Confessions of St. Augustine

The Saint Augustine Baptized by St. Ambrose, Pinacoteca, Vatican, Nicolo di Pietro,1413-15

I recently finished reading Confessions of St. Augustine, (Albert Cook Outler, ed.).  Though from the late 4th/early 5th century, St. Augustine provides remarkable insights into the substance of contemporary Christian living.  Here are a few thoughts I gleaned from his thoughts:

  • Augustine naysayers nearly always point to his adulterous life before coming to faith in Christ.  Augustine himself reluctantly reflected on this yet with momentous thanks for the Savior’s forgiveness.  Augustine realized that he was far away from God “in the land of unlikeness,” and that God (alone) could change him into His likeness.  After he led his son, Adeodatus, to know Christ, they were baptized, about which he wrote, “And so we were baptized and the anxiety about our past life left us.”  Accordingly, there was a remarkable, if not miraculous, turn in Augustine’s life.
  • Augustine likened the occasional use of alcohol to gluttony, suggesting that even moderation was an equivalent sin.  He also equated the use of alcohol to a superstitious practice of paganism (i.e., clinging to a pagan practice while hypocritically displaying characteristics of walking with Christ).  Should you want to know how I feel about that, I would be glad to discuss this with you over coffee sometime…  after you read all the prophetic books in the Old Testament and take notes on how the use of alcohol was a death knell to God’s people.
  • Augustine wrote, “(W)ho else is it who calls us back from the death of all errors except the Life which does not know how to die and the Wisdom which gives light to minds that need it, although it itself has no need of light – by which the whole universe is governed, even to the fluttering leaves of the trees?”
  • Augustine observed:  People are curious to know the lives of others but slow to correct their own.
  • Augustine was an incredible philosopher and turned his giftedness into unequalled apologetics.  About time, he wrote, “In the Eternal…  nothing passes away, but the whole is simultaneously present.  But no temporal process is wholly simultaneous.  (All) time past is forced to move on by the incoming future; …all the future follows from the past; and …all, past and future, is created and issues out of that which is forever present.  The eternity – which always stands still – is itself neither future nor past, but expresses itself in the times that are future and past.”
  • He also observed this about time:  The time present of things past is memory; the time present of things present is direct exposure; the time present of things future is expectation.
  • Augustine suggested that men consider three things within themselves.  The questions behind each are those that I considered in the reading:
    1.  To be:  one life (What life are you living?)
    2.  To know:  one mind (What thoughts are you thinking?)
    3.  To will:  one essence (What spirit/Spirit are you receiving?)

Reading St. Augustine was an exercise in patience – the translated version I used was in the Old English vernacular (think, KJV).  I will admit that my motive for reading was two-fold.  First and most personal, my grandson bears Augustine’s name (Remington Augustine Hamlin – only my son Kyle could come up with something like that, and yes, he is an ardent reader of Augustine).  When he’s old enough, I want to be ready to instill in my grandson some great words of wisdom and challenge him to live spiritually, thoughtfully, manly, and victoriously.

Second, there were many other notes I made in the reading that I wish to share with others, especially men and boys.  These complement the faith and message that I embrace in the body of believers (my church) with which I associate.  Reading Augustine will definitely make one think and explore the Biblical texts.  I would wish for all, fathers especially, to read Confessions.