Augustine had a powerful and profound impact because he accurately identified the real problem, in his own heart and in the church. He knew the problem wasn’t low self-esteem or bad parents; the problem was sin. He also accurately understood the remedy to the problem was not more of the world, but more of God. He saw sin, not only as an offense to God, but as an obstacle between he and God. Sin lied to him, proffering itself as soul-satisfying. God helped Augustine see sin for what it is, and that God Himself was his highest good.
Augustine’s testimony and insight on the misery of sin help us see sin not only as a hindrance to holiness and to heaven, but also a hindrance to happiness in God. Augustine hated sin so much because it spoiled his delight in God.
God is often pleased to change the world through the bright lights of those lit by joy in Him. We may not affect the church for the following two millennia as Augustine did, but our restless hearts can have joy like his, and it starts with repentance.
A few years before his death, on September 26, 426, a large congregation gathered as Augustine installed his successor, Eraclius. After the decision had been officially recorded, Eraclius stood forward to preach, while the aged Augustine sat behind him on his raised bishop’s throne. “The cricket chirps,” Eraclius said, “the swan is silent” (Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 408). Just the opposite has been true for 1600 years. We should thank God for His loud voice through Augustine.