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These lectures were given at the invitation of the Committee of Manchester College during Hilary Term of 1922.
ST. AUGUSTINE'S CONFESSIONS The main purpose of a theological college is to train students for the Christian ministry. The original college was the one which Jesus formed when, by the shores of Galilee, he called Peter and Andrew and James and John from their nets, and prepared them to become fishers of men. There was probably no set course of study, but Jesus could assume in his disciples, as in his hearers generally, a knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, and much of his time in the company of his disciples must have been spent in explaining these Scriptures to them in the light of his own Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps the account of his talk with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is reminiscent of his method : “ Beginning from Moses and from all the prophets he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke xxiv. 27.)
Since the days when Jesus took in hand the training of the Twelve, other scriptures have been added to the Old Testament ones for the study of his ministers and the edification of his Church. There was, first, the New Testament, containing the records of his life and teaching and the writings of St. Paul and other apostles and early disciples. And, secondly, there are the books of Christian devotion that have come into existence since the canon of the New Testament was closed. It is profoundly
important that ministers of religion should be familiar with this devotional literature, which gives true and beautiful and memorable expression to the spiritual life and thought of so many centuries. But, indeed, no man or woman's education can be regarded as complete which does not include an acquaintance with what the wisest and saintliest teachers of Christendom have known of God and learnt of life and hoped of death. It is about some of the writings of such teachers that I have been asked to speak in this course of lectures.
The Confessions of St. Augustine is one of the greatest of devotional books. In the extent of its use, and the degree in which it has been valued, its only rivals have been Thomas à Kempis' Imitation of Christ and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. It was written about the year 400, and the Imitation, about 1420, so that as compared with that book it had a long start of over a thousand years in its ministry of devout thought and feeling.
Augustine was born at Thagaste, a small town in Numidia, North Africa, in the year 354, and died at Hippo, in the same region, in 430. His life-time, therefore, witnessed the beginnings of the break-up of the Roman Empire. His father was a heathen, until some years after Augustine's birth, but his mother, Monica, was a Christian, and, next to Mary, the mother of Jesus, she is the most famous mother in Christian history. At the age of 16, and at some self-denial on the part of his parents, who were not well off, he was sent to the university of Carthage, where he distinguished himself in his studies, but where, as he says, he led a