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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 229: Anti-Pelagian Sermons (Carthage)



Anti-Pelagian Sermons (Carthage)

After writing his books to Marcellinus against Pelagius, Augustine traveled to Carthage to celebrate the feast of John the Baptist.1 This trip could not have occurred in 412 when Augustine was still occupied at the Council of Zerte, Numidia on June 14.2 He preached at Carthage on the feast of John the Baptist.3 In this sermon, after treating several other subjects, he came at length to the subject of the baptism of children. However, he did not wax on at length because his sermon was already quite long. Rather he was thinking of how he might bring it to a close. This sermon is Sermo 293, delivered on the feast of the birth of John the Baptist. In it he mentions the necessity of baptism for children as proving the existence of original sin. He ends by maintaining we can not doubt even John the Baptist himself had sinned in Adam and died in him unless we want to believe that he was born like Christ in a manner different from other human beings. Bede cites this sermon.4

Augustine did not believe what he had said in this sermon concerning infant baptism sufficed for so important a topic, given the present danger of Pelagianism. The very foundations of the Church were being shaken. Those persuaded of the Pelagian errors against original sin were attempting to spread them more vociferously and corrupt many.5 The Pelagians were even claiming those holding...

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