Abbildungen der Seite

dious preliminary of a controversial investigation, open a book which you know to be the word of the Most High God.

Moreover, the Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth," in that she has, from the beginning, maintained and promulgated the great truths of the Gospel. That is, the Apostolical doctrines, and Church rules, wbich in the first age she received, she has ever since held and proclaimed in the creeds and liturgies, and in the canons of general, national, and provincial councils. Is this assertion denied ? Point, then, to the time when the Church has ever denied, or ceased to hold, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation, Christ's sacrifice for sin, the sanctifying gifts of the Spirit, or the sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Communion, the rite of Confirmation, and the threefold order in the Ministry; all fundamentals of Catholic doctrine and discipline. And, although certain branches of the Catholic Church have added to these necessary things buman notions and corruptions, yet in the darkest days the Gospel light gleamed, though too feebly, upon the altar; although “the court without the temple” was for a long season “given up to the Gentiles," that is, to men of worldly principles, to be trodden under their feet, and, alas, is not yet freed from the pollution ; yet the inner temple, and the altar, and they that worship therein, were measured by the Angel :* and, when we read of the worldly priesthood and the unholy people, the irreligion, the superstition, the bigotry, which disgraced some portions of the Church, we must remember that in those very churches there were hundreds and thousands who grew silently up into CHRIST, offered a true spiritual worship on the guarded altar of the mystic temple, by a holy life and conversation witnessed CHRIST's truth to a most corrupt world, died in the true faith of the Gospel, and are now in the paradise of God.


CHAP. I. The recent cheap edition of an excellent translation of the beautiful Confessions of S. Augustine is, we doubt not, in the hands of many of our readers; and they will therefore be in a manner prepared to peruse the brief sketch of the life of that Saint, which is here laid before them. He was born in the year 354 at Targaste, a city of Numidia, in Africa. His father Patricius was a pagan, afterwards converted by the instrumentality and unceasing prayers of his wife Monica. Great care

* Rev, xi. 1, 2.

was expended by the loving mother upon Augustine's early education, who was entered among the catechumens, according to the custom of the times. Being seized during boyhood with a very grievous illness, he longed for the regenerating waters of Baptism, but this wish was not fulfilled on his speedy recovery

In order to pursue his studies, Augustine was sent to Madaura, a town at no great distance from Targaste. Having remained here until his sixteenth year, he returned home, and gave himself to idleness and dissolute habits, much to the grief of his pious mother. The memory of these days was ever after a cause of deepest sorrow to the Saint, and in mourning them he laboured much to set forth the exceeding greatness of God's mercy. “I will love Thee, O LORD,” he says, in his confessions, “ I thank Thee, and confess unto Thy name, because Thou hast forgiven me these so great and heinous deeds of mine. To Thy grace and to Thy mercy I ascribe it, that Thou hast melted away my sins as ice . What man is he who, weighing his own infirmity, dares to ascribe his purity and innocence to his own strength; that so he should love Thee the less, as if he had less needed Thy mercy, whereby Thou remittest sins to those that turn to Thee? For whosoever, called by Thee, followed Thy voice, and avoided those things which he reads me confessing of myself, let him not scorn me, who being sick was cured by that Physician, through Whose aid it was that he was not, or rather was less, sick; and for this let him love Thee as much, and more, since by Whom he sees me to have been recovered from such deep consumption of sin, by Him he sees himself to have been preserved from the like consumption of sin. Thus I sank away from Thee, and I wandered too much astray from Thee, my God, in these days of my youth, and I became to myself a barren land.”

He afterwards proceeded to Carthage, where he devoted himself to continual gaiety, and was especially enamoured of the gorgeous scenery of theatrical representations; being, as he tells us, most pleased with that style of acting which drew tears from his eyes. But he did not neglect his studies. In the course of his reading he met with a work of Cicero's, called

Hortensius," upon the pleasures of the study of philosophy. This work had more than ordinary charm for Augustine, and made him “long with a keen burning desire for an immortality of wisdom.” He also began at the same time the perusal of the Holy Scriptures.

His mind was at this time subject to great uncertainty and doubt, and he became involved in the Manichæan heresy. On his return to Targaste, he set up a school for the teaching of

[blocks in formation]

rhetoric. His mother was pained' beyond measure at the views held by Augustine, and she spent her time in weeping

and in prayer. In her grief she was comforted by God Himself, for in a dream she beheld an angel, who promised the conversion of her son. She had recourse to a holy Bishop, whom she requested to converse with her son. This the Bishop refused to do, saying that all he could say would be of no avail, as the Manichæans were too proud to receive instruction. Again and again did Monica entreat him with tears to grant her request. At length, wearied out by her perseverance, the Bishop dismissed her, saying, “Go away, and God bless thee; the son of these tears shall not be lost.” During the gloomy period that intervened before Augustine's conversion, these words were ever on his mother's mind, and cheered her in the hour of her grief. His popularity in his native town was very great, and his school was crowded by many scholars who were attracted by his eloquence, some of whom he persuaded to adopt the same views as himself. Amongst these was one who had been his friend from boyhood, and to whom he was deeply attached. He, however, was taken ill, baptized, and died. This circumstance affected Augustine so much that his native country became a torment to him; he hated all places because his friend was not there; his eyes sought for him everywhere, “but they could not tell me,” he says, “he is coming” as when he was alive and absent.

After many vain endeavours to calm the bitterness of his sorrows, he quitted Targaste, and returned to Carthage, being at this time in his 26th year, and continued to give lessons in rhetoric. During his stay at Carthage, Augustine began to distrust the doctrines he held, and this distrust was increased by the inability of one Faustus, an eminent Manichæan, to satisfy his inquiries, or to give him peace.

In this unsettled state he resolved to go to Rome, for the benefit of intercourse with scholars. This project was strongly opposed by his mother, and therefore he set off privily, but "she was not behind in weeping and prayer. And what, O LORD, was she with so many tears asking of Thee, but that Thou wouldest not suffer me to sail ? But Thou, in the depth of Thy counsels, and hearing the chief point of her desire, didst not regard what she then asked, that Thou mightest make me what she ever asked. The wind blew and swelled our sails, and withdrew the shore from our sight; and she on the morrow was there frantic with sorrow, and with complaints and groans filled Thine ears, Who didst then disregard them : whilst through my desires, Thou wast hastening me to end all desire, and the earthly part of her affection to me was chastened by the allotted Scourge of sorrows. For she loved my being with her, as mothers do, but far more than many; and she knew not how great joy Thou wast about to work for her out of my absence.”

Not long after his arrival in Rome, Augustine was seized with a dangerous illness, and was well nigh brought to the gates of death. He did not, however, desire holy Baptism. The prayers of his faithful mother, which ascended up on high in his behalf, were not unheeded by Him Who had marked the widow's tears, and Augustine recovered. Soon after his restoration to health, a professorship of rhetoric fell vacant at Milan, and the reputation of Augustine, as well as the exertions of his Manichæan friends, obtained him the appointment.

At this time S. Ambrose, “known to the whole world as the best of men,” was Bishop of Milan. Augustine took with him an introduction to the Bishop, whose discourses he attended, partly from curiosity, and partly because of the kindness with which he had been received. But by degrees he began to see the truth as well as the beauty of the words of the Bishop, and finally became a catechumen in the Church. Keen was the struggle that now went on within his mind, and some time elapsed before the mists of error were cleared away, and the light of the truth shone upon

him. Monica followed her son to Milan, and great was the joy of that holy mother when, on her arrival, she learnt that though her son was not yet fully received among the company of the faithful, he had nevertheless ceased to be a Manichæan. Augustine wished much to converse privately with the Bishop, but the public avocations of the latter gave him no opportunity of doing so. Two other of his friends, Alypius and Nebridius, who had been involved in the same errors, passed through the same doubts, and were now in the same position, as inquirers after truth, were constantly with him, and were made partakers of all his difficulties. The whole of his struggles was regarded by Augustine as a mercy; “but Thou, LORD, (says he) abidest for ever, yet not for ever art Thou angry with us; because Thou pitiest our dust and ashes, and it was pleasing in Thy sight to reform my deformities; and by inward goads didst Thou rouse me, that I should be ill at ease, until Thou wast manifested to my inward sight. Thus by the secret hand of Thy medicine, was my swelling abated, and the troubles and bedimmed eyesight of my mind, by the smarting anointings of healthful sorrows, was being healed from day to day.” At length, after repeated conversations with his friends and learned priests, and many prayers and tears, there shone upon him the light of serenity and peace, and the darkness of doubt vanished away.

W. B. F.


Rev. xx. 11.
When with these eyes, clos'd now by Thee,

But then restor’d,
The great and white Throne I shall see

Of my dread LORD;
And lowly kneeling, for the most

Still then must kneel,
Shall look on Him, at Whose high cost

Unseen such joys I feel;
Whatever arguments or skill

Wise heads shall use,
Tears only, and my blushes still,

I will produce;
And should those speechless beggars fail,

Which oft have won,
Then, taught by Thee, I will prevail,
And say, Thy will be done !



Fair, shining mountains of my pilgrimage,

And flowery vales, whose flowers were stars !
The days and nights of my first happy age,

An age without distaste or wars ;
When I by thought ascend your sunny heads,

And mind those sacred midnight lights
By which I walked, when curtained rooms and beds

Confined or sealed up others' sights;
O then, how bright and quick a light,

Doth brush my heart and scatter night,
Chasing that shade which my sins made,

While I so spring as if I could not fade.
How brave a prospect is a traversed plain,

Where flowers and palms refresh the eye!
And days well spent like the glad East remain,
Whose morning glories cannot die.



CHAP. III.-THE FIRST TRIAL. THRICE had the little girl to repeat her timid knock, and as the echo of the last died away in the gloomy passage within, her heart wellnigh failed her, and she even thought of retracing her steps to the old Church porch. It would not have been the first time she had found a cold bed there. At length a

« ZurückWeiter »