AUTHOR: Augustine
PUBLISHED ON: March 26, 2003

CONFESSIONS and ENCHIRIDION by SAINT AUGUSTINE Digitized by Harry Plantinga Scanned from an uncopyrighted 1955 Westminster Press
edition, Vol. VII of the Library of Christian Classics,
printed in the United States. This text is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN, posted to Wiretap 7/94.
Newly translated and edited by ALBERT C. OUTLER, Ph.D., D.D. Professor of Theology
Perkins School of Theology
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, Texas
First published MCMLV Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 55-5021
                        Introduction LIKE A COLOSSUS BESTRIDING TWO WORLDS, Augustine stands as the last patristic and the first medieval father of Western Christianity.  He gathered together and conserved all the main motifs of Latin Christianity from Tertullian to Ambrose; he appropriated the heritage of Nicene orthodoxy; he was a Chalcedonian before Chalcedon and he drew all this into an unsystematic synthesis which is still our best mirror of the heart and mind of the Christian community in the Roman Empire.  More than this, he freely received and deliberately reconsecrated the
religious philosophy of the Greco-Roman world to a new apologetic use in maintaining the intelligibility of the Christian proclamation.  Yet, even in his role as summator of tradition, he was no mere eclectic.  The center of his “system” is in the Holy Scriptures, as they ordered and moved his heart and mind.  It was in Scripture that, first and last, Augustine found the focus of
his religious authority. At the same time, it was this essentially conservative genius who recast the patristic tradition into the new pattern by which European Christianity would be largely shaped and who, with relatively little interest in historical detail, wrought out the first comprehensive “philosophy of history.” Augustine regarded
himself as much less an innovator than a summator.  He was less a reformer of the Church than the defender of the Church#39;s faith.  His own self-chosen project was to save Christianity from the disruption of heresy and the calumnies of the pagans, and, above everything else, to renew and exalt the faithful hearing of the gospel of man#39;s utter need and God#39;s abundant grace.  But the unforeseen result of this enterprise was to furnish the motifs of the Church#39;s piety and doctrine for the next thousand years and more.  Wherever one touches the Middle Ages, he finds the marks of Augustine#39;s influence, powerful and pervasive even Aquinas is more of an Augustinian at heart than a “proper” Aristotelian.  In the Protestant Reformation, the evangelical elements in Augustine#39;s thought were appealed to in condemnation of the corruptions of popular Catholicism yet even those corruptions had a certain right of appeal to some of the non-evangelical aspects of Augustine#39;s thought and life.  And, still today, in the important theological revival of our own time, the influence of Augustine is obviously one of the most potent and productive impulses at work.
A succinct characterization of Augustine is impossible, not
only because his thought is so extraordinarily complex and his
expository method so incurably digressive, but also because
throughout his entire career there were lively tensions and
massive prejudices in his heart and head.  His doctrine of God
holds the Plotinian notions of divine unity and remotion in
tension with the Biblical emphasis upon the sovereign God#39;s active
involvement in creation and redemption.  For all his devotion to
Jesus Christ, this theology was never adequately Christocentric,
and this reflects itself in many ways in his practical conception
of the Christian life.  He did not invent the doctrines of
original sin and seminal transmission of guilt but he did set them
as cornerstones in his “system,” matching them with a doctrine of
infant baptism which cancels, ex opere operato, birth sin and
hereditary guilt.  He never wearied of celebrating God#39;s abundant
mercy and grace but he was also fully persuaded that the vast
majority of mankind are condemned to a wholly just and appalling
damnation.  He never denied the reality of human freedom and never
allowed the excuse of human irresponsibility before God but
against all detractors of the primacy of God#39;s grace, he
vigorously insisted on both double predestination and irresistible
    For all this the Catholic Church was fully justified in
giving Augustine his aptest title, Doctor Gratiae.  The central
theme in all Augustine#39;s writings is the sovereign God of grace
and the sovereign grace of God.  Grace, for Augustine, is God#39;s
freedom to act without any external necessity whatsoever to act
in love beyond human understanding or control; to act in creation,
judgment, and redemption; to give his Son freely as Mediator and
Redeemer; to endue the Church with the indwelling power and
guidance of the Holy Spirit; to shape the destinies of all
creation and the ends of the two human societies, the “city of
earth” and the “city of God.” Grace is God#39;s unmerited love and
favor, prevenient and occurrent.  It touches man#39;s inmost heart
and will.  It guides and impels the pilgrimage of those called to
be faithful.  It draws and raises the soul to repentance, faith,
and praise.  It transforms the human will so that it is capable of
doing good.  It relieves man#39;s religious anxiety by forgiveness
and the gift of hope.  It establishes the ground of Christian
humility by abolishing the ground of human pride.  God#39;s grace
became incarnate in Jesus Christ, and it remains immanent in the
Holy Spirit in the Church.
    Augustine had no system but he did have a stable and
coherent Christian outlook.  Moreover, he had an unwearied, ardent
concern: man#39;s salvation from his hopeless plight, through the
gracious action of God#39;s redeeming love.  To understand and
interpret this was his one endeavor, and to this task he devoted
his entire genius.
    He was, of course, by conscious intent and profession, a
Christian theologian, a pastor and teacher in the Christian
community.  And yet it has come about that his contributions to
the larger heritage of Western civilization are hardly less
important than his services to the Christian Church. He was far
and away the best if not the very first psychologist in the
ancient world.  His observations and descriptions of human motives
and emotions, his depth analyses of will and thought in their
interaction, and his exploration of the inner nature of the human
self these have established one of the main traditions in
European conceptions of human nature, even down to our own time. 
Augustine is an essential source for both contemporary depth
psychology and existentialist philosophy.  His view of the shape
and process of human history has been more influential than any
other single source in the development of the Western tradition
which regards political order as inextricably involved in moral
order.  His conception of a societas as a community identified and
held together by its loyalties and love has become an integral
part of the general tradition of Christian social teaching and the
Christian vision of “Christendom.” His metaphysical explorations
of the problems of being, the character of evil, the relation of
faith and knowledge, of will and reason, of time and eternity, of
creation and cosmic order, have not ceased to animate and enrich
various philosophic reflections throughout the succeeding
centuries.  At the same time the hallmark of the Augustinian
philosophy is its insistent demand that reflective thought issue
in practical consequence; no contemplation of the end of life
suffices unless it discovers the means by which men are brought to
their proper goals.  In sum, Augustine is one of the very few men
who simply cannot be ignored or depreciated in any estimate of
Western civilization without serious distortion and impoverishment
of one#39;s historical and religious understanding.
    In the space of some forty-four years, from his conversion in
Milan (A.D.  386) to his death in Hippo Regius (A.D.  430),
Augustine wrote mostly at dictation a vast sprawling library
of books, sermons, and letters, the remains of which (in the
Benedictine edition of St.  Maur) fill fourteen volumes as they
are reprinted in Migne, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series
Latina (Vols.  32-45).  In his old age, Augustine reviewed his
authorship (in the Retractations) and has left us a critical
review of ninety-three of his works he judged most important. 
Even a cursory glance at them shows how enormous was his range of
interest.  Yet almost everything he wrote was in response to a
specific problem or an actual crisis in the immediate situation. 
One may mark off significant developments in his thought over this
twoscore years, but one can hardly miss the fundamental
consistency in his entire life#39;s work.  He was never interested in
writing a systematic summa theologica, and would have been
incapable of producing a balanced digest of his multifaceted
teaching.  Thus, if he is to be read wisely, he must be read
widely and always in context, with due attention to the
specific aim in view in each particular treatise. 
    For the general reader who wishes to approach Augustine as
directly as possible, however, it is a useful and fortunate thing
that at the very beginning of his Christian ministry and then
again at the very climax of it, Augustine set himself to focus his
experience and thought into what were, for him, summings up.  The
result of the first effort is the Confessions, which is his most
familiar and widely read work.  The second is in the Enchiridion,
written more than twenty years later.  In the Confessions, he
stands on the threshold of his career in the Church. In the
Enchiridion, he stands forth as triumphant champion of orthodox
Christianity.  In these two works the nearest equivalent to
summation in the whole of the Augustinian corpus we can find
all his essential themes and can sample the characteristic flavor
of his thought.
    Augustine was baptized by Ambrose at Milan during Eastertide,
A.D.  387.  A short time later his mother, Monica, died at Ostia
on the journey back to Africa.  A year later, Augustine was back
in Roman Africa living in a monastery at Tagaste, his native town. 
In 391, he was ordained presbyter in the church of Hippo Regius (a
small coastal town nearby).  Here in 395 with grave misgivings
on his own part (cf. Sermon CCCLV, 2) and in actual violation of
the eighth canon of Nicea (cf. Mansi, Sacrorum conciliorum, II,
671, and IV, 1167) he was consecrated assistant bishop to the
aged Valerius, whom he succeeded the following year.  Shortly
after he entered into his episcopal duties he began his
Confessions, completing them probably in 398 (cf. De Labriolle, I,
vi (see Bibliography), and di Capua, Miscellanea Agostiniana, II,
    Augustine had a complex motive for undertaking such a self-
analysis.[1]  His pilgrimage of grace had led him to a most
unexpected outcome.  Now he felt a compelling need to retrace the
crucial turnings of the way by which he had come.  And since he
was sure that it was God#39;s grace that had been his prime mover on
that way, it was a spontaneous expression of his heart that cast
his self-recollection into the form of a sustained prayer to God.
    The Confessions are not Augustine#39;s autobiography.  They are,
instead, a deliberate effort, in the permissive atmosphere of
God#39;s felt presence, to recall those crucial episodes and events
in which he can now see and celebrate the mysterious actions of
God#39;s prevenient and provident grace.  Thus he follows the
windings of his memory as it re-presents the upheavals of his
youth and the stages of his disorderly quest for wisdom.  He omits
very much indeed.  Yet he builds his successive climaxes so
skillfully that the denouement in Book VIII is a vivid and
believable convergence of influences, reconstructed and “placed”
with consummate dramatic skill.  We see how Cicero#39;s Hortensius
first awakened his thirst for wisdom, how the Manicheans deluded
him with their promise of true wisdom, and how the Academics upset
his confidence in certain knowledge how they loosed him from
the dogmatism of the Manicheans only to confront him with the
opposite threat that all knowledge is uncertain.  He shows us (Bk.
V, Ch. X, 19) that almost the sole cause of his intellectual
perplexity in religion was his stubborn, materialistic prejudice
that if God existed he had to exist in a body, and thus had to
have extension, shape, and finite relation.  He remembers how the
“Platonists” rescued him from this “materialism” and taught him
how to think of spiritual and immaterial reality and so to
become able to conceive of God in non-dualistic categories.  We
can follow him in his extraordinarily candid and plain report of
his Plotinian ecstasy, and his momentary communion with the One
(Book VII).  The “Platonists” liberated him from error, but they
could not loose him from the fetters of incontinence.  Thus, with
a divided will, he continues to seek a stable peace in the
Christian faith while he stubbornly clings to his pride and
    In Book VIII, Augustine piles up a series of remembered
incidents that inflamed his desire to imitate those who already
seemed to have gained what he had so long been seeking.  First of
all, there had been Ambrose, who embodied for Augustine the
dignity of Christian learning and the majesty of the authority of
the Christian Scriptures.  Then Simplicianus tells him the moving
story of Victorinus (a more famous scholar than Augustine ever
hoped to be), who finally came to the baptismal font in Milan as
humbly as any other catechumen.  Then, from Ponticianus he hears
the story of Antony and about the increasing influence of the
monastic calling.  The story that stirs him most, perhaps, relates
the dramatic conversion of the two “special agents of the imperial
police” in the garden at Treves two unlikely prospects snatched
abruptly from their worldly ways to the monastic life.
    He makes it plain that these examples forced his own feelings
to an intolerable tension.  His intellectual perplexities had
become resolved; the virtue of continence had been consciously
preferred; there was a strong desire for the storms of his breast
to be calmed; he longed to imitate these men who had done what he
could not and who were enjoying the peace he longed for.
    But the old habits were still strong and he could not muster
a full act of the whole will to strike them down.  Then comes the
scene in the Milanese garden which is an interesting parallel to
Ponticianus#39; story about the garden at Treves.  The long struggle
is recapitulated in a brief moment; his will struggles against and
within itself.  The trivial distraction of a child#39;s voice,
chanting, “Tolle, lege,”  precipitates the resolution of the
conflict.  There is a radical shift in mood and will, he turns
eagerly to the chance text in Rom. 13:13 and a new spirit rises
in his heart.
    After this radical change, there was only one more past event
that had to be relived before his personal history could be seen
in its right perspective.  This was the death of his mother and
the severance of his strongest earthly tie.  Book IX tells us this
story.  The climactic moment in it is, of course, the vision at
Ostia where mother and son are uplifted in an ecstasy that
parallels but also differs significantly from the Plotinian
vision of Book VII.  After this, the mother dies and the son who
had loved her almost too much goes on alone, now upheld and led by
a greater and a wiser love.
    We can observe two separate stages in Augustine#39;s
“conversion.” The first was the dramatic striking off of the
slavery of incontinence and pride which had so long held him from
decisive commitment to the Christian faith.  The second was the
development of an adequate understanding of the Christian faith
itself and his baptismal confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and
Saviour.  The former was achieved in the Milanese garden.  The
latter came more slowly and had no “dramatic moment.” The
dialogues that Augustine wrote at Cassiciacum the year following
his conversion show few substantial signs of a theological
understanding, decisively or distinctively Christian.  But by the
time of his ordination to the presbyterate we can see the basic
lines of a comprehensive and orthodox theology firmly laid out. 
Augustine neglects to tell us (in 398) what had happened in his
thought between 385 and 391.  He had other questions, more
interesting to him, with which to wrestle.
    One does not read far in the Confessions before he recognizes
that the term “confess” has a double range of meaning.  On the one
hand, it obviously refers to the free acknowledgment, before God,
of the truth one knows about oneself and this obviously meant,
for Augustine, the “confession of sins.” But, at the same time,
and more importantly, confiteri means to acknowledge, to God, the
truth one knows about God.  To confess, then, is to praise and
glorify God; it is an exercise in self-knowledge and true humility
in the atmosphere of grace and reconciliation.
    Thus the Confessions are by no means complete when the
personal history is concluded at the end of Book IX.  There are
two more closely related problems to be explored: First, how does
the finite self find the infinite God (or, how is it found of
him?)?  And, secondly, how may we interpret God#39;s action in
producing this created world in which such personal histories and
revelations do occur?  Book X, therefore, is an exploration of
_man#39;s way to God_, a way which begins in sense experience but
swiftly passes beyond it, through and beyond the awesome mystery
of memory, to the ineffable encounter between God and the soul in
man#39;s inmost subject-self.  But such a journey is not complete
until the process is reversed and man has looked as deeply as may
be into the mystery of creation, on which all our history and
experience depend.  In Book XI, therefore, we discover why _time_
is such a problem and how “In the beginning God created the
heavens and the earth” is the basic formula of a massive Christian
metaphysical world view.  In Books XII and XIII, Augustine
elaborates, in loving patience and with considerable allegorical
license, the mysteries of creation exegeting the first chapter
of Genesis, verse by verse, until he is able to relate the whole
round of creation to the point where we can view the drama of
God#39;s enterprise in human history on the vast stage of the cosmos
itself.  The Creator is the Redeemer!  Man#39;s end and the beginning
meet at a single point!
    The Enchiridion is a briefer treatise on the grace of God and
represents Augustine#39;s fully matured theological perspective
after the magnificent achievements of the De Trinitate and the
greater part of the De civitate Dei, and after the tremendous
turmoil of the Pelagian controversy in which the doctrine of grace
was the exact epicenter.  Sometime in 421, Augustine received a
request from one Laurentius, a Christian layman who was the
brother of the tribune Dulcitius (for whom Augustine wrote the De
octo dulcitii quaestionibus in 423-425).  This Laurentius wanted a
handbook (enchiridion)  that would sum up the essential Christian
teaching in the briefest possible form.  Augustine dryly comments
that the shortest complete summary of the Christian faith is that
God is to be served by man in faith, hope, and love.  Then,
acknowledging that this answer might indeed be _too_ brief, he
proceeds to expand it in an essay in which he tries unsuccessfully
to subdue his natural digressive manner by imposing on it a
patently artificial schematism.  Despite its awkward form,
however, the Enchiridion is one of the most important of all of
Augustine#39;s writings, for it is a conscious effort of the
theological magistrate of the Western Church to stand on final
ground of testimony to the Christian truth.
    For his framework, Augustine chooses the Apostles#39; Creed and
the Lord#39;s Prayer.  The treatise begins, naturally enough, with a
discussion of God#39;s work in creation.  Augustine makes a firm
distinction between the comparatively unimportant knowledge of
nature and the supremely important acknowledgment of the Creator
of nature.  But creation lies under the shadow of sin and evil and
Augustine reviews his famous (and borrowed!) doctrine of the
privative character of evil.  From this he digresses into an
extended comment on error and lying as special instances of evil. 
He then returns to the hopeless case of fallen man, to which God#39;s
wholly unmerited grace has responded in the incarnation of the
Mediator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  The questions about the
appropriation of God#39;s grace lead naturally to a discussion of
baptism and justification, and beyond these, to the Holy Spirit
and the Church. Augustine then sets forth the benefits of
redeeming grace and weighs the balance between faith and good
works in the forgiven sinner.  But redemption looks forward toward
resurrection, and Augustine feels he must devote a good deal of
energy and subtle speculation to the questions about the manner
and mode of the life everlasting.  From this he moves on to the
problem of the destiny of the wicked and the mystery of
predestination.  Nor does he shrink from these grim topics;
indeed, he actually _expands_ some of his most rigid ideas of
God#39;s ruthless justice toward the damned.  Having thus treated the
Christian faith and Christian hope, he turns in a too-brief
concluding section to the virtue of Christian love as the heart of
the Christian life.  This, then, is the “handbook” on faith, hope,
and love which he hopes Laurence will put to use and not leave as
“baggage on his bookshelf.”
    Taken together, the Confessions and the Enchiridion give us
two very important vantage points from which to view the
Augustinian perspective as a whole, since they represent both his
early and his mature formulation.  From them, we can gain a
competent though by no means complete introduction to the
heart and mind of this great Christian saint and sage.  There are
important differences between the two works, and these ought to be
noted by the careful reader.  But all the main themes of
Augustinian Christianity appear in them, and through them we can
penetrate to its inner dynamic core.
    There is no need to justify a new English translation of
these books, even though many good ones already exist.  Every
translation is, at best, only an approximation and an
interpretation too.  There is small hope for a translation to end
all translations.  Augustine#39;s Latin is, for the most part,
comparatively easy to read.  One feels directly the force of his
constant wordplay, the artful balancing of his clauses, his
laconic use of parataxis, and his deliberate involutions of
thought and word order.  He was always a Latin rhetor; artifice of
style had come to be second nature with him even though the
Latin scriptures were powerful modifiers of his classical literary
patterns.  But it is a very tricky business to convey such a Latin
style into anything like modern English without considerable
violence one way or the other.  A literal rendering of the text is
simply not readable English.  And this falsifies the text in
another way, for Augustine#39;s Latin is eminently readable!  On the
other side, when one resorts to the unavoidable paraphrase there
is always the open question as to the point beyond which the
thought itself is being recast.  It has been my aim and hope that
these translations will give the reader an accurate medium of
contact with Augustine#39;s temper and mode of argumentation.  There
has been no thought of trying to contrive an English equivalent
for his style.  If Augustine#39;s ideas come through this translation
with positive force and clarity, there can be no serious reproach
if it is neither as eloquent nor as elegant as Augustine in his
own language.  In any case, those who will compare this
translation with the others will get at least a faint notion of
how complex and truly brilliant the original is!
    The sensitive reader soon recognizes that Augustine will not
willingly be inspected from a distance or by a neutral observer. 
In all his writings there is a strong concern and moving power to
involve his reader in his own process of inquiry and perplexity. 
There is a manifest eagerness to have him share in his own flashes
of insight and his sudden glimpses of God#39;s glory.  Augustine#39;s
style is deeply personal; it is therefore idiomatic, and often
colloquial.  Even in his knottiest arguments, or in the
labyrinthine mazes of his allegorizing (e.g., Confessions, Bk.
XIII, or Enchiridion, XVIII), he seeks to maintain contact with
his reader in genuine respect and openness.  He is never content
to seek and find the truth in solitude.  He must enlist his
fellows in seeing and applying the truth as given.  He is never
the blind fideist; even in the face of mystery, there is a
constant reliance on the limited but real powers of human reason,
and a constant striving for clarity and intelligibility.  In this
sense, he was a consistent follower of his own principle of
“Christian Socratism,” developed in the De Magistro and the De
catechezandis rudibus. 
    Even the best of Augustine#39;s writing bears the marks of his
own time and there is much in these old books that is of little
interest to any but the specialist.  There are many stones of
stumbling in them for the modern secularist and even for the
modern Christian!  Despite all this, it is impossible to read him
with any attention at all without recognizing how his genius and
his piety burst through the limitations of his times and his
language and even his English translations!  He grips our
hearts and minds and enlists us in the great enterprise to which
his whole life was devoted: the search for and the celebration of
God#39;s grace and glory by which his faithful children are sustained
and guided in their pilgrimage toward the true Light of us all.
    The most useful critical text of the Confessions is that of
Pierre de Labriolle (fifth edition, Paris, 1950).  I have collated
this with the other major critical editions: Martin Skutella, S. 
Aureli Augustini Confessionum Libri Tredecim (Leipzig, 1934)
itself a recension of the Corpus Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum
Latinorum XXXIII text of Pius Knoll (Vienna, 1896) and the
second edition of John Gibb and William Montgomery (Cambridge,
    There are two good critical texts of the Enchiridion and I
have collated them: Otto Scheel, Augustins Enchiridion (zweite
Auflage, Tubingen, 1930), and Jean Riviere, Enchiridion in the
Bibliotheque Augustinienne, Oeuvres de S.  Augustin, premiere
serie: Opuscules, IX: Exposes generaux de la foi (Paris, 1947).
    It remains for me to express my appreciation to the General
Editors of this Library for their constructive help; to Professor
Hollis W.  Huston, who read the entire manuscript and made many
valuable suggestions; and to Professor William A.  Irwin, who
greatly aided with parts of the Enchiridion.  These men share the
credit for preventing many flaws, but naturally no responsibility
for those remaining.  Professors Raymond P.  Morris, of the Yale
Divinity School Library; Robert Beach, of the Union Theological
Seminary Library; and Decherd Turner, of our Bridwell Library here
at Southern Methodist University, were especially generous in
their bibliographical assistance.  Last, but not least, Mrs. 
Hollis W.  Huston and my wife, between them, managed the difficult
task of putting the results of this project into fair copy.  To
them all I am most grateful.
      AUGUSTINE#39;S TESTIMONY CONCERNING THE CONFESSIONS I.  THE Retractations, II, 6 (A.D.  427)     1.  My Confessions, in thirteen books, praise the righteous
and good God as they speak either of my evil or good, and they are
meant to excite men#39;s minds and affections toward him.  At least
as far as I am concerned, this is what they did for me when they
were being written and they still do this when read.  What some
people think of them is their own affair [ipse viderint];  but I
do know that they have given pleasure to many of my brethren and
still do so.  The first through the tenth books were written about
myself; the other three about Holy Scripture, from what is written
there, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,[2]
even as far as the reference to the Sabbath rest.[3]
    2.  In Book IV, when I confessed my soul#39;s misery over the
death of a friend and said that our soul had somehow been made one
out of two souls, “But it may have been that I was afraid to die,
lest he should then die wholly whom I had so greatly loved” (Ch.
VI, 11) this now seems to be more a trivial declamation than a
serious confession, although this inept exp

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