Augustine: Rhetorician, Sinner, and Saint

His Salvation (long but worth it):

“And You (God) did set me face to face with myself, that I might see how ugly I was, and how crooked and sordid, bespotted and ulcerous.  and I looked and I loathed myself; but where to fly from myself I could not discover.  ”

[through a message, this happened]

“Then, as this vehement quarrel, which I waged with my soul in the chamber of my heart, was raging inside my inner dwelling, agitated both in mind and countenance, I seized upon Alypius [his friend]and exclaimed: ‘What is the matter with us?  What is this?  What did you hear?  The uninstructed start up and take heaven, and we–with all our learning but so little heart–see where we wallow in flesh and blood!  Because others have gone before us, are we ashamed to follow, and not rather ashamed at our not following?’  I scarcely knew what I said, and in my excitement I flung away from him, while he gazed at me in silent astonishment.  For i did not sound like myself:  my face, eyes, color, tone expressed my meaning more clearly than my words.”

“I kept saying to myself, ‘See, let it be done now; let it be done now.’  And as I said this I all but came to a firm decision.  I all but did it–yet I did not quite…  It was, in fact, my old mistresses, trifles of trifles and vanities of vanities, who still enthralled me.  “They tugged at my fleshly garments and softly whispered:  ‘Are you going to part with us?  And from that moment will we never be with you any more?  And from that moment will not this and that be forbidden you forever?’ …  Still they delayed me, so that I hesitated to break loose and shake myself free of them and leap over to the place to which I was being called–for unruly habit kept saying to me, ‘Do you think you can live without them?’ ”

” I flung myself down under a fig tree–how I know not–and gave free course to my tears.  The streams of my eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to you.  And, not indeed in these words, but to this effect, I cried to you: ‘And you, O Lord, how long?  How long, O Lord?  Will you be angry forever?  Oh, remember not against us our former iniquities.’  For I felt that I was still enthralled by them.  I sent up these sorrowful cries: ‘ How long, how long?  Tomorrow and tomorrow?  Why not this very hour make an end to my uncleanness?’ ”

“I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which–coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, “Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it.’ …  So, damning the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon…  So I quickly returned  to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle’s book when I had left there.  I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell:  ‘Not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:13-14) I wanted to read no further, nor did i need to.  For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”

Augustine: Rhetorician, Sinner, and Saint

Augustine on

Beauty:

“These things I did not understand at that time, and I loved those inferior beauties [that is, inferior to God’s beauty], and I was sinking down to the very depths.  And I said to my friends:  “Do We love anything but the beautiful?  What then is the beautiful?  And what is beauty?  What is it that allures and unites us to the things we love; for unless there were a grace and beauty in them, they could not possibly attract us to them?”  And I reflected on this and saw that in the objects themselves there is a kind of beauty which comes from their forming a whole and another kind of beauty that comes from mutual fitness–as the harmony of one part of the body with its whole, or a shoe with a foot, and so on.  And this idea sprung up in my mind out of my inmost heart, and I wrote some books–two or three, I think–On the Beautiful and the Fitting. You know them,  O Lord; they have escaped my memory.  I no longer have them somehow they have been mislaid….  But I had not seen how the main point in these great issues lay really in your craftsmenship, O Omnipotent One, “who alone does great wonders.” (ps. 72:18)

Augustine on his blindness to the Scriptures prior to the Holy Spirit’s work

“I resolved, therefore, to direct my mind to the Holy Scriptures, that I might see what they were.  And behold, I saw something not comprehended by the proud, not disclosed to children, something lowly in the hearing, but sublime in the doing, and veiled in mysteries.  Yet I was not of the number of those who could enter into it or bend my neck to follow its steps.  For then it was quite different from what I now feel.  When I then turned toward the Scriptures, they appeared to me to be quite unworthy to be compared to the dignity of Tully.  For my inflated pride was repelled by their style, nor could the sharpness of my wit penetrate their meaning.  Truly they were of a sort to aid the growth of little ones, but I scorned to be a little one and, swollen with pride, I looked upon myself as fully-grown.”

Augustine: Rhetorician, Sinner, and Saint

In this series, I am going to post quotations from Augustine’s Confessions.  Augustine recounts his life from an unbelieving rhetorician and philosopher to becoming Christian.  This book is a must read in my opinion.    He’s brutally honest with all of his struggles and deals with exactly the same struggles we do today–though this book was published by him in A.D. 397.   It is interesting how the struggles of men 1600 years ago are still the same; the grieving struggle of losing your best friend and parents, the troubles of being a student, and then the struggle of being a teacher to troublesome students.  Most importantly, it is the struggle of one man and the Holy Spirit, and though Augustine had to pull his hair out in conflict, we can all give thanks along with him that the Spirit won the day.

With no further ado, here is the man himself through selected quotations.

Dealing with School:

“O my God!  What miseries and mockeries did I then experience when it was impressed on me that obedience to my teachers was proper to my boyhood estate if I was to flourish in this world and distinguish myself in those tricks of speech which would gain honor for me among men, and deceitful riches!  To this end I was sent to school to get learning, the value of which I knew not—wretch that I was.  Yet if I was slow to learn, I was flogged…

For I did not, O Lord, lack memory of capacity, for, by your will, I possessed enough for my age.  However, my mind was absorbed only in play, and those who were doing the same things themselves punished me for this.  But the idling of our elders is called business; the idling of boys, though quite like it, is punished by those same elders, and no one pities either the boys or the men.”

Dealing with Death:

Friend: “This is what we love in our friends, and we love it so much that a man’s conscience accuses itself if he does not love one who loves him, or respond in love to love, seeking nothing from the other but the evidences of his love.  This is the source of our moaning when one dies—the gloom of sorrow, the steeping of the heart in tears, all sweetness turned to bitterness—and the feeling of death in the living, because of the loss of life of the dying.”

Mother: “And so on the ninth day of her sickness, in the fifty-sixth year of her life and the thirty-third of mine, that religious and devout soul was set loose from the body.

I closed her eyes; and there flowed in a great sadness on my heart and it was passing into tears, when at the strong behest of my mind my eyes sucked back the fountain dry, and sorrow was in me like a convulsion.”

“For we did not consider it fitting to celebrate that death with tearful wails and groanings.  This is the way those who die unhappy or are altogether dead are usually mourned.  But she neither died unhappy nor did she altogether die.”

“What was it, then, that hurt me so grievously in my heart except the newly made wound, caused from having the sweet and dear habit of living together with her suddenly broken? “

Communion with Christ– concluding thoughts

Definition of Communion:  Communion is the giving & receiving of each person to one another, and the affections that result.

  • Christ desires this communion to be so intimate that He designed and ordained marriage to be a shadow of it.  (Isaiah 62:5, Revelation 19:7-8, Hosea 2:19-20)
  • What Christ gives:  He gives Himself to our souls—to love it and care for it as a husband does for his wife.  In fact, He watches us so carefully that no matter what befalls us, it’s for our good.  (Romans 8:28)  “For I am His, and He is mine.”  We are burdened by sin & in the wilderness, but He presses us to come to Him.  Though we are covered in wrongdoing, he pursues us to make us His own so He can purify us and present us holy and wholly to Himself.  His desire for us & love towards us is eternal.  It has always been.  It took Him to the cross.  We are confident it will always be for us.  (John 13:1)
  • We must give ourselves:  Knowing that in all things God, in Christ, is for us—for our good; and knowing at what great cost he purchased life for us, and traded our guilt for His righteousness.  We ought to freely, willingly give ourselves to Him.  We should accept Him as our only Husband, Lord, and Savior.  Not only once, but as a constant state of mind.  Consider during every struggle, “This sin promises happiness—but it cannot give it.  I will commit to Him who not only promises Joy and peace, but also delivers it.”

Liking Christ For His Excellence

Liking Christ for His Excellence (adapted from John Owen)

His ability to be the only fitting savior:  He is fit to save man from God because He is the eternal God.  He is fit to save man for God because He, being God, became man.  God had to pay the wages of our sins, and a man had to bear the guilt.  This, only Christ could accomplish.   He is the perfect mediator because of His human & divine natures.  Only He could bring man and God back together through the huge distance of sin between us.

“Sin is infinite only in respect of the object.  And punishment was infinite in respect of the Subject.”  –John Owen

Our sins are an offense against the eternal God.   If you offend a fly, no man cares.   If you offend a person’s dog, someone may get mad.  If you sin against and offend the President the punishment increases.  But when you sin against Him that has no beginning and no end; a person who formed you in the womb and deserves the most reverent obedience and respect… then your sin is eternal in scope, and your punishment must be fitting.

But Christ, being God and man, took our sins, and suffered our eternal punishment!  For just as sin was eternal because we offended the eternal God, Christ’s temporal sufferings at the cross is an eternal propitiation because He is eternal, Himself!  No man could bear his own punishment!  But Christ can bear us all.  Our sins would crush us to hell, but Christ is the eternal God of heaven and earth and through his suffering and propitiation he crushed death under His divine foot!  No one could have ever saved us except for Christ!

Liking Christ for His Fullness to Save (The fullness of His salvation):

Heb 7:24  but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.

Heb 7:25  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Col 1:19  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,

Joh 3:34  For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.

Joh 1:16  And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

We cannot exhaust his salvation or gifts.  He is always interceding, always giving us His Spirit and grace because He has it without measure.  The ocean may run out of water, but there will never be a  dent made in the ocean of Christ’s grace and salvation.

Fullness for the soul of any man:  Is he dead?  Christ is life.  (col 3:4)  Is he weak or dumb?  Christ is the wisdom and power of God! (1cor 1:24)  Is he guilty and under conviction?  Christ is our righteousness.  (Jeremiah 23:6)  Sad and sorrowful?  He is our joy. (Psalm 43:4)  Does he desire someone who understands his trials and sufferings?  Christ knows, understands, and can sympathize.  (Heb 4:15, Heb 12:3)

The Trinity, The Son, The Church and Marriage (pt 3)

Yet another example of Christ’s love for the Church, and the biblical model for a husbands love towards his wife.

Ezekiel 16:1-8 Again the word of the LORD came to me:  (2)  “Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations,  (3)  and say, Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.  (4)  And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths.  (5)  No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.  (6)  “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’  (7)  I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.  (8)  “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.

6-8.  God’s relation with His people expressed as marriage.

God took us, though unlovely & bloody, and spoke life into us.  He made us to grow, and He covers our nakedness.  If this were not enough, He says, “I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.”

`6:15-16.  Our unfaithfulness:  “But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his. You took some of your garments and made for yourself colorful shrines, and on them played the whore. The like has never been, nor ever shall be.

Through all the blessings and generous giving that God has bestowed, we trusted in ourselves; in our own hands.  We have nothing that has not come from God, and yet we love sex, education, family, and drunkenness more than Him!

31b-34     Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings.

Worse than prostitutes! For prostitutes get paid.  How much gas, money, and time have we given up for our sins?  We continually trade the only God for sins that will never be satisfied until it has killed us.  A suicidal exchange!

59-63        “For thus says the Lord GOD: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant. Then you will remember your ways and be ashamed when you take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and I give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you. I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.”

God hates divorce & shows forgiveness.  “When I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God.”  When he pays for you, and for you sins by His blood.  God could have put this adulterous wife (us!) away, but He doesn’t.  No one has more of a right to put his wife away.  But He does not do this.  Instead, not only does he forgive her, but he pays all of her outstanding debts—even with His own blood.

We have been forgiven like this, and we should forgive others like this.  For we are to imitate God.  Eph5:1

Finally, I think one other thing needs to be mentioned.  Although grace and forgiveness for our wives are the ways we can imitate God in our marriages, it must be noted that we aren’t to be careless.  God rebukes; so ought we.  And we notice that at the end of Romans 5 and Ezekiel 6 and John 5 & 8 that Christ’s grace ends in results.  His death saves the ungodly.  His new covenant with Israel keeps her from ‘opening her mouth.’  His saving from accusers results in sinners “sinning no more.”

The Trinity, The Son, The Church, and Marriage (pt.2)

Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  (23)  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  (24)  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  (25)  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  (26)  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  (27)  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  (28)  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  (29)  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  (30)  because we are members of his body.  (31)  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  (32)  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  (33)  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

  1. Husbands love your wives:  This is a sobering command that is given to us.  Most of us men, boyfriends and husbands, simply don’t obey this command or understand it– or both.  I think that if it were understood & obeyed fully then our marriages would last, and the supreme glory of Christ’s love, especially, would shine throughout the whole world.
  2. What makes this verse frightening is the natural impossibility of obeying it.  For we are not merely called to obey by loving our wives according to the standard of love this world gives us—although we are guilty of it!  It is frightening because many of us men have sinned twice against this verse.  One, we do it by failing to obey the command, and two by changing the standard of love from Christ to the world.  Since men are naturally incapable of doing such a great thing as loving our wives as Christ does the Church, we, consciously or subconsciously, make it easier on us by changing the standards.    This verse does not say love your wife as well as the world.  This verse does not even say to love your wife merely better than the worldly men love theirs.  But to love just as Christ has loved.

Now, if you have the time, let me draw an application of this to show you how great this command is, and how poorly we fail at it.

  1. The standard of True Love set by Christ

Romans 5:6-8  “For while we were still weak, …Christ died for the ungodly”

This verse destroys the foolish love of this world that we have inherited.  Consider the people we were when Christ died for us.  We were ungodly, weak people.  Consider Peter, he denied Christ as his husband three times.  Yet, Christ died for him.  The disciples, all, left him to the Romans.  Christ still died for them.  For they were His, and He loved them.  Thomas actively disbelieved in the power of Christ.  Christ died for him.  There was a woman caught in the very act of adultery.  And Christ saved her from her accusers.  Consider this “right time” that Christ chose to die for us .  It was at this exact time that the disciples slept while Christ asked them to pray.  The exact time Peter denied Jesus.  It was the exact time that His future bride left him to the Romans.  It was then that He died.  This is so that you can measure how great His love is towards you.  He didn’t just die for you.  He died for you, an ungodly sinner.  He considered you, a sinner in rebellion, and yet had enough love in himself to bear all your sins.

  1. This love is radical, and perhaps ridiculous to the World.  But it is true love. Has your wife denied you publicly as her husband?  Love her as Christ loved the Church.  Has she failed to pray for you in your weakest hours?  Love her as Christ loved the Church.  Does she actively disbelieve in your ability or power?  Love her as Christ loved the Church.  Has she committed adultery?  Love her as Christ loved the Church.  Save her from her accusers, so that she might “sin no more.”  Because it is only in showing her the radical, free, powerful grace of Christ’s forgiveness that will free her from her sin.
  2. This is a hard thing for a people in our time.  We are not naturally inclined to do this.  If God is not sought by prayer, bible reading, and meditation then you will not obey this command because you simply won’t know this love in your own soul.  Husbands and boyfriends when you tell your wife you love her, then be mindful of what that means and what God expects of you by saying that.  You are saying that you will be the purest representation of Christ’s love for the church to her in this life (aside from the bible, that is).