Confessions

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The Confessions of Augustine is a first-of-its kind spiritual auto-biography and required reading for a seminary course I have the privilege of leading. Perhaps the most famous line in this classic is, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” I asked my students, “If you were to market another line in the book to take over the #1 spot – what would it be?” Interestingly, there was very little duplication by the nearly thirty students. More importantly, their answers both encouraged me and highlighted the genius of Augustine who has been designated a “Doctor of the Church” and whose teaching blesses the church in all places, at all times. Perhaps you will be encouraged by this list to revisit this classic spiritual autobiography.

  • You never go away from us. Yet we have difficulty in returning to you.
  • Speaking of his mother Monica’s prayers, “Where she was, you heard her, and where I was, you had mercy on me.”
  • When he finally surrendered to the Lord, “What I once feared to lose was now a delight to dismiss.”
  • The mind commands the body and is instantly obeyed. The mind commands itself and meets resistance.
  • Bring to me a sweetness surpassing all the seductive delights which I have pursued.
  • What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.
  • In his reference to Romans 10:9, “Nothing is nearer to your ears than a confessing heart and a life grounded in faith.”
  • Then little by little, Lord, with a most gentle and merciful hand you touched and calmed my heart.
  • The enemy had a grip on my will and so made a chain for me to hold me a prisoner … You put forth your hands on high (Ps 143:7), and from the deep darkness you delivered my soul (Ps 85:13).   
  • You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put flight to 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.
  • You are the one true and good Lord of your land, which is my heart.
  • Without you, what am I to myself but a guide to my own self-destruction?
  • I myself was exceedingly astonished as I anxiously reflected how long a time had elapsed since the nineteenth year of my life, when I began to burn with a zeal for wisdom, planning that when I had found it I would abandon all the empty hopes and lying follies of hollow ambitions. And here I was already thirty, and still mucking about in the same mire in a state of indecision, avid to enjoy present fugitive delights which were dispersing my concentration, while I was saying: “Tomorrow I shall find it.”
  • Whether (God) approves or disapproves of me, he is loving me.
  • Wretched man that I was, by what steps was I brought down to the depths of hell, there to toil and sweat from lack of truth! For I sought for you, my God (I confess to you who took pity on me even when I did not yet confess). In seeking for you I followed not the intelligence of the mind, by which you willed that I should surpass the beasts, but the mind of the flesh. But you were more inward than my most inward part and higher than the highest element within me.
  • In every case the joy is greater, the worse the pain which has proceeded it.
  • You touched me [God], and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.
  • But you are the same; and all tomorrow and hereafter, and indeed all yesterday and further back, you will make a Today, you have made a Today.
  • For You [God] are infinite and never change. In You, “today” never comes to an end: and yet our “today” does come to an end in You, because time, as well as everything else, exists in You.
  • Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new; late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made.
  • You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness.
  • I intend to remind myself of my past foulness and carnal corruptions, not because I love them but so that I may love you, my God.
  • I was more moved by your answer through my vigilant mother than by the dream itself.
  • The storms of incoherent events tear to pieces my thoughts, the inmost entrails of my soul, until that day when, purified and molten by the fire of your love, I flow together to merge into you.
  • I sighed and you heard me. I wavered and you steadied me. I traveled along the broad way of the world, but you did not desert me.
  • At that time you tortured me with toothache, and when it became so bad that I lost the power to speak, it came into my heart to beg all my friends present to pray for me to you, God of health of both soul and body. I wrote this on a way tablet and gave it to them to read. As soon as we fell on our knees in the spirit of supplication, the pain vanished.
  • If you look for truth, there you will find God.
  • The conversation led us towards the conclusion that the pleasure of the bodily senses, however delightful in the radiant light of this physical world, is seen by comparison with the life of eternity to be not even worth considering. Our minds were lifted up by an ardent affection towards eternal being itself.
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 As a student of Dr. Hamstra's, I think this is an excellent example how Augustine's "Confessions" speaks to each reader with a different perspective.  It touches everyone differently as to how the individual is not content, not satisfied, until it is home with the Father.  I don't mean "at home with Father" to be the relationship that occurs after death, but the relationship one finds through complete surrender to the will of God.  Can that surrendered relationship occur here on earth?  I'm not sure but I am praying that I find my rest in doing His will.

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Just ran across these words from a sermon on the Holy Spirit by A.W. Tozer:  There is more of God in Augustine's Confessions than there is in all of the books written in fundamental circles in the last fifty years. If I were on an island and I could have a pile of all the fundamental, full-gospel literature written in the last fifty years, or have Augustine's Confessions, I would give up all the rest to keep the one book because God is in that  book.

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Alright, Sam, you've convinced me to read this! I'll have to add my favorite line as a comment :) 

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