I have found that, aside from Scripture, nothing I read or hear strengthens my heart like the testimony of someone who has gone before me. Whether it is the biography of a great hero of the faith, or simply a college senior’s testimony that encourages me that school is not going to kill me, there is something uniquely comforting in knowing that someone else has walked this road before, and has been the better for it. There is encouragement in fellowship, even if the fellowship is over dozens or even hundreds of years.
Such is the case with The Confessions of St. Augustine.
“Our heart is restless, till it rest in Thee.”
Perhaps one of the most famous quotes from this amazing work, it is indicative of the profound insight that pervades the book. It is one man’s journey from paganism, through heresy and sin, back to the faith of his mother.
Augustine of Hippo wrote this work in Latin around A.D. 397. It quite literally starts at the beginning, as he traces his sin and failure through his childhood. He details his time in the Manichean cult (a form of Gnosticism) and describes his life of sin and indulgence in his younger years. The title, Confessions, is appropriate.
But at the same time, he follows the parallel story of the grace and love of God in his life all the way through, until the day when Christ finally chases him down and saves him. The scene of repentance he depicts is truly beautiful.
The story can be slow at times, because he often pauses in his narrative to ponder the nature of God and His redemptive work. But if you have the patience to stick with it, the insights, often tied directly to Scripture, are worth the time.
Personally, I found his explorations into the topic of friendship particularly touching:
“Blessed whoso loveth Thee, and his friend in Thee, and his enemy for Your sake. For he alone loses none dear to him, to whom all are dear in Him who cannot be lost.”
This work definitely qualifies as one of the earliest and most foundational works in the Christian literary canon. Many later writers, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, build upon Augustinian ideas and insights. At the same time, it is accessible and personal, and makes wonderful devotional reading.
This work is not one to be overlooked.