Chapter V.—He Rejects the Sacred Scriptures as Too Simple, and as Not to Be Compared with the Dignity of Tully.
9. I resolved, therefore, to direct my mind to the Holy Scriptures, that I might see what they were. And behold, I perceive something not comprehended by the proud, not disclosed to children, but lowly as you approach, sublime as you advance, and veiled in mysteries; and I was not of the number of those who could enter into it, or bend my neck to follow its steps. For not as when now I speak did I feel when I tuned towards those Scriptures, 228 but they appeared to me to be unworthy to be compared with the dignity of Tully; for my inflated pride shunned their style, nor could the sharpness of my wit pierce their inner meaning. 229 Yet, truly, were they such as would develope in little ones; but I scorned to be a little one, and, swollen with pride, I looked upon myself as a great one.
In connection with the opinion Augustin formed of the Scriptures before and after his conversion, it is interesting to recall Fénélons glowing description of the literary merit of the Bible. The whole passage might well be quoted did space permit:—“LEcriture surpasse en naïveté, en vivacité, en grandeur, tous les écrivains de Rome et de la Grèce. Jamais Homère même na approché de la sublimité de Moïse dans ses cantiques.…Jamais nulle ode Grecque ou Latine na pu atteindre à la hauteur des Psaumes.…Jamais Homerè ni aucun autre poëte na égalé Isaïe peignant la majesté de Dieu.…Tantôt ce prophète à toute la douceur et toute la tendresse dune églogue, dans les riantes peintures quil fait de la paix, tantôt il sélève jusqu à laisser tout au-dessous de lui. Mais quy a-t-il, dans lantiquité profane, de comparable au tendre Jérémie, déplorant les maux de son peuple; ou à Nahum, voyant de loin, en esprit, tomber la superbe Ninive sous les efforts dune armée innombrable? On croit voir cette armée, ou croit entendre le bruit des armes et des chariots; tout est dépeint dune manière vive qui saisit limagination; il laisse Homère loin derrière lui.…Enfin, il y a autant de différence entre les poëtes profanes et les prophètes, quil y en a entre le véritable enthousiasme et le faux.”—Sur l Eloq. de la Chaire, Dial. iii.62:229
That is probably the “spiritual” meaning on which Ambrose (vi. 6, below) laid so much emphasis. How different is the attitude of mind indicated in xi. 3 from the spiritual pride which beset him at this period of his life! When converted he became as a little child, and ever looked to God as a Father, from whom he must receive both light and strength. He speaks, on Ps. 146., of the Scriptures, which were plain to “the little ones,” being obscured to the mocking spirit of the Manichæans. See also below, iii. 14, note.