Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren
Article 290: Optatus and Mercator
Optatus and Mercator
Augustine rendered another important service to the Church on this trip to Algiers. He tells us in his own words:
I preached to the people of Algiers to turn them away from civil war or more than civil war which they call “the faction.” It was a custom among them, and a quasi-law, that every year at a certain time they divided themselves into two parties, pitting citizen against citizen, relative against relative, brother against brother, and even child against father. They threw rocks at one another for days each one killing whom he could. I did everything possible in my sermon to root out this barbarian and inveterate custom. I used everything in my power for them to envision this horror and prevent it from continuing. They applauded me but I did not believe I had done anything until I saw them turned to tears. Their applause indicated to me only that they listened to me with pleasure. Their tears let me know they were touched. After I had seen them cry, I believed, even before seeing the effect, this detestable ancestral custom through many generations had been abolished. I stopped my exhortation quickly and turned to God to give him thanks and exhorted everyone to do likewise.2
On this trip to Algiers or a little after his return, he wrote Letter 190 to bishop Optatus. Possidius mentions this letter.3 Optatus was apparently a bishop on...