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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 217: Anti-Pelagian Sermons



Anti-Pelagian Sermons

Augustine was not present at the condemnation of Caelestius during the Council of Carthage (411).1 When he later came to Carthage he perused the acts. Initially he did not write against Pelagianism; rather he and other fathers combated Pelagius’ errors by sermons and conversations, each according to his obligations and abilities. As for himself Augustine often preached against Pelagians who were spreading their teaching both privately and publicly.2 They continued to maintain it through books written with style and artifice.

Sermo 170 may have been preached against Pelagianism. There Augustine vanquishes Pelagian principles without mentioning Pelagians by name. A good many of his sermons on Paul’s writings were preached against Pelagianism.3 Sermo 153, Sermo 154, and Sermo 155 were preached at the chapel of Cyprian. In Sermo 154, he cites the place in which he had preached the previous evening. Sermo 156 was apparently preached in the basilica of the Schillitain martyrs in Carthage the day after Sermo 155.4 In Sermo 152 Augustine cites the Lord’s words.5 He had preached this sermon at Carthage some time previously.

Sermo 165 on Paul’s words was preached at Carthage in the Basilica Maior and establishes the existence and nature of original sin against the Pelagians. They claimed that grown men and even unborn children do not die because of punishment contracted from Adam but because of personal sin.6 Without personal sin they would remain immortal. Only personal sins are forgiven...

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