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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 269: Letter to Paulinus



Letter to Paulinus

Pope Innocent died and Zosimus succeeded him.2 The latter had certainly done nothing to favor the Pelagians in 417 when Augustine wrote to Paulinus through Januarius.3 Augustine had confidence in Januarius to serve as a living letter to Paulinus. Whether he is the unfortunate Januarius who, as a priest of Hippo, later deceived Augustine and kept money after professing poverty is unknown.4

Augustine uses the entire letter to speak of grace.5 He is pleased to converse with his friends over this matter. However he had heard certain clerics or members of Paulinus’ family or perhaps certain laity in Nola were stubbornly combating the doctrine of original sin. They were falling into folly and preferred to believe children have the use of free choice, even in their mother’s womb. Children did not have original sin and were capable of doing good or evil merely of themselves. These men would even have preferred to abandon Pelagius himself than to change their opinion. Augustine left with Januarius a careful detailed explanation to give Paulinus concerning what he had learned of their identity. Augustine indicates Pelagianism existed among eminent and subtle people. Julian of Eclanum was perhaps among this number although his presence in Nola at this time is unknown.6 He lived not far away and had fallen into Pelagianism during Innocent’s lifetime.7 According to some scholars Augustine wishes to indicate Zosimus and Sixtus (a Roman priest)8 but an examination of the...

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