There are a few autobiographies which challenge, and receive, a special attention from age to age, because they possess characteristics that are not found in the common mass of such productions. They are the delineation of an extraordinary intellect, and the issue of a remarkable experience. They embody the thoughts of a deep mind in its most absorbed hours, the emotions of a vehement soul in its most critical and impassioned 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 strangeness. It is his own human thought and human feeling that he finds expressed; and yet it is spoken with so much greater clearness, depth, 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.
The Confessions Of Augustine is a work of this class; and upon sending forth another edition of it, we seize the opportunity to notice some of its more distinctive 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 freedom that often amounts to abruptness, from the intensely practical to the intensely speculative. In the very midst of his confession of sin, or rejoicing over deliverance from it, his subtle and inquisitive understanding 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 God, my God and Lord, since when I call for Him I shall be calling Him into 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 ?"l At the very instant Introduction. xi
1 Confessions, I. ii. 2
when Augustine is enjoying the most heartfelt and positive communion with God, his intellect feels the pressure of the problem respecting the possibility of such an intercourse. Such transitions are perpetually occurring throughout the work, until, in the eleventh book, the author leaves his autobiography altogether, and devotes the remainder of the work to an interpretation of the opening chapters of Genesis, in which he discusses the most recondite problems respecting Time and Eternity, the Creator and Creation, and the Triunity of the Divine Essence.
It is not, however, from any open or lurking scepticism, or even from any mental unrest, that Augustine raises such inquiries. These questions are not the issue and index of a mind tormented by doubts. They are only the 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 God, the Centre of being and blessedness, he \ allows his mind to pose itself with the profound truths which are involved in the childlike faith of the Christian. 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 awe, and
the nutriment of worship. Nothing can be further from infidelity, than the spirit with which Augustine raises these inquiries respecting time, eternity, the nature of God and the human soul, the possibility and manner of creation from nothing, the origin of evil, and the nature of matter. Neither is there anything of Gnostic curiosity and pride, in his approaches to the frontiers of this realm 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 truths and facts which, in his own phrase, cannot enter by any of the avenues of the flesh. Hence, his questionings leave him humble, while they leave him more self-intelligent. His speculation issues from his religious life and feeling, and helps both to clarify and deepen it. In other words, Augustine is here practising upon his own celebrated dictum, that faith precedes scientific knowledge. The practical belief of the truths of Christianity contains much that is latent and undeveloped. The Christian is wiser than he knows. The moment he begins to examine the implications of his own vivid and personal experience, he finds that they contain the entire rudimental matter of Christian science. For example, he believes in the one living and personal God. But,
the instant he commences the analysis of this idea of ideas, he discovers its profound capacity, and its vast implication. Again, he believes in God incarnate. But when he endeavors to comprehend what is involved in this truth and fact, he is overwhelmed by the multitude of its relations, and the richness of its contents. His faith has really and positively grasped these ideas of God and the God-Man; but, — to employ an illustration of Bernard, — it has grasped them in their closed and involuted form.1 If he would pass, now, from faith to scientific reason, he needs only to reflect upon the intrinsic meaning of these ideas, until they open along the lines of their structure, and are perceived philosophically, though not exhaustively. But, in this process, faith itself is reinforced and deepened by a reflex action, while, at the same time, the intellect is kept reverent and vigilant, because the cognition, though positive and correct as far as it reaches, is not exhaustive 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 metaphysical truth. Although he
1 Intellectus rationi innititur, fides authoritati, opinio sola verisimilitndine se tuetur. Hnbeut ilia duo certain veritatem, sed fides clausam et inrolutam, intelligentia nudam et manifestam.— De Consideratione, Lib. Re cap. iii. c. 893. Par. Ed. 1632.
uniformly approaches the problems of theology upon their most difficult side, and never attempts to become clear by 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 theory. Always making his own vital and confident faith the point from which he departs, and to which he returns, he is at once bold and safe. Go where he may, he cannot lose sight of his pole-star; and thus he always keeps his easting. Like the mariner, far out at sea, with a strong ship under him, and the unfathomed abysses beneath him, he 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 philosophical answer, if it come at all, must come out of the material furnished by the Christian consciousness. His reason cannot 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 comparIntroduction. xv
ison with this of the North-African Father, is that in which Rousseau pours out his life of passion and evil concupiscence. There is the same abandon and unreserve in each; the same particularity in recounting the past conduct; the same subtle unwinding of the course of transgression. Each absorbs himself in his own biography, with an entireness and simplicity that precludes any thought for a spectator or a listener; any regard for either an unfeeling or a sympathizing world of readers. Augustine and Rousseau, both alike, withdraw into the secret and silent confessional of their own memories and recollections, and there pour out their confidences with utter self-abandonment.
But the resemblance ceases at this point. The motive prompting the confession, and the emotions that accompany it, are as different as light from darkness. Augustine's confession is really such, — an acknowledgment 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 which plucked him "from the bottom of the bottomless pit"1 He brings out his secret and scarlet sins into the light of his memory, that he may praise the God of his salvation for his marvellous pity. "I will now call to xvi Introduction.
1 Confessions, II. iv. 9.
mind," he says, "my past foulness, and the carnal corruptions of my soul; not because I love them, but that I may love Thee, O my God. For love of Thy love I do it; reviewing my most wicked ways, in the very bitterness of my remembrance, that Thou mayest grow sweet unto me."1 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 feeling of Rousseau, it is needless to say. It is not necessary 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 tendency 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 probably was, to relieve a stormy and tempest-tossed nature, by a simple overflow of the pent-up elements. Rousseau merely followed that impulse of a burdened soul which necessitates self-utterance; that law of both mind and matter which absolutely forbids the perpetual suppression of struggling powers and forces. All the deIntroduction. xvii
1 Confessions, II. i. 1.
vices of man cannot choke down even the smallest spring of water, so that it shall never come to the surface; and all the efforts of men and angels combined cannot keep under, in eternal burial, the emotions and passions of an inordinate and billowy spirit. Under this stress and pressure, the "self-torturing sophist" enters into the detail of his unworthy and unhappy life, without the slightest recognition of the claims of law, and apparently without the slightest fear 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 solemn relations of an immortal soul either to time or to eternity.
Again, while Augustine relates the sins of his youth, and his transgressions, with a plainness which the factstious modesty of an inwardly impure mind has sometimes condemned, it is always with the most genuine and unaffected sorrow and abhorrence. A more sincere book than the Confessions of Augustine was never written. Every statement of sin is a wail over it. Rivers of waters run down the relator's eyes, because he has not kept the divine law. The plainness of this book is like that of the prophecy of Ezekiel; the vileness is brought out into sight only that it may be trampled and stamped upon. And yet it is not a spasmodic, Xviii Introduction.
or an affected reprobation. From the depths of a now spiritualized mind, Augustine really abhors his past iniquity. He is a new creature; old things have passed away, and all things have become new. With the clear and searching eye of the cherubim, he looks into the hole of the pit whence he was digged, and beholds according to truth. There is no furtive glance towards the past voluptuousness. It is seen to be sin and guilt, meriting the wrath and curse of God, fit only to be burned up in the consuming fire of the Divine immaculateness. All this is perceived with calmness and certainty; so that the judgment of damnation, which is passed by the autobiographer upon his personal corruption, is deep and tranquil, like that of the bar of final doom.
3. But this is only a negative excellence. A third characteristic of this book is, that it palpitates with a positive love of God and goodness. The writer does not merely look back with aversion and abhorrence, but he looks forward with aspiration and longing. He gazes, with a steady and rapt eye, upon the supernal Beauty, the heavenly Eros. His spiritualized perception reposes with joy unutterable, and full of glorying, upon the perfections of God and the realities of eternity. Hear his impassioned utterance. "Not with doubting, but with assured consciousness, do I love Thee, Lord. But Introduction. xix
what do I love when I love Thee? not the beauty of bodies, nor the fair harmony of time, nor the brightness of the light so gladsome to our eyes, nor sweet melodies of varied songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers and ointments and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs acceptable to the embracements of flesh. None of these do I love when I love my God; and yet I love a kind of light, a kind of melody, a kind of fragrance, a kind of food, and a kind of embracement, when I love my God, — the light, the melody, the fragrance, the food, the embracement, of the inner man: where there shineth unto my soul what space cannot contain, and there soundeth what time beareth not away, and there smelleth what breathing disperseth not, and there tasteth what eating diminisheth not, and there clingeth what satiety divorceth not. This is it which I love, when I love my God." The entire emotiveness of that deep, passionate, North-African nature has been transferred from sense to spirit, from time to eternity, from earth to heaven, from the creature to the Creator, and now flows on like the river of God, which is full of water. Indeed, the feeling which Augustine bears towards the Blessed Triune God, cannot be better expressed than by the word affectionateness. There is in his experience awe "deep as the centre;" there is humility absolute; there is the reverential fear of the wingxx Introduction.
veiled seraphim; but there is, also, in and through it all, that confiding love which is both warranted and elicited by the dying prayer of the Redeemer. This man, who so often denominates himself "evil" and "abominable," " miserable" and " godless,"—who prostrates his whole being, in shame and sorrow unspeakable, before the infinite and adorable majesty of God, — yet finds an answer, in his own regenerate consciousness, to the wonderful supplication of the Redeemer, that his redeemed "all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee; that they may be one even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one."
This sense of union with God is very vivid in this Latin Father; as it is, also, in some of the more spiritual of the schoolmen, — particularly Anselm and Bernard. It is very different, however, from that vague feeling of the Mystic theologian, which, even in its best forms, sometimes hovers upon the borders of pantheism, and in its worst form, as in Eckart and Silesius, is little better than the Hindoo absorption in the deity. On the contrary, it is that intelligent consciousness of oneness with God, which issues from the evangelical sense of reconciliation with him through the blood of Christ. The ideas of Incarnation and Redemption shape the whole experience of Augustine, and his communion with God Introduction.
has its root in the sense of sin, and the sense of mercy. But these two utterly preclude the pantheistic intuition. He who feels himself to be guilty, knows most piercingly that God and man are two distinct beings. And he who has rejoiced in the manifested pity of the Creator towards the creature, cannot possibly confound the two, either in philosophy or theology. And such is the foundation upon which Augustine's filial and affectionate communion with God rests. He knows that if God spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for a guilty criminal like himself, he will certainly, after this, freely give him all things. Springing from this evangelical root, the affectionateness of Augustine is totally different, also, from that fatal form of self-deception which is seen in the sentimentalist's love of God. He does not presume to cast himself upon the Divine mercy, until he has first recognized and acquiesced in the Divine justice. These Confessions contain none of that religiousness, to which the intrinsic and eternal damnableness of sin is an offensive truth, and which avoids all the retributive and judicial aspects of revelation. Augustine never shrinks from the fact, that a creature's wilful transgression, in its own nature merits, and irrespective of Christ's blood,of atonement will receive, an "everlasting punishment" from the living God. He knows that the doctrine of genuine penixxii Introduction.
tence for sin, stands, or falls, with that of an absolute ill-desert, and an everlasting penalty; that every species of religious anxiety which reluctates at Christ's representations of the final doom, and at the doctrine that only Christ's Passion stands between a sinner and eternal damnation, is spurious; and that he who would throw himself into the arms of the Redeemer, before he has knelt with a crushed heart at the bar of the Judge, will ultimately meet a terrific rebuke to his presumption, and his moral worthlessness. Augustine's trust in the compassion of God has for its antecedent, the distinct consciousness of the "wrath to come." The Divine love is, for his mind, a pity that "bore his sins on the tree," and thereby delivered him from an eternal infliction that was merited and actually impending.1
Such thoroughness in Augustine's experience of both the justice and the mercy of God, resulted in an undoubting confidence in Him. The trustfulness of his feeling towards the Supreme exhibits itself, sometimes, almost like the prattling of a child. "I beseech Thee, my God, I would fain know, if so Thou wiliest, for what purpose my baptism was then deferred? Was it for my good, that the rein was laid loose, as it were, upon me, for me to sin ?"2 "Bear with me, my God, while I say something of my wit, Thy gift, and on what dotages Introduction. xxiii
1 Compare Confessions, V. ix. 16. 2 Confessions, I. xi. 18.
I wasted it."1 In fact, the whole life, the entire experience of Augustine, with all that is insignificant, equally with all that is great in it, is poured out into the ear of the Divine Confessor. To God there is nothing great, and nothing small; and this penitent and affectionate soul passes from point to point in its detail, without stopping to measure or compare. The Divine ear is not heavy, that it cannot hear even the minutest items of the penitential record; and the filial, grateful heart is never tired of the exhaustive confession and rehearsal.
Such an experience as this brought the spirit of Augustine into most intimate relations to God. "Sometimes," he says, "Thou admittest me to an affection very unusual, in my inmost soul; rising to a strange sweetness, which, if it were perfected in me, I know not what in it would not belong to the life to come."2 The Modern church is too destitute of this child-like afftectionateness, and this fervor of love. It is certainly striking to pass from the more formal and reserved types of religious experience, characteristic of an overcivilized Christendom, to the simple and gushing utterances of Augustine, Anselm, and Bernard. "Too late I loved Thee, O Thou Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! too late I loved Thee!"3 "Oh! that I might xxiv Introduction.
1 Confessions, I. xvii. 27. 2 Confessions, X. xl.
3 Confessions, X. xxril. 88.
repose on Thee I Oh! that Thou wouldest enter into my heart, and inebriate it!"1 "Oh! Thou sweetness never failing, Thou blissful and assured sweetness!"2 In one of his Soliloquies, Augustine addresses God as both father and mother: "Et tu Domine Deus pater orphanorum, et tu mater pupillorum tuorum, audi ejulatum filiorum tuorum."3 The soul follows hard after God, and its pan tings often find a natural expression in language, and terms, as fervid as those which we are wont to associate only with the most absorbing and consuming of earthly passions. The rythmical and sonorous Roman speech becomes yet more deep-toned and sounding in its note, as the rapt mind rises upon the wings of spiritual intuition and ecstasy. The superlative becomes the positive. "Dulcissime, amantissime, benignissime, preciosissime, desideratissime, amabilissime, pulcherrime, tu melle dulcior, lacte et nive candidior, nectare suavior, gemmis et auro preciosior, cunctisque terrarum divitiis et honoribus mihi carior, quando te videbo? Quando apparebo ante faciem tuam? Quando satiabor de pulchritudine tua ?" 4 This language, it should be remembered, flows from a mind that is naturally speculative and dialectic; that has meditated, not merely proIntroduction. xxv
1 Confessions, I. v. 5. 2 Confessions, II. i. 1.
3 Soliloqniorum liber anus, Opera IX. 768, Ed. Basil, 1569.
4 Meditationum liber unus, Opera IX. 722, 728, Ed. Basil, 1569.
foundry, but systematically, upon the being and attributes of God. It is not the utterance of a sentimentalist, but of a robust understanding, out of which issued the most logical and rigorous of the ancient types of Christian theology. When we find the most abstract and intellectual of the Christian Fathers dissolving in tears, or mounting in ecstasy, we may be certain that the emotion issues from truth and reality. When the rock gushes out water, we may be sure that it is pure water. Were it not that we find the systematic writings of Augustine, — which, moreover, constitute the bulk of his works, — calm as reason itself, consecutive as logic itself, and entirely free from extravagance, we might query whether a sinful mortal, an imperfectly sanctified man, could use such language as the above, without a latent insincerity; or, at least, without running far in advance of his real emotions. But these soliloquies and meditations are the moments of Christian and saintly inspiration; seasons when the deep and subtle reasoning of the renewed mind, having reached its term, becomes hushed and breathless in the spiritual intuition, and passes over into awe and worship. The knowledge of the cherub becomes the love of the seraph. Each is alike real and true; the one is the dark root, the other the bright consummate flower of religion.
One who imbues his mind with the spirit of Augustine's Confessions finds no difficulty, therefore, in understanding the Song of Solomon. An earthly exegesis can interpret this Song of Songs only from its own point of view. The conceptions, figures, and terms of the spiritual lyric are instinctively referred to earthly and carnal relationships. An unspiritual mind cannot, by any possibility, rise into the pure ether and element of incorporeal and heavenly Beauty, in which the writer of this canticle moves his wings. But not so the Augustines, the Anselms, and the Bernards. These purged and clear eyes were granted at certain favored hours, and as the result and reward of their long vigils and meditations, the immortal vision of the pure in heart. And the immortal vision wakened the immortal longing. The environment of earth and time became a prison to the now illuminated spirit, and it pined for the hill of frankincense and the mountains of myrrh. Having seen the King in his beauty, the holy and ethereal soul fell into love-longing.1
4. A fourth striking characteristic of these Confessions is, the insight which they afford into the origin and Introduction. xxvii
1 The experience of Edwards, as portrayed by himself, more than that of any other modern, exhibits these same characteristics. That rapt exulting vision of the Divine majesty and beauty, which fell upon him like the dawn, in the opening of his Christian life, flushed his entire career, and entitles him, also, to the name of the " angelic," the(' seraphic" doctor.
progress of the Christian experience. They are the best commentary yet written upon the seventh and eighth chapters of Romans. That quickening of the human spirit, which puts it again into vital and sensitive relations to the holy and the eternal; that illumination of the mind, whereby it is enabled to perceive with clearness the real nature of truth and righteousness; that empowering of the will, to the conflict and the victory, —the entire process of restoring the Divine image in the soul of man, — is delineated in this book, with a vividness and reality never exceeded by the uninspired mind. And particularly is the bondage of the enslaved will brought to view. Augustine, though subject to pangs of conscience, and the forebodings of an unpardoned soul, from his earliest years, did not, nevertheless, attain evangelical peace until the thirty-second year of his life. He died at the age of seventy-six; so that nearly one-half of his earthly existence was spent in unregeneracy. He was born and bred in the midst of paganism, and his tropical, North-African nature immersed itself in the ambition and sensuality of his crime and his race, with an intensity to which the career of a Byron, a Rousseau, or a Heine, affords a nearer parallel, than does anything which meets the eye in the externally decent and restrained life of modern society. To such a soul of flame was uttered, in tones that startled, and Xxviii Introduction.
tones that shattered, and tones that for the moment paralyzed, the solemn words: "Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh." It was, at first, like the giving up of the ghost. The effort to obey was convulsive. "Thou, O Lord, didst press upon me inwardly with severe mercy, redoubling the lashes of fear and shame, lest I should again give way, and, not bursting that slight remaining tie, it should recover strength, and bind me the faster. For I said within myself, 'Be it done now, be it done now.' And as I spake, I all but performed it. I all but did it, and did it not; yet sunk not back to my former state, but kept my stand hard by, and took breath. And I essayed again, and wanted somewhat less of it, and somewhat less, and all but touched and laid hold of it; hesitating to die to death, and to live to life; and the worse, whereto I was inured, prevailed more with me than the better, whereto I was unused; and as the moment approached wherein I was to become other than I was, the greater horror did it strike into me; yet did it not strike me back, nor turned me. away, but held me in suspense."' What a subtle and most truthful glimpse into the workings of inveterate sin, which has grown
l Confessions, VIII. xi. 25.
with his growth and strengthened with his strength, is afforded in the petition of his early manhood: "Give me continence, only not yet!"1 These, and a hundred others like them, bring the whole inward struggle into plain view. It is a real conflict, in which the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. We know of no other religious book, except the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress, which makes so deep an impression of reality as this one. Religion, in the experience here portrayed, is veritable. The fears and forebodings which herald it, are actual. The pangs and throes that bring it to the birth, are actual. The joys and sorrows, the assurance and the doubts, that accompany its growth, are actual. As the doctrinal system of Augustine rests upon a basis of realism, so does his practical life and history. There is nothing upon either side that is nominal, fictitious, ideal.
But, the whole excellence of this delineation of the bondage of the apostate will, — which is the cause of all this struggle, — will not be perceived, unless we notice that Augustine continually refers the enslavement to the creature himself, and never to the Creator. It is the product of self-will, and not of that creative fiat by which man was originally made a holy and unenslaved spirit in the image of God. "My will the enemy held,
l Confessions, VIII. vll. 16.
and thence had made a chain for me, and bound me. For, of a perverse will comes lust; and a last yielded to becomes custom; and custom not resisted becomes necessity. By which links, as it were, joined together as in a chain, a hard bondage held me enthralled. And that new will, which had begun to be in me, to serve Thee freely, and to wish to enjoy Thee, O God, was not yet able completely to overcome my former long-established wilfulness."' Thus the bondage is guilt; and at the very instant when the soul is weighed down with a sense of utter impotence to holiness, it is also prostrate before the judicial bar, with the consciousness of deserved damnation. The enslavement is not plead in excuse of sin, because it is acknowledged to be a part of sin, and thus an aggravation of it. The element of servitude, like the element of blindness, is part and particle of the evil and abominable thing which the soul of God hates. The reflex action of transgression upon the understanding, is spiritual blindness; upon the heart, is spiritual hardness; and upon the will, is spiritual bondage. The voluntary faculty cannot escape, any more than any other faculty of the soul, the reaction of its self-action. Whosoever commits sin, by and in that very voluntary act, becomes the slave (SovXo's) of sin. The cause inevitably carries its consequence.
l Confessions, VIII. v. 10.
That which is done cannot be undone; and no will that self-determinedly apostatizes can be again the sound and strong faculty, in reference to good, that it was before apostasy, except through the intervention of Divine renewing power. The moral bondage, therefore, like the moral blindness, and the moral hardness, enters into the sum-total of human depravity, and goes to swell the sum-total of human condemnation. All this, though not drawn out in this dialectic manner, is implied in Augustine's anthropology. Nowhere is there a more profound consciousness of the impotence of the apostate will, and nowhere is there a more heartfelt and humble sense of personal ill-desert, than is expressed in these Confessions.1
Such are some of the more salient points in the autobiography of Augustine. A moment's reflection upon them will reveal that they are of the very highest order, and that such a religious experience as is here porXxxii Introduction.
1 We have dwelt the longer upon this point, because it has been asserted that Augustine's theory of grace and election is fatalism Milman's portrait of the Latin Father (Primitive Christianity, Book III, Chap- x ) is, in many of its features, an accurate one; and the general coloring is laid on with an admiring, and even an enthusiastic eye. But Milman represents AugustinianUm as " offering up free agency upon the altar of religion, and thereby degrading the most wonderful work of Omnipotence, — a being endowed with free agency." The misconception arises from overlooking the fact that, in Augustine's system, the bondage and impotence of the apostate will are the consequence and result of an aet of will. <&?//'-enslavement and self-ruin is one thing; enslavement by the creative act, and ruin by compulsory force, is another. The charge of fatalism can logically be made only against this latter.
trayed, cannot be studied without profit. This book is worthy of being made a manual of devotion. It is not claimed to be entirely free from erroneous aspects of truth. No man wholly escapes the faults of his age; and the Confessions of Augustine exhibit some of the deficiencies of the Church of the fourth century. But in reference to the permanent and everlasting elements of the Christian experience, the great main characteristics of the Christian life, here is certainly a bold and accurate, a clear and large utterance. We are confident that familiarity with this book, for even a single year, would perceptibly affect the individual's religious experience. It would infuse into it the rare quality of vividness. There are no stereotyped phrases, no technical terms or forms. It is the life of God in the soul of a strong man, rushing and rippling with the freedom of the life of nature. He who watches can almost see the growth; he who listens can hear the perpetual motion; and he who is in sympathy will be swept along.
The editing of these Confessions has been a labor of love. As we have scanned the sentences and syllables, we have seemed to hear the beating of that flaming heart, which, now for fifteen centuries, has burnt and throbbed with a seraph's affection in the Mount of God. We have seemed to look into that deep and spiritual Introduction. xxxm
eye, which gazed without shrinking, yet with bitter penitential tears, into the depths of a tormenting conscience and a sinful nature, that it might then gaze without dazzling, and with unutterable rapture, into the eyes and
face of The Eternal. Our Protestantism concedes, with
t out scruple, the cognomen of Saint to this ethereal
spirit. Our Christianity triumphs in that marvellous power of grace, which wrought such a wonderful transformation. Having this example and living fact before our view, we believe that Christ, the Lord, has all power, both in heaven and upon earth; and that there is lodged in his pierced and bleeding hands a spiritual energy that is able to renovate the mightiest, and the most vitiated forms of humanity. The Caesars and Napoleons, the Byrons and Rousseaus, all the passionate spirits, all the stormy Titans, are within reach of that irresistible influence which is garnered up in the Redemption of the Son of God, and which is accessible to the prayers and the faith of the church.
The following sketch of the life of Augustine, given in the compact grouping and terse statement of Guericke,1 is appended for the convenience of the reader.
l Guericke's Church History, j 91.
"Aurelius Augustinus, born at Tagaste, in Numidia, Nov. 13, 354, a man of deep and powerful nature, not the most learned, yet the greatest of the fathers, and in whose energetic mind acuteness and profundity were blended in their highest degrees, after victoriously passing through the most violent inward conflicts, had attained evangelical peace of conscience. Though early pointed to Christ by his excellent mother Monica, he had become distractingly immersed in the ambitions and sensualities of earth during his residence in Carthage, — whither he had repaired for literary culture after previous studies at Tagaste and Madaura, — when, in his nineteenth year, the Hortensius of Cicero wakened a new aspiration within him after the truth. But, with all his newly-awakened longing after a higher life, the power to realize his aspiration was ever wanting. As a teacher of rhetoric at Carthage (from 376), afterwards at Rome, and finally at Milan (from 384), he was continually wavering between the world and God, in a constant conflict between his ambition and lust on the one hand, and the unmistakable remorse and aspirings of his soul, and the prayers and tears of his mother, on the other. For nine years he sought for truth among the Manicheans, who did not demand or insist upon faith, but talked much of a higher cognition of the reason; and who, by employing apparently Christian phraseIntroduction.
ology, seemed to join on upon the ineradicable impressions and instructions of his childhood. Seeing himself deceived, he began to fall into scepticism, and was again speculatively reestablished by the Platonic philosophy. But he could not find in this human system the two things he was seeking for, namely, peace with conscience and God, and the renovating power requisite to a holy life. Through various remarkable providences, and stormy conflicts, both of the outer and the inner life, he was, at length, in the year 386, at Milan, brought to a believing reception of the gospel, in its purity and simplicity, — a crisis for which the preparation had long been going on in his soul, and which was accelerated by the startling impression made upon him by the passage in Romans xiii. 13,14, to which he had casually opened, on seeming to hear from on high, in a moment of deep spiritual despondency, the words: "Totte, lege." He received baptism, together with his natural son, Adeodatus, a youth of fifteen, on Easter-Sunday, 387, from bishop Ambrose, to whose spiritual instructions he was greatly indebted for his new experience. From this time onward, he drew without ceasing from the fountain of light and peace which welled up within, and there followed that new and ever-expanding life of consecration to God, of Christian knowledge and holiness, which has made him a teacher for all succeeding centuries. Auxxxvi Introduction.
gustine gave up the profession of a rhetorician, which had in various ways ministered to his vanity, and in 388 returned to Africa, where, though feeling himself to be unfit for the office, he was made presbyter in 391, and, in 395 (at the pressing request of the aged bishop Valerius, and in ignorance of the church statute forbidding it), co-bishop, and then, probably in 396, sole bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia. Here he labored, not merely for his own particular charge, but also, — by training up capable teachers and clergymen, and in all other ways,—for the entire North-African church, which he led and guided by the power of his intellect, with manifest blessing. In the last part of his life, he was compelled to see great suffering befall his church and native land, from the Vandals, and finally died, August 28, 430, in Hippo, which had already been closely besieged three months by them, — spending the last ten days of his life absorbed in meditation and prayer."
THE EDITOR. Audovkb, August 25, 1869.