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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Godly Sorrow that Worketh Repentance
By Saint Augustine (354–430)
 
From ‘The Confessions

SUCH was the story of Pontitianus: but thou, O Lord, while he was speaking, didst turn me round towards myself, taking me from behind my back, when I had placed myself, unwilling to observe myself; and setting me before my face, that I might see how foul I was, how crooked and defiled, bespotted and ulcerous. And I beheld and stood aghast; and whither to flee from myself I found not. And if I sought to turn mine eye from off myself, he went on with his relation, and thou didst again set me over against myself, and thrusted me before my eyes, that I might find out mine iniquity and hate it. I had known it, but made as though I saw it not, winked at it, and forgot it.  1
  But now, the more ardently I loved those whose healthful affections I heard of, that they had resigned themselves wholly to thee to be cured, the more did I abhor myself when compared with them. For many of my years (some twelve) had now run out with me since my nineteenth, when, upon the reading of Cicero’s ‘Hortensius,’ I was stirred to an earnest love of wisdom; and still I was deferring to reject mere earthly felicity and to give myself to search out that, whereof not the finding only, but the very search, was to be preferred to the treasures and kingdoms of the world, though already found, and to the pleasures of the body, though spread around me at my will. But I, wretched, most wretched, in the very beginning of my early youth, had begged chastity of thee, and said, “Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.” For I feared lest thou shouldest hear me soon, and soon cure me of the disease of concupiscence, which I wished to have satisfied, rather than extinguished. And I had wandered through crooked ways in a sacrilegious superstition, not indeed assured thereof, but as preferring it to the others which I did not seek religiously, but opposed maliciously.  2
  But when a deep consideration had, from the secret bottom of my soul, drawn together and heaped up all my misery in the sight of my heart, there arose a mighty storm, bringing a mighty shower of tears. And that I might pour it forth wholly in its natural expressions, I rose from Alypius: solitude was suggested to me as fitter for the business of weeping; and I retired so far that even his presence could not be a burden to me. Thus was it then with me, and he perceived something of it; for something I suppose he had spoken, wherein the tones of my voice appeared choked with weeping, and so had risen up. He then remained where we were sitting, most extremely astonished. I cast myself down I know not how, under a fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out, an acceptable sacrifice to thee. And, not indeed in these words, yet to this purpose, spake I much unto thee:—“And thou, O Lord, how long? how long, Lord, wilt thou be angry—forever? Remember not our former iniquities,” for I felt that I was held by them. I sent up these sorrowful words: “How long? how long? To-morrow and to-morrow? Why not now? why is there not this hour an end to my uncleanness?”  3
 
 
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