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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 220: Aftermath of the Imperial Condemnation of Donatism



Aftermath of the Imperial Condemnation of Donatism

At the beginning of 412 Augustine was responding to Honoratus and composing De peccatorum meritis et remissione III (De baptismo paruulorum) to Marcellinus. He had written an abridgement of the conference of Carthage and had finished a letter to lay Donatists on the same conference.1 Without doubt the letter to the Donatists is the writing entitled Post collationem contra Donatistas.2 The letter is long and carefully written, addressed not to the Donatist bishops, but to their laity. In it Augustine refutes the calumnies and vain pretexts alleged by Donatist bishops for not submitting to Marcellinus’ judgment. In the abridgement Augustine noted what had occurred at the conference.3 The same subject is treated at less length in a later letter to the Council of Cirta or Zerthe, on June 14, 412.4

In the letter addressed to the Donatists, Augustine witnesses the Catholic resolve to pursue the Donatists and halt their violence by legal authority—words and instructions had not corrected them.5 Catholics were not at the point of blood-letting; on the contrary they were working to lighten the rigor and severity of imperial laws. Thus Augustine wrote after the law of January 30, 412.

Doubtless Marcellinus sent the emperor a report of the success of the conference, as the imperial commission had expressly charged him. The Donatists had also entreated the emperor for judgment. Honorius was obliged to speak. Possidius assures us he responded...

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