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Confessions 1.1.1

magnus es, domine, et laudabilis valde. magna virtus tua et sapientiae tuae non est numerus



It is interesting that in seeking to confess his own life, Augustine begins with a confession of the Lord’s greatness.[1] This is praise draws heavily upon Scripture, as noted below.

Magnus es: Great are you

Domine: God, vocative

Et laudabilis valde: and praiseworthy intensely so.

magna virtus tua: Great is your strength

et sapientiae tuae: and your wisdom

non est numerous: not is numbered (cannot be numbered, infinite, exceedingly great).



Great are you Lord, and worthy of praise. Great is your strength, and your wisdom has no end.

Pusey:  Great art Thou, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Thy power, and Thy wisdom infinite.


Biblical Cross-References:

Great are you Lord:

Magnus Dominus, et laudabilis nimis, et magnitudinis ejus non est finis. Psalm 144:3 (VGCLEM)

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised: and of his greatness there is no end. Psalm 144:3 (D-R)


1 Aperiens autem Tobias senior os suum, benedixit Dominum, et dixit : Magnus es, Domine, in æternum, et in omnia sæcula regnum tuum : Tobit 13:1 (VGCLEM)

1 AND Tobias the elder opening his mouth, blessed the Lord, and said: Thou art great O Lord, for ever, and thy kingdom is unto all ages. Tobit 13:1 (D-R)



The Wisdom of God:

Psalm 146:5 (Vulgate, D-R):

      5 Magnus Dominus noster, et magna virtus ejus,

            et sapientiæ ejus non est numerus.


Great is our Lord, and great is his power:

and of his wisdom there is no number.  


Isaiah 40:8:


28 Numquid nescis, aut non audisti ? Deus sempiternus Dominus, qui creavit terminos terræ : non deficiet, neque laborabit, nec est investigatio sapientiæ ejus. Isaiah 40:28 (VGCLEM)

28 Knowest thou not, or hast thou not heard? the Lord is the everlasting God, who hath created the ends of the earth: he shall not faint, nor labour, neither is there any searching out of his wisdom. Isaiah 40:28 (D-R)

Romans 11:33:

33 O altitudo divitiarum sapientiæ, et scientiæ Dei : quam incomprehensibilia sunt judicia ejus, et investigabiles viæ ejus ! Romans 11:33 (VGCLEM)

33 O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways! Romans 11:33 (D-R)




[1] Calvin’s Institutes begin with this observation:


OUR wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain. Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty. In particular, the miserable ruin into which the revolt of the first man has plunged us, compels us to turn our eyes upwards; not only that while hungry and famishing we may thence ask what we want, but being aroused by fear may learn humility. For as there exists in man something like a world of misery, and ever since we were stript of the divine attire our naked shame discloses an immense series of disgraceful properties every man, being stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness, in this way necessarily obtains at least some knowledge of God. Thus, our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us (see Calvin on John 4:10), that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.


2. On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord alsoD2—He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. Nay, the bodily sense may furnish a still stronger illustration of the extent to which we are deluded in estimating the powers of the mind. If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.



John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1997).