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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Concerning Man’s Perfection...: Introduction.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Augustin to his holy brethren and fellow-bishops Eutropius and Paulus. 1363

Chapter I.

Your love, which in both of you is so great and so holy that it is a delight to obey its commands, has laid me under an obligation to reply to some definitions which are said to be the work of Cœlestius; for so runs the title of the paper which you have given me, “The definitions, so it is said, of Cœlestius.” As for this title, I take it that it is not his, but theirs who have brought this work from Sicily, where Cœlestius is said not to be,—although many there 1364 make boastful pretension of holding views like his, and, to use the apostle’s word, “being themselves deceived, lead others also astray.” 1365 That these views are, however, his, or those of some associates 1366 of his, we, too, can well believe. For the above-mentioned brief definitions, or rather propositions, are by no means at variance with his opinion, such as I have seen it expressed in another work, of which he is the undoubted author. There was therefore good reason, I p. 160 think, for the report which those brethren, who brought these tidings to us, heard in Sicily, that Cœlestius taught or wrote such opinions. I should like, if it were possible, so to meet the obligation imposed on me by your brotherly kindness, that I, too, in my own answer should be equally brief. But unless I set forth also the propositions which I answer, who will be able to form a judgment of the value of my answer? Still I will try to the best of my ability, assisted, too, by God’s mercy, by your own prayers, so to conduct the discussion as to keep it from running to an unnecessary length.



[Probably Spanish refugees; they had recently presented to Augustin a memorial against certain heresies. Oros. ad Aug. i.—W.]


In his epistle (157) to Hilary, written a little while before this work, he mentions Cœlestius and the condemnation of his errors in a Council held at Carthage; he expresses also some apprehension of Cœlestius attempting to spread his opinions in Sicily: “Whether he be himself there,” says Augustin, “or only others who are partners in his errors, there are too many of them; and, unless they be checked, they lead astray others to join their sect; and so great is their increase, that I cannot tell whither they will force their way,” etc.


2 Tim. iii. 13.


Sociorum ejus. It has been proposed to read sectatorum ejus,—not unsuitably (although not justified by ms. evidence), because Cœlestius “had,” to use Jerome’s words, “by this time turned out a master with a following,—the leader of a perfect army.”—Jerome’s Epistle to Ctesiphon, written in the year 413 or 414.

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