I am thankful for the kindness of God in allowing me to read Saint Augustine’s Confessions. I can say that it has impacted my understanding of God and of myself as much as any other book that I have ever read (aside from the Bible mind you). I only wish that someone would have clued me into this great treasure many years ago because it would have been helpful in so many spiritual battles.
One of the first things I noticed as I began reading is Augustine’s utter awe of God. Not one sentence in this book spoke of God flippantly. Rather, God was held in the highest esteem, yet it was done without any hint of legalistic rigidity.
There is one thing evident above all others: Augustine had been changed by the sovereign grace of God, by the life-giving Spirit of God. Whereas he was once enslaved to sexual promiscuity and man-centered philosophy, God awakended him to new life. As he sat in a garden contemplating his spiritual state, he heard a voice of a child from a nearby house chanting, “Pick up and read, pick up and read.” So he did, and in the providence of God, Augustine opened to Romans 13:13-14, which said, “Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts.” His often quoted conversion is recorded this way:
“I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.”
Later in the book Augustine described his conversion this way: “You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.”
These kinds of statements in the Confessions about the grace of God in salvation through Jesus Christ bring the Christian reader to a point of worship. It would be hard to imagine how a genuine believer could read such words and be unmoved. To think back and remember how God calls sinners like me out of darkness into spiritual light humbles me and brings me to worship God for His work of salvation. My earnest prayer is that any reader of this article would read the testimony of Augustine and that God would do the same in them. May He turn dark hearts to light! May He turn light hearts to ever brighter lights! May He show every reader that no good thing lies within us, and that we need Him more than our next breath!
Well, time and space would not permit me to share the numerous quotations that set my soul soaring and those that brought me to the depths of the valley, but suffice it to say that this book is worth the read. It takes a little while to get used to reading a fourth-century document like this, but if you pick up a good translation of it, this will help immensely (I read the Oxford World’s Classic printing translated by Henry Chadwick, and it was excellent). Also the last two or three chapters are quite philosophical in their approach to the topic of time, so be aware of that as well.
Aside from these cautions, “Pick up and read, pick up and read!”
For His Glory,