Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren
Article 243: Letter 157
Augustine probably wrote Letter 157 to Hilary in 414.1 In 415 Jerome writes Augustine had long before written three books to Marcellinus and shortly thereafter a letter to Hilary.2 Orosius says the same.3 Certainly Augustine had already written various works on grace. The Pelagian heresy as it existed in Syracuse, the capitol of Sicily, occasioned this letter.4 Circa 416 as Jerome informs us, Pelagianism was spreading in the West and the East and on Sicily, Rhodes and various other islands.5 It was infecting many and was gaining ground because it was taught secretly while being repudiated publicly. No indication of what was happening in Rhodes appears aside from Caelestius sojourning there on his flight from Carthage to Ephesus.6 As for Sicily Augustine witnesses many believers were seduced and were seducing others there.7 A book of Caelestius was discovered in Sicily and Augustine was obliged to refute it.
The doctrines condemned in Carthage were being taught in Syracuse.8 These teachings derived from Caelestius. Other doctrines apparently unrelated to Pelagianism were spreading. All of these tenets came from the same fund of pride. Outwardly the Pelagians appeared pious; inwardly they despoiled the foundation of piety by a lack of humility. Pelagians were claiming the wealthy could not enter the kingdom of heaven unless they sold all their goods. They forbad taking oaths.
Several citizens of Hippo visiting Syracuse were about to return home. Hilary took the occasion to send a...