St. Augustine, Aspects of His Life and Thought

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CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 31 thg 10, 2014 - 268 trang
MR. MONTGOMERY is one of the editors of St Augustine's Confessions in the "Cambridge Patristic Series," and this book consists of eight lectures delivered in St John's College, Cambridge, during the Lent Term of 1913. It may be doubted whether all Mr Montgomery's readers will find their way to the Cambridge edition of the great African father, but that that edition, when it appears, will be the Augustine of English-speaking students, and that those, who desire to converse, on the easiest possible terms, with Augustine as if he were a man about town, will find all they want in Mr. Montgomery's Lent Lectures, are propositions that will not be gainsaid by any reader of this truly delightful book.

It is the book of a workman and a scholar, but the stains of toil have been removed, and one feels in reading it, much as the pupils of Augustine at Cassiciacum must have felt in their own case, that one is making holiday with a teacher who is not only learned, but wise and good. The eight lectures may be said to be divided between the personality of Augustine and his work. Under the former head we should include his Character and Temperament, his Conversion, and his Correspondence (Lectures I.-III.). Under the latter we think specially of his attainments in science, philosophy, homiletics, and literature, and we should refer to it the other five lectures. The subjects are: his Psychology, his Power of Observation and Description, the Psychologist as Thinker, the Expositor and Preacher, the Philosopher of History, Politics, and Social Ethics.

The book reads so easily that it is very possible to forget that it is written by an expert whose selective instincts are of the first order.

Mr. Montgomery modestly describes his book as containing "aspects" of Augustine's life and thought. But he has taken care that the aspects shall be such as, for the reader of intelligence and imagination, take in the whole. For example, it is difficult to say, within the limits of one lecture, much that is worth saying on so difficult a subject as Augustine's correspondence. Mr Montgomery remembers that the value of a great man's letters has less to do with the subjects, of which they may treat, than with the revelation they contain of the writer's personality. He thinks rightly that he will serve his readers best, not with scraps of many letters, but with extracts from one or two long enough to represent vividly a situation of interest, and to show how Augustine acted in it. A striking instance is the minute, but not tedious, treatment of Ep. 29 (p. 75 ff.), regarding the abuses connected with the custom of the African churches of celebrating the birthdays of martyrs, in which, by skilful quotation and comment, Mr. Montgomery succeeds in presenting a very life-like picture of Augustine both as preacher and churchman. The treatment of Ep. 118 (p. 71 ff.) gives us, with all the necessary detail, a highly amusing and instructive example of the combination of kindliness with effective rebuke with which Augustine, the scholar and fatherly Christian friend, could meet the advances of an ingenuous but pretentious youth of the "genus, bore."

The matter of vital interest in his biography to every lover of Augustine is, of course, that which meets him in the immortal Confessions. It has an added interest for the historico-critical student. The Confessions were written twelve years after the event to which they mainly relate, viz., Augustine's conversion. How far is the account of himself that Augustine gives in them colored by the experience of these years? It is one thing to say that the author's feelings and convictions at the time of writing cannot but be reflected in a book like the Confessions....

-an excerpt from the Review of Theology and Philosophy, Volume 10

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