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Chapter VII.—He is Severely Exercised as to the Origin of Evil.

11. And now, O my Helper, hadst Thou freed me from those fetters; and I inquired, “Whence is evil?” and found no result. But Thou sufferedst me not to be carried away from the faith by any fluctuations of thought, whereby I believed Thee both to exist, and Thy substance to be unchangeable, and that Thou hadst a care of and wouldest judge men; and that in Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, and the Holy Scriptures, which the authority of Thy Catholic Church pressed upon me, Thou hadst planned the way of man’s salvation to that life which is to come after this death. These things being safe and immoveably settled in my mind, I eagerly inquired, “Whence is evil?” What torments did my travailing heart then endure! What sighs, O my God! Yet even there were Thine ears open, and I knew it not; and when in stillness I sought earnestly, those silent contritions of my soul were strong cries unto Thy mercy. No man knoweth, but only Thou, what I endured. For what was that which was thence through my tongue poured into the ears of my most familiar friends? Did the whole tumult of my soul, for which neither time nor speech was sufficient, reach them? Yet went the whole into Thine ears, all of which I bellowed out from the sightings of my heart; and my desire was before Thee, and the light of mine eyes was not with me;492492    Ps. xxxvii. 9–11, Vulg. for that was within, I without. Nor was that in place, but my attention was directed to things contained in place; but there did I find no resting-place, nor did they receive me in such a way as that I could say, “It is 107sufficient, it is well;” nor did they let me turn back, where it might be well enough with me. For to these things was I superior, but inferior to Thee; and Thou art my true joy when I am subjected to Thee, and Thou hadst subjected to me what Thou createdst beneath me.493493    Man can only control the forces of nature by yielding obedience to nature’s laws; and our true joy and safety is only to be found being “subjected” to God. So Augustin says in another place, (De Trin. x. 7), the soul is enjoined to know itself, “in order that it may consider itself, and live according to its own nature; that is, seek to be regulated according to its own nature, viz. under Him to whom it ought to be subject, and above those things to which it is to be preferred; under Him by whom it ought to be ruled, above those things which it ought to rule.” And this was the true temperature and middle region of my safety, to continue in Thine image, and by serving Thee to have dominion over the body. But when I lifted myself proudly against Thee, and “ran against the Lord, even on His neck, with the thick bosses” of my buckler,494494    Job xv. 26. even these inferior things were placed above me, and pressed upon me, and nowhere was there alleviation or breathing space. They encountered my sight on every side in crowds and troops, and in thought the images of bodies obtruded themselves as I was returning to Thee, as if they would say unto me, “Whither goest thou, unworthy and base one?” And these things had sprung forth out of my wound; for thou humblest the proud like one that is wounded,495495    Ps. lxxxix. 11. Vulg. and through my own swelling was I separated from Thee; yea, my too much swollen face closed up mine eyes.


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