Chapter X.—The Wonderful Integrity of Alypius in Judgment. The Lasting Friendship of Nebridius with Augustin.
16. Him, therefore, had I lighted upon at Rome, and he clung to me by a most strong tie, and accompanied me to Milan, both that he might not leave me, and that he might practise something of the law he had studied, more with a view of pleasing his parents than himself. There had he thrice sat as assessor with an uncorruptness wondered at by others, he rather wondering at those who could prefer gold to integrity. His character was tested, also, not only by the bait of covetousness, but by the spur of fear. At Rome, he was assessor to the Count of the Italian Treasury. 462 There was at that time a most potent senator, to whose favours many were indebted, of whom also many stood in fear. He would fain, by his usual power, have a thing granted him which was forbidden by the laws. This Alypius resisted; a bribe was promised, he scorned it with all his heart; threats were employed, he trampled them under foot,—all men being astonished at so rare a spirit, which neither coveted the friendship nor feared the enmity of a man at once so powerful and so greatly famed for his innumerable means of doing good or ill. Even the judge whose councillor Alypius was, although also unwilling that it should be done, yet did not openly refuse it, but put the matter off upon Alypius, alleging that it was he who would not permit him to do it; for verily, had the judge done it, Alypius would have decided otherwise. With this one thing in the way of learning was he very nearly led away,—that he might have books copied for him at prætorian prices. 463 But, consulting justice, he changed his mind for the better, esteeming equity, whereby he was hindered, more gainful than the power whereby he was permitted. These are little things, but “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much.” 464 Nor can that possibly be void which proceedeth out of the mouth of Thy Truth. “If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another mans, who shall give you that which is your own?” 465 He, being such, did at that time cling to me, and wavered in purpose, as I did, what course of life was to be taken.
17. Nebridius also, who had left his native country near Carthage, and Carthage itself, where he had usually lived, leaving behind his fine paternal estate, his house, and his mother, who intended not to follow him, had come to Milan, for no other reason than that he might live with me in a most ardent search after truth and wisdom. Like me he sighed, like me he wavered, an ardent seeker after true life, and a most acute examiner of the most abstruse questions. 466 So were there three begging mouths, sighing out their wants one to the other, and waiting upon Thee, that Thou mightest give them their meat in due season. 467 And in all the bitterness which by Thy mercy followed our worldly pursuits, as we contemplated the end, why this suffering should be ours, darkness came upon us; and we turned away groaning and exclaiming, “How long shall these things be?” And this we often said; and saying so, we did not relinquish them, for as yet we had discovered nothp. 98 ing certain to which, when relinquished, we might betake ourselves.
“The Lord High Treasurer of the Western Empire was called Comes Sacrarum largitionum. He had six other treasurers in so many provinces under him, whereof he of Italy was one under whom this Alypius had some office of judicature, something like (though far inferior) to our Baron of the Exchequer. See Sir Henry Spelmans Glossary, in the word Comes; and Cassiodor, Var. v. c. 40.”—W. W.97:463
Pretiis prætorianis. Du Cange says that “Pretium regium is the right of a king or lord to purchase commodities at a certain and definite price.” This may perhaps help us to understand the phrase as above employed.97:464
Luke 16:11, 12.97:466
Augustin makes a similar allusion to Nebridius ardour in examining difficult questions, especially those which refer ad doctrinam pietatis, in his 98th Epistle.97:467