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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

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 305: Gaudentius and Dulcitius



Gaudentius and Dulcitius

Gaudentius received Dulcitius’ letter through people whom Dulcitius had praised excessively because he believed them not to be Donatists.1 Gaudentius responded immediately in a short letter lest his couriers be delayed.2 In his case he had resolved that, if violence was done him, he would end his life in the Lord’s vineyard—he would set himself and his church on fire.3 He claimed so little power over the members of his congregation that he had exhorted all who wished to leave the church to say so publicly without fear of recrimination.4 Then next day he wrote a longer letter where he claimed to justify his anger by scriptural authority, among other places by the example of Razias in 2Maccabees.5 Gaudentius noted what he falsely believed had happened to Emeritus when Augustine came to Algiers in 418.6

Dulcitius sent Augustine Gaudentius’ two letters asking him for a refutation.7 He wanted Augustine’s advice on an appropriate response to these schismatics. What stance should he take to their threats to set themselves on fire? Augustine responds he should not hesitate: fear of a few unfortunates perishing must not prevent him from procuring in so far as he could salvation of others. Augustine was actually too occupied with other matters to refute Gaudentius’ letters immediately; in fact he had already responded to the same objections in other works. Nevertheless, he eventually refutes them again out of consideration for Dulcitius, Eleusinus who had also...

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