Augustine of Hippo

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2009-09-14
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Augustine of Hippo (354-430) is one of the most influential figures in the history of the Church. A bishop, philosopher, and doctor of the Church whose thought has molded the Western tradition, Augustine was deeply spiritual, and his writings emphasize the soul's experience of God in its depths. This book features selections from his writings, including Confessions and The City of God, and is the perfect introduction to his influential spiritual life and teachings.


Augustine of Hippo
Selected Writings

Chapter One

Book 8

My God, let me remember you with gratitude, and confess your mercies to me. Let my bones be penetrated with your love and exclaim: "Lord, who is like unto you? You have broken my bonds: I shall offer you a sacrifice of praise" (Ps 86:8). And how you have broken them I shall narrate, and upon hearing this all those who adore you will say: Blessed be the Lord both in heaven and on earth; great and wonderful is His name. Your words had become deeply rooted in my heart and I was "surrounded on all sides by you" (Jb 1: 10). I was now certain of your eternal life, although I saw it "through a glass darkly" (1 Cor 13:12), as it were; yet all my doubt concerning incorruptible substance, from which all other substance came, was removed, nor did I desire to be more certain of you but to stand more firmly in you.

As for my own temporal life all things were tottering, and "my heart had to be purged from old leaven" (1 Cor 5:7).The way, the Savior Himself, delighted me, but I was still unwilling to enter His narrow way. But you inspired me, and it seemed good to me to go to Simplicianus, who seemed to me to be your good servant, and in him your grace shone forth. I had also heard that from his youth he had lived devoutly for you; now he was grown old; and it seemed to me that from a long life of steadfastly following your way he must have experienced much and learned much. And he truly had. Hence after disclosing to him my troubles, I wished him to suggest from his experience and learning the most appropriate way for someone with my sentiments to begin to follow you.

For I saw the Church full; and one went this way, and another that way. But it was displeasing to me that I acted like a worldling, and it was greatly burdensome to me now that the hope of honor and of money no longer inflamed my desires as it formerly did to help me endure such a heavy bondage. For those hopes no longer delighted me when compared with the sweetness and beauty of your house, which I loved. But I was still strongly bound to a woman; nor did the Apostle forbid me to marry (1 Cor 7:8), although he exhorted to a better state, greatly desirous as he was that all men should be as he himself was. But I, weaker than he, chose the softer place; and on that account my life was in confusion because I languished and pined away with growing anxieties, because there were many things I was unwilling to suffer but had to put up with for the sake of living with a wife, a way of life to which I was bound. I had heard from the mouth of Truth itself that "there were some eunuchs who had made themselvessuch on account of the Kingdom of Heaven; but, he said, let whoever can take this, take it" (Mt 19:12). Certainly "all those men are vain in whom there is no knowledge of God, and who could not from those things which are good discover Him who is" (2 Ws 13:1). But I was no longer in that vanity: I had transcended it, and by the common witness of all your creation I had discovered you, our Creator, and your Word, God with you, and with you one God, through whom you had created all things. There is also another kind of impiety, that of those who "knowing God, did not glorify Him as God or give thanks" (Rom 1:21). Among these also I had fallen, but your right hand sustained me and removing me placed me where I might improve. Because you have said to man: "Behold the fear of the Lord is wisdom," and: "Be unwilling to seem wise because those calling themselves wise become fools" (Jb 28:28; Pry 3:7). But I had now found the "pearl of great price" (Mt 13:46) and should have sold all that I had and bought it but I hesitated.

Therefore I went to Simplicianus, who had fathered Bishop Ambrose into your grace and whom he truly loved as his own father. To him I told the winding ways of my error. But when I revealed that I had read certain books of the Platonists which Victorinus, once a Rhetor of the City of Rome (who, I heard, had died a Christian), had translated into Latin, he congratulated me for not having fallen upon the writings of other philosophers full of "fallacies and deceptions, according to the rudiments of this world" (Col 2:8), whereas in these writings, God and His Word are everywhere implied. Next, to exhort me to Christ's humility, "hidden from the wise and revealed to little ones" (Mt 11:25), he recalled Victorinus himself whom, when he was at Rome, he knew very intimately, and concerning whom he told me this story which I shall not pass over in silence. For it entails great praise of your grace, which should be confessed to you, to learn that this most learned old man, very skilled in all the liberal sciences; one who had read and considered carefully so many opinions of the philosophers; a teacher of so many noble senators, who because of the unusual brilliance of his teaching had both deserved and received a statue in the Roman Forum (which citizens of this world consider an honor) -- up to old age he had worshiped idols and joined in those sacrilegious rites which were the fashion with almost all the Roman nobility, who had inflamed the people with their enthusiasm for Osiris and the dog Anubis and that monstrous brood of deity which once took arms and fought in arms against Minerva, Neptune, Venus -- gods which Rome had once conquered and whom she now adored. . . .

Augustine of Hippo
Selected Writings
. Copyright © by Kayla HarperCollins Spiritual Classics. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings by Saint Augustine
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