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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 287: De peccato originali and De gratia Christi



De peccato originali and De gratia Christi1

After the council of May, 418 Augustine remained at Carthage until his trip to Algeria in September. During that time he wrote De gratia Christi and De peccato originali.2 He composed them at Carthage3 and places them in Retractationes before the conference in Algeria with Emeritus, September 20, 418.4 The dating is certain since the works were written after the condemnation of the Pelagian heresy by both Zosimus and Honorius.5

The occasion of these two works is a meeting between Pinianus, Albina (his mother-in-law), Melania (his wife), and Pelagius.6 This meeting probably took place in Palestine before the exile of Pelagius at the end of 417. Pinianus may have arrived in Palestine at that time. Less likely the meeting could have taken place in Egypt where Pinianus had disembarked with his family after his departure from Africa. Pinianus tried to bring about Pelagius’ condemnation in writing of the doctrinal errors objected against him. To this attempt Pelagius responded in a manner which could persuade those who did not know his actual sentiments that he held nothing other than the true Catholic faith. He anathematized those maintaining that the grace for which Christ had come into the world to save sinners was not necessary for a human being’s every action. He confessed one baptism to be celebrated with the same words for both children and adults.7 When pressed farther, he confessed children received baptism for the...

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