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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 335: Retractationes

Extract

ARTICLE 3351

Retractationes

Retractationes was completed before Augustine’s conference with Maximinus, the Arian bishop, since the conference is not noted. For a long time Augustine had intended to review all his works, letters, and sermons with judicial severity and to indicate in one express work what he, as a rigorous judge, found to correct in them.2 There were many items he wished he had not said. As early as 412 he wrote Marcellinus he desired to apply himself to this task so that his readers might see he would not exonerate himself.3 Baronius believes it was principally to devote himself to this work that he named a successor upon whom he could partially place the burden of his occupations.4

He listed his works and placed them in chronological order in so far as possible.5 Thus, those who wished to read them in chronological order could see his progress in ecclesiastical knowledge.

I have not remained the same. By the mercy of God I have progressed from the beginning of my writings and can not say I have been perfect. I am not so vain and insensitive as to say at my age I have attained perfection and am incapable of errors in my works. We must distinguish between errors as to their quality or the material on which I have erred and between those people who are easily corrected and those who stubbornly defend their errors. Hope still exists for a man...

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