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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 261: Pelagius’ Works



Pelagius’ Works

416 A.D.

Pelagius could have taken some advantage from what had occurred at the Council of Diospolis.1 If the council had truly justified him it would have been in his best interest to publish the acts and send them to the pope and other principal bishops together with letters from the bishops absolving him. However Pelagius delayed publication. When he did publish the acts he prefaced them with a circular letter.2

Inter alia he wrote that fourteen bishops in a solemn judgment had approved his teaching that man could be sinless and easily observe the divine commandments if he so willed. “This judgment had covered the faces of our adversaries with confusion and dissipated the conspiracy by which they had united to fight truth.”3 Pelagius did not mention divine grace which he had been obliged to confess. Instead, he gave the complete victory to human pride and added the word “easily” which had never been mentioned in the council. How Heros and Lazarus could apparently have forgotten the word “easily” in their memorandum is unknown although Pelagius’ letter contained it. What was said in the council on this article was repugnant to this claimed facility and was even expressly excluded. Pelagius wrote this letter in response to a priest-friend who had charitably admonished him to be careful lest someone separate himself from the body of the Church because e of him.

Pelagius authored an abridgement...

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