THE PELAGIAN CONTROVERSY.
Jt is the part of an intelligent agent to choose the fittest season for the execution of arduous enterprises, or the introduction of important innovations. * Possid.
This rule, we may safely conclude, is observed by Cent. Satan in all his attempts againstthe Church of Christ. . ^' While the belief and experience of divine influences were strong and vigorous in Christian societies, it was in vain for him to attempt to persuade men, that such influences were of no necessity or value : he could do no more than seduce them to counterfeit, abuse, or misapply them. Hence the wildness and incoherence of Montanism. But now that the holy influence of the Spirit of God was generally damped by superstition, or quenched by licentiousness, Satan felt himself emboldened to erect a new heresy, which should pretend to the height of purity, supported by Mere Human Nature, exclusive of the operations of divine grace altogether. This was Pelagianism *: and as this evil now entered the Church for the first time, and in a greater or less degree has continued to this day ; as it is directly subversive of Christianity, and as it introduced a controversy, not trivial and frivolous like many others, but of unspeakable importance, it eminently falls within the plan of this History, to state the circumstances and consequences with perspicuity.
Augustine, of Hippo, had been trained up under the Lord's wholesome discipline, by an extraordinary conversion, as we have seen, during the latter part of the last century. Thus did the all-wise God, who
IS WONDERFUL IN COUNSEL AND EXCELLENT IN
Work, secretly Stir Up A Scourge for Pelagius, against the time that he should make his appearance ; and his heresy was eventually one of the grand means of introducing juster views of Gospel grace, than had for a long time obtained in the Church, and of reviving Christian truth, humility and piety. The effects of this effusion of the Spirit
• In this chapter I purpose to describe its rise and progress historically. What I have said of its precise nature, will be confirmed in the proper place by the authentic lights of antiquity.
Chap, were solid, though never brilliant, operative during 1, P; - this century and many centuries afterwards, in the production of much real godliness in the minds of many individuals, particularly of monastic persons, to whom for ages, Augustine's writings were a great and useful light; indeed, next to the word of God, the greatest means of grace which they had in times extremely unfavourable to improvement. Hence, besides the immediate benefit which the Church received in his own time, the utility of this providential dispensation reached to the time of the Reformation itself, and even beyond it in Popish countries ; though the reader must not expect any great or strong display of the plantation of new churches, or any sudden and marvellous change in the external appearance of the Church. The light we are now to contemplate never broke out into a vivid extensive flame, but shone with faint, though steady rays, with a moderate degree of brightness at first, and afterwards glimmered through many ages.
Pelagius was born in Britain, and was in his own time called Brito*. His companion Coelestius was an Irishman, by the testimony of Jerom. He calls him a Scot, and that name in those times meant, as is known to the learned, a native of Ireland.
* I make large use of Jansenius in this narrative : he has prefixed the history of the heresy to his treatise called Augustine: The account seems accurate, and well supported by authorities of contemporary writers, particularly Jerom and Augustine. I have consulted these two with much care and attention, and I find Jansenius so exact and well-informed in those things of which we have an opportunity to form an estimate, that it seems reasonable to give him credit for his extracts from the GesU Pelag. of Aug.—a work which we have not in the common editions of that father, because it was not discovered till about the time of Janseniu.% being found, as he tells us, in an Abbey at Fesula?, in Italy.
Since I wrote this, I have seen the Gesta Pelag. in a more recent edition of Augustine, and am still further confirmed in my opinion of the accurate industry of Jansenius.
They were both laymen ; the former, by profession, Cent. a monk, who, as far as appears, always maintained , va character of fair and decent morals. In the heat of contention there were who denied this ; but it is admitted by Augustine with his usual candour, and we might have been certain of it, independently of his authority; because otherwise it would have been impossible for him ever to have become a person of lasting reputation in the religious world. He travelled from monastery to monastery, through various parts of the Empire. His heretical opinions did not appear till he was far advanced in life; before that time Augustine owns (though he speaks by hearsay) his reputation for serious piety to have been great in the Christian world ; and those who know the difference between holiness and mere morality will not be surprised at this. Augustine allows the genius and capacity of both these men to have been of the first order : and this testimony from him is decisive with me against that of Jerom, who treats the understanding and endowments of both with great contempt; but Jerom was not apt to allow any laudable qualities to an Adversary.
Isidore of Pelusium applies to Pelagius that Tp^a""1 passage of Hosea; "grey heirs are here and there about upon him, yet he knoweth it not." This author is A* Dunderstood thence to intimate, that he fell into this 4<Mheresy in old age. It began to appear about the or year 404 or 5. Chrysostom, writing to his friend, 4°5the deaconness Olympias, says, " I am much grieved for Pelagius the monk ; consider what crowns must be reserved for those who stand firm, when men who have lived in so much mortification and continency, appear to be so carried away." His first writings were an Epistle to Paulinus of Nola and other little works, in which his erroneous views of grace were so artfully expressed, and so guarded with cautious terms, that Augustine owns he was almost deceived by them. But when he saw his other
writings of a later date, he discerned that he might artfully own the word Grace, and by retaining the term, break the force of prejudice, and avoid offence, and yet conceal his meaning under a general ambiguity.
For, by a dexterity very common with heretics, Pelagius, while he laid open to his converts the whole mystery of his doctrine, imparted only so much to others as might be more calculated to ensnare their affections than to inform them of his real opinions. He used to deliver his views under the modest appearance of queries, started against the doctrines of the church, and those as not invented by himself but by others. The effect of poisoning the minds of men was, perhaps, more powerfully produced by this, than it would have been by a more direct and positive method. To this he added another artifice; heinsinuated himself into the favour of women of some rank, of weak minds, and unacquainted with the spirit of the Gospel, though professing religion; and, by their means, he diffused his tenets with much success. Coelestius, more open and daring in speech, pursued a method not so replete with deceit, and was therefore exposed to detection more easily than his master.
Pelagius, having travelled over the monasteries of Egypt, settled at length at Rome, where his attempts to undermine the whole doctrine of divine grace, by degrees, notwithstanding all his caution, gave umbrage to the Church. Unguarded moments also will happen to the most artful, and at times discover them to the most unwary. A bishop, who was acolleague of Augustine, mentioning to Pelagius those words of the Confessions, " Give what thou commandest, and command what thou wilt;" he contradicted with great vehemence, and expressed much indignation at the sentiment.
Rome being taken by the Goths about the year 410, numbers fled into Africa, and among the rest errors ln Palestine.
Coelestius in Africa.
the two heresiarchs. Pelagius was received at Hippo, Cent. in Augustine's absence, where his stay was very .- ^ , short. The bishop of Hippo saw him once or twice at Carthage ; but was himself very busy in settling a conference with the Donatists, and nothing material passed between them. Pelagius leaving; Africa Pe|»g>"* .
i . T» i * i I'll i spreads Ins
passed over into Palestine : there his labours attracted the attention of Jerom, who lived a monastic life in the same country, and wrote against his opinions, justly calling on him to speak clearly what he meant, and complaining of his ambiguities.
In the mean time Coelestius in Africa more openly discovered his sentiments, and made such attempts to propagate them in Carthage itself, that he was summoned to appear before a synod, which was held by Aurelius, bishop of that city. He was accused of denying original sin; and when he was pressed with the custom of the Church in baptizing infants, as a proof of her belief in all ages that infants needed redemption, he declared that they had no need of remission, and yet ought to be baptized, that they might be sanctified in Christ. Coelestius was condemned as a heretic in the year 412, and dis- condemned appointed of his hopes of rising in the church ; for *s a heretfe, he had either obtained or was about to obtain the A. D. office of a presbyter, in Africa. 412.
A fragment of the acts of this synod is preserved by Augustine*, though he himself was not present at it, in which is the following passage : " Aurelius said, Read what follows, and it was read : That the sin of Adam hurt himself alone, and not mankind. Coelestius said, I owned that I was dubious concerning the communication of sin by descent from Adam (yet in such a manner, that I shall bow to the authority of those to whom God hath given the grace of superior skill) ; because I have heard different things from those who at least were presbyters in the church. Paulinus, a deacon, said, Name them.
* In his book on Original Sin, cap. 3.
Chap. Coelestius answered, The holy presbyter * Ruffinus . at Rome : I heard him deny any communication of sin by descent. Being pressed, if he could name any more, he said, Is not one priest sufficient? On being asked, whether he had not asserted, that infants are born in a state in which Adam was before transgression, all that could be obtained from him was, That infants needed baptism, and ought to be baptized f."
Indeed Pelagianism itself seemed little more than a revival of Deism, or what is commonly called natural religion. Adam,itwassaid, would have died, whether he sinned or not. Men might be saved by the Law, as well as the Gospel: infants just born are in the same state as Adam before transgression. Men's death depends not on that of Adam, nor does their resurrection depend on that of Christ. These tenets were objected to Coelestius, and condemned. In a book which he offered to the council, he owned that children were redeemed by Christ, and yet he would not confess that the effects of Adam's sin passed upon them. So inconsistent are men, bent on the support of error, and yet willing to appear in some measure Christian !
In the mean time Pelagius, in his manner, was still writing against the doctrines of the Gospel; while Augustine, than whom no man was ever more cautious and deliberate in the whole controversy,
* This is he, who was famous for his controversy with Jerom, and for the translation of Origen's works, and of whom, though he seerns to be not much in the line of our history, we shall have occasion to say a little more hereafter.
f Two plain inferences seem deducible from this fragment; 1. That the right of baptizing infants was allowed on all sides to have been of apostolical and primitive authority. It is impossible that men so shrewd and learned as Coelestius and his master, would not have objected to the novelty of infant-baptism, had it been a novelty. 9. The belief of original sin had universally obtained, and must have been equally apostolical. One presbyter only was named by Coelestius, as favouring the doctrine of Pelagius.
answered in his writings the evil tendency of the Pelagian tenets, " avoiding," says he *, " the name of Pelagius, thinking that I might more easily profit him, if, preserving friendship, I should yet spare his modesty." But more of this hereafter.
Caelestius, driven from Africa, fixed his seat in Sicily, and by the questions which he there excited, gave occasion to Augustine to employ his pen in answering him. Nor did the heresy cease in Africa: the bishop of Hippo was employed not only in writing, but also in preaching against the new notions, and gave his testimony in a solemn manner from the pulpit at Carthage.
Pelagius himself wrote in the most respectful manner to Augustine, and in the highest terms extolled his character. It is certain, that the impressions made on Augustine's mind in favour of Pelagius were strong, and not easily erased, because he had been taught to believe him to be a person of great virtue. Nothing but the completest evidence of heresy could have induced him to make an open rupture. And a soul like his, humble and charitable in a high degree, would, I doubt not, long entertain the best hopes of a man whom he had once esteemed. In this spirit he wrote to him the following guarded letter:
" I thank you for your kind letter. The Lord requite you good, by which you may be ever good, and live with the Eternal for ever. Though I cannot own the good things in myself, which your friendly Epistle mentions, yet I should be ungrateful did I not thank you ; at the same time admonishing you rather to pray for me, that I may become such, from the Lord, as you think me to be." ^
In the year 413 an occasion was offered to a Virgin Pelagius of discovering himself more openly to the xwJr;aJ( world. A virgin, named Demetrias, of the illus- A. D. trious race of the Anicii, one of the most ancient.
* Lib. de Gestis Pelag.
Chap- and noble families of Rome, having fled into Africa . ut- , on account of the invasion of the Goths, was, by the exhortation of Augustine, induced to consecrate her virginity to God. The piety of the action was extolled in these superstitious days by all the Christian world, and the bishop of Hippo joined with others in congratulating her. For sufficient proof has already appeared, that he escaped not the infection of the age, though he mixed with it as much real humilityasmostpersonsof those times. Pelagius wrote to her a long and extremely elegant letter, exhorting her to seek true perfection, in which he plainly directs her to look to nature, not to grace, for strength : yet, it is written with so much artifice, that in his apology afterwards to Innocent, bishop of Rome, he appeals to it as a justification of his orthodoxy *. Augustine, some years after, wrote a refutation of it, addressed to Juliana, the mother of Demetrias. Pelagius wrote also another letter to a certain widow, full of the same adulatory strains, in which he so grossly discovers himself, that, as will shortly appear, he had no way left but to disown it. Timariw In the year 415, or nearly so, two well-disposed and j«cob. young men, Timasius and Jacob, meeting with A. d. Pelagius, were by him induced to enter on the mo415' nastic life, in the commendation of which all parties were but too strongly agreed. But they imbibed also his self-righteous doctrine, from which, however, by the labours of Augustine, they were afterwards delivered. On this occasion, they showed Augustine a book of Pelagius, in which he vehemently accused those who pleaded the faultiness of human nature as an excuse for their sins, and in which, while he seemed to be only inveighing against a licentious abuse of Gospel grace, he evidently . denied the existence of all grace, and maintained, that by that term were to be understood the natural
* A further view of this letter shall he given hereafter, among what may be called the Pelagian Papers.
endowments of the human mind Seasoned and directed by free-will; and these endowments, so seasoned and directed, he acknowledged to be the free gifts of God. The bishop of Hippo, with extreme reluctance, at length admitted the full conviction of the heretical character of Pelagius, and answered the book; yet he concealed his name, lest Pelagius, being offended, might become still more incurable. Augustine owns that he afterwards repented of this step, because he had probably increased the pride of the heretic, through an ill-judged fear of giving him pain.
For Pelagius, hearing of Augustine's proceedings, loudly complained that some of his books had been stolen from him ; and others reckoned as his, which were not so. It is difficult to deal with deceitful men; yet the African bishop used the most prudent method. He sent his own book and Pelagius's together to Innocent, of Rome, desiring him to mark the sentiments of each, " and if he denies that these are his sentiments, I contend not; let him anathematize them, and in plain terms confess the doctrine of Christian grace. I have, says he, sufficient witnesses, men who have a great regard for him, who will attest that I had the book from them, and that it has not been falsified by me." Innocent, in reply, condemned the book altogether, as containing horrible sentiments, hitherto unprecedented in the Christian world. How much more reputable would it be to the characters of many, like Pelagius, would they at once own what they are, and make no pretensions to the doctrines of grace ! But this sincerity would not so effectually serve the cause of Satan in the world.
While Jerom in the East, and Augustine in the Peiagim West, were opposing Pelagianism, the heresiarch *)'""0'1!"u('^ himself was summoned to appear in the latter end Synod of of the same year 415, before a synod of fourteen Dlosi'01"bishops of Palestine, at Lydda, then called Diospolis. Here he had every advantage, which ay
accused person could wish for. His two accusers, Heros and Lazarus, bishops of Gaul, were absent, because one of them was sick at that time. The court were poorly acquainted with the Latin tongue in which the works of Pelagius were written, and John of Jerusalem, one of the principal bishops, was prejudiced in favour of Origenism, and of Pelagius. The Eastern church itself was more corrupt in doctrine, and more inclined to support innovations than the Western; and the heresiarch himself, in capacity, presence of mind, and circumspection, far exceeded all his judges.
Yet the letter to the widow above mentioned was so fulsome, and so replete with self-righteous doctrine, that he found it necessary to deny, that he had written the things imputed to him. He had described her as the only righteous person upon earth, with whom piety found a refuge, when it could find none elsewhere; and he taught her to pray in this form : " Thou knowest, Lord, how holy, innocent, and clean these hands are which I extend to thee, how just and clean these lips, and free from all guile, with which I pray for thy mercy." In no part of his conduct did he lay himself more open to censure. He preached a perfection, attainable in this life, a perfection too, drawn altogether from nature. However, by denying this charge, and by dexterously evading and explaining away all the rest*, he obtained an honourable acquittal. If there was any fault at all in the conduct of Augustine toward this man, it was a fault indeed of the most amiable kind, an excess of tenderness and lenity. Pelagius knew how to take advantage of it, and produced to the court the short letter of the bishop of Hippo to him, which has been given above.
John, bishop of Jerusalem, defended Pelagivts in the synod with great earnestness, and he was at last received as a Christian brother. Flushed with his
• Gest. Pelag. The recital of the particulars would be tedious and uninstructive.
victory, he prepared to improve the advantage which Cent. it gave him. Though he was acquitted, as hold- Ting the doctrines of grace and not as inimical to them, he wrote to a friend, that fourteen bishops had agreed with him, that man might be without sin, and easily keep the commands of God, if he would ; concealing at the same time his confession of the necessity of divine grace, by which he had eluded condemnation. With similar artifice, he transmitted an account to Augustine of his acquittal. He wrote also four books on free-will, in which he openly took away original sin, and gloried at the same time in the acts of the synod in Palestine. And his partisans, being incensed against Jerom and the Roman ladies who lived in monasteries under his direction in Palestine, made a scandalous assault upon them, of which Jerom complained to Innocent of Rome, who afterwards expostulated with John, bishop of Jerusalem, for conniving at the burnings and plunderings of which the Pelagians had been guilty. Augustine also wrote to John in a mild but firm tone, to undeceive him concerning the real doctrines of Pelagius, and sent him both his own treatise on Nature and Grace and that of Pelagius ; and receiving afterwards the acts of the synod of Diospolis, he published the history of Pelagianism, from which we have taken many of the foregoing particulars.
A council being held the next year at Carthage, Council of on various exigencies of the church, Orosius, return- Cartlla8eing from Palestine, brought them the letters of Heros and Lazarus against Pelagius. Though the acts of the Eastern council had not yet reached this African synod, yet they had now sufficient information to alarm their minds. The council wrote to Innocent of Rome their plain sense of the controversy, which was—that unless Pelagius and his partisans, in express terms rejected the sentiments ascribed to him, they should be excommunicated, to prevent others from being imposed on by false pre
Chap- tensions*. These equitable determinations were v 1IL , signed by sixty-eight bishops. Another synod of Numidian bishops, assembled at Milevum, wrote also to Rome to the same effect. Augustine also, his friend Alypius, now bishop of Tagasta, Aurelius of Carthage, and two other bishops, wrote letters in their own names to Innocent, more distinctly explaining the subject, and showing how the Eastern council most probably had been imposed on by the subtilty of Pelagius ; at the same time intimating their fear, lest Rome itself^ where he had long lived, should be infected with the heresy. Innocent, in his answer, entered fully into the views of the Africans, and in the same conditional manner condemned the authors of the heresy. As it however still spread in a secret manner, it needed to be extirpated by argument. For this the bishop of Hippo was peculiarly qualified. And for more than twenty years he was employed in writing and preaching against the heresy. Cccicstius Thetwoheresiarchs now endeavoured toelude the Run", ° force of the decrees against them. Coelestius, who A. n. had been in Asia for some time, and had obtained 417. the office of presbyter, visited Rome in the year 417. He applied to Zozimus, the successor of Innocent, and recited his libel before him. And here, with an unlimited degree of complaisance, he submitted his sentiments implicitly to the bishop of Rome,professing a desire to be corrected by him,
* I wonder not that the advocates for the papacy have argued from these frequent appeals to Rome, for the infallibility and dominion of the Pope. But the truth is, nothing could be farther from the thoughts of the Africans. We shall see shortly that they withstand and correct the errors of a Roman bishop ; nor have I seen any thing in Augustine's voluminous writings that indicates such a subjection. The word of God was as yet allowed to be the great standard of doctrine ; and the frequent correspondence with Rome arose from the importance of the situation of that church as fixed in the metropolis of the F.nipire, and as being the cp**'r<- of intelligence to the Christian world.
if as a man he erred in any point, and complained of the precipitation with which he had been condemned.
Zozimus, deceived by his artifices, wrote to the African prelates, complaining of the malice of the Gaulish bishops, and declaring, that unless within two months he heard more decisive proofs against Coelestius, he should consider him as a Christian brother. The African bishops, in reply, complained of the precipitation of Zozimus, and at length sent to Rome such complete proofs against Coelestius, that he withdrew himself from the examination, and avoided the means of a public detection. Zozimus however still delayed his condemnationj for which he is justly blamed by Augustine*.
Pelagius, using the same methods which Coelestius did, wrote to Innocent, with whose death he was unacquainted. Some fragments of his letters are preserved by Augustine. A sample of them is as follows : " Lo, let this epistle clear me before you, in which I say that we have a free-will to sin and not to sin, which in all good works is always helped by divine aid." And " this power we say is in all in general, in Christians, Jews, and Gentiles. In all there is free-will equally by nature, but in Christians alone it is helped by grace. In others there is a good condition, naked and unarmed ; in those who belong to Christ, it is fortified by his assistance. Persons therefore are to be condemned, who, when they have free-will, by which they might come to faith, and obtain the grace of God, abuse their liberty: but those are to be rewarded, who, using free-will aright, obtain the favour of God, and keep his commands." He adds more to the same purpose, never once either admitting the doctrine of original sin, or defining what he means by divine assistance, which with him may mean no more than the benefit of external revelation, or the preserva* B. 2. to Bonif. c. 3.
Chap- tion of our natural powers. Had he once expressly In' , declared, that he did not believe any real influence of divine grace on the mind inclining it to what is good, which he knew the Christian world before his time believed, and which if he himself had believed, he would have expressed; there would have been an honesty in his heretical pravity, which would have entitled his character to a greater degree of respect. As the case stands, and, as he must have known that his opponent used the terms grace and divine assistance in a quite different sense from that in which he used them, he appears by his own words to have been an insincere disputant. He sent also to Rome a symbol of his faith, written in the same style of ambiguity, and attended with the same adulatory strains to the bishop of Rome, which Coelestius had used on the like occasion.
Zozimus, to whom his letters came, was imposed on by them, as he had been by those of Coelestius; and he wrote to the African bishops, that he wras convinced, that Pelagius was innocent. The latter answered him very properly, that it was not sufficient for Pelagius and Coelestius to own in general that they approved of all that he approved of; that it behoved them expressly to confess, that we need the grace of Jesus Christ not only to know, but also to do righteousness in every act. Thus they showed that they had, what Zozimus had not, a clear and accurate conception of the subject. But they had Augustine among them : whereas men, whose consciences have had little exercise on these subjects, are seldom quick in comprehending them, nay, are apt to be imposed on by plausible terms, though they be in other respects men of enlarged and cultivated understandings.
Zozimus was, however, open to conviction ; for the bishops of Rome had not yet learned to be Infallible. The instructions of Augustine corrected his mistakes, and being further acquainted with the subject by some writings of Pelagius, which CENr. were brought to him at Rome, he openly condemned ythe two heretics. Whether he had done so or not, there is not the slightest ground to believe, that the African bishops and churches would not have persevered, by their own authority, in rejecting Pelagianism: but the concurrence of the bishop of Rome was doubtless of great service to the general cause of Christian truth at this period. It has often been said, that men called heretics have not the advantage of being heard, because their writings are not extant. I have therefore been solicitous to furnish the reader with all the lio-ht which can be obtained on that side of the question. Notwithstanding the scantiness of materials, Arius I think wassufficiently proved guilty from his own mouth, and so was Pelagius; but of the latter we have much larger remains. On this occasion it will be proper to mention a passage from his exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, quoted by. Zozimus, as it shows at the same time the strength of his prejudices and the shrewdness of his understanding. " If Adam's sin hurt those who were not guilty, the righteousness of Christ profits those w ho believe not."
The Pelagians bitterly censured Sixtus, a presbyter of Rome, afterwards bishop, for being active in condemning those whom before he had patronized. Augustine exposed their unreasonableness in reviling that very lenity and caution which had been so slow to condemn, till the fullest evidence was obtained, and admonished Sixtus not to be content with anathematizing Pelagius, but to be also laborious in warning and teaching the people.
The Emperor Honorius also passed the sentence Pelagians of banishment from Rome on the Pelagians the same by"Honoyear in which their doctrines were condemned, that TM». is, the year 418. Coelestius, retired to Constanti- A. D. nople, where his tenets were opposed by Atticus the 418. bishop, and his views of propagating them were dis
appointed. The party were, however, indefatigable; j letters were written to the bishop of Thessalonica, in which they professed their desire to defend the Catholic faith against the heresy of the Manichees, and in that specious manner they vindicated their praises of the powers of human nature. Augustine answered their arguments, which had been sent by eighteen of the party to Thessalonica* ; Atticus also wrote against them to Rome, and the sect underwent a general condemnation.
Pelagius, who was still in Palestine, complained of the treatment which he had received, and being interrogated there concerning the disputed points by some persons of respectable characters, he answered with such subtile ambiguity, thathe again imposed on his examiners, who explained to Augustine in writing the result. The latter, roused by repeated acts of dissimulation, wrote his treatise on Original Sin and the Grace of Christ, in which he detected and exposed the artifices of Pelagius. The wiles of the party were not yet exhausted: they charged the general Church with condemning marriage, and the workmanship of God in the creation of man; I suppose maliciously deducing those consequences from the doctrine of original sin: and this drew another reply from the argumentative pen of Augustine f.
One Julian, a young person of great spirit and self-confidence, nowarose in defence of Pelagianism, and wrote with great vehemence and asperity, and in a very voluminous manner. He described himself as the little David, who was to fight against the Goliah of Hippo, and declared that it was proper to decide the contest by a single combat, while the rest of the church should be in peace. I love to lay open to the reader all along the connexion between principle and practice: and, if I show not the indisputable superiority of the orthodox Christians, in disposition and temper, I miss one of the most * B. 1. to Boniface. f B. l de nup.
important points, which I have in view through the Cent. whole history. Indeed the strength and excellence t v- , of Augustine's cause lies in its tendency to promote humility, while the weakness and turpitude of the Pelagian cause lies in supporting the spirit of pride. How can this be shown better than by proving from facts, that the Pelagians were proud men, and that those who sincerely embraced the doctrines of grace were humble. To the boasting language of Julian, Augustine modestly replied, " Who promised you a single combat on my side ? Where, when, how, who were present, who the arbiters ? Far be it from me to assume to myself* in the general church, what you are not ashamed to do among the Pelagians. I am one of the many who refute your profane novelties as we can." The most specious argument used by Julian was the use made of the imperial sanction against his party. How far the secular arm ought to be applied to the support of religion, has been already considered; and it was the duty of the magistrate then, as at all times, to determine how far the good of the people committed to his charge is connected with the spreading of opinions. I recollect, however, no account of any particular cruelties ; nor does any thing more seem to have been actually done against the Pelagians by the state, than barely to inhibit the dissemination of their doctrines t.
Another argument used by Julian was drawn from the pains taken by the adversaries of Pelagius to seduce the people. Finding the vulgar every where
* B. 6. contra Julian.
Apud Catholices. In general I choose to avoid the expression of Catholics, and prefer the term general church as more proper, in opposition to the unfair use made of the word by the Papists.
f I have rather laid down the principles on which the civil power should act in a case of this nature, than given any opinion of the rectitude or impropriety of its conduct in the case of the Pelagians. Let the reader judge for himself; the labours of the ecclesiastics in councils and writings stand on a very different foundation.
CoelcstiuJ expelled Home by an edict,
prejudiced against the Pelagians, he speaks of the dregs of the populace stirred up against them, mariners, cooks, butchers, &c* : but this is no uncommon event. The doctrines of grace, persecuted and despised, as they always have been by the great, bid fair for a more unprejudiced hearing among the poor. The common people heard our Lord gladly. The doctrines, which represent the misery of man and his need of grace, speak to the consciences of men ; and those, whom deceitful learning and vain philosophy have not sophisticated, cannot but receive some impression. Pelagianism, so far as it respects the doctrines of sanctifying grace, is pretty much the same thing with that which is now called Socinianism. The abettors of the latter make the same complaints of the common people at this day; and they may thank themselves for the desertion of their congregations. Julian inscribed his writings to one Turbantius, a bishop, whom he highly commends; but this bishop afterwards forsook Pelagianism.
Notwithstanding the emperor's sentence in 418, Coelestius ventured again to show himself in Rome, and about the year 420 was again expelled by an edict. Pelagianism being now reduced to the lowest ebb, Satanseems to have changed his modeof attacking the church, by inducing some ignorant persons, under a mistaken idea of honouring the doctrines of grace, to support opinions subversive of the free agency of man, and particularly to forbid men to rebuke sinners, and direct them only to pray for their conversion f. Augustine obviated these mistakes, and explained the consistency between the divine
* Aug. contra Julian, 13. 2.
f See Mosheim, Vol. I. Quarto Edit. p. 189. It is not the business of an history to enlarge on the metaphysical difficulties with which this subject is necessarily clouded. I shall only here refer the reader to Edwards's masterly treatise on Free-will, which I think has not yet been answered. Had Mosheim better understood the grounds of the subject of human liberty, he would uc-l so rashly have charged Augustine with inconsistency.
grace and human duty in his treatise on Rebuke Cent. and Grace. , ^
The two heresiarchs, after this, were reduced to a state which is of all others the most grating to proud minds, a state of obscurity. The island of Britain, it is certain, was afterwards disturbed with their doctrines, which, by the skill and authority of Germanus, whom we shall have occasion to mention hereafter, were confuted and overcome. Hence it is probable, that Pelagius, after having travelled through the Roman empire, and attempted in vain to overturn the doctrines of grace, retired to his native country. But nothing certain seems to be known further, either concerning him or Coelestius.
There was a person named Leporius, a monk, afterwards a presbyter, who boasted of his purity, and ascribed it to his own power, and not to the grace of God. The man, however, was instructed by some teachers in Gaul, and particularly by the labours of Augustine, to know himself better. In Africa he publicly owned the folly of his pride, and wrote also into Gaul a very humble confession of his self-righteousness. I know not how to obtain a sight of his writings ; but they would probably give us an edifying view of the conversion of ft Pharisee *.
If Satan cannot gain his point entirely, in aspersing the grace of God, he will be content to do it in part. And this, for the trial of men's sincerity, was unhappily the case in regard to this present controversy. Pure Pelagianism itself was lost, at least for many ages: nor did any man dare, for a long series of years, to revive it . The works of Augustine were found so agreeable to the Scriptures, that while they were regarded as the sole standard of Christian authority, a doctrine which set aside the necessity of grace altogether could gain no hearing in the church. And in the Western world such an addition of light * Cassian, B. 1. de Incar. Christi.
Chap- was obtained, as no doubt proved highly serviceable , to advance the kingdom of Christ. But tares were sown: Semi-Pelagianism arose, and maintained itself among many, and continues to this day the admired system of all those who seek to unite the arts of secular greatness with some regard for Christian orthodoxy. Its language is, that though man cannot persevere in virtue without divine grace, yet he can turn himself at first to God. Vitalis, of Carthage, seems to have been its beginner, who taught that our obedience to the Gospel was no otherwise the effect of grace, than that men cannot believe, except the word be preached to them. Thus, external revelation was put in tlie room of the secret, effectual energy of the Holy Spirit. The Pelagians, who had lost their first ground, retreated hither, and maintained, that grace was given accordingto that meritof men, which they showed in attending to the word and to prayer. Some presbyters in Marseilles were at the head of this scheme, which is so specious, and carries such an air of moderation between vicious extremes, that it seems folly to oppose it by any other arms than those of Scripture and experience. Men, who know themselves, and suffer the decisions of the d ivine word to prevail overtheir consciences, will see through the delusion, which can scarcely fail to overcome all whose religion is theory without conscience.
John Cassian, a Scythian, a monk of eminence, and a man much renowned at that time, was the pillar of this doctrine. He lived at Marseilles, and opposed the bishop of Hippo. Prosper and Hilary withstood him, and some monuments of the writings of the former will afterwards be considered. In consequence of their desires, Augustine wrote his two last books on Predestination, and the gift of perseverance. Still, however, the contest between Semi-Pelagianism, and the adversaries to it, continued some time; Cassian labouring on one side, and Prosper and Hilary on the other.
Such was the rise, progress, and consequences of Cent. this most important heresy in the Church of Christ. > ^ There Must Indeed Be Heresies In The Church, That They Which Are Approved May Be Made Manifest. The effects of them are, that the wicked in the church are more distinctly separated from the godly; the former are made worse, or at least appear so to be; the latter are purified and made white, and every way improved, both in the understanding, spirit, and power of true religion. Let frivolous controversies, which involve no nutrimental truths of godliness, be hushed and buried in oblivion, as soon as possible, because they are incapable of producing any thing but strife and vanity. But it was indefensible in Mosheim to lament over the Pelagian disputes, as erroneous on both sides, when in truth the controversy was the same which has ever been between holy men and mere men of the world ; between grace and human merit *; and though in Augustine's time the question turned principally upon sanctification, in Luther's time on justification, yet the glory of God in the grace of Jesus Christ, the importance of genuine faith, and the nature and efficacy of the influences of the Holy Ghost, were equally concerned in the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius, between Luther and the Papists, and I will venture to say, on scriptural grounds, between Paul the Apostle and Saul of Tarsus,—that is, between the spirit and doctrine of an humbled publican, and of a self-righteous Pharisee.
* See Mosheim, Eccl. Hist, page 57, compared with page 278, Quarto Edit. Vol. 1. That he, who in one place maintains the importance of justification by faith, should in another despise the controversies occasioned by it, seems a great and manifest inconsistency.