The GOSPEL TRUTH
AN HISTORICAL PRESENTATION OF
AUGUSTINISM AND PELAGIANISM
G. F. WIGGERS, D. D.
CHAPTER XVIII: Final adoption of the Augustinian system for all Christendom, by the third general council at Ephesus, 431.
By Augustine's zealous exertions, by the violence of the temporal magistracy, by the concurrence of the Romish bishops, and, what must not be wholly overlooked, by a certain disinclination of that period to the improvement of Christian ethics, to which Pelagianism manifestly tended, the Augustinian system, about the year 424, was pretty generally received in public, among the Latin church, though many might still find themselves in heart inclined to Pelagianism.
During the pontificate of Caelestine, who succeeded Boniface in the holy chair in the year 422, Caelestius appeared once more at Rome and demanded a hearing, in the year 424, or somewhat later. But he was banished from all Italy. Prosper c. Coll. c. 21, Ap. p. 195. There was still also, here and there, a public manifestation. Even in Africa, commotions arose among the monks of Adrumetum, respecting freewill and grace, about the year 426, which caused Augustine to write his books De Gr. et Lib. Arb. and De Cor. et Gr. The disturbances which arose at Marseilles, must be noticed in the history of semi-pelagianism.
Nevertheless, the Augustinian doctrine, about the year 424, was the orthodox doctrine in the Latin church.
But it was otherwise in the east. Men did not generally seem to have that interest, in the east, for the anthropological part of divinity, which was felt in the west. They contended rather about the relation of the Logos to the Father, and about the two natures in Christ in short, they busied themselves in speculative questions in theology proper, instead of giving themselves much trouble about man's corruption, freewill, grace, predestination, and thus about anthropological doctrines. Even the Greek fathers of the fifth century, a Socrates, a Sozomen, a Theodoret, say not a syllable on the Pelagian controversies. Most of the oriental bishops remained neutral, because they felt no interest in the controversy.
Those, however, who declared for either party, declared rather for Pelagius, who in general had many friends in the east. The reasons of their doing this, lay not merely in the fact, that there is so much of the hard and repulsive in Augustine's opinions, and that the uncorrupted moral sense is more in accordance with the doctrine of Pelagius, but also in other relations which it is not difficult to discover. The principles of Pelagius accord better with the opinions of the Greek fathers, than do those of Augustine, which were entirely foreign to the Greek church. And then the orientals would not suffer the African orthodoxy to be imposed upon them, and their opinions to be modeled according to Augustine, with whom they had no connection. The political separation of the east from the west, after the death of Theodosius the Great, also caused the religious controversies of the west to be confined more to the latter; and of the east to the former. Finally, the circumstance that monkery flourished more in the east than in the west, contributed somewhat, perhaps, to a greater approbation of the opinions of the monk Pelagius, than of those of the bishop Augustine, who, though he brought the monkish life into repute in Africa, still looked down with prelatical pride on the monks as laymen. Enough, that all the means which Augustine applied to win the east, were ineffectual.
[In addition, however, to the causes just mentioned as inclining the oriental bishops to favor the Pelagians, the influence of Origen and most of the other teachers in the theological school at Alexandria, is of too much importance to pass unnoticed. The general hearing of their doctrines or, to state the fact more precisely, the main hearing of what they had to say on these anthropological doctrines, was such as to prepare the minds of their pupils and their readers, to reject any system which would even seem to countenance the doctrine of heathen fatality, or to infringe on man's perfect freedom and accountability. Almost all their efforts on such topics, for two hundred years, were directed to the demolition of such views of fatal necessity and human impotency, with which the heathen world has always been filled. Hence they were led, if not themselves to over-estimate, yet most excessively to over-preach man's ability to repent and keep the divine law. And thus, in process of time, (as must ever be the case), the way was prepared for lightly esteeming the almost forgotten doctrines of man's dependence and God's prerogatives. This, however natural, was one of the worst mistakes of the Greek fathers. The Latin ecclesiastical writers came later upon the stage, when (as well as where) there was probably less occasion for bending their chief energies in opposition to heathen fate. TR.]
Not long after the synod of Carthage in 412, at which Pelagius was first condemned, Augustine sent Paul Orosius, as we have already related, into the east, in order, in union with Jerome, who was then living in a cloister at Bethlehem, to instigate the Orientals against Pelagius, who was then gone to Palestine. But Jerome, no more than Orosius, could accomplish this. At the convocation which bishop John of Jerusalem held there in 415, the bishop could not be induced to declare Pelagius a heretic. He would decide the matter by the Bible; but Orosius wished it to be decided according to the Carthaginian synod of 412, and the Augustinian orthodoxy; to which John could not bring himself. Consequently there was merely an appeal to Rome. But this did not suit Orosius. He therefore sought to work upon the metropolitan, Eulogius of Caesarea, by two expelled Gallic bishops, Heros and Lazarus, who were then staying at Jerusalem. Eulogius also held a synod with fourteen bishops, at the close of this year, 415, at Diospolis. But here Pelagius was even declared orthodox. Jerome could now do nothing further than to call this "a miserable synod;" and the Africans, nothing else but again to condemn Pelagius. That Pelagius should afterwards be condemned by a synod at Antioch, at which bishop Theodotus presided, is very improbable, although Marius Mercator, from whom we have an account, but a very imperfect one, of this matter (Ap. p. 72), appeals to a letter, as though in his hands, of Theodotus to the Romish bishop. At least it is remarkable, that neither Augustine nor any other writer has said a syllable of so important a fact. According to the account of this same Mercator, Pelagius was also driven from Jerusalem in consequence of that condemnation; concerning which he affirms that he had also in his hands a letter to the Romish bishop from bishop Praylus of Jerusalem, who had, however, before declared himself in favor of Pelagius. Furthermore, Jerome, (whose letter to Ctesiphon had been refuted by the occidental deacon Anianus), had the mortification of seeing his dialogue against the Pelagians refuted by an oriental bishop, the renowned Theodore of Mopseusta in Cilicia. According to some fragments of his work, (which was drawn up in five books, and which fragments are given by Marius Mercator, Op. T. 1, and reprinted in the second part of Valla's edition of Jerome), he agrees with Pelagius, that the death of the body is no consequence of Adam's sin, but maintains, that death is the natural way chosen by God to immortality, in which Adam only preceded us. This was altogether remarkable, as by this opinion he would have differed entirely from the orthodox church. Still even Theodore, after Julian's removal from Cilicia, pronounced condemnation upon him.
Jerome died, Sept. 30, 420; and now all seemed lost for Augustinism in the east. Augustine himself appeared now willing to confine his efforts to the west. Unexpectedly, however, a circumstance occurred, by which Augustine's system received the most valuable sanction for the east.
Some bishops who were inclined to Pelagianism and who had not subscribed the epistola tractoria, Julian, Florus, Orontius, and Fabius, had come to Constantinople, about the year 429, where Nestorius had shortly before been partriarch, and they had applied to the emperor Honorius the younger. Although Atticus, a predecessor of Nestorius, had removed them from Constantinople in 424, yet Nestorius found no reason for regarding them as heretics, and therefore had doubts as to excommunicating them. Yet Nestorius himself was so far from agreeing fully with the Pelagians that on the contrary, soon after the arrival of those bishops, he defended the doctrine of original sin, in several discourses against the Pelagians. In the perplexity in which Nestorius found himself with them, and induced perhaps also by the desire of an opportunity to justify himself to the Romish bishop respecting the suspicion of heterodoxy on the doctrine of the person of Christ, into which Cyril had brought him with Caelestine, he applied to the latter, in several letters, two of which are still extant, and inquired of him the circumstances of his affair with the alleged heretics. Both letters have come to us in a Latin translation and are found, as well as Caelestine's answer, in Mansi IV. 1021 sqq.; and in an abridged form, in the appendix, p. 129 sq. In the first letter, he says Julian, indeed, and Florus and Orontius and Fabius, declaring themselves bishops of the western parts, have often approached the most pious and celebrated emperor and bemoaned their case, as orthodox persons suffering persecution in orthodox times," etc. In the other, he says; "Often have I written to your blessedness respecting Julian," etc. Further on, come the remarkable words, "The examination of a pious sect, as you know, Most Rev. Sir, is no trivial thing, nor small is the investigation of those who do this." The busy Marius Mercator, in the meantime, without the interposition of Nestorius, had so managed, that Julian and his friends were banished from the city by the imperial mandate.
Caelestine's answer, dated Aug. 11, 430, was not such as Nestorius might have expected. It was written with a bitterness which Nestorius by no means deserved. Caelestine gave him to understand his surprise, that he should receive heretics who had already been condemned, and whom his predecessor Atticus had treated as condemned; that he who declared himself so orthodox on the doctrine of original sin, should hold intercourse with heretics who denied original sin. This could not take place without the suspicion of his not thinking altogether differently from them. The greatest part of his letter, however, was occupied with the contest in which Nestorius was involved with the metropolitan Cyril of Alexandria, respecting the relation of Christ's divine nature to the human, on which Caelestine had been consulted by Cyril himself, and in respect to which he had declared himself unconditionally in favor of Cyril.
This circumstance, as well as several other reasons, shows a combination between the Alexandrian and Romish bishops, in the highest degree probable. Many traces of their alliance, are elsewhere found in ecclesiastical history. As Cyril wished to ruin Nestorius, the concurrence of the occidentals, and particularly of the Romish bishop, whom he might justly regard as the representative of the western church, was of the utmost importance to him. Most probably he now came to an agreement with Caelestine, that himself would take care that the Pelagian system should be condemned in the east, as soon as he would declare against the opinion of Nestorius respecting the doctrine of the person of Christ and condemn it in his synods. This appears evident from all that occurred at the general council at Ephesus, 431, as well as from the measures which Caelestine took for the condemnation of Nestorianism. In the council at Ephesus no more than in the whole contest between Cyril and Nestorius, did the discussion concern the Pelagian doctrine. Although Pelagius was ranked in the same class with Nestorius, yet he had nothing in common with him. The adherents of Caelestius or Pelagius, as well as Nestorius, were condemned; and the clergy who thought with Caelestius, were deposed. See the doings of the fifth session, and the first and fourth canons of the seventh, at full length in Mansi, Part 1: and abridged, in the appendix, p. 135. Besides this, we see the connection in which Caelestine stood to Cyril, not only from the letter which he sent to Cyril with his delegates to the council--for the Romish bishop had now become too eminent to appear in person at a general council--but also from the insinuations which Cyril made to Caelestine to the prejudice of Nestorius, one consequence of which was the accusation of heresy against Nestorius, which Caelestine had already published previously to the council, 430; as also from the secret instructions which Caelestine gave his delegates, to adhere closely to Cyril; and from many other circum. stances. All this is more minutely treated of in the history of the Nestorian controversies. See Walch in the fifth part of his history of heresies. At the close of the letter in which the synod inform Caelestine of what took place, we read this remarkable assertion: "After the records of the negotiations were read in the holy synod, respecting the deposition (__________) of the unholy Pelagians and Caelestians, Caelestius, Pelagius, Julian, Persidius, Marcellinus, Orontius, and those of the like sentiments, we also believed, that what has been decided by your holiness respecting them, must remain in force, and we all agree with you in declaring them deposed (________." Mansi, p. 1337. The terms, __________ and ____________, are not here sufficiently precise, as they at least cannot refer to Pelagius, who was never a clergyman.
Thus Augustinism consequently became the orthodox belief for the whole Christian world, by the decision of the universal council at Ephesus 431, or, properly, of Cyril and Caelestine--for we know that the orientals had no part in the matter. By the zeal of Augustine and a favorable concurrence of several circumstances, this was effected in twenty years. It is remarkable enough, that the fall of Nestorius should be decreed in consequence of Pelagianism! Pope Caelestine, in his answer to the synod, March 15, 432, did not neglect to confirm their decrees, and particularly those against the Caelestians; and in a separate letter, he reminded Maximian, the successor of Nestorius, that all who adhered to the Caelestian error, "should be driven from all human society." Ap. p. 135.
Augustine's faith therefore ought now to have been received by the whole Christian world. Whether this actually took place, and what further happened, the second period will show.
As we have now endeavored to exhibit the historical facts in this controversy, as well as the several Augustinian and Pelagian doctrines, in the pragmatic manner (pragmatisch), it may facilitate the review of the reader, to collect, in one brief view, the main points of Augustinism and Pelagianism.
Remark. In order to find a point of union between Pelagianism and Nestorianism, the Pelagians have at one time been accused of the Nestorian error, and at another, Nestorius has been accused of Pelagianism. Both accusations are groundless. How little of a Nestorian Pelagius was, may be seen most plainly from his confession of faith. An objection against the Pelagians in this respect, was never made by Augustine. At least he seems to concede their orthodoxy on the doctrine of the Trinity itself. Ep. 188. When Augustine charged on the Pelagians the consequence that, by their theory of grace as founded on merit, the man Jesus must have deserved, by the goodness of his will, to be the only begotten Son of God, he made this objection to them in order to show the incorrectness of their doctrine by the paradox it afforded. How far Augustine was from ascribing this opinion to the Pelagians, may be seen, among other passages, from De Cor. et Gr. c. 11, where he even says, that no man is so blind in the faith as to set up such a proposition.
It may, however, he readily admitted, that individual Pelagians were likewise Nestorians, or differed from the subsequent orthodoxy respecting the person of Christ. This was true--particularly of Leporius. Still he did not do this as a Pelagian; and in this respect the connection between Pelagianism and Nestorianism must be totally denied. And nothing even of this kind, was maintained by Pelagius, Caelestius, and Julian, the proper representatives of pelagianism. See Walch's History of Heresies, Part IV. p. 816, 817.
Nestorius, too, we may venture to regard as no Pelagian in the proper sense, though he, as also all the orientals, might differ from the Augustinian theory, on many points.
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