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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Grace of Christ, and...: Chapter 3

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 3 [III.]—Part of the Proceedings of the Council of Carthage Against Cœlestius.

“The bishop Aurelius said: ‘Let what follows be recited.’ It was accordingly recited, ‘That the sin of Adam was injurious to him alone, and not to the human race.’ Then, after the recital, Cœlestius said: ‘I said that I was in doubt about the transmission of sin, 1932 but so as to yield assent p. 237 to any man whom God has gifted with the grace of knowledge; for I have heard different opinions from those who have been even appointed presbyters in the Catholic Church.’ The deacon Paulinus 1933 said: ‘Tell us their names.’ Cœlestius answered: ‘The holy presbyter Rufinus, 1934 who lived at Rome with the holy Pammachius. I have heard him declare that there is no transmission of sin.’ The deacon Paulinus then asked: ‘Is there any one else?’ Cœlestius replied: ‘I have heard more say the same.’ The deacon Paulinus rejoined: ‘Tell us their names.’ Cœlestius said: ‘Is not one priest enough for you?’” Then afterwards in another place we read: “The bishop Aurelius said: ‘Let the rest of the accusation be read.’ It then was recited ‘That infants at their birth are in the same state that Adam was before the transgression;’ and they read to the very end of the brief accusation which had been previously put in. [IV.] The bishop Aurelius inquired: ‘Have you, Cœlestius, taught at any time, as the deacon Paulinus has stated, that infants are at their birth in the same state that Adam was before his transgression?’ Cœlestius answered: ‘Let him explain what he meant when he said, “before the transgression.’” The deacon Paulinus then said: ‘Do you on your side deny that you ever taught this doctrine? It must be one of two things: he must either say that he never so taught, or else he must now condemn the opinion.’ Cœlestius rejoined: ‘I have already said, Let him explain the words he mentioned, “before the transgression.”’ The deacon Paulinus then said: ‘You must deny ever having taught this.’ The bishop Aurelius said: ‘I ask, What conclusion I have on my part to draw from this man’s obstinacy; my affirmation is, that although Adam, as created in Paradise, is said to have been made immortal at first, he afterwards became corruptible through transgressing the commandment. Do you say this, brother Paulinus?’ ‘I do, my lord,’ answered the deacon Paulinus. Then the bishop Aurelius said: ‘As regards the condition of infants before baptism at the present day, the deacon Paulinus wishes to be informed whether it is such as Adam’s was before the transgression; and whether it derives the guilt of transgression from the same origin of sin from which it is born?’ The deacon Paulinus asked: ‘Let him deny whether he taught this, or not.’ Cœlestius answered: ‘As touching the transmission of sin, I have already asserted, that I have heard many persons of acknowledged position in the catholic Church deny it altogether; and on the other hand, others affirm it: it may be fairly deemed a matter for inquiry, but not a heresy. I have always maintained that infants require baptism, and ought to be baptized. What else does he want?’”



De traduce peccati, the technical phrase to express the conveyance by birth of original sin.


This Paulinus, according to Mercator (Commonit. super nomine Cœlestii), was the deacon of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, and the author of his biography, which he wrote at the instance of Augustin. According to his own showing, he lived in Africa, and wrote the Life of Ambrose when John was pretorian prefect, i.e. either in the year 412, or 413, or 422. The trial mentioned in the text took place about the commencement of the year 412, according to Augustin’s letter to Pope Innocent (See Augustin’s letter, 175, 1. 6). See above, in the treatise On the Proceedings of Pelagius, 23.


Mercator (Commonit. adv. Hæres. Pelagii) informs us that a certain Syrian called Rufinus introduced the discussion against original sin and its transmission into Rome in the pontificate of Anastasius. According to some, this was the Rufinus of Aquileia, whom Jerome (in Epist. ad Ctesiphont.) notices as the precursor of Pelagius in his error about the sinless nature of man; according, however, to others, it is the other Rufinus, mentioned by Jerome in his 66th Epistle, who is possibly the same as he who rejects the transmission of original sin in a treatise On Faith, which J. Sismondi published as the work of Rufinus, a presbyter of the province of Palestine. It is, at any rate, hardly possible to suppose that the Aquileian Rufinus either went to Rome, or lodged there with Pammachius, in the time of Pope Anastasius.

Next: Chapter 4

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