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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 325: Heraclius (1)

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ARTICLE 325

Heraclius (1)

Severus, bishop of Mileve, was Augustine’s close friend.1 He died in 426. Before his death Severus designated his successor, but instead of speaking to the people as he would seemingly be proper, he believed it sufficient to declare his successor before his clergy. Because of this method, after his death trouble arose among the people. As a result, the brothers (apparently clerics) and the servants of God (monks) asked Augustine to keep the peace. By his mercy God aided Augustine and, although some people were discontent that Severus had not made them part of his plan, their sadness turned to joy when they realized who the bishop designate was. They willingly accepted him and he was ordained in peace and content.

Augustine reflected on this incident and the frequent troubles in other churches after a bishop’s death because of ambition in some or a conscientious spirit in others. He resolved to look for and then name his successor. He judged at seventy-two he was not likely to live much longer. The Church had in later times prohibited naming a successor. In indifferent matters, the Church should fear dangerous consequences but approve useful methods. Augustine acted with the good of the Church in view and certainly would not have named a successor who possessed a spirit of ambition or self-interest.

For this purpose he chose Heraclius named last for some reason among Hippo’s clergy. Apparently, he was a young...

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