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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 304: Contra Gaudentium

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ARTICLE 304

Contra Gaudentium

Concurrently Augustine wrote his last work against the Donatists, Contra Gaudentium, in two books.1 The Church had made great progress against this schism from the conference of Carthage and by the laws of Emperor Honorius maintaining the decision of the conference. Those who remained obstinate violently dissented and directed evils against the Catholics—their rage was not limited to dissent and rage. In the Church’s efforts to retract their error, its love was intended to prevent their deaths.2 On the contrary, Donatist fury was intended to support murders committed on Catholics or themselves and to maintain the right of killing.

The Donatists renewed these frightful and terrible deaths previously carried out. These practices rendered the name Circumcelliones infamous and odious even to more moderate members of their own sect. The emperor punished them with exile.3 The Donatists hid4 and the Catholics requested their exile so as not to impede the salvation of others.5 Their crimes merited capital punishment6—Donatists condemned themselves.7 They even arrested themselves so they could be both judge and executioner. Martyrs die in behalf of truth; Donatists died to impede the recognition of truth, the love of unity, the embrace of love, and the acquisition of eternity.8 Apparently at times Donatist bishops constrained their own people by violence to set themselves on fire.9 If Gaudentius, Donatist bishop of Timgad, can be believed, an endless number perished in this manner.10 Augustine maintains, without going into particulars, villages, market...

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