The Confessions of Saint Augustine
My heart, O Lord, touched with the words of Thy Holy Scripture, is much busied, amid
this poverty of my life. And therefore most times, is the poverty of human understanding
copious in words, because enquiring hath more to say than discovering, and demanding is
longer than obtaining, and our hand that knocks, hath more work to do, than our hand that
receives. We hold the promise, who shall make it null? If God be for us, who can be
against us? Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
unto you. For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him
that knocketh, shall it be opened. These be Thine own promises: and who need fear to be
deceived, when the Truth promiseth?
The lowliness of my tongue confesseth unto Thy Highness, that Thou madest heaven and
earth; this heaven which I see, and this earth that I tread upon, whence is this earth that I
bear about me; Thou madest it. But where is that heaven of heavens, O Lord, which we
hear of in the words of the Psalm. The heaven of heavens are the Lord's; but the earth
hath He given to the children of men? Where is that heaven which we see not, to which
all this which we see is earth? For this corporeal whole, not being wholly every where,
hath in such wise received its portion of beauty in these lower parts, whereof the lowest is
this our earth; but to that heaven of heavens, even the heaven of our earth, is but earth:
yea both these great bodies, may not absurdly be called earth, to that unknown heaven,
which is the Lord's, not the sons' of men.
And now this earth was invisible and without form, and there was I know not what depth
of abyss, upon which there was no light, because it had no shape. Therefore didst Thou
command it to be written, that darkness was upon the face of the deep; what else than the
absence of light? For had there been light, where should it have been but by being over
all, aloft, and enlightening? Where then light was not, what was the presence of darkness,
but the absence of light? Darkness therefore was upon it, because light was not upon it; as
where sound is not, there is silence. And what is it to have silence there, but to have no
sound there? Hast not Thou, O Lord, taught his soul, which confesseth unto Thee? Hast
not Thou taught me, Lord, that before Thou formedst and diversifiedst this formless
matter, there was nothing, neither colour, nor figure, nor body, nor spirit? and yet not
altogether nothing; for there was a certain formlessness, without any beauty.
How then should it be called, that it might be in some measure conveyed to those of
duller mind, but by some ordinary word? And what, among all parts of the world can be
found nearer to an absolute formlessness, than earth and deep? For, occupying the lowest
stage, they are less beautiful than the other higher parts are, transparent all and shining.
Wherefore then may I not conceive the formlessness of matter (which Thou hadst created
without beauty, whereof to make this beautiful world) to be suitably intimated unto men,
by the name of earth invisible and without form.
So that when thought seeketh what the sense may conceive under this, and saith to itself,
"It is no intellectual form, as life, or justice; because it is the matter of bodies; nor object