Considered both a literary and a Christian devotional classic, Augustine’s Confessions is one of my favorite Christian books. I’ve read the book numerous times yet, like all great books, it continues to challenge me intellectually, morally, and spiritually.
Confessions gave birth to the autobiography, then a new literary genre in Western culture. The work chronicles Augustine’s intellectual, moral, and spiritual pilgrimage from paganism to Christianity. The title “Confessions” can be understood in a triple sense: Augustine’s candid and contrite confession of sin, his sincere confession of new-found faith, and his grateful confession of God’s greatness.
The content of Confessions may provide the most penetrating spiritual and psychological self-analysis of any work ever written. Suffusing his work with truly profound theological, philosophical, and apologetics insights, Augustine quoted and expounded the Scriptures throughout. He devoted the latter part of the book to an exegetical analysis of Genesis’ first chapters (the created world being the cosmic setting for the soul’s journey to God). Written in the form of a prayer to God (similar to the Psalms), the work also serves as thought-provoking devotional literature.
While Confessions records Augustine’s extraordinary life and spiritual pilgrimage, the book may really be about the human soul’s search for God. In reading it, people often feel they are reading about their own search for God. Confessions stands as one of the greatest Christian books ever written. It’s certainly a favorite of mine. And so I offer the following list:
My Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Confessions
All quotes are from my favorite edition: Augustine, Confessions, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1992). The quotes follow in chronological order only.
1. “Can any praise be worthy of the Lord’s majesty?” (Bk. I, 1, p. 21)
2. “Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you…. The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.” (Bk. I, 1, p. 21)
3. “...I was born into this life which leads to death—or should I say, this death which leads to life?” (Bk. I, 6, p. 25)
4. “For you are infinite and never change. In you ‘today’ never comes to an end: and yet our ‘today’ does come to an end in you, because time, as well as everything else, exists in you.” (Bk. I, 6, p. 27)
5. “But my sin was this, that I looked for pleasure, beauty, and truth not in him but in myself and his other creatures, and the search led me instead to pain, confusion, and error.” (Bk. I, 20, p. 40–41)
6. “In my youth I wandered away, too far from your sustaining hand, and created of myself a barren waste.” (Bk. II, 10, p. 52)
7. “But where was I when I looked for you? You were there before my eyes, but I had deserted even my own self. I could not find myself, much less find you.” (Bk. V, 2, p. 92)
8. “I was looking for you outside myself and I did not find the God of my own heart.” (Bk. VI, 1, p. 111)
9. “‘Where then is evil? What is its origin? How did it steal into the world?...Where then does evil come from, if God made all things and, because he is good, made them good too?’” (Bk. VII, 5, p. 138)
10. “Who am I? What kind of man am I? What evil have I not done? Or if there is evil that I have not done, what evil is there that I have not spoken? If there is any that I have not spoken, what evil is there that I have not willed to do?” (Bk. IX, 1, p. 181)
For a two-part article I wrote on the life and contributions of Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) see: http://www.reasons.org/augustine-hippo-part-1-pagan-cultist-skeptic-christian-sage.