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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 247: Response to Orosius

Extract

ARTICLE 247

Response to Orosius

Orosius’ ardor for instruction found Augustine’s favor.1 Orosius considered it an effect of divine love. God causes us to request and seek the lights he wishes to bestow upon us. The care Orosius had for working in behalf of the Church was a gift of divine grace. Augustine responded by addressing a work to him entitled Contra Priscillianistas et Originistas. He wrote concisely and clearly but penned nearly nothing on the Priscillianist errors. Augustine was content to give Orosius his anti-Manichean writings as the principles established there applied equally to both heresies.

At the end Augustine speaks of the distinction of heavenly spirits. He speaks beautifully on these obscure and superfluous questions. He confesses he could not respond because of lack of knowledge. “I wish to confess this to you so that you who believe me to be a great teacher may learn not to esteem me as much.”2 A benefit Orosius could take from his trip to Africa could be not to place too much faith in Augustine’s public renown.3

The final part of this treatise is placed in quotation marks in the Leuven edition.4 It bears little relevance to what precedes it. In the recent edition, the editors have hesitated over its manuscript authority.5 In effect this final part is the conclusion of Letter 166. Augustine dates this treatise in 415. Since he had written it shortly after Orosius had come to Africa, we...

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