"On your exceedingly great mercy rests all my hope. Give what you command, and then command whatever you will. you order us to practice continence. A certain writer tells us, I knew that no one can be continent except by God's gift, and that it is already a mark of wisdom to recognize whose gift this is. By continence the scattered elements of the self are collected and brought back into the unity from which we have slid away into dispersion; for anyone who loves something else along with you, but does not love it for your sake, loves you less. O Love, ever burning, never extinguished, O Charity, my God, set me on fire! You command continence: give what you command, and then command whatever you will."
Confessions, Book 10, Chapter 29, (New York: New City Press, 1997), p. 263.
This excerpt from Augustine's book of personal reflections, Confessions, shows his acceptance of God's command to him to be self-controlled, and also shows his dependence on God to enable him to do God's will.
Continence here means self-control, of any kind. Augustine struggled with many misplaced desires, and here we see his efforts to submit those to God.
A guest lecturer for our Systematic Theology class, Benjamin Myers, brought this beautiful quotation to our attention, and illuminated for us the part where it says, "give what you command, and then command whatever you will." If you flip this phrase around, so as to see that Augustine is asking God to "command whatever you will and give what you command," it is easier to see this idea that Augustine is asking and trusting God to give him a command (show him his will), and then also give him what God commands (give him the strength to accomplish his will).
Thank you Augustine for sharing with us this convicting reminder that we can do nothing apart from God.