Confessions by St. Augustine.

St. Augustine by Carlo Crivelli (1487-88).
Augustine of Hippo was a Christian theologian and philosopher who became Bishop of Hippo in around 395 A.D. He was born in 354 A.D. in Thagaste (now Souk Ahras, Algeria) to Patricius, a Pagan who converted to Christianity, and Monica, a Christian. His own conversion came in around the year 386, and in 397 - 400 he wrote his Confessions about his conversion and his youth. It's thought to be the first autobiography in Western Literature.

The work is divided into thirteen parts and the first nine focus on the religious aspects of St. Augustine's life. It begins,
Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite. And Thee would man praise; man, but a particle of Thy creation; man, that bears about him his mortality, the witness of his sin, the witness that Thou resistest the proud: yet would man praise Thee; he, but a particle of Thy creation. Thou awakest us to delight in Thy praise; for Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee. Grant me, Lord, to know and understand which is first, to call on Thee or to praise Thee? and, again, to know Thee or to call on Thee? for who can call on Thee, not knowing Thee? for he that knoweth Thee not, may call on Thee as other than Thou art. Or, is it rather, that we call on Thee that we may know Thee? but how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? or how shall they believe without a preacher? and they that seek the Lord shall praise Him: for they that seek shall find Him, and they that find shall praise Him. I will seek Thee, Lord, by calling on Thee; and will call on Thee, believing in Thee; for to us hast Thou been preached. My faith, Lord, shall call on Thee, which Thou hast given me, wherewith Thou hast inspired me, through the Incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of the Preacher.
In the first book Augustine then describes his boyhood in the context of Original Sin and the need for discipline to check the consequences of this. He goes on to write on the influence of others in the second book, describing how the company one keeps can lead us down a path away from God (he does this by exploring how and why he came to steal pears when in fact he never wanted for food). In the third book he writes on being a student in Carthage (Tunisia) and his studies on Manichaeism: Cleo gives a great explanation on her blog post on Confessions so I'll quote her:
Manicheanism:  a quasi-religion that taught a dualism of everything that is material is evil, and everything that is spirit is good.  Their beliefs caused them to take rather bizarre views of Christian teachings such as:  because God created a material world, he cannot be good; Jesus was did not become man because all material is evil, etc.
The Consecration of St Augustine
by Jaume Huguet (1466-75).
Augustine then writes on pride, his worsening sinfulness, and his inability to engage in the scripture, preferring fiction, especially tragedies, however Cicero's Hortensius (45 B.C.) leads him eventually to the Bible. In the fourth book he continues to write about the impact of his lack of faith, especially in the context of the loss of a close friend. He goes on to describe how he met Saint Ambrose, then Bishop of Milan, and how he came to influence his view of God, which we see further in the sixth book. Still, however, he is not wholly open to it despite finding various flaws in alternative philosophies and ways of life. It's not until the eighth book, when he sees the line "Not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy; but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its lusts" (Romans 13: 13-14) that he becomes truly open to Roman Catholicism. He is then baptised, and in the ninth book he compares his feelings for the death of his friend in the fourth book as a faithless man to the death of his mother when he is at last a man of faith.

In the final sections of the book Augustine continues to dwell on faith in practical terms, writing on the importance of introspection, prayer, and confession, as well as a lengthy piece on creation and the Book of Genesis. The book ends,
We therefore see these things which Thou madest, because they are: but they are, because Thou seest them. And we see without, that they are, and within, that they are good, but Thou sawest them there, when made, where Thou sawest them, yet to be made. And we were at a later time moved to do well, after our hearts had conceived of Thy Spirit; but in the former time we were moved to do evil, forsaking Thee; but Thou, the One, the Good God, didst never cease doing good. And we also have some good works, of Thy gift, but not eternal; after them we trust to rest in Thy great hallowing. But Thou, being the Good which needeth no good, art ever at rest, because Thy rest is Thou Thyself. And what man can teach man to understand this? or what Angel, an Angel? or what Angel, a man? Let it be asked of Thee, sought in Thee, knocked for at Thee; so, so shall it be received, so shall it be found, so shall it be opened. Amen.
I found this an especially difficult work (you can well imagine how nervous I am about reading The City of God) but it was undeniably a very beautiful bit of work, celebrating his conversion and encourages others to convert, offering a practical guide in fact. There's joyfulness in it, and a great deal of wisdom too. Augustine's Confessions is inspiring not simply in the religious sense, but as a piece of philosophy and theology, and his very eloquent expression of something essentially very personal. Augustine does not shy away from his sinful past, rather he uses it to encourage others and demonstrate how, after so much struggle, he reached an understanding of and with God.

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