Friday, February 09, 2018
The Vision (2.9.18): Augustine on Remaining Corruption
Note: Devotion taken from the afternoon sermon on January 26 on chapter six in the 1689 Baptist Confession
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).
The corruption of nature during this life doth remain in those that are regenerated” (2LBCF 6:5).
Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was an important early Christian pastor and theologian in North Africa. His writing had a deep influence on many of the Protestant Reformers, like Calvin, so that Reformed theology is often described as being “Augustinian.”
In a memoir titled The Confessions, Augustine reflected on his early life noting several instances from his childhood in which his conscience was bothered by sin. He recalls taking some things from the cupboard without asking his parent’s permission (“I pilfered from my parent’s cellar and table”—Book I, chapter XVIII). He cheated at games (“I sought dishonest victories”). He recalls how as a youth he and some other boys stole some pears from an orchard (“Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden”—Book Two, Chapter IV).
As an adult he entered into more flagrant sin, including taking several mistresses and fathering a son out of wedlock.
When he first heard the gospel Augustine hesitated, because he did not want to give up his lusts.
At one point, while under conviction to become a Christian, he prayed: “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet” (Book VIII, chapter VII).
Eventually, however, he was converted. It happened one day when he came under conviction of sin and went into a garden. He heard some children playing nearby and chanting, tolle lege (take up and read). And there on the bench where he sat was a Bible which he took up and opened, his eyes falling on Romans 13:13:
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
And this became the turning point.
His Confessions consists of 13 books (or sections). His conversion is told in Book VIII. But there are five more books.
At places in those remaining books, Augustine expresses sometimes his wonder, sometimes his consternation, that even after his conversion, though he had full assurance of it, he still had to battle against remaining corruption.
At one point, he says to God: “Thou commandest continence [purity of life]; give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt” (Book X, chapter XXIX).
Even though he, by discipline, refrained from outward flagrant sin, he noted that the images of these things were still fixed in his memory, and his mind would often drift there, particularly in his dreams.
At one point he says to God:
I am trusting that thou wilt perfect they mercies in me, to the fullness of that peace which both my inner and outward being shall have with thee when death is swallowed up in victory (Book X, Chapter XXX).
He later adds:
For my infirmities are many and great; indeed, they are many and very great. But thy medicine is still greater (Book X, Chapter XLIII).
These are, indeed, the sentiments of every redeemed saint, who recognizes the remaining corruption within him, the work of sanctification in him, and the hope of glory for him.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle