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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 246: Orosius, Priscillianism, and Origenism



Orosius, Priscillianism, and Origenism

As Augustine affirms, it was solely from a desire to seek instruction in Scripture and the Church that Orosius left Spain.2 No doubt this desire was the real cause of his decision to take so long a trip to Africa. However Orosius was apparently forced to follow through with his plan earlier than expected out of angst over the barbarians. He was, so to speak, driven from his country out of fear of encountering a tragic accident.3 He barely succeeded in avoiding the barbarian snares. Even when already at sea, they were still pursuing him. Barbarians were chasing him and almost succeeded in capturing him. A cloud surrounded him, spirited him from their sight, and thus saved his life. The hazards were so great an immense inner strength would have been necessary to bear them without sorrow.

According to his own words he had no intention, necessity, or plan to come to Africa immediately.4 He did not even realize he was headed in that direction until he was brought to the shores of Africa. When he considered how he had reached there, he realized why he had come. Considering the events, (like Peter)5 he saw God had sent him to Augustine to find in him the remedy for the ills of Spain. Evidently the haste in which he had to embark forced him take any boat leaving the port no matter the destination. God was guiding him...

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