The GOSPEL TRUTH
AN HISTORICAL PRESENTATION OF
AUGUSTINISM AND PELAGIANISM
FROM THE ORIGINAL SOURCES,
G. F. WIGGERS, D. D.
PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ROSTOCK, ETC.
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN;
WITH NOTES AND ADDITIONS, BY REV. RALPH EMERSON,
Prof. Of Eccl. Hist. In The Theol. Sem. Andover, Mass.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I: Sketch of the principal men who appeared in the Pelagian Controversy, Augustine on the one side, and Pelagius, Caelestius and Julian on the other. AUGUSTINE
PELAGIUS AND CAELESTIUS.
CHAPTER II: Chief sources of information respecting the Controversies between Augustine and the Pelagians.
CHAPTER III: Commencement of the Controversy.
CHAPTER IV: The Pelagian doctrine on baptism, and particularly on infant baptism; and Augustine's doctrine on the same.
CHAPTER V: Pelagian view of original sin. Opposite theory of Augustine on the same.
CHAPTER VI: Theory of the Pelagians on Freewill, and the opposite theory of Augustine.
CHAPTER VII: Objections of the Pelagians against Augustine's doctrine of original sin and of freewill.
CHAPTER VIII: Theory of the Pelagians on the state of man before the fall. Opposite theory of Augustine.
CHAPTER IX: Narrative of events in the controversy, continued.
CHAPTER X: Transactions at Diospolis in respect to the heresies charged on Pelagius.
CHAPTER XI: Narrative of events continued.
CHAPTER XII: Canons established against the Pelagians by the General Synod (plenario concilio) of the African bishops, held at Carthage in 418.
CHAPTER XIII: Theory of Pelagius and his followers respecting grace. Opposite theory of Augustine. AUGUSTINE'S THEORY OF GRACE.
CHAPTER XIV: Objections of the Pelagians against Augustine's doctrine of grace.
CHAPTER XV: Further account of the Events.
CHAPTER XVI: Augustine's theory of predestination. Pelagian view of foreordination.
CHAPTER XVII: Augustine's doctrine on the extent of redemption. The Pelagian doctrine.
CHAPTER XVIII: Final adoption of the Augustinian system for all Christendom, by the third general council at Ephesus, 431.
CHAPTER XIX: View of the Augustinian and Pelagian systems, in their main features. I. INFANT BAPTISM.
II. ORIGINAL SIN.
V. PREDESTINATION AND REDEMPTION.
CHAPTER XX: Augustine's reasons for his theory.
CHAPTER XXI: Proofs of the Pelagians for their Theory.
CHAPTER XXII: Examination of the question respecting the opinions of the fathers previous to Augustine, in regard to the contested doctrines of Augustinism and Pelagianism. I. OPINIONS OF THE FATHERS, BEFORE AUGUSTINE, CONCERNING ORIGINAL SIN AND THE DOCTRINES MORE IMMEDIATELY CONNECTED WITH IT.
II. OPINIONS OF THE FATHERS BEFORE AUGUSTINE RESPECTING GRACE, PREDESTINATION, AND THE EXTENT OF REDEMPTION.
CHAPTER XXIII: Concluding remarks.
"Names are things." And hence the peculiarly imperative duty, when speaking of men, large classes of men, and especially of Christian men, that the right appellations be employed. But what kinds of things, and of what power, are names? Instruments, it may in the first place he replied; and some of them for moral and religious as well as for scientific investigation; lenses, for instance, and of the most diverse and most magic power; enlarging, or diminishing beautifying, or deforming; multiplying, illuminating, or obscuring; and investing objects with all imaginable hues. And again, they are weapons; shields of adamant; Damascus blades. Wise men know well their power. And good men wish to use them, and to see them used, only aright; and high-minded men, in the best sense of the term, scorn to use them, and blush to see them used, in any other way. Names, too, have been the causes as well as the implements of war, arraying brother against brother, and that in the household of faith. Who will doubt this that has heard the thunder of such wars, or read their history?
Whoever, then, shall kindly and dispassionately afford some real aid in fixing the just import of names employed in waging holy or unholy warfare, and thus shall aid those, whose business it may be, more justly to assign the names and others to appreciate them may well hope to be regarded as a son of peace, however humble his labor.
And here it may just be remarked, that often it is as important to ascertain the genuine import of a good as of a bad name--the nature of a shield, as of a spear.
For the last score of years, the terms Pelagian and Pelagianism have been very freely used. Opposite terms have also been assumed or applied with perhaps equal frequency. But with how much justness, in either case, it would here be premature to inquire. We must first ascertain the true import of such names.
And who can object to this inquiry? or who quake in prospect of its results? Honest and ingenuous men will even court for themselves their proper appellations, if fairly understood, come these appellations from what source they may. None but a poor Christian will bestow a wrong appellation, on any man: and none but a bad man will kill even a bad man, with an unlawful weapon.
Hence there are probably three classes of men who will like to read such a work as this. First, those who have been called Pelagians. For they will honestly wish to know whether they ought any longer to reject the appellation; and how far, if at all, they should own its justness. Secondly, those who have called them Pelagians: as they will wish to know whether in whole or in part they have rightly bestowed the appellation; and whether, to any extent, it may also be applicable to themselves. Thirdly, those who have neither given nor received the name, but who would fain be better able to judge of the propriety with which it has been so currently applied and so promptly rejected, on the right and on the left.
The work here presented is considered by theologians in Germany and elsewhere as affording the best means of settling such questions short of a laborious investigation of the original sources, such as our author went through in collecting the materials for his book.
But these considerations, important as they may be to the peace and prosperity of the church, afford neither the only nor the chief motives for presenting this work to the English reader.
"Ancient Christianity," for better or for worse, must soon become more perfectly known to the protestant world. And good it is that it should be so, painful and surprising in themselves as may be some of the disclosures. Such advocates of patristic authority as have recently appeared in England, will spare no pains in accomplishing one part of this labor. Nor less prompt or less able will be their antagonists, in performing the other part of the Herculean task, if we may judge from recent specimens of their zeal and power. Consequences of the most serious nature, in England as well as in this country, are now seen to be most intimately connected with the historical disclosures that shall be made. Indeed some of the grand questions of protestantism, now, as in the time of the Reformation, (though in a different attitude), are in no small degree agitated as questions of early ecclesiastical history.
In the progress of this quickened discussion, and with the means and motives that now exist for its prosecution, we may well expect that at least the external institutions and the ethics of the early church, will soon become more fully known. These two branches are so obviously and intimately connected, that they will of course continue to be prosecuted together.
But there is another and more difficult and, I may add, more important branch of investigation, which has hitherto received far less attention from those who speak the English language: and yet its connection with the others, though not so obvious, is no less real and important. I mean the ancient history of the more abstract doctrines of Christianity. The researches in all three of these departments, should proceed with equal step, since such are their relations that no one of them can be fairly investigated or thoroughly understood, apart from the others.
While, then, the history of rites, institutions, modes of church government, and modes of social or unsocial life, together with the doctrines of morality, are laid open to the light, the more abstract doctrines touching the nature of man and the government of God, and upon which all are in a manner based, should be simultaneously disclosed. Otherwise, real noon-day will beam upon neither.
England is now awakened to the performance of the one part. Germany, for the passing age, has been assiduously laboring on the other. The present, therefore, seems peculiarly the juncture for availing ourselves of the more ripened results to which these laborious Germans have arrived in respect to the history of such doctrines. The work here presented contains a minute and well authenticated account of those doctrines as first more fully developed and received in the church. The period, too, of this development was the same as that which is the most deeply interesting in respect to the other branch of research.
But a still further and more permanent interest attaching to such a work, is found in the intrinsic value of doctrinal history itself, and especially the history of such a period. On this topic I must dwell a moment, as it has furnished in fact my chief motive to the labor of this translation.
The Bible, indeed, is so plain in its great outlines of truth and duty, that the fool need not err in those matters with which only the simple have to do. And so are the laws of a well-governed Christian nation so right and simple in their main requisitions, that few honest-hearted men are found in transgression. But both human and divine laws have also much to do with for other-hearted men. These simple laws have yet a keen eye on the wily transgressor. His waywardness is to be met; the point of his offending, discriminated; his punishment, adjusted to his guilt; his reformation to be wisely sought; and future crime to be forfended. If one, then, is to become deeply versed in all the bearings of these simple laws of God, or of his country, so as to guide his own conduct in critical cases and to become a guide and a defender or a reprover of others, he has before him, not only the task of a nice and discriminating study of all the existing statutes, but also of the history of the interpretation of those statutes. And nearly as well might the barrister think himself prepared for his office by the mere reading of enactments, without a knowledge of common law, as the theologian think himself master of all the important questions that can fairly be started on the interpretation of the Bible, without a good knowledge of the great doctrinal controversies that have actually arisen in the church. It is reported as the saying of the greatest living oracle of American law, that no man can certainly foretell the practical operation of any law--so many and diverse may be its occult bearings. And, although the like uncertainty does not shroud the divine law, yet who could imagine beforehand a hundredth part of the important questions that have been discussed, and that may yet continue to be discussed, respecting the full import and application of these laws? Some of them, too, questions on which have hung the welfare of ages! And divine as is the law, and therefore wholly good, the interpretation is human, and we need not be startled at the limited comparison here made of it to human laws. And although the adjudications of councils and the dicta of individual theologians, have none of the force of common law, yet who will not be greatly guided in the right and admonished of the wrong constructions, by the attentive study of what they have done, and of the practical bearings of their decisions? Or who will disregard these ancient monuments? Just as well may we put out all human lights and march back again into the dark ages!
Nor let it be said that much of the history of Christian doctrine, is the history of those ages. For those dark ages themselves are now a light to us--one immense light-house, to warn from those fatal rocks amid which the shattered church was dashing for a thousand years. It were suicidal in her now to close her eyes to that costly beacon which Providence has erected for her future safety.
Nor should the young theologian imagine that he can now summarily and safely take the mere results of all past discussions, as he finds them embodied in the excellent though imperfect doctrinal formulas, to which a large part of the church has been led as the fruit of long ages of toil and contest, and that he shall thus be well prepared for his work, as a guide and a guardian to the church for days to come. He cannot even well understand the formulas themselves, without a knowledge of their history, and of the times in which they were drawn up, and of the errors against which they were intended to guard. Much less will he be adequate to the high but most delicate office of timely espying and judiciously remedying those incipient tendencies to such errors which, though with shifting form, are continually re-appearing. If a timid or an ambitious alarmist, he may cry wolf, when no wolf is coming: or if of an opposite character, he may be dumb when the monster is just crouching to leap the walls of his fold.
But, again, and in a different view, for him who would know what truth is. How is truth best elicited? and best learned? Didactic reading is good. And meditation thereon is excellent. And the guidance of a living Gamaliel, (if a Gamaliel he be), is admirable. But with and above all these, to the mind of some independence and judgment, is discussion; at once the light and life of truth; discussion, as forensic, as diologistic even, as it can be made. So the young lawyers are taught by their seniors to believe and to practice, and to hold their moot courts, and when they can, to frequent the more solemn balls of justice where real questions of life and death are pending.
But who shall write or speak the dialogue for the young divine? Not himself, if he would gain the highest good, and not rivet him. self in prejudice: not one man for both parties; nor yet two men of the same party, if truth is to be saved from the peril of betrayal or feeble defence, and to shine with new splendor. Hearty combatants must tread the stage. Nor should they, for his highest good, be those of his own land or period, lest party spirit prejudice his judgment. Away in space and time should they belong, the farther off the better; and all the better, too, the more diverse the modes of speech and illustration. Let there come up before him some old Romans: and though they come with something of their gladiatorial zeal, and deal their mighty thrusts, at least his interest will be kept the more awake.
And such, indeed, is what the modern listener will sometimes think he has before him, in these ancient and robust personages of the Latin church. And, what he might hardly expect, from their lips will he hear about all that has ever yet been uttered on either side of the specific questions they discuss; and that, sometimes, with a zest and freshness which nothing but the strength of feeling and the novelty of the debate, would inspire. And often--so Dr. Wiggers has drawn up his book--the matter comes almost in the shape of dialogue.
Nor am I quite alone in all these views. Says Dr. W. in the preface to his volume on the history of semipelagianism, "a satisfying knowledge of Christian doctrine can be gained only in the historical way, and the rich contents of the articles of faith, received by our church [the Lutheran], first come up vividly to view, and are perceived in all their blessed fullness, when we see how they speak themselves forth, in conflict with error, precisely in this and in no other manner. By this means, as effectual preparation is made against a shallow rationalism, as against a frozen belief in the letter, so killing to spiritual life."
It was with the hope of promoting such an object as this, that our author also wrote the present work; and it is with the like hope, that this translation has been made. May the author of truth and protector of the church, bless it to this goodly issue.
But I must turn from these general views of the subject itself, to some brief notices of the life of Dr. W. For the few facts I can here present, I am indebted in part to the kindness of Prof. Sears of Newton Theological Seminary, whose residence in Germany afforded him the best means of information.
Prof. Wiggers was born at Biestow, near Rostock, in 1777. His education was completed at Göttingen, where he enjoyed the instruction of the excellent G. J. Planck, then professor of divinity in the university there, and whose works on doctrinal history, have been productive of such lasting fame to himself and such benefit to the cause of "Protestant Theology." It was from an attendance on the lectures of Dr. P., that our author's early taste for historical research, appears to have received both its encouragement and its happy direction. After finishing his studies at Göttingen, he was privatdocent (similar to guest lecturer [1900 Supplement to Webster's 1828 Dictionary]) at Rostock; and in 1810, was professor ordinarius of theology in the University of Rostock, and also director of the pedagogical seminary. The highly honorary title of Consistorialrath, or Counsellor of the Consistory, which is conferred by the government, he enjoyed in 1813. Other marks of respect and esteem received from his countrymen, need not here be detailed.
His publications have been somewhat numerous, and such as have required historical research. None of them, however, so far as I can learn, have yet appeared in English. To some of these, he occasionally refers in the progress of this history: and for this, as well as for other reasons, it may be well here to present the titles of a part of them.
His principal works are the following: Examen Argumentorum Platonis pro Immortalitate Animi Humani. Rostock 1803, 4to. Commentatio in Platonis Eutypbronem. Rostock 1804, 8vo. De Joh. Cassiano Massil., qui semipelagianismi Auctor vulgo perhibitur, Commentationes tres. Rostock 1804 ss, 4to. Socrates als Mensch, als Bürger, und als Philosoph, oder Versuch einer Characteristik des Socrates. Rostock 1807. Dissertatio De Juliano Apostata, Religionis Christianae et Christianorum Persecutore. Rostockii 1811, 4to. Versuch einer pragmatischen Darstellung des Augustinismus und Pelagianismus nach ihrer geschichtlichen Entwickelung. Von Gustav Friedrich Wiggers, Grossherzoglich Mecklenburgischem Consistorialrath, Doctor und Professor der Theologie auf der Universität zu Rostock. In zwei Theilen. Hamburg 1833.
The last is the title of our present work as found in the edition I have used. As a literal version of it would have been too barbarous to an English ear, I have taken a liberty in forming the English title that I have nowhere else indulged. This work was published in 1821, and was followed, in 1833, by what Dr. W. calls "the second part" of the history, but which he also more specifically entitles, Versuch einer pragmatischen Darstellung des Semipelagianismus in seinem Kampfe gegen den Augustinismus bis zur zweiten Synode zu Orange.
The following extract from the preface to this last part, may show how the first had then, for twelve years, been regarded in Germany. "The reception which the first part of my history of Augustinism has found, can be no otherwise than grateful to me. All the reviewers, even those the most diverse in their religious views, and some of whom have wished I had spoken with rather more affection of Augustine, while others, on the contrary, have thought they saw too great a predilection in his favor, have fully justified my historical presentation as being in accordance with the original sources."
To this I may add the following remarks with which Prof. Sears commences an article on the same work in the Christian Review, No. IX. Sept. 1838. "It is pleasing to see a man of great talents and profound learning, who is every way qualified to represent the present improved state of philological and historical criticism in Germany, applying all his energies and resources to produce a complete history of the Pelagian controversy. It may be safely affirmed, that the subject has never before been treated with such ability and success. The work of Vossius was, indeed, very learned and valuable, as well as that of Norisius; but neither of them penetrates so deeply into the original sources of information, nor so completely exhausts the various topics connected with the discussion. Though the writer evidently finds the sentiments of Pelagius most congenial to his own, yet he appears to be free from polemical zeal, and writes, for the most part, with the fairness and candor becoming a historian, None but a warm partisan will find frequent occasion for dissatisfaction with him in this respect."
No candid reader of the entire work, I think, can fail to pronounce this criticism of Prof. Sears, as just as it is discriminating. Till near the close of the volume, however, he might be left to infer that Dr. W. is much more inclined to the positive part of Pelagianism, than he there allows us to suppose. And in his history of semipelagianism, he shows still more clearly his evangelical views on many points and especially in respect to the Trinity and the agency of the Divine Spirit. But while he notices freely what he regards as erroneous either in Augustine or in the Pelagians, it seems nowhere his object to obtrude his own tenets. In this excellent trait, he resembles his illustrious preceptor.
In those instances where I have found any reason to suppose Dr. W. has failed of a just presentation of the views on either side, it has been my earnest endeavor to afford the means of correcting the mistake. In order to accomplish this object, I have taken the liberty, in very many passages, of giving a more extended extract from the original sources--often without troubling the reader with the notice of so harmless a fact. In other cases, I have added a note. In others, as the surest and most concise mode of correction, I have silently substituted the entire passage, from the original source, instead of our author's summary of its contents. (His summaries generally embody an exact translation of the essential words, and are distinguished from the full citations only by the omission of quotation marks). But the principal additions I have made to the work, are included in brackets, and interspersed in their proper places in the text, as being more convenient for the reader than to have them in an appendix. But while I made such additions, in no case have I omitted or curtailed any of the citations or the remarks of our author.
Most of the quotations I have translated from the originals; but in some instances the books have not been at hand, or the case was too plain to require the labor of searching perhaps a folio page in order to find half a sentence.
Mistakes in translation I have doubtless made; but I have certainly taken much pains to avoid them. Always, my first object has been, in simple and perspicuous language, to give exactly the thought of the author; my second, to do the least possible violence to our own idiom. But who--I may well venture to put the question to men of some skill who have tried the experiment--has succeeded, even to his own satisfaction, in attaining both these objects? and especially if he has had to translate a modern German author. Many who have not tried the experiment, for any practical purpose, may continue to think it one of the easiest, as well as the most inglorious, of literary labors. And some men may, indeed, have made it a sufficiently easy task for themselves, to write what they have entitled Translations into English; and may perhaps have been well pleased with the work of their own hands. But if we may form any opinion, on such a subject, from the history of biblical translation, we may at least suppose it no very easy thing to make a perfect translation of any foreign author--though simple, in thought and style, as the apostle John. If experienced biblical scholars, with the help of all who have preceded them, can still find any just occasion for devoting whole years to the more exact translation of but portions of the scriptures, how can it be expected that he, who makes the first translation of any work, should leave no errors for the keen eye of the critic to detect? Job, had he lived in our age, might perhaps have said, `O that mine enemy had translated a book!'
Citations of Latin or Greek, which Dr. W. often makes without translating, I have translated, and have then generally omitted the originals as superfluous. And in other cases I have just as freely added the original words, where I have supposed they could be of any use. In the marking of emphatic words in a citation, I have also exercised my own judgment.
Mistakes in the references I have often silently corrected; but when unable to find the passages, I have given the references as I found them. Many of the scripture references are to the passages as found in the Septuagint or in the Vulgate.
It may be superfluous for me to add, in respect to my own faith, that it is neither that of Augustine, nor of Pelagius, nor of Dr. Wiggers; nor can I be held responsible for any of their opinions. My object like that of the book itself, has been, not so much to teach, as to show what has been taught, and how it has been supported.
Andover, April 11, 1840.
NOTWITHSTANDING the many valuable works on the subject, I have long been convinced that it would well repay the labor, to attempt once more the exhibition of Augustinism and Pelagianism, from the original sources. I was led to this conviction by G. J. Planck's excellent lectures on doctrinal history; and gladly do I seize this opportunity publicly to declare my grateful respect to this my very worthy teacher.
No sooner, then, had both my inclination and office led me particularly to the study of historical theology, than I determined to undertake this labor.
For a complete survey of the progress of the controversy, I first read cursorily, and in chronological order, the controversial writings of Augustine against the Pelagians. I then read them a second time, and very carefully took extracts. After this I read his other chief works, extracting from them what seemed needful for my purpose. I then turned to the few extant writings of Pelagius, studying and extracting as before; and then, to all the remaining productions (partly in the smallest fragments) both of the disciples and the opponents of Pelagius, as Caelestius, Julian, Jerome, Marius Mercator, and others and also to the very important ordinances of the emperors and the canons and decrees of councils, etc., that pertain to the subject.
After this, I went to the construction of my work, and in such a manner as, without looking at any later writers, to draw from the sources with which, by long intercourse, I had gained a familiar acquaintance. But before I had completed my labor in this respect, I compared all that has been written of importance on the subject in ancient and in later times, and profited much by the information thus gained.
Two things I had much at heart in writing my book: the one, an exact presentation of the matter itself, and consequently an accurate account of what Augustine and the Pelagians have actually taught; the other, what is particularly missed in my predecessors--an accurate development of the external and internal connection of each system: of the external, as the doctrine came forth in the controversy and by the controversy; of the internal, as a necessary connection found in each system.
Whether I have accomplished this, so far as the sources allow, I must leave to the decision of competent judges. Every correction, by men who have investigated the sources themselves, will be heartily welcome to me.
As it is very common, in the union contests, to refer back to Augustine as Calvin's champion for the doctrine of election by grace, my work will not fail of a certain degree of interest arising from the times. It will be found that Augustine thought differently from Calvin in many respects. The latter admitted predestination in an extent in which the former never taught nor could teach it. For as Augustine attributed freedom of will to the first man before the fall, he could not regard the fall itself together with all the misery arising from it, as absolutely predestinated by God.
Should my work meet with approbation, I shall proceed with the history of Augustinism and Pelagianism after the period indicated in the introduction, for which I have already collected no inconsiderable materials.
G. F. WIGGERS.
Rostock, April 7, 1821.
AMONG all the doctrinal controversies in the Christian church, the Pelagian certainly take the first place, if we regard the importance and the consequences of their results to Christian doctrine. All that part of doctrine which is commonly, and not unfitly called anthropological, the doctrines of the necessity of baptism to salvation, of original sin, of free will, of grace, of universal or of limited redemption, of predestination, in short, all the doctrines which constitute the peculiarities of the occidental system, were modelled by these controversies and received among the tenets of the eastern as well as the western church. On the other hand, these doctrines have truly a very great importance in themselves. The doctrine of freedom, to mention only this, was always the rock of peril, not only for theologians, but also for philosophers; and it is not a little interesting to see in what diverse manners this difficult doctrine was apprehended, assailed, and defended by such sagacious men as Augustine and Pelagius. How important the other doctrines are for every thinking man, needs not be shown. For as they stand in the most necessary connection with the nature and the destiny of man, here and hereafter, they are in themselves of the greatest interest aside from all other considerations.
From this exalted interest, which is intrinsic and peculiar to Augustinism and Pelagianism, it may easily be seen why the Pelagian disputes were continually renewed in the church, though under different forms. Even after the Reformation, we find them again in the contests of Baius, in the contests of Molina, in the contests occasioned by the decrees of the synod of Dort, in the contests of the Jansenists with the Jesuits. And still to the present time, the whole Christian world is divided between two opposite views respecting the contested doctrines, of which the one is more allied to the Augustinian, the other to the Pelagian. In its essential ideas, the Augustinian is the supernatural doctrine of the Lutheran system. The mystics gladly allied themselves to the Augustinian theory. The Pelagian view was eagerly embraced and warmly defended by the so-called rationalists. No one therefore can properly understand the ecclesiastical system of doctrine in this respect, or comprehend the present state of doctrinal science, who is not familiar with the history of Augustinism.
The history of these contests has moreover a peculiar charm from the fact that the doctrines to which they relate, were first systematically developed by these disputes. Men went deeper into the subject than they had before been accustomed to do, and developed all the consequences that stood in connection with it. Hence, during this contest, these doctrines acquired nearly if not quite all the modes of statement which were afterwards received into the system of our church. This excites beforehand a prepossession in favor of the man who knew how to give a form to his system which men should acknowledge as the true one more than a thousand years after.
A great many acute writers have busied themselves from the beginning with the history of these disputes, at least the earlier history of them. A polemic interest must have caused many of them to cultivate more carefully this part of doctrinal history. The labors of a Gerhard John Vossius, a Cornelius Jansenius, the Augustinian Noris, the Jesuit Garnier, and others, were valuable. Christian William Francis Walch, who very diligently availed himself of the labors of his predecessors, has surpassed them all. But in him, as well as in them, there is a want of the pragmatic mode of treatment; and it is, difficult to obtain a clear view of the whole connection of the controversy and of the doctrines discussed in it. Nor does Walch's work embrace the later history of Augustinism. Some small historical inadvertences of the worthy man, which cannot be surprising in a work of such compass as Walch's History of Heresies, I shall silently correct. Shröckh's work affords, for the most part, only extracts from the writings of Augustine and his opponents; which, however useful in themselves, by no means discharge the task of the historian. Also in the most recent times, Münscher, Wunderman, and others have devoted their useful labors to the exhibition of the Augustino-Pelagian controversies. But notwithstanding these useful preparatory labors, we need not wonder that an opportunity is still left to the historian for acquiring merit, not only in respect to the pragmatic treatment, but also in the historical exhibition of the materials themselves. The very circumstance, also, that lasting hostile parties were formed of the adherents and the opponents of Augustinism, has hindered the calm historical investigation of what Augustine and his opponents actually taught; and this is one of the leading causes why we are not yet, even in the latest times, completely agreed respecting Augustinism and Pelagianism, as soon as we go into a minute representation of the peculiarities of each system. Never can a doctrinal history be written which answers to its ideal but when the materials are drawn from the sources and wrought in the truly pragmatic and likewise exhausting method.
An historical presentation of Augustinism, professing to bring its history down to the time of the reformation, must fix upon certain periods through which the contest continued and in which it often assumed quite an altered form. The following may be conveniently fixed upon as such periods.
Period first. From the first appearance of Pelagius and Caelestius in Africa, in the beginning of the fifth century, to the condemnation of the Caelestians at the third general council at Ephesus in the year 431.
Period second. From the development of what was afterwards called semipelagianism, by Cassian and his adherents, to the condemnation of the alleged semipelagian opinions in Gaul at the second council of Orange (concitio Arausicano secundo) 529.
Period third. The continuance and further spread of the true semipelagian mode of thinking in the west, (but which was given out as the genuine Augustinian,) and the introduction of semipelagianism into the doctrinal system of the east, (which however, strikingly enough, was ascribed to Augustine himself and not to Cassian) to the condemnation of Augustine in the person of the man Gotteschalcus by a council at Mentz, 848, and by a council at Chiersey (Carisiacum,) 849.
Period fourth. The reign of semipelagianism through the whole middle age to the time of Luther.
The present development of Augustinism is limited to the first period. This, notwithstanding its brevity, is unquestionably the richest, partly because of the ample sources remaining to us, and which so sadly fail in the third period, and partly because in this period the doctrines, which were afterwards either adopted or rejected, received their complete form in the most essential part.
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