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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 218: De peccatorum meritis et remissione

Extract

ARTICLE 218

De peccatorum meritis et remissione

Sermo 202 was preached on the Epiphany, perhaps in 412. As certain Donatists wished to celebrate with his community, apparently it was preached after the conference of 411.

After combating the Pelagian heresy by word for some time Augustine found himself involved in delineating its error by pen.1 Marcellinus had presided at the conference of Carthage and was daily importuned by men involved in these errors.2 He had recourse to Augustine through letter. From Carthage Marcellinus sent questions and difficulties proposed to him and requested Augustine resolve them. Marcellinus’ questions concerned infant baptism. Some men were claiming baptism remitted only infants’ actual sins.3 They were attempting to give an entirely new sense to the words of Paul “that sin entered into the world by one man.”4

In 412 Augustine was embarrassed and disquieted because of troubles with certain Donatists.5 His humility had caused him to impute these troubles to his own sins. However he could not defer satisfying Marcellinus’ praiseworthy desire.6 Augustine was immutably united with him in God. He feared offending God in the person of Marcellinus and believed he was obeying God in yielding to this providential desire inspired by his friend.7 Love on the one hand and fear on the other obligated him to interrupt his work. He undertook this work against the Pelagians not to solve all difficulties, which he believed impossible, but to arm defenders of the faith sufficiently...

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