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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 253: De perfectione iustitiae



De perfectione iustitiae

De perfectione iustitiae is most likely dated after 414 since Possidius dates it after De natura et gratia.1 Augustine does not mention it in Letter 169. The work would naturally be dated following this letter since Augustine addressed the work to Bishops Paul and Eutropius. They had presented Augustine with a memorandum against various heresies shortly after Orosius had arrived in Africa before mid-415.2 Possidius dates De perfectione iustitiae before the acts of the Council of Diospolis (416–417).3 In this book Augustine does not as yet absolutely reject that with the grace of God some men had lived sinless lives without consenting to sinful desires;4 they would have been delivered from the dominion of sin by grace and baptism. Augustine would not have written in this manner after the anathemas pronounced on this subject by the Council of Carthage (418).5 Prosper dates this work during the period prior to the semi-Pelagian affair.6 Augustine does not mention it in Retractationes apparently because he considered it a letter rather than a work.7 The title is in letter form but it should be placed among his works.8

Augustine addresses the work to Bishops Paul and Eutropius who had placed in his hands a booklet entitled Definitiones, ut dicitur, Caelestii.9 This booklet had been brought from Sicily by certain Catholics and contained truncated arguments (ratiocinationes) tending to prove the strength of nature from Scripture.10 The author claimed to show...

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