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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 336: Speculum

Extract

ARTICLE 336

Speculum

After writing Retractationes Augustine began to review his letters.1 He had already re-read many of them without putting anything in writing. He was obliged to respond to the eight books of Julian. So as not to interrupt work he judged necessary, he gave the day to the one and the night to the other if no other extraordinary business arose. Although he desired to finish this review, he was constrained by the war against the Vandals and finally by his death to leave it unfinished. Possidius and Cassiodorus report only two books of Retractationes.2

Possidius has supplied to some extent for Augustine not treating his letters and sermons by a table of Augustine’s works—books, letters, and sermons.3 Altogether they add up to one thousand and thirty writings without speaking of those which could not be counted because Augustine had not numbered them. Whence it is clear Possidius only counted those works which Augustine had already written when he reviewed them. According to Victor of Vitus, numbering Augustine’s letters and sermons is impossible (easy to believe of a bishop who had been the oracle of the African Church through more than thirty years).4 He was continually forced to speak on the occasions he was present5 and he preached God’s word incessantly up to his last illness.6

Possidius apparently says Augustine wrote Speculum circa the same time as Retractationes, that is shortly before the Vandals had neared Hippo.7 Speculum...

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