William Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.).

The confessions of Augustine online

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€tM, i»ilt! an liitroiiutliolu



8ttm« nbrot qnoc dmldertHI ennrcfulonnm niMrnm. IM mo Intpke, n« m« laodcf
mttn qnem tum. IM non allia de me credo, ted mlhl. Ibl me edlendetet vide qald
fteerim In me Ipeo per me Ipeuini et el quid in me UIri pleenerlt, laud* ll>l mecvm qnem
iMMkrl Totul de met ueqne enim met qnonlem tpee ftdt noe, et non Ipel noet nee
enlem perdlderemni non, wd qui ft>clt. rcfcdt Gum eutcm lU me Invenerle, on pro
I, led pcrfldar.— AuuusTiiii EriSTOLA 881, Dabio oohitu


18 8 5.

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lu (Iw Clerk'a Olttoo of the DUtriet Court of Ike Dittriot of MaMMboMtU

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This edition of Angustme's Confessions is a reprint
of an old translation, bj an author unknown to the editor,
which was republished in Boston in 1843. A veiy little
use has also been made of another edition, published
at Oxford. This contains only ten books, and where
it differs from the old version, ahnost uniform}/ differs
for the worse.

The principal labor in preparing this edition, has been
to make a careful comparison of the whole work with the
Latin text, and to add a few explanatory notes. The ob-
ject of comparing the old version with the original^ was
not so much to make changes, — for the translation, as a
whole, like all the early English translations from Latin

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and Greek, is remarkably faithful and vivid, —as to re«
move obscurities. These arose, in some few instances,
from too great conciseness upon the part of the trans-
lator ; but in many more, from errors in printing and
punctuating. In course of time, under the hands of ed«
itors and proof-readers, 4he long and involved sentences
of Augustine had become so dislocated, that nothing but
a recurrence to the Latin text would restore them to the
form in which the translator had originally giv^n them.
This was ^specially true of the last three books, 'which
are exceedingly 'subttle and abstract in their trains of
thought, and in many passages had become totally ol>-
scure. The editor flatters himself that this'revised edition
exhibits the old translation substantially as it wad at first,
and that it will be found to be intelligible.

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ConftiBioii of the grMtnoM and iinMaroluibleneM of Godj of God^
mtrolot in Inflmoj and bojliood, nnd homui wIlfViIncM; of hk own
ainfl of idleneii,.»biite of his stadlee, mnd of God^ gillt vp to hit flf-
teenthyear, 1


Olijeet of tbeae Confttsions; ftirtber ills of idlene« dereloped in his siz-
tMnth yeari e?i]t of ill society, which betrayed him into theft, 28


Hit rsiidenoe at Carthage ttom his serenteenth to his nhieteenth year;
aoaroe of his disorders; lore of shows; adranoe in studies, and lore
of wisdom; distaste ibr Soriptnre; led astray to the Maniehsans;
fefhtation of some of their tenets; grief of his mother Monica at his
heresy, and prayers for his oonTcrsion; her rision fh>m God, and an-
fwtr through a bishop, 43

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VI Contents.


Augustine's lift from nineteen to eight and twenty; hlmaelf a Mani-
etuean, and sedaclng others to the same heresy; partial ohedience
amidst ranity and sin; oonsulting astrologers, only partially shaken
herein; loss of an early freind, who is conrerted by being baptixed
when In a swoon; refleotions on grief; on real and unreal friendship,
and lore of fime; writes on "tlio fair and fit," yet cannot rightly,
though God had giren him great talents, since he entertained wrong
notions of God ; and so eren his knowledge he applied ill, . 68


Augustine's twenty-ninth year; Faustus, a snare of Satan to many,
made an instrument of delirerance to Augustine, by showing the ig-
norance of the Hanichees on those things, wherein they proAissod to
have dirine knowledge; Augustine gives up all thought of going
fhrther among the Manlohees; is guided to Borne and Milan, where he
hears Ambrose; leaves the Manlohees, and becomes again a Catechu-
men in the Church Catholic, 89


Arrival of Monica at Milan ; her obodienoe to Ambrose, and his regard
for her; Ambrose's habits; Augustine's gradual abandonment of
error; flnds that he has blamed the Church Catholic wrongly; desire
of absolute certainty, but struck with the contrary analogy of God's
natural Providence; how shaken in his worldly pursuits; God's guid-
ance of his friend Alyplus; Augustine debates with himself and his
fliends about their mode of lift; his inveterate sins, and dread of
Judgment, • • • . 116


Augustine's thlrty-flrst year; gradually extricated from his errors, but
still with material conceptions of God; aided by an argument of Ne-

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bridliit{ Mcs that the omiw of sin lies in firee-will; r^)«ots the Mani*
ehaan hereej, bnt cannot altogether embrace the doctrine of the
Ghniob; reoofered from the belief in Astrologx, but miierably per-
plexed about the origin of eyil; It led to And in the Flatonlsta tlie
seeds of the doctrine of the Divinity of the Wobd, bnt not of Ills llu-
miliation; hence he obtains clearer notions of God*s mwjettji but, not
knowing Christ to be the Mediator, remains estranged from liim; all
his doobts removed bj the study of Holy Scripture, especially St
Paul 144


Augustine's thirty-second year; he consults Simplidanus; from him
hears the history of the oonrersion of Vlctorinus, and longs to devote
himself entirely to God, but is mastered by his old habits; is still
fhrther roused by the history of Antony, and of the conversion of two
courtiers; during a severe struggle, hears a voice from heaven, opens
Scripture, and is converted, with his fHend Alypius; his mother's
Tisionftilfllled, 176


Augustine determines to devote his liib to God, and to abandon his pro-
ftssion of Rhetoric, quietly, however; retires to the country to pre-
pare himself to receive baptism, and is baptised, with Alypius, and bis
son, Adeodatus; at Ostia, on his way to Africa, his mother, Blonica,
dies, in her ftfty<eizth year, the thirty-third of Augustine; lier life
and character, •.••••••••• 206


Having in the fbrmer books spoken of himself before his receiving bap-
tism, in this Augustine confesses what he then was; but first he In-
quires by what faculty we can know God at all ; whence he enlarges on

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Tin Contents.

tilt m/ftoriotii obaractttr df Um BMrnoiy, wborstn God, btlag intdt
known, dwdlt, bat whtoh^ e<mld not ditoorer Him; tlien he examines
hit own temptations, nndsrthe triple dlrision of-** lost of tlie flesh,
Inst of the ejresyand.lnst of nilei'* what Ohristian oontineney pre-
scribes as to each; Christ the 011)7 Mediator, who heals and will heal
aUinflrmitiea, 241


Aognstlne breaks off the history of the mode whereby God led him to
holy orders, in order to ** oonlbss '* God*B mercies Ip opening to him the
Scripture; Moses is not to be understood, but in Christ, not eren the
first words,**In t^ begUiQingGod created thf hearen and the earth;**
answer to ca?Ulers who asked, ** What did God l^rs He created
hearen and the earth, an4 whcnoe willed lie at length to make them,
wheieas He did not make them beforet**; inquiry into the na^re of
time, .900


Augustine proceeds to comment on Gen. 1. 1, and explains the ** hearen **
to mean that spiritual. and incorporeal creation which deares to God
nnlntermittlDgly, always beholding His countenance, and ** earth,** the
formlcfls matter whereof the corporeal creation Vas afterwards firmed ;
he does not r^iect, howerer, other interpretatioos, which he adduces,
but rather conftsses that such is the depth of Holy Scripture, that
manifold senses may and ought to be extracted from It, and that what-
erer truth can be obtained from its words, does, in flMt, lie concealed
inthem, •••• ..SM


Oontinuationof the exposition of Gen. L{ it contains the mystery of tht
Trinity, and a type of the fbrmation, extension, and support of tht
Church, 871

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Thbbb are a few autobiographies which challenge, and
receive, a special attention from age to age, because thej
possess characteristics tliat are not found in the common
mass of such productions. Thej are the delineation
of an extraordinary intellect, and the issue of a re«;
markable experience. Thej embody the thoughts of
a deep mind in its most absorbed hours, the emotions
of a vehement soul in its most critical and impas-
sioned moments. In them, the ordinary experiences
of human life attain to such a pitch of intensity, and
such a breadth, range, and depth, as to strike the reader
with both a sense of familiarity, and a sense of strange-,
ness. It is his own human thought and human feeling
that he finds expressed ; and yet it is spoken with so
much greater clearness, dcpih, and energy, than he is
himself capable of, or than is characteristic of the mass
of men, that it seems like the experience of another
sphere, and another race of beings.

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Tlie G0KFE88TON8 OF AuausTiNB is a work of this
class ; and upon sending forth another edition of it, we
seize the opportunity to notice some of its more dis-
tinctive and remarkable features.

1. The first characteristic that strikes the reader is,

>^ the singular mingling of metaphysical and devotional
elements in the work. The writer passes, with a free-
dom that often amounts to abruptness, from the in-
tensely practical to the intensely speculative. In the

/very midst of his confession of sin, or rejoicing over
deliverance from it, his subtle and inquisitive under-
standing raises a query, the answer to which, if answer
were possible, would involve the solution of all the
problems that have baffled the metaphysical mind from
Thales to HegeL In the very opening of the 'work,
for example, when the surcharged and brimming soul
is swelling with its thick-coming emotions, and it is
seeking vent for its sense of the divine mercy which
has saved it from everlasting perdition, it slides, by an
unconscious transition, to the question: ^How shall I
call upon my Grod, my God and Lord, since when I
call for Him I shall be calling Ilim into myself? and
what room is there within me, whither my God can
oomo into me ? Whither can God come into me, God,
who made heaven and earth ?''^ At the very instant

1 ConflMilons, I. il. S

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when Augustine is enjoying the most heartfelt and posi-
tive communion with God, his intellect feels the pres-
sure of the problem re8|>ecting the possibility of such
an intercourse. Such transitions are perpetually occurs
ring throughout the work, until, in the eleventh book,/
the author leaves his autobiography altogether, and de-
votes the remainder of the work to an interpretation!
of the opening chapters of Genesis, in which he dis-)
cusses tlio most recondite problems respecting Time
and Eternity, the Creator and Creation, and the Tri-
uni^ of the Divine Essence.

It is not, however, from any open or lurking scep-
ticism, or even from any mental unrest, that Augustine
raises such inquiries. These questions are not the issue
and index of a mind torniented by doubts. They are
only tlie exuberant play and careering of a subtle and
thoughtful intellect, from the vantage-ground of a vital
and assured faith. Conscious of being now, at last, at
rest in €rod, the Centre, of being and blessedness, he
allows his mind to pose itself with the profound truths
wlilch are involved in the childlike faith of the Cluis-
tian. His purpose is not to unsettle his own belief, or
that of his reader; but, by the mere immensity of
truth, to stagger and overwhelm the understanding,
and thereby fill the soul with that sense of mystery
which is at once the constituent element of nwe, and

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the nutriment of worship. NotJiing can be further
from infidelity,^ than the spirit with which Augustine
niises these inquiries respecting time, eternity, the
1 nature of Gk>d and the human soul, the possibility
and manner of creation from nothing, the origin of
I evil, and the nature of matter. Neither is there any-
thing of Gnostic, curiosity aiid pride,, in his approaches
to the frontiers of thi^ realn^ of mystery. He merely
desires, by this tentative method, to fill his own mind,
already believing hoping and joying in divine realities,
with a more distinct consciousness of the infinitude of
the world beyond space and time, and of those trutlis
and facts which, in his. own phrase, cannot enter by any
of the avenues, of the fiesh. Hence, his questionings,
leave him humble,. while they leave him more self-in->
telligent. His speculation issues from his religious life
and feeling, and helps both to clarify and deepen it In
i Other words, Augustine iq here practising upon his own
j celebrated dictum, ibsX faith precedet soientifie knotohdge.
The practical belief of the truths, of Christianity con-
tains much that is latent and undeveloped^ The Chris-
tian is wiser than he knows. The moment he begins
to, examine the implications of his own vivid and per-
sonal experience, ho finds that they cont(^in tlio . entire
mdimental. matter of Christifui. science. For example,
he believes, in the one living and personal Gk>d.- But,

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IfUroducHan. xm

the instant he oommehcea the 'analysis of this idea of
ideas, he discovers its profound capadty, and its vast im-
plication. Again, lie believes in Qod incarnate. But
when he endeavors to comprehend what is involved in
this truth and fact, he is overwhelmed bj the multitude
of its relations, and the richness of its contents. His
faith has reaUy and positively grasped these ideas of Gk>d
and the God-Man ; but,*— to Employ an illustration of
Bernard, — it has grasped them in their closed and
involuted form.^ If he would pass, now, from faith to
scientific reason, he needs only to reflect upon the in-
trinsic meaning of these ideas, until they open along
the lines of their structure, and are perceived philo-
sophically, though not exhaustively. But, in this pro-
cess, faith itself is rcuiforood and deepened by a reflex
action, while, at the same time, the intellect is kept
reverent and vigilant, because the cognition, tliough
positive and correct as far as it reaches, is not ex-
haustive and complete, only by reason of the immensity
and infinitude of the object.

Holding such a theory of the relation of reason tO|
faith, Augustine never shrinks from making excursions!
into the region of meti^hysical truth. Although he

1 Intelleetni ration! innlUtar, fldea autboritatl, opinio 8oU ▼eririmlli-
todine se tuetor. Uabent Ilia duo eeHam Terltatem, sed fldca olanaam
•( Infolutam, Intolllgoiitla niidam otmaiilA»t«m.— Do Connldoratlone,
Lib. v. Cap. Ill 0. 808. Tar. Ed. 1682.

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uniformlj approaches the problems of theology upon
their most difficalt side, and never attempts to become
dear bj becoming shallow, yet there is small fear of
philosophy, and still less disparagement of reason, in the
writings of the bishop of Hippo. And this, because
of the above-mentioned Uieoiy. Always making his
own vital and confident faith the point from which he
departs, and to which he returns, he is at once boldj^
and safe, fin where he may, he cannot lose sight of | i^
his^ pole-star ; and thus he always keeps his eastuig.-^n^
Like tlie mariner, fieu: out at sea, with a strong ship Wm( Iato^
under him, and the unfathomed abysses beneath him, ho
careers courageously over the waste of waters, with no
dread of a lee shore, or of sunken rocks. Hence the
frequency, and oftentimes the strange abruptness, of his
metaphysical queryings. He knows that all truth is
consistent with itself, and that the pliilosophical answer,
if it come at all, must come out of the material fur-
nished by the Christian consciousness. His reason can-
not contradict his faith, because it is homogeneous and
consubstantial with it The former is the evolution;
the latter is the involution.

2. A second characteristic of Augustine's Confessions
is, the union of the most minute and exhaustive detail of
sin, with the most intense and spiritual abhorrence of it.
The only work, in any language, that bears any compar-

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IntroducHon, xy

ison with this of the North-African Father, is that in
which Bonssean pours out his life of passion and evil
concupiscence. There is tlie same abandon and unro-
serve in each ; the same particularitj in recounting the
past conduct; the same subtle unwinding of the course of
transgression. Each absorbs himself in his own biog-
raphy, with an entireness and simplicitj that precludes
anj thought for a spectator or a listener; anj regard
for either an unfeeling or a sympathizing world of
readers. Augustine and Rousseau, both alike, with-
draw into the secret and silent confessional of their
own memories and recollectiond, and there pour out
their confidences with utter self-abandonment.

But the resemblance ceases at this point The mo-
tive prompting the confession, and the emotions that
accompany it, are as different as light from darkness.
Augustine's confession is reaUysuch, — an acknowl-
edgment to God. Rousseau's recital is a soliloquy,
that never goes beyond himself. The Christian bishop *
confesses his past sinful life only that he may magnify,
and make his boast in that unmerited grace wliich
plucked him "from the bottom of the bottomless pit"*
He brings out his secret and scarlet sins into the light
of his memory, that he may praise the God of his sal-
vation for his marvellous pity. ^I will now call to

1 Conftflsiona, n. It. 0.

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mind," he sajs, '^mj past foalnesSi and the camal cor-
rapti9n8 of mj seal; not because I love them, bat
that I may love Thee, O my God. For love of Thy
love I do it; reviewmg my most wicked ways, in the
very bitterness of my remembrance, that Thou mayest
grow sweet unto me.**^ The minuteness, the plainness,
and the exhaustiveness of his account of his sinful
life, only sets in stronger relief the strangeness of the
mercy that lifted him out of it; only fills him with a
delirium of joy and love towards his redeeming God.
How different all this is from the motive, and the feel-
ing of Bousseau, it is needless to say. It is not neces^
sary to affirm the existence of a deliberate intention to
debauch the world, by those confessions of sin and guilt,
though such is, unquestionably, the inevitable tendenqr
of them. It is enough to say, that there certainly was
no intention to waken abhorrence of evil by means of
them ; and still less to reflect any light upon the Divine
character and government. The impelling motive prob-
ably was, to relieve a stormy and tempest-tossed nature,
by a simple overflow of the pent-up elements. Bous-
seau merely followed that impulse of a burdened soul
which necessitates self-utterance ; that law of both mind
and matter which absolutely forbids the perpetual sup*
pressioQ of struggling powers and forces. All the de«

1 ConftMloiis, n. 1. 1.

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tioes of maQ cannot choke down even the smallest
spring of water, so tliat it shall never come to the
surface ; atul all the oflbrts of men and angels com-
bined cannot keep nndcr, in eternal burial, the emotions
and passions of ah inordinate and billowy spirit Under
this stress and pressure, the ^self-torturing sophist"
enters into the detail of his unworthy and unhappj
life, without the slightest recognition of the claims of
law, and apparently without the slightest feai^ of its
retributions. The wild and passionate rehearsal goes'
on, but with no reference either to the holiness or the
mercy' of the Supreme; with no allusion to the sol-
emn relations of an immortal soul either to time or to

Agam, while Augustine relates the sins of his youth,
and hid transgressions, with a plainness which the facti-
tious modesty of an inwardly impure mind has some-
times condemned, it is always with the most genuine
and unaffected sorrow and abhorrence. A more sin- .
cere book than the Confessions of Augustine was never \
written. Every statement of sin is a wail over it ,.
Riv ers of waters run down the relator's ey es, because 'Jv^h^.^
he has not kept the divine law. The plainness of this
book is like that of the prophecy of Ezekiel ; the vile-
ness is brought out into sight only that it may be tram-
pled and stamped upon. And yet it is not a spasmodic,

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i.Yiii Introductioiu

or an affected reprobation. From the depths of a now

Online LibraryWilliam Greenough Thayer Shedd Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo.)The confessions of Augustine → online text (page 1 of 31)