Conthough abandoned boy, till she saw the water fessions,” speak of a precocity of vice and of baptism sprinkled on his brow, where her licentiousness. tears had oft fallen.
At the early age of seventeen, he is cast Augustine himself in his “ Confessions” on the great world of Carthage, where he our chief source of information-has graphi- frequented theatres, kept a mistress, and cally sketched his boyhood, with many a studied rhetoric; and but for his self-respect, penitential sigh, many a quaint remark, and and the ambition which he cherished of bemany a stroke of quiet satire. Amid all his coming a great orator, he would have drank wanderings, the glimpse that he got by his to the dregs the cup of Circe, and been what mother's knee of the Star of Bethlehem the vice and dissipation of a large city have never faded entirely from his view, and at made many a youth. The Carthaginian last, after many a cloud and tempest, it students were too much of mere roysterers shone full and clear upon him, and guided and blackguards, to suit altogether the taste his “sea-sick weary bark” to the haven of of Augustine, and although he cultivated faith and rest. By his own account, he their society, and boasted among them of
an idle, play-loving boy, and heartily wickedness of which he had not been guilty, hated every subject that required applica- he would not share in the riotous violence tion. Greek was his especial aversion; and outrage which they practised. but he luxuriated in the classics of the For about two years he continued wooing Latin, his vernacular tongue, particularly in pleasure and eloquence in Carthage, till he the fables of the poets, which inflamed at reached his nineteenth year, which formed a once his imagination and his passions. He memorable epoch in his life. In the ordinary was disobedient to his masters and parents, course of his studies in the great master of though, as he himself confesses on his knees Roman eloquence, he came on the book he had a nervous dread of whipping, for he “ Hortensius,” which contains an exhortation tells us that when a boy he used to pray to to the study of philosophy. The effect of God that he might not be beaten at school. that book upon him will be best told in his Quick, impulsive, and imaginative, his reli- own words. “ That book turned to thee, O gious feelings were at this period strong, and God, my heart, my prayers, and changed my once when he thought himself dying, he im- desires and aims. Every vain hope sank plored his mother to have him baptised. into insignificance, and with incredible ardor The rite, however, was not performed. of soul I desired the immortality of wisdom,
In the schoolboy, we see the future rhet- and had begun to rise and return to thee.” orician and preacher in embryo; for he tells Up to this time he had panted for renown. us that his recitation of Juno's words of To shine in the forum, to dazzle by the corwrath, because Italy could not drive from ruscations of his eloquence, and thus to win
for himself riches and honors—this had been The state of his mind at this stage exthe object of his ambition. But Cicero plains the next step which he took. His first dashes his dream aside, and discovers to him essay to discover truth was unsuccessful, yet a fairer and nobler ideal. He had wor- he held to his conviction that it was discovershipped Fame, but he had now found out a able. He was dissatisfied with the Bible, grander and more glorious divinity. He be- which had completely disappointed his excomes the devotee of Truth, and is deter-pectations; he was groaning under the bonmined not to pause so long as he is among dage of passion, whose chain his aspiring those who gaze on her temple from afar, or spirit dragged heavily along; he believed linger around its portals, but will press on that knowledge could be obtained that would till he becomes an adorer in her inmost satisfy his reason, and would not submit to shrine and the hierophant of her mysteries. the demand of the church to subsitute an It is not without reason that he regards him- unintelligent and unjudging faith instead. self as having begun from this time to as-. With all its absurdity, Manichæism was well cend; for the love of truth is immeasurably fitted to captivate and ensnare him, for it nobler than the love of fame. He believes that promised all which he craved. It echoed his truth exists, and may be found, and though dissatisfaction with Scripture, for it rejected he has many a pained step yet to take on the much as corrupt both in the Old and New burning marl ere he finds what he seeks, he Testaments. But it would have had little has already planted one foot on the great power to fascinate him, had it not promised altar stair that slopes upward from sin and to make truth plain to his reason, requiring selfishness to God. Truth is to be found ; him to believe nothing on authority, but enbut where ? Cicero had kindled his ardor gaging to demonstrate and prove everything. for truth, but could not guide him to it; and To a youth of nineteen, panting for truth, Augustine soon turned from his eloquent and inflated with all the conceit and conpages, because he found not there what fidence in his own powers characteristic of realized his ideal or satisfied the cravings of budding manhood, this was irresistible. Au
The saintly Monica was near gustine has got glimpses of “the higher crithim, to breathe to him with loving lips, and icism,” which by the touchstone of reason in her pious life, a sacred name which he had discriminates between the true and the false not quite forgot, and with which he had been in Scripture; he will rid himself conclusively taught to regard truth as inseparably wedded. of the leading-strings of authority, and leavThat name he found not in Cicero, and this ing faith and fable for old women, will receive alone damped him. “For this name of my nothing that he does not know or cannot Saviour, my tender heart had drunk with my prove. In short, he asserts his manhood by mother's milk, and deeply treasured, and í becoming a Manichee. But there was ancould not be completely captivated by any other cause which operated with no less thing that wanted this name, however, power in drawing him into the Manichean learned, polished, or true.” Accordingly he snare-a cause connected with what to Autried the Bible, but soon turned from it in gustine became the great all-absorbing quesdisappointment. With the grand periods of tion which tortured him until he settled itCicero ringing in his ears, and his taste what is the origin of evil ? Indeed the formed according to the turgid and affected Manichean system, comprehensively constyle of the times, the Scriptures seemed to sidered, is just an attempt to answer this him mean and poor. He was not prepared question. With Augustine this was not a yet to find truth wearing a garb so homely, matter of mere curious speculation ; for the and an aspect so mysterious as the Bible pre- conflict between sensuality and reason, by sented. Some one has said, “ Philosophy which he was internally torn, made him seek speaks the language of the gods, and Reli- for deliverance, and attempt speculatively to gion that of men.” Such seemed to Augus-account for that which fettered, embittered, tine the difference between the writings that and cursed his soaring, truth-loving soul. had made him a seeker of wisdom and the Manes, or Mani, the founder of the Manichean Bible ; and he was yet in no mood to de- system, proclaimed himself the Paraclete :cend from Olympus to earth, and soon cast promised by Jesus Christ to teach the whole the Scriptures aside.
truth; but his system is in reality a fusion
of Buddhism with the philosophy of Zoroaster, Manicheans. Although from his nineteenth whose fellow-countryman he was, deriving to his twenty-eighth year he was connected from Christianity nothing but names and with them, he was for the greater part of phrases. The Ahriman, or evil principle of that time inwardly harassed with questions the Persian sage, he identified with Matter, to which they could give no answer; and he ascribing to it an independent existence; and soon began to be disgusted with many of their Ormuz, or the good principle, he identified puerilities and absurdities, and to suspect that with Spirit, although Spirit with him was he had been deceived. only a more refined Matter. By the mixture His thirst for knowledge was unabated, of the two, by an eruption of the world of and he drank at every stream. His intellect, darkness into the world of light, by the was of the highest order. The most inblending of portions of the Deity with por- tricate and difficult subjects of study he mastions of evil Matter, the world is formed. tered almost with the ease of intuition. When The human soul is a part of the Divinity im- scarce twenty, the Categories of Aristotle fell prisoned in evil Matter. Here then was an in his way, and without the aid of a master explanation of the struggle he felt, which did he at once comprehended them. It was the not grate on his pride, nor oblige him to same with music, arithmetic, geometry, logic, curb his vicious indulgences. For, accord- and rhetoric; and he had no idea that these ing to it, he could say, I am unfortunate, but studies were attended with any difficulty, till not culpable, because my breast is merely he began to teach them to others, to the the theatre on which the two powers of light most studious and talented of whom he found and darkness, good and evil, contend, or they cost much labor. Astrology engaged rather it is the good deity who is so unfor- his attention ; and he clung long and fondly tunate as to have his substance swallowed up to the belief that the stars influenced the by the evil, and cannot extricate himself affairs of men, and that the secrets of fate without a contest. With this shallow ex- were written in mystic characters in the sky. planation, which he afterwards demolished About the beginning of this period he spent with such pitiless logic and scornful mockery, a short time at Tagaste, his native town, he was for the present content. One very teaching grammar. Here the death of a palpable advantage it has; it abolishes con- young man to whom he was tenderly atscience altogether, and dispenses with the tached plunged him into the deepest sorrow. necessity or even possibility of self-reproach. The friendships of Augustine were close and It finds no more difficulty with the origin of lasting, and showed how strongly he could evil than with that of good; because both love and be beloved. Augustine's heart was of alike are underived, self-existent, eternal. womanly tenderness, and his life afforded There is an absolute evil, as there is an ab- many proofs of that capability of high and solute good. For a time he was very active pure friendship which belongs only to the and successful in unsettling the faith of noblest souls. others, scoffing at the scripture representa- His grief at the loss of his friend was frantion of God, as if it ascribed bodily parts to tic.
" I bore about,” he says,
shattered Him, and saying sharp and witty things and bleeding soul, that could nowhere find about the patriarchs having many wives. rest. Not in pleasant groves, not in games Poor Monica, horrified beyond measure, re- and songs, neither in perfumed halls nor doubled her tears and prayers, and entreated sumptuous entertainments, nor in the luxury a bishop to reason with her deluded son, and of couch and bed, not even in books or poems, convince him of his errors. The good man, could it repose. All was ghastly, even light who in his youth had been a Manichee, wisely itself; all that was not he was hideous and refused, shrewdly telling her that the best odious, except groaning and tears. These thing that could be done was to let him alone yielded a slight relief.” alone, and that, when the novelty of the Weary of life, and yet afraid of death, he thing had worn off, the youth would of him- tore himself from Tagaste, where it was imself discover the absurdity and falsehood of possible to forget him in whom he had garthe opinions he had adopted. It fell out as nered up his affections. He returned to Carthe good bishop prophesied, although it was thage. The abrupt termination of this nine years ere he shook himself clear of the friendship deeply influenced him, and the
tears he shed yielded a rich harvest of kept him from brooding exclusively over thought, though the void made in his heart those deeper questions that led to his adopwas filled by other friendships : its craving tion of the Manichean creed, yet, unsettled for sympathy was gratified, in companionship as he was, and becoming more and more with congenial minds. But Augustine's mind suspicious of it, although unwilling to publish is of that kind which must find a reason for his doubts, or even to avow them to himself, everything. He has found that life without he at last procured admission into the inner love is not worth having, and that it is from circle of the elect, to whom alone the esoteric love that all our enjoyments spring. He doctrines were communicated. It was prommust account speculatively for this; and he ised that the veil under which truth had asks, what is it in any object which attracts been obscured should be withdrawn, and that our love? He ponders the question, and he should look upon her face to face; but the answer he gives is, It is the lovely, the he discovered that the inner shrine into which beautiful. This leads him to speculate on he had been conducted was empty; and, inthe beautiful, a theme congenial to his youth, stead of responses to his eager questionings, and according with his situation and studies. only the echoes of his own voice came back Rhetoric, by which he lived, brought him in tantalising mockery from the pretended into constant and familiar contact with all oracle. Unable to reply to him, the Carthagithat was most sublime and beautiful in the nian Manichees referred him to Faustus, one Latin muses of poetry and eloquence. The of the most celebrated of their teachers. sky of Carthage was clear: it had pleasant Augustine soon took his measure; he found groves and glancing fountains; it was not him glib and fluent, but possessed of little wanting in monuments of sculpture, painting, literary and no scientific knowledge; and, and architecture; the blue wave of the Med- though he spoke neatly and persuasively, had iterranean laughingly rushed to kiss the really nothing to say which Augustine had warm Carthaginian shore; there were spark- not heard from others of the sect. Manes' ling eyes, and fair faces, and graceful forms; system attempted to explain everything, and bright in the clear midnight heaven were physics among the rest; and being utterly its golden galaxies, on which Augustine ignorant of science, his writings were full of gazed, a lonely and thoughtful watcher. He arrant nonsense and falsehood. feasted on beauty; he searched through crea- This was enough to convince Augustine, tion for the beautiful; he found it every- who was thoroughly conversant with the where, and reared for himself a palace, in scientific knowledge of his day, that Maniwhich his soul luxuriated, amid forms of love-chæism was a cheat; for he could not but liness gathered from nature and art. The feel that it was fatal to the pretensions of result was the writing of a treatise on æsthet- one who claimed the special inspiration of ics, dedicated to Hierius, a Roman orator. Heaven to fall into such absurdities and false It was composed, he tells us, when he was hoods. He had been promised knowledge, about twenty-six or twenty-seven; but was and had waited patiently for nine years; but lost, he knew not how, before he wrote his after all he was asked to believe what he "Confessions." This work, the loss of which knew to be false and absurd. Instead of the was regretted by Lord Jeffrey, was entitled firm ground on which he had hoped to stand, "De Pulchro et Apto"—the beautiful and he found himself in a quaking morass, and the congruous, or the fair and fit—and re- at every step becoming more perplexed, and solved beauty into unity and adaptation. sinking deeper and deeper in the mire of Where there is unity, or where there is a mu- sensuality. He still clung to Manichæism tual correspondence between objects, there is with a despairing hold, because he had nothbeauty. In unity, the chief source of the ing to substitute for it; but, sick at heart, beautiful, Augustine thought he found the ex- and disgusted with the disorderly conduct of planation of the true and the good.
the students at Carthage, he was induced to These speculations on beauty we reckon set out for Rome. At Rome he at first connot only significant of his mental state, but sorted with the Manicheans, willing still to as auxiliary means of his deliverance from lay the blame of his sin, not on himself, but Manichæism, as we shall by and by see. Al- on the evil principle, and preferring the though the pursuits we have mentioned above | Manichean conception of God as
mass, infinite on all its sides except one, on his mother Monica, who heard with placid which it was bounded by the power of dark- delight that he was no longer a heretic, and ness, to that which he falsely thought was doubted not to see him, in answer to her held by the Catholic Church, in which cor- prayers, a firm believer. His misconceptions poreal parts were assigned to the Deity. He of catholic doctrine gradually melted away, was beginning, however, to be inclined to and, under Ambrose's teaching, he came to believe that the only landing-place for the understand many passages of Scripture philosopher was scepticism. Manichæism which seemed before absurd. He felt shame had tainted him deeply. It materialized his and resentment at having been the dupe of conceptions so much, that he had no idea of Manichean misrepresentations and fables ; a spiritual substance. He believed “evil to and would fain have unbosomed himself to be some kind of a substance, and to have its the bishop; whose numerous engagements, own foul and hideous bulk ;” and he could however, precluded the possibility of such a. not allow himself to believe that evil, such as lengthened conference as would have been of he conceived it, came from God. Yet the any service. Although truth had been the more he reflected on this subætance, which chief object of his pursuit since his nineteenth was evil—absolutely, eternally, irrecoverably year, he had entertained schemes of worldly evil—the more hideous must it have appeared, advancement, and especially of an advantaand the more anxious must he have been to geous marriage. To further this last object, get rid of this horrible incubus, and to prove he put away the concubine with whom he to himself that no such thing existed. Dis- had lived twelve years, and who was the appointed with Rome, he accepted an invita- mother of his son Adeodatus, born when tion to teach rhetoric at Milan, and attracted Augustine was but eighteen years of age. by the eloquence of the good Bishop Ambrose, His heart was lacerated by this separation, whose fame had reached him at Rome, he and sickened with disappointment at the became a hearer, at first caring only for the frustration of his plans; for the wished-for preacher's manner of speaking, and having marriage and aggrandisement came not, and no idea of learning the truth at the lips of a he was mortified at the proof he gave of the church teacher. · By and by, as he listened, power of sensuality over him, by entering & he discovered that much more could be said second time into concubinage. His wretchedin favor of the Scriptures than he thought; ness was aggravated by a terror of death and with increasing interest day by day, he and judgment, and the old question of good heard many difficulties and objections dis- and evil occupied his mind more deeply than posed of. Tired of Manichæism, it had yet ever it had done. penetrated so completely into his mind, and Before quitting Carthage, he had been so colored all his conceptions, that it required staggered by an argument of his friend an effort to throw it off. He bent himself
, Nebridius, which struck him now with such therefore, with all his might to disprove it. power, that he saw the Manichean doctrine Could I,” he
once have conceived a to be untenable. It is briefly this: What spiritual substance, all their strongholds had harm would the evil principle have done to been beaten down and cast out of my mind; the good, provided the latter had refused to but I could not.” He compared the theories contend with it? If it is answered, no harm, of philosophers regarding the world, with then there is no reason for fighting with it, that of Manes, and found them far more especially since in the contest, portions of the probable. Accordingly he decided that Deity are enthralled and imprisoned, some Manichæism was to be given up; and, al- of them never to be extricated. If they though now cast adrift on a sea of doubt, should say that the Deity would suffer some and despairing of finding truth, he yet came harm if he refused to fight with the powers to the resolution of becoming a catechumen of darkness, then the Deity was asserted to in the Christian Church, till he should know be corruptible ; which was false and execrable
. what course to steer. This step which Augus- Augustine saw clearly that, in shifting the tine took in his twenty-ninth year, showed authorship of evil from man's free-will, the that the church was the haven in which he Manichees landed themselves in this inevitawished to anchor. Along with him at Milan, ble consequence, that the substance of the were his friends Alypius and Nebridius, and Deity suffered injury; for, according to their