This fourth book of the Confessions took me FOREVER to get through. I’m not quite sure why it took so long for me to finish listening to this section, as it was interesting. The main themes dealt with are deception and heresy, death and loss, and the origin and substance of love.
I will share just a few quotes with you:
“For good it is to confess unto Thee, and to say, “Be merciful unto me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee;” and not to abuse Thy goodness for a license to sin, but to remember the words of the Lord, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” All of which salutary advice they endeavour to destroy when they say, “The cause of thy sin is inevitably determined in heaven;” and, “This did Venus, or Saturn, or Mars;” in order that man, forsooth, flesh and blood, and proud corruption, may be blameless, while the Creator and Ordainer of heaven and stars is to bear the blame. And who is this but Thee, our God, the sweetness and well-spring of righteousness, who renderest “to every man according to his deeds,”and despisest not “a broken and a contrite heart!””
And, speaking of the death of his closest friend, during the time when his view of God was skewed by a mystical and fairytale-like form of heresy:
“At this sorrow my heart was utterly darkened, and whatever I looked upon was death. My native country was a torture to me, and my father’s house a wondrous unhappiness; and whatsoever I had participated in with him, wanting him, turned into a frightful torture. Mine eyes sought him everywhere, but he was not granted them; and I hated all places because he was not in them; nor could they now say to me, “Behold; he is coming,” as they did when he was alive and absent. I became a great puzzle to myself, and asked my soul why she was so sad, and why she so exceedingly disquieted me; but she knew not what to answer me. And if I said, “Hope thou in God,” she very properly obeyed me not; because that most dear friend whom she had lost was, being man, both truer and better than that phantasm she was bid to hope in. Naught but tears were sweet to me, and they succeeded my friend in the dearest of my affections.”
And then, he seeks of his search to define beauty and fitness, outside of a full knowledge of the nature and being of God.
But not yet did I perceive the hinge on which this impotent matter turned in Thy wisdom, O Thou Omnipotent, “who alone doest great wonders;” and my mind ranged through corporeal forms, and I defined and distinguished as “fair,” that which is so in itself, and “fit,” that which is beautiful as it corresponds to some other thing; and this I supported by corporeal examples. And I turned my attention to the nature of the mind, but the false opinions which I entertained of spiritual things prevented me from seeing the truth. Yet the very power of truth forced itself on my gaze, and I turned away my throbbing soul from incorporeal substance, to lineaments, and colours, and bulky magnitudes. And not being able to perceive these in the mind, I thought I could not perceive my mind. And whereas in virtue I loved peace, and in viciousness I hated discord, in the former I distinguished unity, but in the latter a kind of division. And in that unity I conceived the rational soul and the nature of truth and of the chief good to consist. But in this division I, unfortunate one, imagined there was I know not what substance of irrational life, and the nature of the chief evil, which should not be a substance only, but real life also, and yet not emanating from Thee, O my God, from whom are all things. And yet the first I called a Monad, as if it had been a soul without sex, but the other a Duad,-anger in deeds of violence, in deeds of passion, lust,-not knowing of what I talked. For I had not known or learned that neither was evil a substance, nor our soul that chief and unchangeable good.”