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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 227: De fide et operibus; Letter 147 (De uidendo Deo)

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ARTICLE 227

De fide et operibus; Letter 147 (De uidendo Deo)

413 A.D.

Not long after Augustine wrote De spiritu et littera he was obliged to write De fide et operibus.1 He wrote in response to writings sent him by laity zealous for God’s word.2 The authors of these writings distinguished faith in Jesus Christ so sharply from good works that they would have us saved without good works so long as we had faith alone. They wanted to baptize and give the Eucharist to everyone without requiring a moral change, even to those declaring their intention to persist in criminal irregularities.3 That faith alone did not suffice was to be brought to their attention only after their baptism—any other practice would be an innovation.

Apparently they had fallen into this pernicious position to support men who had been rejected for baptism because they had abandoned their first wives and married a second.4 Augustine was obliged to show in his reply not only how those regenerated by the grace of baptism should live but also what disposition is required of candidates for baptism.5 In the final chapter he summarizes the entire book.6 He returns to this subject again in Enchiridion where he cites the previous work.7 He cites a long passage from it in his reply to Dulcitius.8 The book is clearly mentioned in Letter 205 but not by name. Some scholars think Jerome is his opponent in part of the...

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