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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 242: Macedonius

Extract

ARTICLE 242

Macedonius

Macedonius wanted to befriend Augustine—in charity Augustine could not refuse him.1 Augustine promised to send Macedonius a few of his works. He wrote Macedonius through Bishop Boniface, perhaps the bishop of Cataqua, to request a pardon for a man guilty of a misdemeanor. Macedonius was thrilled to receive Augustine’s letter. He wanted to grant Augustine’s request, not to speak of his own inclination to grant the pardon. However he wanted Augustine to reciprocate for this favor. Macedonius wrote an obliging letter in which he asked Augustine to justify his pardon. Was it in keeping with their Christian duty for bishops to intercede for guilty parties? At the same time Macedonius asked Augustine to send the writings he had promised. He wanted to be nourished by Augustine’s teaching, as he could not yet visit personally.

Augustine sent him De ciuitate dei I-III.2 Augustine replies briefly to the difficulty Macedonius asked him to address, that bishops request criminals be spared to give them the opportunity to reform and repent.3 Augustine expands on this topic for those who would read his letter without the same understanding as Macedonius. He discusses the intercession for debtors and gives various rules for restitution. Macedonius himself had interceded in Carthage out of a sense of natural humanity in behalf of an offending cleric. Apparently Aurelius had taken Macedonius’ clemency into consideration by mitigating the penalty this cleric deserved. Augustine speaks as if he had been personally present...

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