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Chapter III.—Not Even When at Church Does He Suppress His Desires. In the School of Rhetoric He Abhors the Acts of the Subverters.

5. And Thy faithful mercy hovered over me afar. Upon what unseemly iniquities did I wear myself out, following a sacrilegious curiosity, that, having deserted Thee, it might drag me into the treacherous abyss, and to the beguiling obedience of devils, unto whom I immolated my wicked deeds, and in all which Thou didst scourge me! I dared, even while Thy solemn rites were being celebrated within the walls of Thy church, to desire, and to plan a business sufficient to procure me the fruits of death; for which Thou chastisedst me with grievous punishments, but nothing in comparison with my fault, O Thou my greatest mercy, my God, my refuge from those terrible hurts, among which I wandered with presumptuous neck, receding farther from Thee, loving my own ways, and not Thine—loving a vagrant liberty.

6. Those studies, also, which were accounted honourable, were directed towards the courts of law; to excel in which, the more crafty I was, the more I should be praised. Such is the blindness of men, that they even glory in their blindness. And now I was head in the School of Rhetoric, whereat I rejoiced proudly, and became inflated with arrogance, though more sedate, O Lord, as Thou knowest, and altogether removed from the subvertings of those “subverters”223223    Eversores. “These for their boldness were like our ‘Roarers,’ and for their jeering like the worser sort of those that would be called ‘The Wits.’”—W. W. “This appears to have been a name which a pestilent and savage set of persons gave themselves, licentious alike in speech and action. Augustin names them again, De Vera Relig. c. 40; Ep. 185 ad Bonifac. c. 4; and below, v. c. 12; whence they seemed to have consisted mainly of Carthaginian students, whose savage life is mentioned again, ib. c. 8.”—E. B. P. (for this stupid and diabolical name was held to be the very brand of gallantry) amongst whom I lived, with an impudent shamefacedness that I was not even as they were. And with them I was, and at times I was delighted with their friendship whose acts I ever abhorred, that is, their “subverting,” wherewith they insolently attacked the modesty of strangers, which they disturbed by uncalled for jeers, gratifying thereby their mischievous mirth. Nothing can more nearly resemble the actions of devils than these. By what name, therefore, could they be more truly called than “subverters”?—being themselves subverted first, and altogether perverted—being secretly mocked at and seduced by the deceiving spirits, in what they themselves delight to jeer at and deceive others.

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