Confessions of Saint Augustine

Confessions of Saint Augustine

3.4 17
by Saint Augustine
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

'The reader who has never met Augustine before ought to go first of all to the Confessions,' reflected the Trappist monk and scholar Thomas Merton. 'Augustine lived the theology that he wrote. . . . He experienced the reality of Christ living in his own soul.'

Saint Augustine, the celebrated theologian who served as Bishop of Hippo from A.D. 396 until his death

Overview

'The reader who has never met Augustine before ought to go first of all to the Confessions,' reflected the Trappist monk and scholar Thomas Merton. 'Augustine lived the theology that he wrote. . . . He experienced the reality of Christ living in his own soul.'

Saint Augustine, the celebrated theologian who served as Bishop of Hippo from A.D. 396 until his death in A.D. 430, is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in the Western world. Written in the form of a long prayer addressed directly to God, Augustine's Confessions, the remarkable chronicle of his conversion to Christianity, endures as the greatest spiritual autobiography of all time.

'Augustine possessed a strong, capacious, argumentative mind,' wrote Edward Gibbon. 'He boldly sounded the dark abyss of grace, predestination, free-will, and original sin.' And the eminent historian Jaroslav Pelikan remarked: 'There has, quite literally, been no century of the sixteen centuries since the conversion of Augustine in which he has not been a major intellectual, spiritual, and cultural force.'

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The religion/philosophy standard is inducted into Penguin Classics' Deluxe Editions. Simple but elegant. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"In plain words--if you can accept them as plain--Christianity is the life and death and resurrection of Christ going on day after day in the souls of individual men and in the heart of society. It is this Christ-life, this incorporation into the Body of Christ, this union with His death and resurrection as a matter of conscious experience, that  St. Augustine wrote of in his Confessions."
--Thomas Merton

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679641940
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/01/2000
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
File size:
549 KB

Read an Excerpt

GREAT ART THOU, O LORD, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite. And Thee would man praise; man, but a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resistest the proud: yet would man praise Thee; he, but a particle of Thy creation. Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee. Grant me, Lord, to know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee? and, again, to know Thee or to call on Thee? for who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? for he that knoweth Thee not, may call on Thee as other than Thou art. Or, is it rather, that we call on Thee that we may know Thee? but how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher? and they that seek the Lord shall praise Him: for they that seek shall find Him, and they that find shall praise Him. I will seek Thee, Lord, by calling on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us hast Thou been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on Thee, which Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.

And how shall I call upon my God, my God and Lord, since, when I call for Him, I shall be calling Him to myself? and what room is there within me, whither my God can come into me? whither can God come into me, God who made heaven and earth? is there, indeed, O Lord my God, aught in me that can contain Thee? do then heaven and earth, which Thou hast made, and wherein Thou hast made me, contain Thee? or, because nothing which exists could exist without Thee, doth therefore whatever exists contain Thee? Since, then, I too exist, why do I seek that Thou shouldest enter into me, who were not, wert Thou not in me? Why? because I am not gone down in hell, and yet Thou art there also. For if I go down into hell, Thou art there. I could not be then, O my God, could not be at all, wert Thou not in me; or, rather, unless I were in Thee, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things? Even so, Lord, even so. Whither do I call Thee, since I am in Thee? or whence canst Thou enter into me? for whither can I go beyond heaven and earth, that thence my God should come into me, who hath said, I fill the heaven and the earth.

Do the heaven and earth then contain Thee, since Thou fillest them? or dost Thou fill them and yet overflow, since they do not contain Thee? And whither, when the heaven and the earth are filled, pourest Thou forth the remainder of Thyself? or hast Thou no need that aught contain Thee, who containest all things, since what Thou fillest Thou fillest by containing it? for the vessels which Thou fillest uphold Thee not, since, though they were broken, Thou wert not poured out. And when Thou art poured out on us, Thou art not cast down, but Thou upliftest us; Thou art not dissipated, but Thou gatherest us. But Thou who fillest all things, fillest Thou them with Thy whole self? or, since all things cannot contain Thee wholly, do they contain part of Thee? and all at once the same part? or each its own part, the greater more, the smaller less? And is, then, one part of Thee greater, another less? or, art Thou wholly every where, while nothing contains Thee wholly?

What art Thou then, my God? what, but the Lord God? For who is Lord but the Lord? or who is God save our God? Most highest, most good, most potent, most omnipotent; most merciful, yet most just; most hidden, yet most present; most beautiful, yet most strong; stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old; all-renewing, and bringing age upon the proud, and they know it not; ever working, ever at rest; still gathering, yet nothing lacking; supporting, filling, and overspreading; creating, nourishing, and maturing; seeking, yet having all things. Thou lovest, without passion; art jealous, without anxiety; repentest, yet grievest not; art angry, yet serene; changest Thy works, Thy purpose unchanged; receivest again what Thou findest, yet didst never lose; never in need, yet rejoicing in gains; never covetous, yet exacting usury. Thou receivest over and above, that Thou mayest owe; and who hath aught that is not Thine? Thou payest debts, owing nothing; remittest debts, losing nothing. And what had I now said, my God, my life, my holy joy? or what saith any man when he speaks of Thee? Yet woe to him that speaketh not, since mute are even the most eloquent.

Oh! that I might repose on Thee! Oh! that Thou wouldest enter into my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and embrace Thee, my sole good? What art Thou to me? In Thy pity, teach me to utter it. Or what am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and, if I give it not, art wroth with me, and threatenest me with grievous woes? Is it then a slight woe to love Thee not? Oh! for Thy mercies' sake, tell me, O Lord my God, what Thou art unto me. Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. So speak, that I may hear. Behold, Lord, my heart is before Thee; open Thou the ears thereof, and say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. After this voice let me haste, and take hold on Thee. Hide not Thy face from me. Let me die&mdashlest I die--only let me see Thy face.

Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it. It has that within which must offend Thine eyes; I confess and know it. But who shall cleanse it? or to whom should I cry, save Thee? Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults, and spare Thy servant from the power of the enemy. I believe, and therefore do I speak. Lord, Thou knowest. Have I not confessed against myself my transgressions unto Thee, and Thou, my God, hast forgiven the iniquity of my heart? I contend not in judgment with Thee, who art the truth; I fear to deceive myself; lest mine iniquity lie unto itself. Therefore I contend not in judgment with Thee; for if Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall abide it?

Yet suffer me to speak unto Thy mercy, me, dust and ashes. Yet suffer me to speak, since I speak to Thy mercy, and not to scornful man. Thou too, perhaps, despisest me, yet wilt Thou return and have compassion upon me. For what would I say, O Lord my God, but that I know not whence I came into this dying life (shall I call it?) or living death. Then immediately did the comforts of Thy compassion take me up, as I heard (for I remember it not) from the parents of my flesh, out of whose substance Thou didst sometime fashion me. Thus there received me the comforts of woman's milk. For neither my mother nor my nurses stored their own breasts for me; but Thou didst bestow the food of my infancy through them, according to Thine ordinance, whereby Thou distributest Thy riches through the hidden springs of all things. Thou also gavest me to desire no more than Thou gavest; and to my nurses willingly to give me what Thou gavest them. For they, with a heaven-taught affection, willingly gave me what they abounded with from Thee. For this my good from them, was good for them. Nor, indeed, from them was it, but through them; for from Thee, O God, are all good things, and from my God is all my health. This I since learned, Thou, through these Thy gifts, within me and without, proclaiming Thyself unto me. For then I knew but to suck; to repose in what pleased, and cry at what offended my flesh; nothing more.

Afterwards I began to smile; first in sleep, then waking: for so it was told me of myself, and I believed it; for we see the like in other infants, though of myself I remember it not. Thus, little by little, I became conscious where I was; and to have a wish to express my wishes to those who could content them, and I could not; for the wishes were within me, and they without; nor could they by any sense of theirs enter within my spirit. So I flung about at random limbs and voice, making the few signs I could, and such as I could, like, though in truth very little like, what I wished. And when I was not presently obeyed (my wishes being hurtful or unintelligible), then I was indignant with my elders for not submitting to me, with those owing me no service, for not serving me; and avenged myself on them by tears. Such have I learnt infants to be from observing them; and that I was myself such, they, all unconscious, have shown me better than my nurses who knew it.

And, lo! my infancy died long since, and I live. But Thou, Lord, who for ever livest, and in whom nothing dies: for before the foundation of the worlds, and before all that can be called 'before,' Thou art, and art God and Lord of all which Thou hast created: in Thee abide, fixed for ever, the first causes of all things unabiding; and of all things changeable, the springs abide in Thee unchangeable: and in Thee live the eternal reasons of all things unreasoning and temporal. Say, Lord, to me, Thy suppliant; say, all-pitying, to me, Thy pitiable one; say, did my infancy succeed another age of mine that died before it? was it that which I spent within my mother's womb? for of that I have heard somewhat, and have myself seen women with child? and what before that life again, O God my joy, was I any where or any body? For this have I none to tell me, neither father nor mother, nor experience of others, nor mine own memory. Dost Thou mock me for asking this, and bid me praise Thee and acknowledge Thee, for that I do know?
I acknowledge Thee, Lord of heaven and earth, and praise Thee for my first rudiments of being, and my infancy, whereof I remember nothing; for Thou hast appointed that man should from others guess much as to himself; and believe much on the strength of weak females. Even then I had being and life, and (at my infancy&rsquos close) I could seek for signs whereby to make known to others my sensations. Whence could such a being be, save from Thee, Lord? Shall any be his own artificer? or can there elsewhere be derived any vein, which may stream essence and life into us, save from Thee, O Lord, in whom essence and life are one? for Thou Thyself art supremely Essence and Life. For Thou art most high, and art not changed, neither in Thee doth to-day come to a close; yet in Thee doth it come to a close; because all such things also are in Thee. For they had no way to pass away, unless Thou upheldest them. And since Thy years fail not, Thy years are one to-day. How many of ours and our fathers' years have flowed away through Thy 'to-day,' and from it received the measure and the mould of such being as they had; and still others shall flow away, and so receive the mould of their degree of being. But Thou art still the same, and all things of to-morrow, and all beyond, and all of yesterday, and all behind it, Thou hast done to-day. What is it to me, though any comprehend not this? Let him also rejoice and say, What thing is this? Let him rejoice even thus; and be content rather by not discovering to discover Thee, then by discovering not to discover Thee.

Hear, O God. Alas, for man's sin! So saith man, and Thou pitiest him; for Thou madest him, but sin in him Thou madest not. Who remindeth me of the sins of my infancy? for in Thy sight none is pure from sin, not even the infant whose life is but a day upon the earth. Who remindeth me? doth not each little infant, in whom I see what of myself I remember not? What then was my sin? was it that I hung upon the breast and cried? for should I now so do for food suitable to my age, justly should I be laughed at and reproved. What I then did was worthy reproof; but since I could not understand reproof, custom and reason forbade me to be reproved. For those habits, when grown, we root out and cast away. Now no man, though he prunes, wittingly casts away what is good. Or was it then good, even for a while, to cry for what, if given, would hurt? bitterly to resent, that persons free, and its own elders, yea, the very authors of its birth, served it not? that many besides, wiser than it, obeyed not the nod of its good pleasure? to do its best to strike and hurt, because commands were not obeyed, which had been obeyed to its hurt? The weakness then of infant limbs, not its will, is its innocence. Myself have seen and known even a baby envious; it could not speak, yet it turned pale and looked bitterly on its foster-brother. Who knows not this? Mothers and nurses tell you that they allay these things by I know not what remedies. Is that too innocence, when the fountain of milk is flowing in rich abundance, not to endure one to share it, though in extremest need, and whose very life as yet depends thereon? We bear gently with all this, not as being no or slight evils, but because they will disappear as years increase; for, though tolerated now, the very same tempers are utterly intolerable when found in riper years.

Meet the Author

Saint Augustine, a seminal thinker and prolific writer widely regarded as one of the greatest Fathers of the Catholic Church, was born Aurelius Augustinus, a citizen of Rome, on November 13, A.D. 354, in the North African town of Tagaste (today the Algerian village of Souk Ahras). His pagan father, Patricius, was a property owner and minor official; his revered mother, Monnica, was of native Berber descent and a devout Christian. Augustine received a classical Latin education at the local school and later studied rhetoric in the nearby town of Madaura. While a university student in the cosmopolitan seaport of Carthage he fathered a son, Adeodatus, by an unnamed mistress who remained his lover for many years. At the age of nineteen Augustine read Cicero's Hortensius, a now lost treatise that inspired him to seek true wisdom through the study of philosophy. During this period he also joined the pseudo-Christian sect known as the Manichaeans.

Augustine embarked on a teaching career in 374. Over the next years he conducted a school for rhetoric in Carthage and published his first book, Beauty and Proportion (380), a no-longer-extant work on aesthetics. In search of greater horizons as a master of rhetoric, Augustine left for Rome in 383 but soon resettled in Milan. Inspired by the Neoplatonic writings of Plotinus (A.D. 205-270), who had taught that man is awakened to a sense of divine destiny through purification from carnal appetites, and moved by the eloquent sermons of Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, he gradually became attracted to Christianity. In 387, having been baptized by Bishop Ambrose, Augustine abandoned teaching and embraced a life of contemplation. His earliest philosophical dialogues, including Against the Academicians (386) and On the Immortality of the Soul (387), date from this time.

Upon returning to North Africa in 388 Augustine established a lay monastery and was ordained a priest at Hippo (now the port of Annaba in Algeria) in 391. Consecrated Bishop of Hippo in 396, he soon began composing the Confessions (397-400), the remarkable chronicle of his conversion to Christianity. Written in the form of a long prayer addressed directly to God, the work endures as the greatest spiritual autobiography of all time. 'The reader who has never met Augustine before ought to go first of all to the Confessions,' reflected Trappist monk and scholar Thomas Merton. 'Augustine lived the theology that he wrote. . . . He experienced the reality of Christ living in his own soul.' Over the next three decades Augustine exerted enormous influence as a thinker, writer, and spiritual leader. He waged an arduous battle against two powerful heresies' Donatism, which sought to set up a schismatic national church in North Africa, and Pelagianism, a doctrine accepting the importance of individual will. In addition to turning out numerous polemical tracts, sermons, and biblical commentaries, he published On the Trinity (416), a profound defense of the crucial dogma of the Christian Church, and Retractions (427), a review of his voluminous writings.

In 426 Augustine completed The City of God, one of the great cornerstones of Western thought. Begun in 413, the book's initial purpose was to refute the charge that Christianity was to blame for the fall of Rome, which had occurred just three years earlier. Augustine produced a wealth of evidence to prove that paganism bore within itself the seeds of its own destruction. He went on to present a cosmic interpretation of history in terms of the struggle between good and evil. As Thomas Merton observed: 'Here is a book that was written over fifteen hundred years ago by a mystic in North Africa. Yet to those who have ears to hear, it has a great deal to say to many of us who are not mystics, today, in America. The City of God is a monumental theology of history . . . the autobiography of the Church written by the most Catholic of her great saints. . . . The City of God, for those who can understand it, contains the secret of death and life, war and peace, hell and heaven.'

Augustine died on August 28, 430, as the Vandals lay siege to Hippo. Though the city was partly burned, the theologian's vast library, which contained hundreds of his manuscripts, letters, and sermons, escaped destruction. 'Augustine possessed a strong, capacious, argumentative mind; he boldly sounded the dark abyss of grace, predestination, free-will, and original sin,' wrote Edward Gibbon in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 'Augustine, the first Christian philosopher and, one is tempted to add, the only philosopher the Romans ever had, was also the first man of thought who turned to religion because of philosophical perplexities,' observed twentieth-century political philosopher Hannah Arendt. And celebrated historian Jaroslav Pelikan concluded: 'There has, quite literally, been no century of the sixteen centuries since the conversion of Augustine in which he has not been a major intellectual, spiritual, and cultural force. For more than a millennium and a half, continuity with the thought of Augustine has been one of the most persistent history.'

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Confessions of Saint Augustine 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
regirene More than 1 year ago
As a fan of St. Augustine I purchased this nook book without first checking it out. The "wherewiths, withers, thees, thou, knoweths" and adding -est to SO many words makes it tiresome reading. Then throw in some "whences" & "thences". If you can get through all of that, more power to you. I've read translations that use more contemporary wording and suggest to future readers of Augustine to compare before committing to any book. St. Augustine's spirituality is as powerful as ever, just difficult to read in this format.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your sample of this book does not provide even one page of Ryan's translation - which would be the only reason I would be interested in the book. I am NOT interested in the prelude and etc.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was written so long ago, yet it could have been written this year. The style and thought are very current, very insightful. Augustine writes so eloquently. His struggles can easily be our struggles, and his style is so forceful, yet poetic. Strongly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It would be most useful to see some of the English translation in the free sample of the book.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mess you may find. Religious confessions like born again usually are best from a gladiator where you are liable to be swatted one if disrespectful duribg the sermon
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was NOT Maria Boulding's translation. The cover shows her book and even mentioned her name, my husband has a hard copy, so I was able to compare with his and thought I was downloading the same version. This translation is much harder to read and understand. Wish I would have bought the real book instead of this download.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is what much of the Catholic dogma is based on!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago