1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vincent of Lerins, St

VINCENT OF LERINS, ST. or Vincentis Lerinensis (d. c. A.D. 450), an ecclesiastical writer of the Western Church of whose personal history hardly anything is known, except that he was a native of Gaul, possibly brother of St Loup, bishop of Troyes, that he became a monk and priest at Lerinum, and that he died in or about 450. Lerinum (Lerins, off Cannes) had been made by Honoratus, afterwards bishop of Aries, the seat of a monastic community which produced a number of eminent churchmen, among them Hilary of Arles. The school did not produce an extensive literature, but it played an important part in resisting an exaggerated Augustinianism by reasserting the freedom of the will and the continued existence of the divine image in human nature after the fall. As regards Vincent he himself tells us that only after long and sad experience of worldly turmoil did he betake himself to the haven of a religious life. In 434, three years after the council of Ephesus, he wrote the Commonitorium adversus profanas omnium haereticorum novitates, in which he ultimately aims at Augustine's doctrine of grace and predestination. In it he discusses the “notes” which distinguish Catholic truth from heresy, and (cap. 2) lays down and applies the famous threefold test of orthodoxy—quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. It is very striking that in his appeal to tradition Vincent assigns no part to the bishops as such—apart from the council; he appeals to the ancient “teachers,” not to any apostolic succession. His “semi-Pelagian” opposition to Augustine is dealt with by Prosper of Aquitania in his Pro Augustini doctrina responsiones ad capitula objectionum Vincentiarnarium. It explains why the Commonitorium has reached us only in a mutilated form.

The Commonitorium has been edited by Baluze (Paris, 1663, 1669 and 1684) and by Klüpfel (Vienna, 1809). It also occurs in vol. I. of Migne's Patrol. Ser. Lat. (1846). A full summary is given in A. Harnack's History of Dogma, iii. 230 ff. See also F. H. Stanton, Place of Authority in Religion, pp. 167 ff.; A. Cooper-Marsdin, The School of Lerins (Rochester, 1905).