Okay, I lied. I am sorry. But I have an excuse. I am an addict, and we all know that addicts cannot be trusted when it comes to their addiction. I said in our last blog featuring Martin Luther, that we had now completed our series. I even said it strong and bold: “Read my lips, no more quotes.” But here we are again, being assailed with more quotes. But it is more than I am just a quote addict, although I do feel rather powerless when it comes to the question as to whether to quote or not (much like Kierkegaard said, “I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved.”). It is more than that. I really wanted to be done, but the deepest recesses of my soul kept crying out, “How can you have a series on quotes and not quote Augustine?” Answer: I couldn’t. I promise, though, this is the very last time. I promise.
And yet, I’ve tried to make this blog a little different. Some of the following quotes are absolutely for memorizing and sharing with others, but many of them are too long and involved. These longer quotes are for pondering and for pondering them again and again. And since I want you to see this as an addendum and not just another blog in the series, I am going to make this post even more different than the others. I am going to bless you with 21 quotes!
Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430), may be my favorite theologian ever. During his life, he had 86 books, letters or sermons published (containing over five million words). When considering the vast size of Augustine’s literary output, one (unknown to me) contemporary Augustinian scholar suggested that it would be the equivalent of an author today writing “a 300-page printed book every year for almost 40 years.” (source: The Augustinians of the Province of Australia). Just to add to that, my copy of his book, City of God, is a full 1091 pages. But his significance is felt even beyond that. Most reformed scholars see him as one of the theological fathers of the Reformation because he, again and again, emphasized grace and the need for salvation; and scholars also remark that it is not a coincidence that Luther was an Augustinian monk. Catholic scholars take note that Augustine is the patron saint of printers, theologians and brewers. Even the existentialists wanted to claim Augustine as one of their own (Sarah Bakewell attributes this to Augustine’s soul-searching characteristics). In short, Augustine was a brilliant, authentic, courageous, caring and deeply passionate pastor of Christ’s church. As I said, he is my favorite theologian.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce you to Saint Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo, in these 21 quotes. . . .
- “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds it’s rest in you.” (Bonus context: “Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and of Your wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Your creation, desires to praise You — man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that You resist the proud—yet man, this part of Your creation, desires to praise You. You move us to delight in praising You; for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”) (from Confessions)
- “And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”
- “The mind commands the body and is instantly obeyed. The mind commands itself and meets resistance.”
- “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.” (from Confessions)
- “You called and shouted and burst my deafness. You flashed, shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors, and I drew in breath and panted for You. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.” (from Confessions)
- “Yet had I a desire to commit robbery, and did so, compelled neither by hunger, nor poverty, but through a contempt for well-doing and a lustiness to iniquity. For I pilfered that of which I had already sufficient, and much better. Nor did I desire to enjoy what I pilfered, but the theft and sin itself. There was a pear tree close to our vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was tempting neither for its color nor its flavor. To shake and rob this, some of us wanton young fellows went late one night (having, according to our disgraceful habit, prolonged our games in the streets until then), and carried away great loads, not to eat ourselves, but to fling to the very swine, having only eaten some of them; and to do this pleased us all the more because it was not permitted. Behold my heart, O my God; behold my heart, which You had pity upon when in the bottomless pit. Behold, now, let my heart tell You what it was seeking there, that I should be gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it.” (from Confessions)
- “Do not abandon what You have begun in me, but go on to perfect all that remains unfinished.”
- “My soul is like a house, small for you to enter, but I pray you to enlarge it. It is in ruins, but I ask you to remake it. It contains much that you will not be pleased to see: this I know and do not hide. But who is to rid it of these things? There is no one but you.” (from Confessions)
- “Lord give me chastity and self-control—but not yet.” (from Confessions)
- “Love God and then do what you please.”
- “Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.”
- “The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.”
- “So anyone who thinks he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them. If, as I began by saying, he is misled by an idea of the kind that builds up love, which is the end of the commandment, he is misled in the same way as a walker who leaves his path by mistake but reaches the destination to which the path leads by going through a field. But he must be put right and shown how it is more useful not to leave the path, in case the habit of deviating should force him to go astray or even adrift.”
- “What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.”
- “In order to discover the character of people we have only to observe what they love.”
- “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”
- “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.”
- “I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.’”
- “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.”
- “Do not wish to go out; go back into yourself. Truth dwells in the inner person.”
- “There can only be two basic loves: . . . the love of God unto the forgetfulness of self or the love of self unto the forgetfulness and denial of God.”
I close with one last quote from Augustine. He wrote:
“Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times.”
With those wise words, may you make your times great. Thanks for reading.