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of holiness in Adam before the fall, and in himself and of renewed men in sanctification, the rationale of the connection between Adam's first sin and the depravity and misery of his posterity, and the relation of the Divine to human agency in moral acts,—yet there is often a natural feeling that even these can and must be explained. In consequence of this the mind is always on the stretch, restless in attempting untried methods of solving these difficulties. Besides this, there is a wider range of principles; they are complicated and often entangled with one another. An inquiry into the mode of the Divine existence or the person of Christ may be more sublime; but in proportion as the subject is complete in itself, and is disinvolved, it has less to dissatisfy the mind of the inquirer. This is one of those subjects which we are more willing to acknowledge may lie without the range of human inquiry,--something wholly beyond the reach of the most penetrating sagacity. Revelation is here felt and confessed to be exclusive authority.
But, however difficult is the subject of Anthropology, with none has the human mind ever grappled with more intense earnestness than it did with this in the fifth century. Little additional light was contributed for the succeeding 1,000 years, The limit of genius in those ages was the ability to understand and elucidate the speculative
results of that wonderful period. Among the theological writers of the fifth century none are so deserving to be studied as Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. God obviously raised him up to accomplish through him a particular work,—to defend the church from the corrupting inHuence of Pelagianism, and to give to subjective theology a scientific form. And there was a wonderful fitness between the instrument and the work to be done. It is not eulogy to say that few such intellects have ever adorned our race,fewer still have been the defenders of divine truth. ready to dispute with sharpest wits, best furnished with choicest eloquence and learning. For in him was most plentiful study, most exact knowledge of Holy Writ, a sharp and clear judgment, a wit admirably clear and piercing."* * Calvin, however profound or comprehensive and just as a systematizer, and though in him was even more“plentiful study” and “exact knowledge,” if not of "Holy Writ,” doubtless of general sciences, and of languages in particular, must for ever hold in the estimation of the Christian world an inferior rank. He had less genius-less spontaneity of thought. He holds the same relation to Augustine in theology which the younger Pitt does to the elder in eloquence, or Virgil to Homer in poetry. The judgment was equally sharp and clear, but the wit was not so quick and piercing. With Augustine the deep things of God welled up from the depths of the soul, from religious feelings of which Calvin's nature could not be the subject. Truth was first seen by Calvin and then felt. Augustine often perceived a doctrine to be true, because he had been conscious of its realization in his own experience. In this he resembled our Edwards.
* Lodovicus Vives.
It is not our design, nor are we qualified, to consider the works of Augustine generally. We shall confine our remarks to his Confessions. There are valid reasons why we select this from among his voluminous works, many of which were written expressly to explain and vindicate doctrines which will be brought under the notice of the reader of this article. The Confessions are a doctrinal narration of the author's personal experience, designed to honor the grace of God, setting forth the Divine love and the moral power of the gospel
. It is a concrete or subjective view of divine truth. It is pervaded by a solemn sense of the degree of his own guilt and the strength of his own depravity, which constantly reminds us of David's confessions in the 51st Psalm. He speaks of himself as a man needing and receiving the grace of God. His mind was not so ripe as when at a later period he composed some of his other works. But the Confessions are more truthful, because they are not controversial. They were also written in the strength of his manhood.* A sufficient time after his conversion had elapsed to furnish opportunity to re-examine his theological positions. The extraordinary excitement of mind which preceded and attended his conversion must have subsided, allowing his opinions to settle down into calm as well as honest convictions. They are worthy to be read with the persuasion that they are his actual experience. He was no enthusiast. He was incapable of this vicious element of character. His wit was too piercing and his judgment too sharp to live years under a religious delusion. They are thoroughly interesting to the Biblical scholar, reminding him ever and anon of God's mysterious providence, and of those striking delineations of the soul-history of wayward men, under the “ severe mercy” as well as healing grace of Him who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. His “great, but wild and ungoverned energies,"+ under the influence of temptations by which in early life he was tempest-driven, show the fear* A. D. 400, aged 46.
ful power of sin. No one can watch the progress of his soul,fiery lusts in violent conflict with the purifying and subduing grace of the Almighty, taming, regulating, and healing the soul till it finds sweet repose in the mercy and merits of Christ,without admiration of the might which is stronger than the strong man armed. Augustine's history shows what is in man, as ordinary minds cannot. It requires the arm of Vulcan grappling the sledge to disclose the form of the muscles in any arm. They all exist in the softest and feeblest, but they will not serve the artist as a model. Nor would Pelagius, his opponent, nor Alyppius, his friend and fellow-convert, furnish a copy from which to delineate human nature in its moral conflicts. There is no essential unlikeness in the principles of depravity in different men. Some are passionate and gentle, others irascible and hasty. Some men's sins are secret, others' open and noisy, going before to the judgment. But the principles are the same.
There is in neither the love of God till visited by the Spirit of grace. Both are of the earth, earthy. The meadow brook as little violates its law of declivity as the mountain torrent. The Mississippi, though it has less impetuosity than the Niagara, is scarcely less irresistible, and is as certainly lost in the same ocean's gulfs. There is often depth and strength not perceptible. While therefore in reading these Confessions we are sensible that all men's moral features are not as distinctly developed, we are not, on the other hand, to forget that as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. see himself while he looks upon other men, as well as know other men by considering his own inclinations.'
That which is born of the flesh is flesh. The same likeness also characterizes every Christian heart. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. We would use Augustine's history, both before and after his conversion, only as a painter would Vulcan's arm.
Another reason why the Confessions are selected is, that they are an unbiased testimony as to the doctrines then prevalent in the church. It is difficult to read a controversial work-as many of Augustine's later ones were—without the suspicion that the method of argument at least is warped by opposition. The agonist in adjusting himself to his antagonist often finds his position a false and fatal one. Augustine's opinions at the time he wrote the Confessions were not a discovery, doctrines just broached and promulgated. Tertullian 200 years before, Gregory of Nazianzum,t Hilary of Poitiers,I * Bp. Patrick † Died A. D. 390.
| Died A. D. 360.
"A man may
and Ambrose of Milan,* all held substantially the same opinions concerning sin and grace as Augustine. Nor is there any reason to suppose that the doctrines of these writers are essentially unlike, or in advance of, the theological views of the mass in their immediate communion. The theological opinions of Ambrose, Augustine's spiritual teacher, though exhibited in a less scientific form, were not opposed or displaced by his illustrious pupil and convert. The coin, though it dropped from the mint with angles not so sharp, wanted nothing in weight. Pelagianism, so called, always had, without doubt, its advocates in the Christian church. So had also Augustinism. The writings of the apostle Paul laid the foundation for such a tendency. And there have always been men who, like Augustine, " suffer impatiently the lot of man;" who “fret, sigh, weep, and go distracted ;" who “bear about a shattered and bleeding soul," and who find no place of repose. "Not in calm groves, not in games and music, nor in fragrant spots, nor in curious banquetings, nor in the pleasures of the bed and the couch, nor finally in books or poesy," do they find it. All things to such minds “ look ghastly, yea, the very light," when God's awful truth seizes the conscience with the authority of one who must be listened to and obeyed.
There are a few other facts in the history of Augustine which, to a right understanding of the Confessions, the reader needs to keep in mind. The age in which he lived had its own form of vices. One of his parents was a heathen,t the other a Christian. He was thoroughly instructed in heathen philosophy, especially in the Platonic, of which he was an admirer. He was for several years a Manichean, believing that sin is a substance,—the hulee of matter,—an eternal, unchangeable vitiosity, necessarily inhering in our bodies; that the soul is a portion of the Divinity, and is evilly affected by its union with the body, thus not only taking from sin its guilt, but destroying all morality. The whole picture therefore is that of a fiery spirit, bent on sinful indulgence, made war upon by the authority of God reiterated by the awful sanctions of conscience, and deepened by the fear of death and the final judgment. These are all seen near and distinct; with the conditions in Augustine's life just referred to, lying in the background scarcely less conspicuous, giving shape and size to those in the foreground, and rendering their peculiarities more striking and disagreeable. The reader should also keep
in mind that the book is not a * Died A. D. 398.
discussion, but confessions. And these confessions are made to God, and not to men, though written for the benefit of men; reminding us of the apostle, who, before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious, confesses, “ For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting."* It is a book of praise to the riches of Divine grace. Scarcely less instructive than Edwards's work on the Affettions, it is more devotional. The reader feels himself in the condition of one who accompanies a pardoned, penitent, grateful culprit into the private presence of the king, where, clasping the knees of his gracious sovereign, he pours out his soul in contrite and grateful confessions.
THE PROVIDENCES OF GOD WHICH CONTRIBUTED TO THE CONVERSION
Every man has a secret history. There is however much that is common in the principles of this history of different men. The places and incidents may greatly vary; but the more each one knows of the peculiar providences of others, the better he understands his own.
In this consists the peculiar charm of autobiography. To the Christian there is the additional interest, that he sees in it the hand of God. In entering the kingdom of Christ every believer is sensible of having been led by a way that he knew not. And it is a religious idea full of interest to know that God by his providences treats others on the same principles on which he treats ourselves. Though Augustine saw as clearly and believed as firmly as mortal mind can that believers are such according to an “election of grace,” yet he recognized with equal distinctness that such an election was only a part of a comprehensive and eternal plan, embracing the means as well as the gracious end. “Whom he predestinates, them he also calls.”+ And with the internal call of the Spirit and the Word, God's providences conspire. They not unfrequently lead the way.
In selecting a few of these providences in the life of Augustine as specimens, the first that seizes the attention is that of maternal influence. Monica was a female of extraordinary natural endowments. These were all unusually set apart to the service of God, especially to the religious training of her children, often travailing in birth for them as she saw them swerve from God. Though a woman of great personal in
* 1 Timothy i. 13-16.
† Romans viii. 30.
# B. ix. ch. 22.