This book, the first one I finished in 2011, was a spiral-bound compilation of 3 treatises by St Augustine -- I mentioned it here. I don't feel quite right about saying I READ it, but technically I did -- I went through every word on every page from the beginning to the end. And I understood at all in the sense that I could have passed a test or written some sort of paper on it. Yet, there is no way I could say I UNDERSTOOD it all.
I think the main effect the collection had on me was to increase my awe of God or at least turn it towards a new channel. I have experienced grace and read about it and for that matter sung about it all my life, and I've seen it working in the lives of other people in wonderful and mysterious ways, but Augustine delineates it so thoroughly that it put the ideas on a more logical and inevitable footing for me.
He absolutely insists (because the Pelagian heresy held otherwise) that grace and election have nothing at all to do with our own merits, whether of faith or works. What we have we are entirely given. Of course it is impossible to seriously think otherwise, yet I think it's something about human nature (or perhaps just mine) that makes me want to think that I somehow bring something to the bargain. Yet as he says in regard to predestination (chapter 21), why does that feel consoling? Don't we all know only too well that we can't rely on ourselves any more than we can fly by pulling on our shoestrings?
Certainly, when the apostle says, "Therefore it is of faith that the promise may be sure according to grace," Romans 4:16 I marvel that men would rather entrust themselves to their own weakness, than to the strength of God's promise. But do you say, God's will concerning myself is to me uncertain? What then? Is your own will concerning yourself certain to you? And do you not fear—"Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall"? 1 Corinthians 10:12 Since, then, both are uncertain, why does not man commit his faith, hope, and love to the stronger will rather than to the weaker?The reason I read this was because my daughter had accidentally acquired an extra copy at her college, and for some reason, I always seem to want to read something really challenging during Christmas vacation. And I read Augustine's Confessions last year.
I hope to read it again some time in a more careful way, but right now, I'm glad just to have made it from the front to the back pages.