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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 319: Clerical Poverty (2)



Clerical Poverty (2)

425 A.D.

After Epiphany, Augustine declared publicly as promised the state and disposition of his clerics.1 His ecclesiastical office exposed him to praise by some and blame by others. Those who loved him should have no reason for embarrassment before those who did not. At the beginning of his report, the deacon Lazarus read the passage in the Acts of the Apostles concerning the life of the first Christians (Acts 4:32–35b). This scriptural passage forms the basis for the rule of the life for his clergy. Augustine re-read the passage himself. He then justified each member of his clergy individually who for good reasons could not until then have renounced their property or who were falsely accused of not having done so.

Next Augustine retracted his permission to his clergy to live from property outside of his common house. Since the priests had consented to live in common, whoever is found to have something of his own will be removed from the clerical state in Hippo.

Let him call a thousand councils and bring complaints against me. Let him travel if he wishes across the sea. Whatever he does, I hope with the help of God he will not be received as a cleric where I am recognized to have episcopal power. These clerics have joyfully consented to my established order. I confidently expect by the power and mercy of God they will...

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