Heroes of the Faith: Augustine (354-430 A.D.)
"You are the true, the Sovereign Joy!”
The distinguishing delight, and prayer, of “bring[ing children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), is witnessing their own faith in Christ. But what about those who struggle toward transformation for years, if not decades? One case in point was Monica, a North African (present day Algeria) dedicated Christian married to unbeliever Patricius, a middle-income farmer. What would become of the spiritual path of their son, Aurelius Augustine?
History--Augustine’s “Everyday” Life
Augustine did not follow his mother’s model, but was more “inflamed with desire for an [excess] of hell’s pleasures.” Although his father converted when Augustine was 16, the son was defiant, and, looking inwardly, took a mistress at age 17, became a father before 20, and lived unmatrimonially for 12 years. He also embraced Manichaeism, a gnostic, dualistic heresy, for 9 years. All along, however, as a traveling schoolmaster of rhetoric, his soul was restless. Something was missing, and he was searching and longing. His mother never stopped praying, and eventually convinced Augustine to leave his paramour. Two years later (age 31), in answer to his mother’s prayers, while reading Romans 13.13-14, his long, gradual journey toward regeneration was realized. He cried, “The scales fell off my eyes!” and he questioned himself, “Why not this very hour put an end to my sins?” His life turned upward and outward.
Heritage--Augustine’s Earthly Labors
Much like Paul, Augustine was dynamically driven toward serving the risen Christ. When he could have remained mired in selfish indiscretion, for such as time as this, Augustine turned, and left his selfless imprint. He returned to his homeland, became a monk, then bishop, and served the monastic community of Hippo for 44 years!! He never married, but was totally devoted to “. . . a band of Biblically saturated priests and bishops who were installed all over Africa, bringing renewal to the churches” (Piper). [His son suddenly died during the early years in Hippo.] His sermons were so espoused that at times he was dictating messages for two distinct books to two separate scribes simultaneously! All told, Augustine wrote 113 books, with The Confessions and The City of God (30 years in the writing!) his most recognized.
Horizons--Augustine’s Enduring Legacy
The long road from depravity in godless pleasures to delight in God-disciplined pursuits seemed endless, but became a pathway paved with jewels for centuries to come. We reap the benefits of his labors. Augustinians still minister in Hippo, (modern Anaga, Algeria). Augustine’s legacy is rooted in his determined devotion to serve Christ after decades of decadent debauchery and willful waywardness, mingled with fruitless following of fraudulent faithlessness. One lesson we parents can glean is--never give up on our children, but fight to the finish for their own faith, becoming prayer warriors and persistent witnesses!! Is it not worth it all to walk the whole way, so that, “We will not conceal [the Lord’s instruction] from [our] children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done” (Psalm 78.4)?
Recommended Reading For Further Focus:
Augustine, Aurelius. The City of God (Penguin Classics; Reprint edition, 2003).
Piper, John. The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin [Swans are not Silent] (Crossway, 2006).