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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 344: De praedestinatione sanctorum; De dono perseuerantiae

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ARTICLE 344

De praedestinatione sanctorum; De dono perseuerantiae

When disputes on grace began to arise, monks from Marseilles preferred to accuse their own lack of comprehension than to condemn what they did not understand.1 They wished to consult Augustine and ask him for clearer and less ambiguous explanations. Concurrently, a copy of De correptione et gratia had been brought to Marseilles by an unexpected act of divine mercy. Augustine had written this work in response to the monks at Hadrumetum on the same difficulties. Thus Augustine had responded precisely to the objections on which the French wished to consult him as if he already had appeased their trouble.

Unfortunately his book did not have the desired effect. Those defending the truth previously found new reasons and arguments for maintaining it. Those whose preoccupation had closed their eyes had fallen into darkness and had distanced themselves even farther from the truth. The latter claimed Augustine’s was a totally new teaching, that no one had ever previously explained Paul in this manner. When asked in what sense they wished this doctrine to be explained, they confessed they could find nothing satisfying. Various passages of Augustine’s works prior to the birth of Pelagianism were cited and that was their belief. They could not bear Augustine’s distinction between the grace of Adam without which he could not do good (posse non peccare) and the grace of Christ which causes us to do good (non posse peccare). As for...

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