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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren

The seventeenth century was the century of Saint Augustine. In 1695, Louis Sébastien, Le Nain de Tillemont, finished volume 13 of his Mémoires ecclésiastique, entitled La vie de saint Augustin. The volume consisted of approximately 1200 pages wherein Louis Sébastien gathered from the works of Augustine and elsewhere all extant passages relevant to the biography of Augustine of Hippo. Completed in 1695, the biography was published posthumously in 1700. The work lies in the tradition of Jansenism from Port-Royal and the Leuven. Though an ascetic recluse on the family estate for the last twenty years of his life, he was in touch with important French scholars and the ecclesiastical movements of his time. Louis’ work is the first modern biography of Augustine and the most comprehensive of all Augustinian biographies, even today. Modern authors consult him and frequently adopt his theories without citation. His method exercises influence on contemporary Parisian scholarship on Augustine. This English translation has been divided into three volumes covering three time periods: part 1: birth to episcopal consecration (354–396); part 2: the Donatist controversy (396–411); part 3: the Pelagian controversy (411–430).
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Article 212: Pelagius (1)

Extract

ARTICLE 212

Pelagius (1)

After the Church had in principle defeated Donatism in the conference of Carthage, a new opponent arose. The latter did not attack the body of the Church as the prior one had, but rather the heart and soul of the Christian religion. It attempted to destroy the Savior’s grace which constitutes Christians. Our objective here is not to undertake a doctrinal discussion, which has already been done with more clarity and precision than we could ever hope to attain Rather our purpose is to portray the course of its origin, development, and demise, as it is found in the original authors.

Pelagius, whose name has been given to this heresy, was surnamed the Brit, apparently to distinguish him from Pelagius of Tarentus who lived concurrently.1 Prosper at times described Pelagius as “the Brit”;2 elsewhere Prosper calls him the serpent of Great Britain.3 In speaking of one of his disciples Prosper says he was engrained with the British demeanor. Noris speaks of an infestation of England by Pelagians,4 as if England was the country of their origin. Orosius calls Pelagius “the black Brit.”5

Jerome may be referring to Pelagius when he writes “he was excreting the fat meats of Scotland,”6 and thus Scotland could be his birth place. Apparently Jerome refers to Pelagius when he says he had a Scottish or Irish manner about him since he possessed the vices of both lands. Jerome’s reference...

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