Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

very dissipated life. He was saved from worse evil by forming an irregular union, such as even the Christian society of his time hardly censured, with a woman who became the mother of his son, Adeodatus, and to whom he remained faithful for many years. Among his fellow-students at Carthage he found several who shared his intellectual interests, and, in the Confessions he has left a memorable and delightful picture of his friendly circle there. “What charmed me in their intercourse,” he says, “was the talk, the laughter, the courteous mutual deference, the common study of the masters of eloquence, the comradeship, now grave, now gay, and differences that left no sting, as of a man differing with himself, the spice of disagreement that seasoned the monotony of consent. Each by turns would instruct or listen; the absent were always missed, the present always welcome. Such tokens, springing from the hearts of mutual friends, and displayed by a word, a glance, an expression, by a thousand pretty complaisances, supply the heat that welds souls together, and make one of many." (iv. 8.) Happily that picture, drawn more than fifteen hundred years ago, has been reproduced in the experience of many a group of students in University and College since--and not least frequently here in Oxford.

At the age of 19 the reading of Cicero's Hortensius (a work, now lost, dealing with the study of philosophy) caused a spiritual awakening. It gave a new direction to his mind, he tells us, and stirred within him a passionate longing for “ the immortality of wisdom.” Though having from his childhood a profound reverence for the name of Christ, and though still nominally a Christian, he had hitherto been rather repelled than attracted by organised Christianity; now, in order to satisfy his newly-awakened needs, he turned to the Christian Scriptures. But he found them little to his taste; they seemed, he said, “ unworthy to be compared with the stately eloquence of Cicero.”

This reference to Cicero illustrates the influence which the works of the great Roman moralist and orator had on the mind of the age. Jerome, who was a contemporary and correspondent of Augustine, and whose Latin Version of the Scriptures, the Vulgate, was published about the same time as the Confessions, tells of a dream he had which reveals the kind of divided spiritual allegiance that was then common among thoughtful men. “Suddenly,” says Jerome, “I was caught up in the spirit, and dragged before the Judgment Seat; and there the light was so brilliant that I cast myself upon the ground, and did not dare to look up. When asked who and what I was, I replied, 'I am a Christian.' But the Judge said, 'Thou liest ! Thou art a disciple of Cicero, and not of Christ; for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.' On hearing this I was dumbfounded.” The interest of Augustine and his Confessions owes much to the fact that in him we are able to see so clearly the struggle that was going on between the spirit of pagan antiquity and the spirit of Christianity.

Disappointed in the Christian Scriptures on turning to them after Cicero's Hortensius had touched the deeper and purer springs of his being, he began to look elsewhere for guidance and satisfaction. Among the religious cults of the day was that of the Manichaeans, which had originated in Persia about a century before, and had become in some places, and notably in North Africa, a formidable rival to Christianity. It was a syncretist faith, fundamentally Zoroastrian, but embodying Buddhist, Christian and other elements, and was ascetic in its practices. It seemed to promise all the spiritual help and intellectual enlightenment that Augustine required; and he allied himself with it, though never in full membership, for the next nine or ten years. It was over his connection with it that his mother, by that time a widow, was so long and deeply distressed. Her anxiety is shown in the story he tells of her going to a bishop and asking him to speak to her son and try to argue him out of the error of his ways. The bishop declined to do this, saying that it would be better to leave Augustine to find out his mistake for himself by further study. When, with tears, she persisted in her request, he still refused; but he said to her : “Go thy ways, and God bless thee; for it cannot be that the son of these tears should perish.”

When Augustine says that the reading of Cicero's Hortensius had stirred within him the desire for wisdom, he probably means that the book had awakened him to a sense of the great problems of existence-the problems with which philosophy has to deal--and had set him on the eager quest for their solution. What seems to have attracted him most in Manichaeism was the vast range of speculation which it opened up, and the answers it offered to the questions that had become insistent in his mind-as to the being and nature of God, the origin of creation, and the meaning of the conflict between good and evil of which he was conscious in his own heart. According to the Confessions its answers to these questions interested rather than convinced him. As time went on he became more and more dissatisfied with it, and only delayed severing himself from it in the hope that on meeting its chief exponent, Faustus, its doctrines would be presented to him in a form that he could accept. But at length, after the interview with Faustus, this hope proved illusory.

In the Confessions he laments his connection with Manichaeism as the grand mistake of his early life ; laments it as much indeed as he does his moral aberrations. But deeply as he deplores his association with it, and severe as is his denunciation of it, we cannot help thinking that he retained far more of its teaching than he was himself aware of. There can be no doubt as to the fascination it had for him; and after being under its spell during the most impressionable decade of his life, it is more than likely that its spirit and ideals continued to affect him, and that through him it had a profound influence on the development of Christian doctrine. That there were excellent reasons for his abandonment of it, we can well believe ; but that it was better than, in his recoil from it, he represents it in the Confessions, there is ample evidence. It held Christ in reverence, and was sincere in its endeavour to carry out the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. Some years before writing the Confessions, Augustine sent a letter to the Manichaeans, and it is interesting and pleasant to find him saying, in a passage that has become classic on the subject of toleration : "Let those treat you angrily who know not the labour necessary to find truth, and the amount of caution required to avoid error. Let those

treat you angrily who know not with what sighs and groans the least particle of the knowledge of God is obtained. For my part, I-who after much and longcontinued bewilderment attained at last to the discovery of the simple truth–I can on no account treat you angrily; for I must bear with you now as patiently as I had to bear with myself, and I must be as patient towards you as my friends were with me, when I went madly and blindly astray in your belief.”'l

On completing his studies at Carthage, Augustine became a teacher of literature in Thagaste, his native town. But the death of a dear friend there caused him so much distress that, in order to get away from griefhaunted scenes, he returned to Carthage. The chapters in the Confessions in which he tells of the loss of that early friend are among the most moving and self-revealing in the book. “This sorrow fell like darkness on my heart, and wherever I looked I saw nothing but death. My eyes sought him everywhere and found him not. I hated the familiar scenes because he was not there. I became a riddle to myself, and questioned my soul why she was so heavy and disquieted me so sorely, and I could find no answer ... I had lost my joy ... Well did the poet say of his friend, thou half of my soul !' For I felt that my soul and his had been but one in two bodies, and life seemed horrible to me, because he was not there,”-in such words as these does he express his grief and bewilderment. (iv. 4, 5, 6.)

1 Unhappily the tolerant spirit which breathes in this passage did not continue to animate Augustine. By the fateful interpretation which he gave to the Gospel saying “Compel them to come in," he became the father of persecution in the Christian Church.

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »