The Confessions of St. Augustine is one of the greatest classics in religious literature. Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo. He wrote his confessions between 397 and 398 AD in order to describe how he abandoned his sinful life and turned to Christianity.
There are many English translations of The Confessions. I have been reading Maria Boulding’s translation of The Confessions and recommend this translation to those who want to read Augustine’s The Confessions for the first time.
The excerpt below is taken from Maria Boulding’s translation of the The Confessions (New York: New City Press, 1997):
I love you, Lord, with no doubtful mind but with absolute certainty. You pierced my heart with your word, and I fell in love with you. But the sky and the earth too, and everything in them-all these things around me are telling me that I should love you; and since they never cease to proclaim this to everyone, those who do not hear are left without excuse. But you, far above, will show mercy to anyone with whom you have already determined to deal mercifully, and will grant pity to whomsoever you choose. Were this not so, the sky and the earth would be proclaiming your praises to the deaf.
But what am I loving when I love you? Not beauty of body nor transient grace, not this fair tight which is now so friendly to my eyes, not melodious song in all its lovely harmonies, not the sweet fragrance of flowers or ointments or spices, not manna or honey, not limbs that draw me to carnal embrace: none of these do I love when I love my God. And yet I do love a kind of light, a kind of voice, a certain fragrance, a food and an embrace, when I love my God: a light, voice, fragrance, food and embrace for my inmost self, where something limited to no place shines into my mind, where something not snatched away by passing time sings for me, where something no breath blows away yields to me its scent, where there is savor undiminished by famished eating, and where I am clasped in a union from which no satiety can tear me away. This is what I love, when I love my God.
And what is this? I put my question to the earth, and it replied, “I am not he”; I questioned everything it held, and they confessed the same. I questioned the sea and the great deep, and the teeming live creatures that crawl, and they replied, “We are not Cod; seek higher.” I questioned the gusty winds, and every breeze with all its flying creatures told me, “Anaximenes was wrong: I am not God.” To the sky I put my question, to sun, moon, stars, but they denied me: “We are not the God you seek.” And to all things which stood around the portals of my flesh I said, “Tell me of my God. You are not he, but tell me something of him.” Then they lifted up their mighty voices and cried, “He made us.” My questioning was my attentive spirit, and their reply, their beauty.
Then toward myself I turned, and asked myself, “Who are you?” And I answered my own question: “A man.”
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary