It appears that Prosper and Hilary had made a journey to Rome, where they then were, for the purpose of complaining to Celestine of the connivance of certain bishops of Southern Gaul with the unsound teaching of their clergy. They complained too of the disrespectful manner in which these same clergy treated the memory of Augustine, then recently deceased.
Celestine writes to these bishops: blames their connivance with a fault, which, says he, by their silence they make their own, and then proceeds to charge them, as in the passage quoted in the text, “Rebuke these people: restrain their liberty of preaching. If the case be so, let novelty cease to assail antiquity, let restlessness cease to disturb the Churchs peace.” Then, after some further exhortation, he adds, “We cannot wonder at their thus assailing the living, when they do not shrink from seeking to asperse the memory of the departed. With Augustine, whom all men everywhere loved and honoured, we ever held communion. Let a stop be put to this spirit of disparagement, which unhappily is on the increase.”
The manner in which Vincentius deals with this letter has been very commonly thought, and with reason, to indicate a Semipelagian leaning. 529 His “si ita est,” “if the case be so,” emphasized by being repeated again and again, quite in an excited manner, as we should say, shows an evident wish to shift the charge of novelty from those against whom it had been brought, and fix it upon the opposite party. “Who are the introducers of novelty? The Massilians, as Prosper represents them, or their calumniators? Not the Massilians: they notoriously appeal to antiquity,—not the Massilians, but Prosper and the rest of Augustines followers.”
The feeling with regard to Augustine, on the part of the Massilian clergy, as indicated in Celestines letter, is quite in accordance with the animus of § 69 above. See the note on that place, and see Noriss remarks, pp. 246–248.
E.g. “Hunc locum Vincentius Lirinensis sic a vero sensu contra Prosperum et Hilarium detorquet, ut ipse haud injuria in erroris Semipelagiani suspicionem veniat.” The Benedictine editor of St. Augustines works on Celestines letter, Tom. x. col. 2403. To the same purpose, among others, Card. Norris, Histor. Pelag., 246. Vossius, Histor. Pelag. Tillemont, T. xv. pp. 145, 862. Neander, Church History, iv. p. 388.
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