I recently read the biography of a pastor in the late 1800s and took note of the fact that in the early chapters the author points out a few flaws in his character—his temper and impatience. While the general practice is to gloss over personal sin and inconsistencies, a true biography gives a balanced view and shows the human side and the battle with sin.
While Patrick’s Confession was not intended as an autobiography, it provides a window into his life. He begins with the negative, though honest words, “I Patrick a sinner” (Confession, sec. 1), and this theme is found throughout. He speaks of sin “preventing” (Confession, sec. 10) him in his youth and the consequences of youthful negligence that he thought hindered his effectiveness as an adult—but God used it all for His glory.
Towards the end of Patrick’s ministry he was publically disgraced and accused of a sin that he had committed when he was about fifteen years old—before he was captured and converted in Ireland. It is this accusation that many historians think was the motivation behind writing his Confession. Betrayed by a close friend, he says, “In a depressed and worried state of mind I mentioned to a close friend what I had done as a boy one day, indeed in the space of one hour, because I was not yet proof against temptation” (Confession, sec. 27). But in this sore betrayal Patrick was strengthened by the Lord when in a dream in the night he recalled with comfort the words of Zechariah 2:8: “For he that toucheth you is as he that touches the apple of My eye” (Confession, sec. 29).
Does it not say something for a man’s faith in Christ when, though haunted through his life by his own sin, he endured, overcame, and accomplished so much for the Lord? Should we not be thankful for an honest biography? And should we not be encouraged that the Lord graciously forgives and shines His glory out of our weaknesses as He did with drunken Noah, adulterous David, and impetuous Peter—men of like passions as we are?
“There are no perfect men in God’s work. God is not romantic concerning men…. All Christian are [merely] men or women, sinners having many victories, yet sinners until Jesus comes again.”