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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 301: De anima et eius origine (1)

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ARTICLE 301

De anima et eius origine (1)

René, a monk residing in Algiers,1 is apparently the man who had shown Augustine Optatus’ letter in 418.2 Unlike several others, René was unimpressed by Victor’s false eloquence. His own professed seriousness distanced him from Victor’s teaching.3 René was wise, prudent, and orthodox.4 He cared for those whom he loved in God and conscience, in particular Augustine.5

In seeing Victor’s teaching in his books, René was displeased.6 Victor had treated Augustine unfittingly.7 Through sincere love he did what Victor himself should have done: he had Victor’s books copied and sent to Augustine accompanied by a letter excusing himself for taking the liberty.8 He may have feared Augustine would take umbrage at his boldness. The books were sent from Algiers to Hippo during the summer.9 However, Augustine received them in late autumn as he had been absent from Hippo during the summer on a trip to an unknown destination.10

In his encounter with Victor, Augustine was wise and humble as was his custom. He took no offense at Victor’s writing.11 Since Augustine was of a different opinion, he wanted to explain his thinking in writing. Augustine believed Victor may have written out of affection. Seeing his reasoning, Augustine could correct his errors. He maintained the adage when another‘s mind is unknown, praise the intention as good rather than condemn it as evil. Augustine attributed to Victor’s shyness his opening himself to another and...

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