Members of his church in Hippo heard blunt words from Augustine because they were still maintaining or at least still tolerating pagan habits.
Some rich members of the church in Hippo were challenged by the uncompromising passages in the Bible about the difficulty for the wealthy to enter eternal life.
They needed reassurance that if they used their wealth rightly, they could be saved.
From experience Augustine was aware of the counterproductive effect to the Christian message when examples of marital infidelity within the local church and of sexual scandal among his priests became public knowledge and the source of unhealthy gossip.
In his sermons he faced such situations frontally, and freely acknowledged the damage that bad example imposed on the Christian community.
In all or any of these issues, Augustine challenged his listeners to avoid spiritual procrastination by calling on them to change their ways at once.
He preached, "God promises you that your sins will be forgiven, but not that you will see the light of tomorrow morning. Therefore mend your life now. For it is by the mercy of God that you are still alive today and able to change today."
From specific internal evidence included by Augustine in a few of his sermons, it is known that some of those who heard Augustine preach week after week, and at times day after day, transformed their lives as a result.
These people stand as lasting witnesses to the policy of Augustine of preaching the full Gospel in season and out of season, whether acceptable or unacceptable.
The Scriptures were his norm for sacred oratory.
He said, "The better his knowledge of the Scriptures, the more wisely will the preacher be able to speak. By 'better knowledge' I do not mean that he reads the Scriptures a great deal and learns them by heart, but that he understands them correctly and examines their teaching carefully, that is, that with the eye of his mind he penetrates the very heart of the Scriptures." (De doctrina Cristiniana, IV, 5-7)