Lift up your hearts. We lift them unto the Lord. Oh Lord, just as Augustine confessed unto you his life as a means of instructing his readers, so shalt I write this review in the self-same style of confession, for the one who confesseth and renounceth his sins finds mercy. However, as this be not a review of my life, but of Augustine’s book, Lord, I confess that I may on occasion make confessions that are confessions in style and be not from my heart. For we should hate the double-minded but love your law and let our yes be yes and no be no, but this I canst not do and maintain the confessional style Augustine used. And I confess also freely that one reason for choosing this style is that I plan on planting my tongue firmly in my cheek and making fun of this saint that you have put as a star in the firmament of the constellation of elders to train us up in the way to go that when we are old we will not depart from it. I further confess that I hope You and my readers both have a good laugh.

For though the fault of Augustine for the choice of all the copies I could locate to be in King James English it is not, the translation is nonetheless the mediator between Augustine and ourselves, and the only window through which we are able to experience him. But even if we see through a glass darkly (unless our Latin teacher didst not retire after our first year and thus we could perhaps read the original text) and know a cleaner glass existeth, we can at least enjoy some levity with our present situation. If you be able to find a cleaner glass I do highly recommend it, because reading philosophy and the ancient style of argument is hard enough without the need to constantly focus on understanding the grammar of sentences with words in different orders. On the other hand, although the Apostle Paul’s writings are hard to be understood in King James English, they are also hard to be understood in modern English. Likewise, schooled as Augustine was in rhetoric, being a professor of the same for many years before he left off the tiresome task of selling words for the delight of giving himself unto the Lord, drinking the milk of the Word of God and craving the solid food of the teaching about righteousness. So thus it would be not unreasonable to assume that Paul, also an educated Roman who would likely have studied rhetoric under one of Augustine’s precursors, would argue in a way similar to a professor of rhetoric in a later century.

I must confess that the incessant quoting of the Bible, which although You instructeth us to meditate on it day and night, it makest Augustine appear to me to be excessively religious and makest the reading of his words rather tiresome. Now there are two meanings for the word religious. One referest to an adherence to a set of beliefs and an active participation in a community worshiping a deity; this meaning I mean not. The second meaning referest to someone who speakest all the right words and by the same seemest to loveth the Lord with all his heart and with all his strength and with all his soul, but who dost not have the inward heart posture and so the words comest from the mind and comest not from the heart. Because what real person insertest unnecessary Bible verses which givest light and likewise givest understanding to the simple in his sentences where the adjectives goest, but which distractest from the argument, which wouldst be better conveyed by omitting the unnecessary quotes, for much dreaming and many words are meaningless? I confess that I struggle mightily, because anyone who comes up with the opening phrase “our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You” must have a different relationship than everyone I know. For I know not anyone who dost not struggle with “does God love me? why is this so painful?” unless they be the sort that quotest Bible verses and seemest to see worship as a fun activity (unlike the rest of us who think “fun” meanest games or movies or reminiscing or walking in the woods, not signing to someone we struggle to even experience) and who makest me think that they are working hard to convince themselves with activities to manufacture emotions that they havest not truly bubbling up within them. I realize that ancient rhetoric may value quoting respected forebears to show that you understand, for Chinese classical literature apparently has a lot of that, and certainly the apostles are fond of quoting the Old Testament, and even the Calormenes in C. S. Lewis’ books consider peppering their sentences with quotations by the sages to be a mark of education. Despite this, I confess that Augustine sounds repellingly religious, although I admit that he is probably just being a good speaker.

I confess that I was frustrated and rolled my eyes and even spoke my frustration out loud, when after relating how he became a Christian and how his mother died happy that God fulfillest her prayers and His vision to her of her son’s salvation, his next chapter (which the ancient writers callest a book) startest off by saying “I have not time to tell the long story of how I became a bishop even against my will but driven their by God, but instead I crave the depths of Your word and so I will explore it and confess it to you.” To which I added out loud something to the effect “after struggling through ten chapters of King James English philosophy, confessions, and unnecessary Bible verses, now I must spend three or four more hours ploughing through thy intellectual adventures because thou canst not be bothered to finish the life history that thou starteth and which I already invested ten hours trying to stay awake through thy Bible verses and King James English (though the English be not thy fault)? What kind of ‘confession’ wilt thou maketh in a Bible study? And all this because thou canst be bothered to continue thy life history and needest burden me with your exploration of the Bible, which I signed up not for.”

I confess also that sometimes I felt that the confessions were excessively lamenting in some places and rather light or missing in others. I confess that the episode concerning the theft of some pears in his youth, which he did not eat but wasted, purely because of the delight in the theft, and which he confessest his evil for a good many pages, left me thinking he had an overly developed sense of injuring God. He hast an excellent point that depriving his neighbor of the pears was evil enough, but to do it just for the pleasure of the theft and to completely waste the pears was pure evil. And C. S. Lewis describes in Perelandra the evil character torturing animals for the pure pleasure of it, so Augustine describes truth. But then he devotes a mere couple of regretful short confessional sentences to years of pleasuring himself with women. So stealing pears was gross evil, but stealing the hearts of women and doing nothing with thy son (until he showest up in your city just in time to be give his life to Jesus with thee and they friends) merits only a few sentences in a book called Confessions?!

Oh Lord, I must not confess only my difficulties with, but also the excellences of Augustine. For he is the first ancient author to examine his thoughts and his emotions, and to openest up his motivations and his failings to the outside world. And not only didst he invent the autobiography, but he wast not concerned with the events of his life or even his actions, but the motivations behind his actions. Truly Thy law givest light and givest understanding to the simple and transformest us by the renewing of our minds, for who but a follower of Jesus, the lamb who taketh away the sins of the world, could demonstrate by example Thy command to confesseth your sins to each other and prayeth for each other that you maye be healeth and bringeth to light what is hidden in the darkness and exposeth the motives of the heart? For apart from the safety we have in You because in Christ we haveth redemption, the forgiveness of sins how canst we expose our inward darkness to others, let alone to the world? Despite sounding overly religious (whether he be or be not that way), Augustine offers his life as an example that Thou are the bringer of peace and from his example that we findeth our rest in Thee.

I do confess that he is a great philosopher, and while not as engaging as Socrates, who through the mediation of Plato was practically entertaining to read as well as instructive, Augustine is legitimately insightful. He observest that we are unable to find rest outside of God because everything else rests not (that is, they changest). He observest that in some ways our sin is that we departed from our hearts and are now astray, and that God calleth us to return back our own hearts. He camest to the conclusion that astrology was worthless when two friends had children in their houses: the wife of one friend gavest birth to his child, and at the same time in the other house, a slave woman gavest birth to a child; the exact same position of the star must needs foretell a noble future for one child and a base future for the other. He addressest the cause of evil, which is our own free will. He talkest at great length about Genesis 1, and arguest that when the heavens and earth were formless and void, that they were made of their final substances (“heaven” being the bodiless intelligences, since the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s but the earth is given to men) but in a form that was not nothing, but not formed either, being of the final substances and formable into what they eventually became. It seemeth to me that C. S. Lewis, who surely reading Augustine (and in the original Latin) incorporated this idea in the creation of Narnia, where anything planted in the earth grew up into a tree of that sort. And he notes that God calls everything “good” individually, but “very good” in aggregate as a whole.

I confess that although Confessions is a struggle to read (at least in antique English), it dost get interesting when Augustine’s life progresses to the point where he took notes. And I confess that his philosophy is often quite new, particularly to modern ears who think differently and have not been exposed to older ways of thought. Indeed, Augustine soundest quite modern in his thinking sometimes, as there is nothing new under the sun, so the things that people think about are the same. I confess that this saint is justifiably still in print and that anyone who hast read him not is missing out on timeless wisdom. I strongly recommend the reader spendest the time to find a modern translation. This is not a hundred year book, it is verily a thousand year book, and contains a wisdom of a sort uncommonly found.

Review: 10
The constant Bible quotes comest off as religious and often obscurest the argument. And the last three chapters, whilst an interesting take on Genesis 1, seemest to be written to prove the Manichees wrong, which is no longer relevant to the modern reader. However, Augustine’s inner dialog and his philosophical observations givest a fresh perspective of what it meanest to be human and how we relatest with God. I submit that few of us examineth the our lives closely enough to draw any conclusions, and Augustine offerest a lesson in “the examined life” (which is the one worth living), and it is his thinking that inspirest me to give this top marks, despite some major failings. It is an examination that really must be experienced rather than ideas that canst be communicated.