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Chapter III.—He Who Confesseth Rightly Unto God Best Knoweth Himself.

3. What then have I to do with men, that they should hear my confessions, as if they were going to cure all my diseases?821821    Ps. ciii. 3. A people curious to know the lives of others, but slow to correct their own. Why do they desire to hear from me what I am, who are unwilling to hear from Thee what they are? And how can they tell, when they hear from me of myself, whether I speak the truth, seeing that no man knoweth what is in man, “save the spirit of man which is in him “?822822    1 Cor. ii. 11. But if they hear from Thee aught concerning themselves, they will not be able to say, “The Lord lieth.” For what is it to hear from Thee of themselves, but to know themselves? And who is he that knoweth himself and saith, “It is false,” unless he himself lieth? But because “charity believeth all things”823823    1 Cor. xiii. 7. (amongst those at all events whom by union with itself it maketh one), I too, O Lord, also so confess unto Thee that men may hear, to whom I cannot prove whether I confess the truth, yet do they believe me whose ears charity openeth unto me.

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4. But yet do Thou, my most secret Physician, make clear to me what fruit I may reap by doing it. For the confessions of my past sins,—which Thou hast “forgiven” and “covered,”824824    Ps. xxxii. 1. that Thou mightest make me happy in Thee, changing my soul by faith and Thy sacrament,—when they are read and heard, stir up the heart, that it sleep not in despair and say, “I cannot;” but that it may awake in the love of Thy mercy and the sweetness of Thy grace, by which he that is weak is strong,825825    2 Cor. xii. 10. if by it he is made conscious of his own weakness. As for the good, they take delight in hearing of the past errors of such as are now freed from them; and they delight, not because they are errors, but because they have been and are so no longer. For what fruit, then, O Lord my God, to whom my conscience maketh her daily confession, more confident in the hope of Thy mercy than in her own innocency,—for what fruit, I beseech Thee, do I confess even to men in Thy presence by this book what I am at this time, not what I have been? For that fruit I have both seen and spoken of, but what I am at this time, at the very moment of making my confessions, divers people desire to know, both who knew me and who knew me not,—who have heard of or from me,—but their ear is not at my heart, where I am whatsoever I am. They are desirous, then, of hearing me confess what I am within, where they can neither stretch eye, nor ear, nor mind; they desire it as those willing to believe,—but will they understand? For charity, by which they are good, says unto them that I do not lie in my confessions, and she in them believes me.


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