Augustine of Hippo, better known as St. Augustine, wasn’t always a “saint.” In fact, in one of his most famous books, Confessions, the ancient church father bared his soul and outlined his many sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.
One story shows that the world famous theologian was once nothing more than a common thief.
In his own words, St. Augustine writes:
There was a pear tree near our vineyard, laden with fruit. One stormy night we rascally youths set out to rob it and carry our spoils away. We took off a huge load of pears…not to feast upon ourselves, but to throw them to the pigs, though we ate just enough to have the pleasure of forbidden fruit. They were nice pears, but it was not the pears that my soul coveted, for I had plenty better at home. I picked them simply in order to become a thief. The only feast I got was a feast of iniquity, and that I enjoyed to the full. What was it that I loved in that theft? Was it the pleasure of acting against the law, in order that I, a prisoner under rules, might have a maimed counterfeit of freedom by doing what was forbidden, with a dim similitude of omnipotence? The desire to steal was awakened simply by the prohibition of stealing.
He stole the fruit, but not to enjoy it for himself; he didn’t even care for the taste of it. He stole the fruit simply for the experience of stealing! He admitted that he stole because stealing was against the law. His desire to steal was “awakened” by the law that prohibited stealing.
In other words, he sinned because he was told not to.
Another ancient theologian, the Apostle Paul, knew a thing or two about the law “awakening” the desire of sin within him. Using the sin of coveting as his example, here’s what he writes in Romans 7:7-8.
If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.
God’s perfect law, given out of His perfect love for us, shows us just how sinful we are and how desperately we need a Savior. Those who find themselves guilty according to the Law need Jesus to forgive them of their sin.
Confessions by St. Augustine.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)