One of the great figures of history meets us at this period, Augustine (354-430), whose teachings have left an indelible mark on all succeeding ages. In his voluminous writings and especially in his "Confessions", Augustine reveals himself in so intimate a way as to give the impression of being an acquaintance and a friend. A native of Numidia, he describes his early surroundings, thoughts, and impressions. His saintly mother, Monica, lives again in his pages as we read of her
prayers for him, of her early hopes, and of her later sorrow as he grew up in a sinful manner of life, of her faith in his eventual salvation, strengthened by a vision and by the wise counsel of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. His father was more concerned for his material, worldly advancement.
Though seeking light he found himself hopelessly bound by a sinful, self-indulgent life. For a time he thought he had found deliverance in Manichaeism, but soon perceived its inconsistency and weakness. He was affected by the preaching of Ambrose, but yet found no peace. When he was 32 years of age and was employed as a teacher of rhetoric in Milan, he had reached a desperate state of distress, and
then, to use his own words: "I flung myself down, how I know not, under a certain fig-tree, giving free course to my tears.... I sent up these sorrowful cries, 'How long, how long? To-morrow and to-morrow? Why not now? Why is there not this hour an end to my uncleanness?' I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when lo, I heard the voice as of a boy or girl, I know not which, coming from a neighbouring house and oft repeating, 'Take up and read, take up and read.' Immediately my countenance was changed, and I began most earnestly to consider whether it was usual for children in any kind of game to sing such words, nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So, restraining the torrent of my tears, I rose up, interpreting it no other way than as a command to me from Heaven to open the book, and to read the first chapter I should light upon.... I grasped,
opened, and in silence read that paragraph on which my eyes first fell--'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, to fulfil the lusts thereof.' No further would I read, nor did I need, for instantly, as the sentence ended--by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart--all gloom of doubt vanished away."
This, his conversion, caused the greatest joy, but no surprise, to his praying mother Monica, who, as they were returning to Africa a year later, died in peace. Augustine was baptised by Ambrose in Milan (387) and became later Bishop of Hippo (now Bona) in North Africa (395).
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
The Pilgrim Church: The Conversion of Augustine
Here's another excerpt from 'The Pilgrim Church' by E.H. Broadbent, about the conversion of Augustine, which sounds similar to the conversion stories of St. Patrick (who was not Roman Catholic, but came from the Celtic line which descended from very early evangelism in the British Isles) and of Charles Spurgeon.