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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 233: Execution of Marcellinus

Extract

ARTICLE 233

Execution of Marcellinus

No matter how certain the innocence of Marcellinus was, there was fear of a powerful man easily doing whatever he wanted.1 Such a man could do anything to please the wicked without concern for his reputation and perhaps for secret and even more shameful reasons, for example Donatist bribery. At that time under the pretext of the odious crime of rebellion anyone could be put to death on the testimony of a single witness. A criminal willing to say what was necessary to obtain pardon could easily be found.

In face of this Augustine and other bishops overlooked nothing in attempting to prevent Marinus from causing the Church extreme sorrow by the death of Marcellinus and from even killing his own soul by so great a crime. Caecilianus, who may have authorized this imprisonment, joined his entreaties to those of the Church and prayed for relief from Marcellinus’ execution. Caecilianus gave Augustine reason for hope in this affair and often protested to the bishops he would do what he could. In fact Caecilianus showed the bishops what was necessary to maintain Marcellinus’ reputation.

Marinus used hopeful language and promises. However he used such language to deceive the bishops and prevent them from saving the prisoners. The bishops, it was believed, could prevent the execution by either intercession or appeal to the imperial power or by snatching them from prison by violence so as to keep them in...

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