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Moreover, the fulcrum of the moral Christian reform was religion; in religious ideas, in the relations of man with the Divinity, of the present life with the future, lay its strength. It behooved its chiefs, therefore, to prefer, and also to favor, those moral facts whose tendency is religious,—those which border on the religious side of our nature, and are, so to speak, placed on the boundaries of actual duties and future hopes, of morals and religion.
Finally, the wants and the active means of Christianity, to effect a moral reform and govern men, necessarily varied with times and situations; it was necessary to address, so to speak, now one fact in the human soul, now another; to-day a certain disposition, tomorrow a different one. It is evident, for example, that in the first and in the fifth century the task of the chiefs of the religious society was not the same, and could not be performed by the same means. The dominant fact in the first century was the struggle against paganism, the need of overthrowing an order of things odious to the new state of the mind—the work, in a word, of revolution, of war. Incessant appeals were necessary to the spirit of liberty, of examination--to the energetic exercise of the will; this was the moral fact which the Christian society invoked and incited constantly, and on every occasion.
In the fifth century the case was quite different. War had ceased, or nearly so; the victory was gained. The Christian chiefs were especially called to regulate the religious society. The day had come to promulgate its faith, to settle its discipline, to establish it, in short, upon the ruins of that heathen world which it had vanquished. These vicissitudes are repeated in all great moral revolutions; I need not multiply examples. We see that at this epoch there was no longer occasion for incessantly invoking the spirit of liberty; the dispositions favorable to the establishment of rule, order, and the exercise of power, were in their turn to be cultivated and obtain the preference. Apply these considerations to the natural moral facts that gave birth to the Pelagian controversy, and we shall easily discover which among them were those whose development, in the fifth century, the chiefs of the church were especially required to favor.
Still another cause modified the point of view from which they observed our moral nature. The facts relative to human liberty, and the problems occasioned by them, are not isolated; they are attached to other facts, to other problems, still more general and coinplex,--for example, to the question of the origin of good and evil, to that of the general destiny of man, and of his essential relations with the designs of the Divinity concerning the world.
Now, upon these superior questions, doctrines had been established in the church, parties formed, solutions already given; and when new questions arose, the chiefs of the religious society were obliged to reconcile their ideas with the established faith and general ideas of the church. We see, then, in such a case, how complex was the nature of their situation. Certain facts, certain moral problems, attracted their notice. They might examine and judge them as philosophers, abstractedly from every exterior consideration, from a purely scientific point of view. But they were invested with official power; they were called to govern men, to regulate their actions, to act on their wills. Hence a practical, political necessity, which weighed upon the mind of the philosopher, and inclined it in a certain direction. This was not all : philosophers and politicians, they were also obliged to fulfill the functions of pure logicians, to conform themselves on all occasions to the consequences of certain principles, certain immutable doctrines. They played then, in some sort, three parts, and bore three yokes; they were obliged to consult the nature of things, practical necessity, and logic; and whenever a new question appeared, whenever they were called to take cognizance of moral facts to which they had previously paid little attention, they were obliged to think and act under this triple character—to fulfill this triple mission.
Such was not the condition of all Christians in the religious society; all did not regard themselves as called, on the one hand, to govern the church morally, or, on the other, to follow out, to all its consequences, the system of its doctrines. There could not fail to spring up among them men who permitted themselves to observe and describe such or such moral facts in their own minds, without preoccupying themselves much with their practical influence, or their place and connection in a general system ;-men of narrower views and feebler powers than those of the chiefs of the church, but freer in a more circumscribed field, and who, imposing upon themselves a less difficult task, might arrive, upon certain points, at more precise knowledge. Hence the origin of the heresiarchs.
Thus was Pelagianism born. We are now, if I am not deceived, in possession of the great preliminary, and, in some sort, exterior circumstances that were to influence its destiny.
We have, 1. The principal natural facts on which the controversy rested; 2. The questions that naturally arise from these facts; 3. The special point of view from which these facts and questions were observed in the fifth century, either by the chiefs of the religious society, or by the active and inquiring minds that arose isolatedly
in its bosom. We may now approach the history of the Pelagian controversy: we have a thread to guide us,-a torch to light our path.
The controversy was first strongly agitated early in the fifth century; not that free-will and the action of God on the human mind had not previously occupied the minds of Christians; the epistles of St. Paul and many other monuments attest the contrary; but the facts had been admitted or denied almost without debate. Toward the end of the fourth century they began to be more cautiously examined, and some of the chiefs of the church already began to be disquieted on their account. “We ought not,” said St. Augustin at that time, “lo speak much of grace to men who are not.yet Christians, or not well-grounded Christians; it is a thorny question which may trouble the faith."
Toward the year 405, a Breton monk, Pelagius, (the name given him by Latin and Greek writers ; his national name appears to have been Morgan,) was at Rome. His origin, his moral character, his genius, and his learning, have been the subject of much discussion; and in connection with these various points many injurious things have been said of him, which appear, however, to have been unfounded. Judging from the principal testimonies, and from that of St. Augustin himself, Pelagius was well born, well educated, and grave and pure in his manners. He lived at Rome, and had already arrived at mature age; and without promulgating any precise doctrine, without writing a book, he began to speak much of free-will-to insist on this moral fact, to give it prominence. Nothing indicates that he attacked any one, or was desirous of controversy; he appears merely to have believed that sufficient importance was not given to human liberty-that too circumscribed a place was assigned to it in the religious doctrines of the times.
These ideas caused no trouble at Rome--little or no debate. Pelagius spoke freely; he was listened to without interruption. His principal disciple was Celestius, a monk like himself-at least it is believed so--but younger, more confident, of a more daring genius, and more resolved to push to extremities the consequences of his opinions.
In 411 Pelagius and Celestius are no longer at Rome : we find them in Africa,-at Hippo and at Carthage. In this latter city Celestius advances his doctrines; a controversy immediately arises between him and the deacon Paulinus, who accuses him to the bishop of heresy. In 412 a council assembles; Celestius is present, and vigorously defends himself; he is excommunicated, and
after vainly attempting an appeal to the bishop of Rome, he passes into Asia, whither Pelagius, as it seems, had preceded him.
Their doctrines spread; the islands of the Mediterranean, Sicily and Rhodes among others, gave them a favorable reception; a little tract by Celestius, entitled Definitiones, which many were eager to read, was sent to St. Augustin. Hilary, a Gaul, wrote to him in much anxiety. The bishop of Hippo began to be alarmed; he beheld more than one error and peril in the new ideas.
At first, among the facts relative to the moral activity of man, that of free-will was almost the only one with which Pelagius and Celestius appear to have occupied themselves. St. Augustin agreed with them, and had more than once declared as much; but ocher facts, in his opinion, were entitled to equal notice ; for example, the insufficiency of the human will, the necessity of exterior assistance, and those moral changes that take place in the soul, which it cannot attribute to itself. Pelagius and Celestius seemed to disregard these, which was the first cause of the struggle between them and the bishop of Hippo, whose more comprehensive mind contemplated our moral nature under a greater variety of aspects.
Pelagius, besides, by the almost exclusive importance he gave to free-will, weakened the religious side of the Christian doctrine, in order to fortify, so to speak, the human side. Liberty is the fact of man; he alone appears in it. In the insufficiency of the human will, on the contrary, and in those moral changes which it does not attribute to itself, there is room for divine intervention. Now the reforming power of the church being essentially religious, she could not but lose, in a practical point of view, by a theory which placed in the first rank a fact in which religion had nothing to unfold, and left in the background those in which her empire found a field for its exercise.
Finally, St. Augustin was the chief of the doctors of the church -called, more than any other, to maintain the general system of her faith. Now, the ideas of Pelagius and Celestius seemed to him to contradict some of the fundamental points of the Christian faith, especially the doctrine of original sin and redemption. He attacked them, therefore, from a threefold motive: as a philosopher, because, in his eyes, their science of human nature was narrow and incomplete; as a practical reformer, charged with the government of the church, because, according to him, they impaired its most efficacious means of reform and government; and as a logician, because their ideas did not exactly square with the consequences deduced from the essential principles of the faith.
From this time we see what importance the controversy assumed: philosophy, politics, and religion, the opinions and the interests of St. Augustin, his self-love and his duty, all were engaged. He devoted himself wholly to the work, publishing tracts, writing letiers, collecting all the information that reached him from every direction, lavishing refutations and counsels, and displaying in all his writings, in all his demeanor, that mixture of passion and mildness, of authority and sympathy, of expansion of mind and logical rigor, which gave him so rare a power.
Pelagius and Celestius, on their side, did not remain inactive; in the East they had powerful friends. If St. Jerome fulminated against them at Bethlehem, they were zealously protected by John, bishop of Jerusalem. He convoked on their account an assembly of the priests of his church. A disciple of St. Augustin, the Spaniard Orosius, then in Palestine, presented himself before them, and related what had passed in Africa in regard to Pelagius, as well as the errors of which he had been accused. On the recommendation of Bishop John, Pelagius was called. He was asked if he really taught what Augustin had refuted. “What is Augustin to me?" he replied. Several of the members were shocked. Augustin was at that time the most celebrated and respected doctor in the church. A disposition was manifested to eject Pelagius, and even to excommunicate him; but John turned aside the blow, caused Pelagius to be seated, and then interrogated him: "I am Augustin here; thou shalt answer to me.” Pelagius spoke Greek; his accuser, Orosius, spoke nothing but Latin; the members of the assembly were unable to understand him, and therefore separated without deciding anything.
Shortly after, in December, 415, an assembly was held at Diospolis, the ancient Lydda, in Palestine, composed of fourteen bishops, and presided over by Eulogius, bishop of Cesarea. Two bishops of Gaul-Hero of Arles, and Lazarus of Aix-who had been banished from their sees, addressed to Eulogius a new accusation against Pelagius. They were not present at the council, alledging indisposition, and probably aware that it would not be favorable to them. Pelagius, however, appeared, protected by the bishop of Jerusalem, and was interrogated concerning his opinions. He explained them, modified them, and adopted all that the council presented as the true doctrine of the church. He related what he had already suffered, enlarged upon his relations with several holy bishops, and with Augustin himself, who two years before had written him a letter, for the purpose of controverting some of his ideas, but full of charity and mildness. The accusation of Hero