Writings of Augustine. The Pelagian Controversy.

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Augustin and the Pelagian Controversy.

Preface to the American Edition.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

"This volume contains all the Anti-Pelagian writings of Augustin, collected by the Benedictine editors in their tenth volume, with the exception only of the two long works Against Julian, and The Unfinished Work, which have been necessarily excluded on account of their bulk. The translation here printed is that of the English version of Augustin's works, published by Messrs. T. and T. Clark at Edinburgh. This translation has been carefully compared with the Latin throughout, and corrected on every page into more accurate conformity to its sense. But this has not so altered its character that it ceases to be the Edinburgh translation,--bettered somewhat, but still essentially the same. The excellent translation of the three treatises, On the Spirit and the Letter, On Nature and Grace, and On the Proceedings of Pelagius, published in the early summer of this year by two Oxford scholars, Messrs. Woods and Johnston (London: David Nutt), was unfortunately too late in reaching America to be of any service to the editor.

"What may be called the explanatory matter of the Edinburgh translation, has been treated here even more freely than the text. The headings to the chapters have been added to until nearly every chapter is now provided with a caption. The brackets which distinguished the notes added by the translator from those which he translated from the Benedictine editor, have been generally removed, and the notes themselves often verbally changed, or otherwise altered. A few notes have been added,--chiefly with the design of rendering the allusions in the text intelligible to the uninstructed reader; and the more lengthy of these have been enclosed in brackets, and signed with a W. The result of all this is, that it is unsafe to hold the Edinburgh translators too closely responsible for the unbracketed matter; but that the American editor has not claimed as his own more than is really his.

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"In preparing an Introductory Essay for the volume, two objects have been kept in view: to place the necessary Prolegomena to the following treatises in the hands of the reader, and to furnish the English reader with some illustrations of the Anti-Pelagian treatises from the other writings of Augustin. In the former interest, a brief sketch of the history of the Pelagian controversy and of the Pelagian and Augustinian systems has been given, and the occasions, objects, and contents of the several treatises have been briefly stated. In the latter, Augustin's letters and sermons have been as copiously extracted as the limits of space allowed. In the nature of the case, the sources have been independently examined for these materials; but those who have written of Pelagianism and of Augustin's part in the controversy with it, have not been neglected. Above others, probably special obligations ought to be acknowledged to the Benedictine preface to their tenth volume, and to Canon Bright's Introduction to his edition of Select Anti-Pelagian Treatises. The purpose of this essay will be subserved if it enables the reader to attack the treatises themselves with increased interest and readiness to assimilate and estimate their contents.

"References to the treatises in the essay, and cross-references in the treatises themselves, have been inserted wherever they seemed absolutely necessary; but they have been often omitted where otherwise they would have been inserted because it has been thought that the Index of Subjects will suffice for all the needs of comparison of passages that are likely to arise. In the Index of Texts, an asterisk marks some of those places where a text is fully explained; and students of the history of Biblical Interpretation may find this feature helpful to them. It will not be strange, if, on turning up a few passages, they will find their notion of the power, exactness, and devout truth of Augustin as an interpreter of Scripture very much raised above what the current histories of interpretation have taught them."

The above has been prepared by Dr. Warfield. I need only add that the present volume contains the most important of the doctrinal and polemical works of Augustin, which exerted a powerful influence upon the Reformers of the sixteenth century and upon the Jansenists in the seventeenth. They constitute what is popularly called the Augustinian system, though they only represent one side of it. Enough has been said on their merits in the Prolegomena to the first volume, and in the valuable Introductory Essay of Dr. Warfield, who has been called to fill the chair of systematic theology once adorned by the learning and piety of the immortal Hodges, father and son.

The remaining three volumes will contain the exegetical writings of the great Bishop of Hippo.

Philip Schaff.

New York, September, 1887.

Introductory Essay on Augustin and the Pelagian Controversy.

by Professor Benjamin B. Warfield, D.D.

A Select Bibliography of the Pelagian Controversy.

(Adapted from Dr. Schaff's Church History, vol. iii.)

I. Three works of Pelagius, printed among the works of Jerome (Vallarsius' edition, vol. xi.): viz., the Expositions on Paul's Epistles, written before 410 (but somewhat, especially in Romans, interpolated); the Epistle to Demetrias, 413; and the Confession of Faith, 417, addressed to Innocent I. Copious fragments of other works (On Nature, In Defence of Free Will, Chapters, Letter to Innocent) are found quoted in Augustin's refutations; as also of certain works by Coelestius (e.g., his Definitions, Confession to Zosimus), and of the writings of Julian. Here also belong Cassian's Collationes Patrum, and the works of the other semi-Pelagian writers.

II. Augustin's anti-Pelagian treatises; also his work On Heresies, 88, 428; many of his letters, as e.g., those numbered by the Benedictines, 140, 157, 178, 179, 190, 191, 193, 194; and many of his letters, as e.g., 155, 163, 165, 168, 169, 174, 176, 293, 294, etc. Jerome's Letter to Ctesiphon (133), and his three books of Dialogue against the Pelagians (vol. ii. of Vallarsius); Paulus Orosius' Apology against Pelagius; Marius Mercator's Commonitoria; Prosper of Aquitaine's writings as also those of such late writers as Avitus, Cæsarius, Fulgentius, who bore the brunt of the semi-Pelagian controversy.

III. The collections of Acta of the councils and other public documents, in Mansi and in the appendix to the Benedictine edition of Augustin's anti-Pelagian writings (vol.x.).

IV. Literature.--A. Special works on the subject: Gerh. Joh. Vossius, Hist. de Controversiis quas Pelagius ejusque reliquiæ moverunt, 1655; Henr. Norisius, Historia Pelagiana, etc., 1673; Garnier, Dissert. vii. quibus integra continuentur Pelagianorum Hist. (in his edition of Marius Mercator, I. 113); the Præfatio to vol. x. of the Benedictine edition of Augustin's works; Corn. Jansenius, Augustinus sive doctrina S. Augustini, etc., adversus Pelagianos et Massilienses, 1640; Jac. Sirmond, Historia Prædestinatiana, 1648; Tillemont, Mémoires xiii. 1-1075; Ch. Wilh. Fr. Walch, Ketzerhìstorie, Bd. iv. and v., 1770; Johann Geffken, Historia semi-pelagianismi antiquissima, 1826; G. F. Wiggers, Versuch einer pragmatischen Darstellung des Augustinismus und Pelagianismus, 1821-1833 (Part I. dealing with Pelagianism proper, in an E. T. by Professor Emerson, Andover, 1840); J.L. Jacobi, Die Lehre des Pelagius, 1842; P. Schaff, The Pelagian Controversy, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, May, 1884; Theod. Gangauf, Metaphysische Psychologie des Heiligen Augustinus, 1852; Julius Müller, Die Christliche Lehre von der Sünde, 5th edition 1866 (E. T. by Urwick, Edinburgh); Do., Der Pelagianismus, 1854; F. Wörter, Der Pelagianismus u. s. w. 1866; Mozley, On the Augustinian Doctrine of Predestination, 1855; Nourrisson, La philosophie de S. Augustin, 1868; Bright, Select anti-Pelagian Treatises of St. Augustine, 1880; William Cunningham (not to be confounded with the Scotch professor of that name), S. Austin and his Place in the History of Christian Thought, being the Hulsean Lectures for 1885; James Field Spalding, The Teaching and Influence of St. Augustine, 1886; Hermann Reuter, Augustinische Studien, 1887.

B. The appropriate section in the Histories of Doctrine, as for example those of Münchner, Baumgarten-Crusius, Hagenbach (also E. T.), Neander (also E. T.), Baur, Beck, Thomasius, Harnack (vol. ii. in the press); and in English, W. Cunningham, Shedd, etc.

C. The appropriate chapters in the various larger church histories, e.g., those of Schröckh, Fleury, Gieseler (also E. T.), Neander (also E.T.), Hefele (History of the Councils, also E. T.), Kurtz (also E. T.); and in English, Schaff, Milman, Robertson, etc.

Introductory Essay on Augustin and the Pelagian Controversy.

by Professor Benjamin B. Warfield, D.D.

I. The Origin and Nature of Pelagianism.

It was inevitable that the energy of the Church in intellectually realizing and defining its doctrines in relation to one another, should first be directed towards the objective side of Christian truth. The chief controversies of the first four centuries and the resulting definitions of doctrine, concerned the nature of God and the person of Christ; and it was not until these theological and Christological questions were well upon their way to final settlement, that the Church could turn its attention to the more subjective side of truth. Meanwhile she bore in her bosom a full recognition, side by side, of the freedom of the will, the evil consequences of the fall, and the necessity of divine grace for salvation. Individual writers, or even the several sections of the Church, might exhibit a tendency to throw emphasis on one or another of the elements that made up this deposit of faith that was the common inheritance of all. The East, for instance, laid especial stress on free will: and the West dwelt more pointedly on the ruin of the human race and the absolute need of God's grace for salvation. But neither did the Eastern theologians forget the universal sinfulness and need of redemption, or the necessity, for the realization of that redemption, of God's gracious influences; nor did those of the West deny the self-determination or accountability of men. All the elements of the composite doctrine of man were everywhere confessed; but they were variously emphasized, according to the temper of the writers or the controversial demands of the times. Such a state of affairs, however, was an invitation to heresy, and a prophecy of controversy; just as the simultaneous confession of the unity of God and the Deity of Christ, or of the Deity and the humanity of Christ, inevitably carried in its train a series of heresies and controversies, until the definitions of the doctrines of the Trinity and of the person of Christ were complete. In like manner, it was inevitable that sooner or later some one should arise who would so one-sidedly emphasize one element or the other of the Church's teaching as to salvation, as to throw himself into heresy, and drive the Church, through controversy with him, into a precise definition of the doctrines of free will and grace in their mutual relations.

This new heresiarch came, at the opening of the fifth century, in the person of the British monk, Pelagius. The novelty of the doctrine which he taught is repeatedly asserted by Augustin [1] , and is evident to the historian; but it consisted not in the emphasis that he laid on free will, but rather in the fact that, in emphasizing free will, he denied the ruin of the race and the necessity of grace. This was not only new in Christianity; it was even anti-Christian. Jerome, as well as Augustin, saw this at the time, and speaks of Pelagianism as the "heresy of Pythagoras and Zeno;" [2] and modern writers of the various schools have more or less fully recognized it. Thus Dean Milman thinks that "the greater part" of Pelagius' letter to Demetrias "might have been written by an ancient academic;" [3] Dr. De Pressensé identifies the Pelagian idea of liberty with that of Paganism; [4] and Bishop Hefele openly declares that their fundamental doctrine, "that man is virtuous entirely of his own merit, not of the gift of grace," seems to him "to be a rehabilitation of the general heathen view of the world," and compares with it Cicero's words: [5] "For gold, lands, and all the blessings of life, we have to return thanks to the Gods; but no one ever returned thanks to the Gods for virtues." [6] The struggle with Pelagianism was thus in reality a struggle for the very foundations of Christianity; and even more dangerously than in the previous theological and Christological controversies, here the practical substance of Christianity was in jeopardy. The real question at issue was whether there was any need for Christianity at all; whether by his own power man might not attain eternal felicity; whether the function of Christianity was to save, or only to render an eternity of happiness more easily attainable by man. [7]

Genetically speaking, Pelagianism was the daughter of legalism; but when it itself conceived, it brought forth an essential deism. It is not without significance that its originators were "a certain sort of monks;" that is, laymen of ascetic life. From this point of view the Divine law is looked upon as a collection of separate commandments, moral perfection as a simple complex of separate virtues, and a distinct value as a meritorious demand on Divine approbation is ascribed to each good work or attainment in the exercises of piety. It was because this was essentially his point of view that Pelagius could regard man's powers as sufficient to the attainment of sanctity,--nay, that he could even assert it to be possible for a man to do more than was required of him. But this involved an essentially deistic conception of man's relations to his Maker. God had endowed His creature with a capacity (possibilitas) or ability (posse) for action, and it was for him to use it. Man was thus a machine, which, just because it was well made, needed no Divine interference for its right working; and the Creator, having once framed him, and endowed him with the posse, henceforth leaves the velle and the esse to him.

At this point we have touched the central and formative principle of Pelagianism. It lies in the assumption of the plenary ability of man; his ability to do all that righteousness can demand,--to work out not only his own salvation, but also his own perfection. This is the core of the whole theory; and all the other postulates not only depend upon it, but arise out of it. Both chronologically and logically this is the root of the system.

When we first hear of Pelagius, he is already advanced in years, living in Rome in the odour of sanctity, [8] and enjoying a well-deserved reputation for zeal in exhorting others to a good life, which grew especially warm against those who endeavoured to shelter themselves, when charged with their sins, behind the weakness of nature. [9] He was outraged by the universal excuses on such occasions,--"It is hard!" "it is difficult!" "we are not able!" "we are men!"--"Oh, blind madness!" he cried: "we accuse God of a twofold ignorance,--that He does not seem to know what He has made, nor what He has commanded,--as if forgetting the human weakness of which He is Himself the Author, He has imposed laws on man which He cannot endure." [10] He himself tells us [11] that it was his custom, therefore, whenever he had to speak on moral improvement and the conduct of a holy life, to begin by pointing out the power and quality of human nature, and by showing what it was capable of doing. For (he says) he esteemed it of small use to exhort men to what they deemed impossible: hope must rather be our companion, and all longing and effort die when we despair of attaining. So exceedingly ardent an advocate was he of man's unaided ability to do all that God commanded, that when Augustin's noble and entirely scriptural prayer--"Give what Thou commandest, and command what Thou wilt"--was repeated in his hearing, he was unable to endure it; and somewhat inconsistently contradicted it with such violence as almost to become involved in a strife. [12] The powers of man, he held, were gifts of God; and it was, therefore, a reproach against Him as if He had made man ill or evil, to believe that they were insufficient for the keeping of His law. Nay, do what we will, we cannot rid ourselves of their sufficiency: "whether we will, or whether we will not, we have the capacity of not sinning." [13] "I say," he says, "that man is able to be without sin, and that he is able to keep the commandments of God;" and this sufficiently direct statement of human ability is in reality the hinge of his whole system.

There were three specially important corollaries which flowed from this assertion of human ability, and Augustin himself recognized these as the chief elements of the system. [14] It would be inexplicable on such an assumption, if no man had ever used his ability in keeping God's law; and Pelagius consistently asserted not only that all might be sinless if they chose, but also that many saints, even before Christ, had actually lived free from sin. Again, it follows from man's inalienable ability to be free from sin, that each man comes into the world without entailment of sin or moral weakness from the past acts of men; and Pelagius consistently denied the whole doctrine of original sin. And still again, it follows from the same assumption of ability that man has no need of supernatural assistance in his striving to obey righteousness; and Pelagius consistently denied both the need and reality of divine grace in the sense of an inward help (and especially of a prevenient help) to man's weakness.

It was upon this last point that the greatest stress was laid in the controversy, and Augustin was most of all disturbed that thus God's grace was denied and opposed. No doubt the Pelagians spoke constantly of "grace," but they meant by this the primal endowment of man with free will, and the subsequent aid given him in order to its proper use by the revelation of the law and the teaching of the gospel, and, above all, by the forgiveness of past sins in Christ and by Christ's holy example. [15] Anything further than this external help they utterly denied; and they denied that this external help itself was absolutely necessary, affirming that it only rendered it easier for man to do what otherwise he had plenary ability for doing. Chronologically, this contention seems to have preceded the assertion which must logically lie at its base, of the freedom of man from any taint, corruption, or weakness due to sin. It was in order that they might deny that man needed help, that they denied that Adam's sin had any further effect on his posterity than might arise from his bad example. "Before the action of his own proper will," said Pelagius plainly, "that only is in man which God made." [16] "As we are procreated without virtue," he said, "so also without vice." [17] In a word, "Nothing that is good and evil, on account of which we are either praiseworthy or blameworthy, is born with us,--it is rather done by us; for we are born with capacity for either, but provided with neither." [18] So his later follower, Julian, plainly asserts his "faith that God creates men obnoxious to no sin, but full of natural innocence, and with capacity for voluntary virtues." [19] So intrenched is free will in nature, that, according to Julian, it is "just as complete after sins as it was before sins;" [20] and what this means may be gathered from Pelagius' definition in the "Confession of Faith," that he sent to Innocent: "We say that man is always able both to sin and not to sin, so as that we may confess that we have free will." That sin in such circumstances was so common as to be well-nigh universal, was accounted for by the bad example of Adam and the power of habit, the latter being simply the result of imitation of the former. "Nothing makes well-doing so hard," writes Pelagius to Demetrias, "as the long custom of sins which begins from childhood and gradually brings us more and more under its power until it seems to have in some degree the force of nature (vim naturæ)." He is even ready to allow for the force of habit in a broad way, on the world at large; and so divides all history into progressive periods, marked by God's (external) grace. At first the light of nature was so strong that men by it alone could live in holiness. And it was only when men's manners became corrupt and tarnished nature began to be insufficient for holy living, that by God's grace the Law was given as an addition to mere nature; and by it "the original lustre was restored to nature after its blush had been impaired." And so again, after the habit of sinning once more prevailed among men, and "the law became unequal to the task of curing it," [21] Christ was given, furnishing men with forgiveness of sins, exhortations to imitation of the example and the holy example itself. [22] But though thus a progressive deterioration was confessed, and such a deterioration as rendered desirable at least two supernatural interpositions (in the giving of the law and the coming of Christ), yet no corruption of nature, even by growing habit, is really allowed. It was only an ever-increasing facility in imitating vice which arose from so long a schooling in evil; and all that was needed to rescue men from it was a new explanation of what was right (in the law), or, at the most, the encouragement of forgiveness for what was already done, and a holy example (in Christ) for imitation. Pelagius still asserted our continuous possession of "a free will which is unimpaired for sinning and for not sinning;" and Julian, that "our free will is just as full after sins as it was before sins;" although Augustin does not fail to twit him with a charge of inconsistency. [23]

The peculiar individualism of the Pelagian view of the world comes out strongly in their failure to perceive the effect of habit on nature itself. Just as they conceived of virtue as a complex of virtuous acts, so they conceived of sin exclusively as an act, or series of disconnected acts. They appear not to have risen above the essentially heathen view which had no notion of holiness apart from a series of acts of holiness, or of sin apart from a like series of sinful acts. [24] Thus the will was isolated from its acts, and the acts from each other, and all organic connection or continuity of life was not only overlooked but denied. [25] After each act of the will, man stood exactly where he did before: indeed, this conception scarcely allows for the existence of a "man"--only a willing machine is left, at each click of the action of which the spring regains its original position, and is equally ready as before to reperform its function. In such a conception there was no place for character: freedom of will was all. Thus it was not an unnatural mistake which they made, when they forgot the man altogether, and attributed to the faculty of free will, under the name of "possibilitas" or "posse," the ability that belonged rather to the man whose faculty it is, and who is properly responsible for the use he makes of it. Here lies the essential error of their doctrine of free will: they looked upon freedom in its form only, and not in its matter; and, keeping man in perpetual and hopeless equilibrium between good and evil, they permitted no growth of character and no advantage to himself to be gained by man in his successive choices of good. It need not surprise us that the type of thought which thus dissolved the organism of the man into a congeries of disconnected voluntary acts, failed to comprehend the solidarity of the race. To the Pelagian, Adam was a man, nothing more; and it was simply unthinkable that any act of his that left his own subsequent acts uncommitted, could entail sin and guilt upon other men. The same alembic that dissolved the individual into a succession of voluntary acts, could not fail to separate the race into a heap of unconnected units. If sin, as Julian declared, is nothing but will, and the will itself remained intact after each act, how could the individual act of an individual will condition the acts of men as yet unborn? By "imitation" of his act alone could (under such a conception) other men be affected. And this carried with it the corresponding view of man's relation to Christ. He could forgive us the sins we had committed; He could teach us the true way; He could set us a holy example; and He could exhort us to its imitation. But He could not touch us to enable us to will the good, without destroying the absolute equilibrium of the will between good and evil; and to destroy this was to destroy its freedom, which was the crowning good of our divinely created nature. Surely the Pelagians forgot that man was not made for will, but will for man.

In defending their theory, as we are told by Augustin, there were five claims that they especially made for it. [26] It allowed them to praise as was their due, the creature that God had made, the marriage that He had instituted, the law that He had given, the free will which was His greatest endowment to man, and the saints who had followed His counsels. By this they meant that they proclaimed the sinless perfection of human nature in every man as he was brought into the world, and opposed this to the doctrine of original sin; the purity and holiness of marriage and the sexual appetites, and opposed this to the doctrine of the transmission of sin; the ability of the law, as well as and apart from the gospel, to bring men into eternal life, and opposed this to the necessity of inner grace; the integrity of free will to choose the good, and opposed this to the necessity of divine aid; and the perfection of the lives of the saints, and opposed this to the doctrine of universal sinfulness. Other questions, concerning the origin of souls, the necessity of baptism for infants, the original immortality of Adam, lay more on the skirts of the controversy, and were rather consequences of their teaching than parts of it. As it was an obvious fact that all men died, they could not admit that Adam's death was a consequence of sin lest they should be forced to confess that his sin had injured all men; they therefore asserted that physical death belonged to the very nature of man, and that Adam would have died even had he not sinned. [27] So, as it was impossible to deny that the Church everywhere baptized infants, they could not refuse them baptism without confessing themselves innovators in doctrine; and therefore they contended that infants were not baptized for forgiveness of sins, but in order to attain a higher state of salvation. Finally, they conceived that if it was admitted that souls were directly created by God for each birth, it could not be asserted that they came into the world soiled by sin and under condemnation; and therefore they loudly championed this theory of the origin of souls.

The teachings of the Pelagians, it will be readily seen, easily welded themselves into a system, the essential and formative elements of which were entirely new in the Christian Church; and this startlingly new reading of man's condition, powers, and dependence for salvation, it was, that broke like a thunderbolt upon the Western Church at the opening of the fifth century, and forced her to reconsider, from the foundations, her whole teaching as to man and his salvation.


[1] On the Merits and Remission of Sins, iii. 6, 11, 12; Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, iv. 32; Against Julian, i. 4; On Heresies, 88; and often elsewhere. Jerome found roots for the theory in Origen and Rufinus (Letter 133, 3), but this is a different matter. Compare On Original Sin, 25. [2] Preface to Book iv. of his work on Jeremiah. [3] Latin Christianity, i. 166, note 2. [4] Trois Prem. Siécles, ii. 375. [5] De Natura Deorum, iii. 36. [6] History of the Councils of the Church (E.T.), ii. 446, note 3. [7] Compare the excellent statement in Thomasius' Dogmengeschichte, i. 483. [8] On the Proceedings of Pelagius, 46; On the Merits and Remission of Sins, iii. 1; Epistle 186, etc. [9] On Nature and Grace, 1. [10] Epistle to Demetrias, 16. [11] Do. 2 and 19. [12] On the Gift of Perseverance, 53. [13] On Nature and Grace, 49. [14] On the Gift of Perseverance, 4; Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, iii. 24; iv. 2 sq. [15] On the Spirit and the Letter, 4; On Nature and Grace, 53; On the Proceedings of Pelagius, 20, 22, 38; On the Grace of Christ, 2, 3, 8, 31, 42, 45; Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, iv. 11; On Grace and Free Will, 23-26, and often. [16] On Original Sin, 14. [17] On Original Sin, 14. [18] On Original Sin, 14. [19] The Unfinished Work, iii. 82. [20] Do. i. 91; compare do. i. 48, 60; ii. 20. "There is nothing of sin in man, if there is nothing of his own will." "There is no original sin in infants at all." [21] On Original Sin, 30. [22] On the Grace of Christ, 43. [23] The Unfinished Work, i. 91; compare 69. [24] Dr. Matheson finely says (Expositor, i. ix. 21), "There is the same difference between the Chrstian and Pagan idea of prayer as there is between the Christian and Pagan idea of sin. Paganism knows nothing of sin, it knows only sins: it has no conception of the principle of evil, it comprehends only a succession of sinful acts." This is Pelagianism too. [25] Compare Schaff, Church History, iii. 804; and Thomasius' Dogmengeschichte, i. 487-8. [26] Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, iii. 25, and iv. at the beginning. [27] This belongs to the earlier Pelagianism; Julian was ready to admit that death came from Adam, but not sin.

II. The External History of the Pelagian Controversy.

Pelagius seems to have been already somewhat softened by increasing age when he came to Rome about the opening of the fifth century. He was also constitutionally averse to controversy; and although in his zeal for Christian morals, and in his conviction that no man would attempt to do what he was not persuaded he had natural power to perform, he diligently propagated his doctrines privately, he was careful to rouse no opposition, and was content to make what progress he could quietly and without open discussion. His methods of work sufficiently appear in the pages of his "Commentary on the Epistles of Saint Paul," which was written and published during these years, and which exhibits learning and a sober and correct but somewhat shallow exegetical skill. In this work, he manages to give expression to all the main elements of his system, but always introduces them indirectly, not as the true exegesis, but by way of objections to the ordinary teaching, which were in need of discussion. The most important fruit of his residence in Rome was the conversion to his views of the Advocate Coelestius, who brought the courage of youth and the argumentative training of a lawyer to the propagation of the new teaching. It was through him that it first broke out into public controversy, and received its first ecclesiastical examination and rejection. Fleeing from Alaric's second raid on Rome, the two friends landed together in Africa (A.D. 411), whence Pelagius soon afterwards departed for Palestine, leaving the bolder and more contentious [28] Coelestius behind at Carthage. Here Coelestius sought ordination as a presbyter. But the Milanese deacon Paulinus stood forward in accusation of him as a heretic, and the matter was brought before a synod under the presidency of Bishop Aurelius. [29]

Paulinus' charge consisted of seven items, [30] which asserted that Coelestius taught the following heresies: that Adam was made mortal, and would have died, whether he sinned or did not sin; that the sin of Adam injured himself alone, not the human race; that new-born children are in that state in which Adam was before his sin; that the whole human race does not, on the one hand, die on account of the death or the fall of Adam, nor, on the other, rise again on account of the resurrection of Christ; that infants, even though not baptized, have eternal life; that the law leads to the kingdom of heaven in the same way as the gospel; and that, even before the Lord's coming, there had been men without sin. Only two fragments of the proceedings of the synod in investigating this charge have come down to us; [31] but it is easy to see that Coelestius was contumacious, and refused to reject any of the propositions charged against him, except the one which had reference to the salvation of infants that die unbaptized,--the sole one that admitted of sound defence. As touching the transmission of sin, he would only say that it was an open question in the Church, and that he had heard both opinions from Church dignitaries; so that the subject needed investigation, and should not be made the ground for a charge of heresy. The natural result was, that, on refusing to condemn the propositions charged against him, he was himself condemned and excommunicated by the synod. Soon afterwards he sailed to Ephesus, where he obtained the ordination which he sought.

Meanwhile Pelagius was living quietly in Palestine, whither in the summer of 415 a young Spanish presbyter, Paulus Orosius by name, came with letters from Augustin to Jerome, and was invited, near the end of July in that year, to a diocesan synod, presided over by John of Jerusalem. There he was asked about Pelagius and Coelestius, and proceeded to give an account of the condemnation of the latter at the synod of Carthage, and of Augustin's literary refutation of the former. Pelagius was sent for, and the proceedings became an examination into his teachings. The chief matter brought up was his assertion of the possibility of men living sinlessly in this world; but the favour of the bishop towards him, the intemperance of Orosius, and the difficulty of communication between the parties arising from difference of language, combined so to clog proceedings that nothing was done; and the whole matter, as Western in its origin, was referred to the Bishop of Rome for examination and decision. [32]

Soon afterwards two Gallic bishops,--Heros of Arles, and Lazarus of Aix,--who were then in Palestine, lodged a formal accusation against Pelagius with the metropolitan, Eulogius of Cæsarea; and he convened a synod of fourteen bishops which met at Lydda (Diospolis), in December of the same year (415), for the trial of the case. Perhaps no greater ecclesiastical farce was ever enacted than this synod exhibited. [33] When the time arrived, the accusers were prevented from being present by illness, and Pelagius was confronted only by the written accusation. This was both unskilfully drawn, and was written in Latin which the synod did not understand. It was, therefore, not even consecutively read, and was only head by head rendered into Greek by an interpreter. Pelagius began by reading aloud several letters to himself from various men of reputation in the Episcopate,--among them a friendly note from Augustin. Thoroughly acquainted with both Latin and Greek, he was enabled skillfully to thread every difficulty, and pass safely through the ordeal. Jerome called this a "miserable synod," and not unjustly: at the same time it is sufficient to vindicate the honesty and earnestness of the bishops' intentions, that even in such circumstances, and despite the more undeveloped opinions of the East on the questions involved, Pelagius escaped condemnation only by a course of most ingenious disingenuousness, and only at the cost both of disowning Coelestius and his teachings, of which he had been the real father, and of leading the synod to believe that he was anathematizing the very doctrines which he was himself proclaiming. There is really no possibility of doubting, as any one will see who reads the proceedings of the synod, that Pelagius obtained his acquittal here either by a "lying condemnation or a tricky interpretation" [34] of his own teachings; and Augustin is perfectly justified in asserting that the "heresy was not acquitted, but the man who denied the heresy," [35] and who would himself have been anathematized had he not anathematized the heresy.

However obtained, the acquittal of Pelagius was yet an accomplished fact. Neither he nor his friends delayed to make the most widely extended use of their good fortune. Pelagius himself was jubilant. Accounts of the synodal proceedings were sent to the West, not altogether free from uncandid alterations; and Pelagius soon put forth a work In Defence of Free-Will, in which he triumphed in his acquittal and "explained his explanations" at the synod. Nor were the champions of the opposite opinion idle. As soon as the news arrived in North Africa, and before the authentic records of the synod had reached that region, the condemnation of Pelagius and Coelestius was re-affirmed in two provincial synods,--one, consisting of sixty-eight bishops, met at Carthage about midsummer of 416; and the other, consisting of about sixty bishops, met soon afterwards at Mileve (Mila). Thus Palestine and North Africa were arrayed against one another, and it became of great importance to obtain the support of the Patriarchal See of Rome. Both sides made the attempt, but fortune favored the Africans. Each of the North-African synods sent a synodal letter to Innocent I., then Bishop of Rome, engaging his assent to their action: to these, five bishops, Aurelius of Carthage and Augustin among them, added a third "familiar" letter of their own, in which they urged upon Innocent to examine into Pelagius' teaching, and provided him with the material on which he might base a decision. The letters reached Innocent in time for him to take advice of his clergy, and send favorable replies on Jan. 27, 417. In these he expressed his agreement with the African decisions, asserted the necessity of inward grace, rejected the Pelagian theory of infant baptism, and declared Pelagius and Coelestius excommunicated until they should return to orthodoxy. In about six weeks more he was dead: but Zosimus, his successor, was scarcely installed in his place before Coelestius appeared at Rome in person to plead his cause; while shortly afterwards letters arrived from Pelagius addressed to Innocent, and by an artful statement of his belief and a recommendation from Praylus, lately become bishop of Jerusalem in John's stead, attempting to enlist Rome in his favour. Zosimus, who appears to have been a Greek and therefore inclined to make little of the merits of this Western controversy, went over to Coelestius at once, upon his profession of willingness to anathematize all doctrines which the pontifical see had condemned or should condemn; and wrote a sharp and arrogant letter to Africa, proclaiming Coelestius "catholic," and requiring the Africans to appear within two months at Rome to prosecute their charges, or else to abandon them. On the arrival of Pelagius' papers, this letter was followed by another (September, 417), in which Zosimus, with the approbation of the clergy, declared both Pelagius and Coelestius to be orthodox, and severely rebuked the Africans for their hasty judgment. It is difficult to understand Zosimus' action in this matter: neither of the confessions presented by the accused teachers ought to have deceived him, and if he was seizing the occasion to magnify the Roman see, his mistake was dreadful. Late in 417, or early in 418, the African bishops assembled at Carthage, in number more than two hundred, and replied to Zosimus that they had decided that the sentence pronounced against Pelagius and Coelestius should remain in force until they should unequivocally acknowledge that "we are aided by the grace of God, through Christ, not only to know, but to do what is right, in each single act, so that without grace we are unable to have, think, speak, or do anything pertaining to piety." This firmness made Zosimus waver. He answered swellingly but timidly, declaring that he had maturely examined the matter, but it had not been his intention finally to acquit Coelestius; and now he had left all things in the condition in which they were before, but he claimed the right of final judgment to himself. Matters were hastening to a conclusion, however, that would leave him no opportunity to escape from the mortification of an entire change of front. This letter was written on the 21st of March, 418; it was received in Africa on the 29th of April; and on the very next day an imperial decree was issued from Ravenna ordering Pelagius and Coelestius to be banished from Rome, with all who held their opinions; while on the next day, May 1, a plenary council of about two hundred bishops met at Carthage, and in nine canons condemned all the essential features of Pelagianism. Whether this simultaneous action was the result of skillful arrangement, can only be conjectured: its effect was in any case necessarily crushing. There could be no appeal from the civil decision, and it played directly into the hands of the African definition of the faith. The synod's nine canons part naturally into three triads. [36] The first of these deals with the relation of mankind to original sin, and anathematizes in turn those who assert that physical death is a necessity of nature, and not a result of Adam's sin; those who assert that new-born children derive nothing of original sin from Adam to be expiated by the laver of regeneration; and those who assert a distinction between the kingdom of heaven and eternal life, for entrance into the former of which alone baptism is necessary. The second triad deals with the nature of grace, and anathematizes those who assert that grace brings only remission of past sins, not aid in avoiding future ones; those who assert that grace aids us not to sin, only by teaching us what is sinful, not by enabling us to will and do what we know to be right; and those who assert that grace only enables us to do more easily what we should without it still be able to do. The third triad deals with the universal sinfulness of the race, and anathematizes those who assert that the apostles' (1 John i. 8) confession of sin is due only to their humility; those who say that "Forgive us our trespasses" in the Lord's Prayer, is pronounced by the saints, not for themselves, but for the sinners in their company; and those who say that the saints use these words of themselves only out of humility and not truly. Here we see a careful traversing of the whole ground of the controversy, with a conscious reference to the three chief contentions of the Pelagian teachers. [37]

The appeal to the civil power, by whomsoever made, was, of course, indefensible, although it accorded with the opinions of the day, and was entirely approved by Augustin. But it was the ruin of the Pelagian cause. Zosimus found himself forced either to go into banishment with his wards, or to desert their cause. He appears never to have had any personal convictions on the dogmatic points involved in the controversy, and so, all the more readily, yielded to the necessity of the moment. He cited Coelestius to appear before a council for a new examination; but that heresiarch consulted prudence, and withdrew from the city. Zosimus, possibly in the effort to appear a leader in the cause he had opposed, not only condemned and excommunicated the men whom less than six months before he had pronounced "orthodox" after a `mature consideration of the matters involved,' but, in obedience to the imperial decree, issued a stringent paper which condemned Pelagius and the Pelagians, and affirmed the African doctrines as to corruption of nature, true grace, and the necessity of baptism. To this he required subscription from all bishops as a test of orthodoxy. Eighteen Italian bishops refused their signature, with Julian of Eclanum, henceforth to be the champion of the Pelagian party, at their head, and were therefore deposed, although several of them afterwards recanted, and were restored. In Julian, the heresy obtained an advocate, who, if aught could have been done for its re-instatement, would surely have proved successful. He was the boldest, the strongest, at once the most acute and the most weighty, of all the disputants of his party. But the ecclesiastical standing of this heresy was already determined. The policy of Zosimus' test act was imposed by imperial authority on North Africa in 419. The exiled bishops were driven from Constantinople by Atticus in 424; and they are said to have been condemned at a Cilician synod in 423, and at an Antiochian one in 424. Thus the East itself was preparing for the final act in the drama. The exiled bishops were with Nestorius at Constantinople in 429; and that patriarch unsuccessfully interceded for them with Coelestine, then Bishop of Rome. The conjunction was ominous. And at the ecumenical synod at Ephesus in 431, we again find the "Coelestians" side by side with Nestorius, sharers in his condemnation.

But Pelagianism did not so die as not to leave a legacy behind it. "Remainders of Pelagianism" [38] soon showed themselves in Southern Gaul, where a body of monastic leaders attempted to find a middle ground on which they could stand, by allowing the Augustinian doctrine of assisting grace, but retaining the Pelagian conception of our self-determination to good. We first hear of them in 428, through letters from two laymen, Prosper and Hilary, to Augustin, as men who accepted original sin and the necessity of grace, but asserted that men began their turning to God, and God helped their beginning. They taught [39] that all men are sinners, and that they derive their sin from Adam; that they can by no means save themselves, but need God's assisting grace; and that this grace is gratuitous in the sense that men cannot really deserve it, and yet that it is not irresistible, nor given always without the occasion of its gift having been determined by men's attitude towards God; so that, though not given on account of the merits of men, it is given according to those merits, actual or foreseen. The leader of this new movement was John Cassian, a pupil of Chrysostom (to whom he attributed all that was good in his life and will), and the fountain-head of Gallic monasticism; and its chief champion at a somewhat later day was Faustus of Rhegium (Riez).

The Augustinian opposition was at first led by the vigorous controversialist, Prosper of Aquitaine, and, in the next century, by the wise, moderate, and good Cæsarius of Arles, who brought the contest to a conclusion in the victory of a softened Augustinianism. Already in 431 a letter was obtained from Pope Coelestine, designed to close the controversy in favor of Augustinianism, and in 496 Pope Gelasius condemned the writings of Faustus in the first index of forbidden books; while, near the end of the first quarter of the sixth century, Pope Hormisdas was appealed to for a renewed condemnation. The end was now in sight. The famous second Synod of Orange met under the presidency of Cæsarius at that ancient town on the 3d of July, 529, and drew up a series of moderate articles which received the ratification of Boniface II. in the following year. In these articles there is affirmed an anxiously guarded Augustinianism, a somewhat weakened Augustinianism, but yet a distinctive Augustinianism; and, so far as a formal condemnation could reach, semi-Pelagianism was suppressed by them in the whole Western Church. But councils and popes can only decree; and Cassian and Vincent and Faustus, despite Cæsarius and Boniface and Gregory, retained an influence among their countrymen which never died away.


[28] On Original Sin, 13. [29] Early in 412, or, less probably, according to the Ballerini and Hefele 411. [30] See On Original Sin, 2, 3, 12; On the Proceedings of Pelagius, 23. They are also given by Marius Mercator (Migne, xlviii. 69, 70), and the fifth item (on the salvation of unbaptized infants) omitted,--though apparently by an error. [31] Preserved by Augustin, On Original Sin, 3, 4. [32] An account of this synod is given by Orosius himself in his Apology for the Freedom of the Will. [33] A full account and criticism of the proceedings are given by Augustin in his On the Proceedings of Pelagius. [34] On Original Sin, 13, at the end. [35] Augustin's Sermons (Migne, v. 1511). [36] Compare Canon Bright's Introduction in his Select Anti-Pelagian Treatises, p. xli. [37] See above, p. xv., and the passages in Augustin cited in note 3. [38] Prosper's phrase. [39] Augustin gives their teaching carefully in his On the Predestination of the Saints, 2.

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