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AUGUSTINE ,S8

tlie Manichaeans are an inexhaustible storehouse of arguments in this still living controversy.

In vain have the Jansenists maintained that Augustine was unconsciously a Pelagian and that he afterwards acknowledged the loss of liberty through the sin of Adam. Modern critics, doubtless unfa- iniliar with Augustine's complicated system and his peculiar termmology, have gone much farther. In the "Re^-ue d'histoire et de litt^rature religievises " (1899, p. 447), M. Margival exhibits St. Augustine as the victim of metaphysical pessimism miconsciously imbibed from .Manicluean doctrines. "Never", says he, "will the Oriental idea of the necessity and the eternity of evil have a more zealous defender than this bishop". Nothing is more opposed to the facts. Augustine acknowledges that he had not yet mider- stood how the first good inclination of the will is a gift of God (Retractations, I, xxiii, n. 3); but it should be remembered that he never retracted his leading theories on liberty, never modified his opinion upon what constitutes its essential condition, that is to say, the full power of choosing or of de- ciding. Who will dare to say that in revising his own TVTitings on so important a point he lacked either clearness of perception or sincerity?

(b) The Donatist Controversy and the Theory of the Church. — The Donatist schism was the last episode in the ilontanist and Novatian controversies which had agitated the Church from the second century. While the East was discussing under varying aspects the Divine and Christological problem of the Word, the West, doubtless because of its more practical genius, took up the moral question of sin in all its forms. The general problem was the holiness of the Church; could the sinner be pardoned, and remain in her bosom? In Africa the question especially concerned the holiness of the hierarchy. The bishops of Numidia, wlio, in 312, had refused to accept as valid the consecration of Ca'cilian, Bishop of Carthage, by a traditor, had inaugurated the schism and at the same time proposed these grave questions: Do the liierarchical powers depend upon the moral worthiness of the priest? How can the holiness of the Church be compatible with the imworthiness of its ministers?

At the time of Augustine's arrival in Hippo, the schism had attained immense proportions, having become identified with political tendencies — perhaps with a national movement against Roman domination. In any event, it is easy to discover in it an imder- current of anti-social revenge which the emperors had to combat by strict laws. The strange sect known as "Soldiers of Christ", and called by Catho- lics CireumcelUones (brigands, vagrants), resembled the revolutionary sects of the Middle Ages in point of fanatic destructiveness — a fact that must not be lost sight of, if the severe legislation of the emperors is to be properly appreciated.

The history of Augustine's struggles with the Donatists is also that of his change of opinion on the employment of rigorous measures against the here- tics; and the Church in Africa, of whose councils he had been the verj' soul, followed liim in the change. This change of views is solemnly attested by the Bishop of Hippo himself, especially in his Letters, xciii (in the year 408). In the beginning, it was by conferences and a friendly controversy that he sought to re-establish unity. He inspired various conciliatory measures of the African councils, and sent ambassadors to the Donatists to invite them to re-enter the Church, or at least to urge them to send deputies to a conference (403). The Donatists met these advances at first with silence, then with insults, and lastly with such violence that Possidius, Bishop of Calamet, Augustine's friend, escaped death only by flight, the Bishop of Bagaia was left co\-ered with horrible wounds, and the life of


AUGUSTINE


the Bishop of Hippo himself was several times at- tempted (Letter Ixxxviii, to Januarius, the Donatist bishop). This madness of the Cireumcelliones re- quired harsh repression, and Augustine, witnessing the many conversions that resulted therefrom, thence- forth approved rigid laws. However, this important restriction must be pointed out: that St. Augustine never wished heresy to be punishable by death— I OS rogamus ne occidatis (Letter c, to the Pro- consul Donatus). But the bishops still favoured a conference wth the schismatics, and in 410 an edict issued by Honorius put an end to the refusal of the Donatists. A solenm conference took place at Carthage, in June, 411, in presence of 286 Catho- lic, and 279 Donatist bishops. The Donatist spokesmen were Petilian of Constantino, Primian of Carthage, and Emeritus of Ceesarea; the Catholic orators, Aurelius and Augustine. On the historic question then at issue, the Bishop of Hippo proved the innocence of Ca?cilian and his consecrator Felix, and in the dogmatic debate he established the Catho- lic thesis that the Church, as long as it is upon earth, can, without losing its holiness, tolerate sinners within its pale for the sake of con\erting them. In the name of the emperor the Proconsul Marcellinus sanctioned the victory of the Catholics on all points. Little by little Donatism died out, to disappear \\-itli the coming of the Vandals.

So amply and magnificently did Augustine de- velop his theory on the Chm-ch that, according to Specht, "he deserves to be named the Doctor of the Church as well as the " Doctor of Grace"; and Wohler (Dogmatik, 3.51) is not afraid to write: "For depth of feeling and power of conception nothing written on the Church since St. Paul's time, is comparable to the works of St. Augustine". He has corrected, perfected, and even excelled the beautiful pages of St. Cj-prian on the Divine institution of the Church, its authority, its essential marks, and its mission in the economy of grace and the administration of the sacraments. The Protestant critics, Dorner, Binde- mann, Bohringer and especially Renter, loudly pro- claim, and sometimes even exaggerate, this role of the Doctor of Hippo; and while Harnack does not quite agree with them in every respect he does not hesitate to say (History of Dogma, II, c. iii): "It is one of the points upon which Augustine specially affirms and strengthens the Catholic idea. He was the first [!] to transform the authority of the Church into a religious power, and to confer upon practical religion the gift of a doctrine of the Church. " He was not the first, for Dorner aclcnowledges (Au- gustinus, SS) that Optatus of Mileve had expressed the basis of the same doctrines. Augustine, however, deepened, systematized, and completed the views of St. Cj-prian and Optatus. But it is impossible here to go into detail. (See Specht, Die Lehre von der Kirche nach dem hi. Augustinus, Paderbom, 1892.) (c) The Pelagian Controversy and the Doctor of Grace. — The close of the struggle against the Do- natists almost coincided with the beginnings of a very grave theological dispute which not only was to demand Augustine's unremitting attention up to the time of his death, but was to become an eternal problem for indi^^duals and for the Church. Farther on we shall enlarge upon Augustine's system; here we need only indicate the phases of the controversy. Africa, where Pelagius and his disciple Celestius had sought refuge after the taking of Rome bv Alaric, was the principal centre of the first Pelagian dis- turbances; as early as 412 a council held at Carthage condemned Pelagians for their attacks upon the doc- trine of original sin. Among other books directed against them by Augustine was his famous "De natimi et gratia". Thanks to his activity the con- demnation of these innovators, who had succeeded in deceiving a synod con^■ened at Diospolis in Pales-