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The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Book IX
O Lord, I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy handmaid: Thou hast
broken my bonds in sunder. I will offer to Thee the sacrifice of Let my heart and my
tongue praise Thee; yea, let all my bones say, O Lord, who is like unto Thee? Let them
say, and answer Thou me, and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Who am I, and what
am I? What evil have not been either my deeds, or if not my deeds, my words, or if not
my words, my will? But Thou, O Lord, are good and merciful, and Thy right hand had
respect unto the depth of my death, and from the bottom of my heart emptied that abyss
of corruption. And this Thy whole gift was, to nill what I willed, and to will what Thou
willedst. But where through all those years, and out of what low and deep recess was my
free-will called forth in a moment, whereby to submit my neck to Thy easy yoke, and my
shoulders unto Thy light burden, O Christ Jesus, my Helper and my Redeemer? How
sweet did it at once become to me, to want the sweetnesses of those toys! and what I
feared to be parted from, was now a joy to part with. For Thou didst cast them forth from
me, Thou true and highest sweetness. Thou castest them forth, and for them enteredst in
Thyself, sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood; brighter than all light,
but more hidden than all depths, higher than all honour, but not to the high in their own
conceits. Now was my soul free from the biting cares of canvassing and getting, and
weltering in filth, and scratching off the itch of lust. And my infant tongue spake freely to
Thee, my brightness, and my riches, and my health, the Lord my God.
And I resolved in Thy sight, not tumultuously to tear, but gently to withdraw, the service
of my tongue from the marts of lip-labour: that the young, no students in Thy law, nor in
Thy peace, but in lying dotages and law-skirmishes, should no longer buy at my mouth
arms for their madness. And very seasonably, it now wanted but very few days unto the
Vacation of the Vintage, and I resolved to endure them, then in a regular way to take my
leave, and having been purchased by Thee, no more to return for sale. Our purpose then
was known to Thee; but to men, other than our own friends, was it not known. For we
had agreed among ourselves not to let it out abroad to any: although to us, now ascending
from the valley of tears, and singing that song of degrees, Thou hadst given sharp arrows,
and destroying coals against the subtle tongue, which as though advising for us, would
thwart, and would out of love devour us, as it doth its meat.
Thou hadst pierced our hearts with Thy charity, and we carried Thy words as it were
fixed in our entrails: and the examples of Thy servants, whom for black Thou hadst made
bright, and for dead, alive, being piled together in the receptacle of our thoughts, kindled
and burned up that our heavy torpor, that we should not sink down to the abyss; and they
fired us so vehemently, that all the blasts of subtle tongues from gainsayers might only
inflame us the more fiercely, not extinguish us. Nevertheless, because for Thy Name's
sake which Thou hast hallowed throughout the earth, this our vow and purpose might
also find some to commend it, it seemed like ostentation not to wait for the vacation now
so near, but to quit beforehand a public profession, which was before the eyes of all; so
that all looking on this act of mine, and observing how near was the time of vintage
which I wished to anticipate, would talk much of me, as if I had desired to appear some
 
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