Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book I/Chapter 1

Chapter I.—He Proclaims the Greatness of God, Whom He Desires to Seek and Invoke, Being Awakened by Him.

1. Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is no end.[1] And man, being a part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that Thou “resistest the proud,”[2]—yet man, this part of Thy creation, desires to praise Thee.[3] Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.[4] Lord, teach me to know and understand which of these should be first, to call on Thee, or to praise Thee; and likewise to know Thee, or to call upon Thee. But who is there that calls upon Thee without knowing Thee? For he that knows Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art. Or perhaps 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?”[5] And those who seek the Lord shall praise Him.[6] For those who seek shall find Him,[7] and those who find Him shall praise Him. Let me seek Thee, Lord, in calling on Thee, and call on Thee in believing in Thee; for Thou hast been preached unto us. O Lord, my faith calls on Thee,—that faith which Thou hast imparted to me, which Thou hast breathed into me through the incarnation of Thy Son, through the ministry of Thy preacher.[8]

Footnotes edit

  1. Ps. cxlv. 3, and cxlvii. 5.
  2. Jas. iv. 6, and 1 Pet. v. 5.
  3. Augustin begins with praise, and the whole book vibrates with praise. He says elsewhere (in Ps. cxlix.), that “as a new song fits not well an old man’s lips, he should sing a new song who is a new creature and is living a new life;” and so from the time of his new birth, the “new song” of praise went up from him, and that “not of the lip only,” but (ibid. cxlviii.) conscientia lingua vita.
  4. And the rest which the Christian has here is but an earnest of the more perfect rest hereafter, when, as Augustin says (De Gen. ad. Lit.. xii. 26), “all virtue will be to love what one sees, and the highest felicity to have what one loves.” [Watts, followed by Pusey, and Shedd, missed the paronomasia of the Latin: “cor nostrum inquietum est donec requiescat in Te,” by translating: “our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.” It is the finest sentence in the whole book, and furnishes one of the best arguments for Christianity as the only religion which leads to that rest in God.—P. S.]
  5. Rom. x. 14.
  6. Ps. xxii. 26.
  7. Matt. vii. 7.
  8. That is, Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, who was instrumental in his conversion (vi. sec. 1; viii. sec. 28, etc.). “Before conversion,” as Leighton observes on I Pet. ii. 1, 2, “wit or eloquence may draw a man to the word, and possibly prove a happy bait to catch him (as St. Augustin reports of his hearing St. Ambrose), but, once born again, then it is the milk itself that he desires for itself.”