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work within him, Augustine began again the study of the Christian Scriptures. In an interesting passage in the Confessions he tells how he found in the Scriptures things that were lacking in the books of the NeoPlatonists. These books, he declares, have nothing to say of the tears of repentance, the broken and contrite heart, the salvation of the people, the cup of our redemption; they have nothing equivalent to the call, “ Come unto me all ye that labour,” nor any sympathy with the meek and lowly in heart. It is significant that what appealed to him most in Christianity at this critical time were its essentially moral and spiritual features.
His mother, in her solicitude for him, had followed him to Milan, and she rejoiced to find that his attitude towards Christianity had begun to change, and that he was attending the services of the Church. He was between two and three years at Milan, and it was in the second year that the great spiritual crisis of his life, his conversion, took place. It seemed to come with startling suddenness, but in reality it had long been preparing. It was not an intellectual change only or chiefly, due to the dawning of truth on a mind that had long groped in darkness and uncertainty and followed lights that proved illusory; it was above all a moral and spiritual change, in which the high instincts of his nature had at last overcome the baser, and the heart, long restless, had found the peace of God. In a famous passage in the Confessions he tells how, as he sat in a garden one day, full of inward questioning, he heard the voice as of a child at play, saying, “Take up and read, take up and read.” (Tolle, lege, tolle, lege.) Opening a volume of St. Paul's Epistles, he read the words on which
his eyes first fell : "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof." “No further did I read, nor did I require to do so. As I reached the end of the sentence, the light of peace seemed to be shed abroad in my heart, and every shadow of doubt melted away.” (viii. 12.)
His conversion is an event of first-rate importance in Christian history-only comparable to that of St. Paul. Soon after it he resigned his position as Professor of Rhetoric, and spent some months at a country house which had been lent to him ; and with him was a party which included his friend Alypius, his son, Adeodatus, his brother Navigius, two cousins and two pupils; and Monica too was there," ruling us like a mother, and serving us like a daughter.” It has been compared to a reading party from an English university. An account of it is given in the Dialogues which were written at the time and are included among Augustine's works. There was much talk on philosophical subjects, and opinions were at times sharply divided ; and we are told how on one occasion Monica happened to come in when some point was in dispute, and how she was asked for her opinion upon it. When she said with a smile that she was no philosopher, Augustine explained to her that the word philosophy meant the love of wisdom, and then went on to say that, as she loved wisdom more than any of them, she was the best philosopher, and that they ought all to enrol themselves as her pupils. At this, we are told, she laughed outright, and said, “I never heard you talk such nonsense in all your life !”
But besides directing the studies of his pupils during those months in the country, and taking part in the discussions, Augustine was earnestly considering the spiritual change which he had experienced, and the alteration in all his plans of life which that change appeared to him to involve. On returning to Milan he was baptized by Ambrose, as were also Alypius and Adeodatus. His baptism seemed to him ever after to mark definitely the end of his old life and the beginning of his new one. So conscious was he of the spiritual rebirth of which his baptism was the outward sign, that he was able to write about his former unregenerate self as though he were writing about another person, whom he once had known. His remarkable power of self-analysis is shown in the account which he gives at much length of an escapade of his boyhood. With some companions he had made a raid on an orchard. In looking back on it, he is puzzled to understand how he could have been guilty of such a thing, and he passes from one possible explanation to another until he arrives at the true one. He did not want the pears ; he had better ones of his own; and after stealing them he had flung them away untasted. Had he stolen them simply from love of stealing ? That could hardly be the case ; for there is nothing surely to love in theft. Had the pleasure, then, been in doing wrong without being caught and punished ? Neither was that a satisfactory motive. And then he hits on an explanation
1 According to an ancient tradition Ambrose and Augustine composed and sang the Te Deum at the conclusion of the ceremony; but the authorship of this grandest of all the hymns of the Church is now ascribed to a contemporary-Nicetus, Bishop of Remesiana from 392 to 414.
that anticipates what is said now-a-days about the herd instinct, which is at bottom the feeling of comradeship and is so powerful either for good or evil. It was this feeling that had impelled him to act as he had done. “ I should not,” he says, “ have done it by myself ... I should certainly not have done it by myself.” (ii. 4.ff.)
In the self-accusings with which the Confessions abound, there is evidence of an almost morbid sensitiveness of conscience. De mortuis nil nisi bonum was certainly not his motto in speaking of his dead self. His intention apparently is to represent himself at his worst in order that the Divine grace in saving him may be the more evident. He is troubled even by the sins of his infancy. He has seen a babe at the breast jealous, and he is sure that he was himself at that early age guilty of the like delinquency. “So small a child and so great a sinner !” is his comment as he tells of the unwillingness with which he had learnt his first lessons in reading, writing and arithmetic. He speaks of sin as the resistance made by man to the laws of God-to that divine discipline “which begins with the schoolmaster's rod, and ends with the martyr's fiery trial." (i. 14). Yet with all the fault he has to find with himself as a child, he sees much reason for gratitude as he recalls that period of his life. He remembers how glad he had felt to be alive and to have the use of his senses ; the delight he had found in the discovery of truth, “even in little things and in reflections on little things," and the joy and comfort he had even then begun to find in friendship. “To God," he says, “I will give loud thanks for all the good that belonged to me as a boy." (i.20.) In his record of the sins of his youth and early manhood, we see there was indeed much that was blameworthy, even after due allowance is made for the moral standards of a half-pagan society; yet we learn also that he had made many an effort after purity and self-control. His experience had a profound effect in determining his view that salvation is rather the work of Divine grace than of man's will. Never was there a religious teacher whose doctrine was more an interpretation of personal experience than was his.
After his baptism Augustine with his mother and brother and son left Milan and came to Ostia, one of the ports of Rome, whence they meant to set sail for return to Africa. One of the most entrancing passages in the Confessions is that in which he describes a conversation with his mother.
“It happened, I believe, by thy secret workings, that she and I were leaning by ourselves at a window, from which we looked down on the garden of our house. There in Ostia by Tiber, away from the crowd, we were recruiting ourselves for the voyage, after the fatigue of our long journey. We were conversing sweetly together, and, forgetting those things that were behind, and reaching forth unto those things that were before, we asked ourselves, in the presence of the Truth which thou art, what will be the nature of that eternal life of the saints, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man. With our souls we panted for the heavenly streams of thy fountain, the fountain of life which is with thee, that, sprinkled thence according to our capacity, we might in some measure meditate on that high theme. And as our converse drew to this conclusion, that the sweetest delight of sense in