Gustav Friedrich Wiggers.

An historical presentation of Augustinism and Pelagianism from the original sources online

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Entered according to Act of Congress in the year 1840, by


in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.


Translator's Preface, ......... 5

Author's Preface, 15

Introduction, .......... 17

Sketch of the principal rnen who aj)pearcd in the Pelagian Contro-
versy, Augustine on the one side, and Pelagius, Caelestius and
Julian on the other, ......... 2J


Chief sources of information respecting tlie controversies between

Augustine and the Pelagians, ....... 51

Commencement of the controversy, ...... 57


The Pelagian doctrine on baptism, and particularly on infant bap-
tism ; and Augustine's doctrine on the same, .... Gl

Pelagian view of original sin. Opposite theory of Augustine on
the same, ........... 83


Theory of the Pelagians on freewill, and the opposite theory of Au-
gustine, ...... 105


objections of the Pelagians against Augustine's doctrine of original

sin and of freewill, 115


Theory of the Pelagians on the state of man before the fall. Oppo-
site theory of Augustine, ........ 137

Narrative of events in the controversy, continued, . . . 151

Transactions at Diospolis in respect to the heresies charged on Pela-

gius, 155



Narrative of events^continued. 1G2


Canons established against the Pelagians by the general synod (ple-
nario concilio) of the African bishops, held at Carthage in 418, . 171


Theory of Pelagius and his followers respecting grace. Opposite

theory of Augustine, 177


Objections of the Pelagians against Augustine's doctrine of grace, 219

Further account of the events, ....... 229


Augustine's theory of predestination. Pelagian view of foreordi-

nation, ............ 237


Augustine's doctrine on the extent of redemption. The Pelagian

doctrine, 254


Final adoption of the Augustinian system for all Christendom, by
the third general council at Ephesus, 431 , 261


View of the Augustinian and Pelagian systems, in their main features, 2G8

Augustine's reasons for his theory, 272

Proofs of the Pelagians for their theory, 299


Examination of the question respecting the opinions of the Fathers
previous to Augustine, in regard to the contested doctrines of Au-
gustinism and Pelagianism, ........ 326

Concluding remarks, 370


" Names are things." And hence the peculiarly imperative duty,
when speaking of 7nen, large classes of men, and especially of
christian men, that the right appellations be employed. — But what
ki7ids of things, and of what power, are names ? Inslrumenis, it may
in the first place be replied ; and some of them for moral and reli-
gious as well as for scientific investigation ; — lenses, for instance, and
of the most diverse and most magic power ; enlarging, or diminishing ;
beautifying, or deforming ; multiplying, illuminating, or obscuring;
and investing objects with all imaginable hues. And again, they are
weapons ; — shields of adamant ; — Damascus blades. Wise men
know well their power. And good men wish to use them, and to
see them used, only aright ; and high-minded men, in the best sense
of the term, scorn to use them, and blush to see them used, in any
other way. — Names, too, have been the causes as well as the imple-
ments of war, arraying brother against brother, and that in the house-
hold of faith. Who will doubt this that has heard the thunder of
such wars, or read their history ?

Whoever, then, shall kindly and dispassionately afford some real
aid in fixing the just import of names employed in waging holy or
unholy warfare, and thus shall aid those, whose business it may be,
more justly to assign the names — and others to appreciate them —
may well hope to be regarded as a son of peace, however humble
his labor.

And here it may just be remarked, that often it is as important
to ascertain the genuine import of a good as of a bad name — the
nature of a shield, as of a spear.

For the last score of years, the terms Pelagian and Pelagianism
have been very freely used. Opposite terms have also been assum-
ed or applied with perhaps equal frequency. But with how much
justness, in either case, it would here be premature to inquire. We
must first ascertain the true import of such names.

And who can object to this inquiry ? or who quake in prospect of

6 translator's preface.

its results ? Honest and ingenuous men will even court for them-
selves their proper appellations, if fairly understood, come these ap-
pellations from what source they may. None but a poor Christian
will bestow a wrong appellation, on any man : and none but a bad
man will kill even a bad man, with an unlawful weapon.

Hence there are probably three classes of men who will like to
read such a work as this. First, those who have been called Pela-
gians. For they will honestly wish to know whether they ought any
longer to reject the appellation ; and how far, if at all, they should
own its justness. Secondly, those who have called them Pelagians :
as they will wish to know whether in whole or in part they have
rightly bestowed the appellation ; — and whether, to any extent, it
may also be applicable to themselves. Thirdly, those who have
neither given nor received the name, but who would fain be better
able to judge of the propriety with which it has been so currently
applied and so promptly rejected, on the right and on the left.

The work here presented is considered, by theologians in Ger-
many and elsewhere, as affording the best means of settling such
questions, short of a laborious investigation of the original sources,
such as our author went through in collecting the materials for his

But these considerations, important as they may be to the peace
and prosperity of the church, afford neither the only nor the chief
motives for presenting this work to the English reader.

" Ancient Christianity," for better or for worse, must soon become
more perfectly known to the protestant world. And good it isthat it
should be so, painful and surprising in themselves as may be some of
the disclosures. Such advocates of patristic authority as have re-
cently appeared in England, will spare no pains in accomplishing
one part of this labor. Nor less prompt or less able will be their
antagonists, in performing the other part of the Herculean task, if we
may judge from recent specimens of their zeal and power. Conse-
quences of the most serious nature, in England as well as in this
country, are now seen to be most intimately connected with the
historical disclosures that shall be made. Indeed some of the grand
questions of protestantism, now, as in the time of the Reformation,
(though in a different attitude), are in no small degree agitated as
questions of early ecclesiastical histor}'.

In the progress of this quickened discussion, and with the means


and motives that now exist for its prosecution, we may well expect
that at least the external institutions and the ethics of the early church,
will soon become more fully known. These two branches are so
obviously and intimately connected, that they will of course continue
to be prosecuted together.

But there is another and more difficult and, I may add, more im-
portant branch of investigation, which has hitherto received far less
attention from those who speak the English language : and yet its
connection with the others, though not so obvious, is no less real and
important. I mean the ancient history of the more abstract doctrines
of Christianity. The researches in all three of these departments,
should proceed with equal step, since such are their relations that no
one of them can be fairly investigated or thoroughly understood,
apart from the others.

While, then, the history of rites, institutions, modes of church
government, and modes of social or unsocial life, together with the
doctrines of morality, are laid open to the light, the more abstract
doctrines touching the nature of man and the government of God,
and upon which .all are in a manner based, should be simultaneously
disclosed. Otherwise, real noon-day will beam upon neither.

England is now awakened to the performance of the one part.
Germany, for the passing age, has been assiduously laboring on the
other. The present, therefore, seems peculiarly the juncture for
availing ourselves of the mcft'e ripened results to which these labori-
ous Germans have arrived in respect to the history of such doc-
trines. — The work here presented contains a minute and well au-
thenticated account of those doctrines as first more fully develop-
ed and received in the church. The period, too, of this development
was the same as that which is the most deeply interesting in respect
to the other branch of research.

But a still further and more permanent interest attaching to such
a work, is found in the intrinsic value of doctrinal history itself, and
especially the history of such a period. On this topic I must dwell
a moment, as it has furnished in fact my chief motive to the labor of
this translation.

The Bible, indeed, is so plain in its great outlines of truth and du-
ty, that the fool need not err in those matters with which only the
simple have to do. And so are the laws of a well-governed chris-
tian nation so right and simple in their main requisitions, that few


honest-hearted men are found in transgression. But both human
and divine laws have also much to do with far other-hearted men.
These simple laws have yet a keen eye on the wily transgressor.
His waywardness is to be met ; the point of his offending, discrimi-
nated ; his punishment, adjusted to his guilt; his reformation to be
wisely sought ; and future crime to be forefended. If one, then, is
to become deeply versed in all the bearings of these simple laws of
God, or of his country, so as to guide his own conduct in crhical ca-
ses and to become a guide and a defender or a reprover of others,
he has before him, not only the task of a nice and discriminating
study of all the existing statutes, but also of the history of the inter-
pretation of those statutes. And nearly as well might the barrister
think himself prepared for his office by the mere reading of enact-
ments, without a knowledge of common law, as the theologian think
himself master of all the important questions that can fairly be started
on the interpretation of the Bible, without a good knowledge of the
great doctrinal controversies that have actually arisen in the church.
It is reported as the saying of the greatest living oracle of American
law, that no man can certainly foretell the practical operation of any
law — so many and diverse may be its occult bearings. And, al-
though the like uncertainty does not shroud the divine law, yet who
could imagine beforehand a hundreth part of the important questions
that have been discussed, and that may yet continue to be discussed,
respecting the full import and application of these laws ? Some of
them, too, questions on which have hung the welfare of ages ! And
divine as is the law, and therefore wholly good, the interpretation is
human, and we need not be startled at the limited comparison here
made of it to human laws. And although the adjudications of coun-
cils and the dicta of individual theologians, have none of the force
of common law, yet who will not be greatly guided in the right and
admonished of the wrong constructions, by the attentive study of
what they have done, and of the practical bearings of their decis-
ions ? Or who will disregard these ancient monuments ? Just as well
may we put out all human iights and march back again into the dark

Nor let it be said that much of the history of christian doctrine, is
the history of those ages. For those dark ages themselves are now
a light to us — one immense light-house, to warn from those fatal
rocks amid which the shattered church was dashins[ for a thousand

translator's preface. 9

years. It were suicidal in her now to close her eyes to that costly
beacon which Providence has erected for her future safety.

Nor should the young theologian imagine that he can now sum-
marily and safely take the mere results of all past discussions, as he
finds them embodied in the excellent though imperfect doctrinal for-
mulas, to which a large part of the church has been led as the fruit
of long ages of toil and contest, and that he shall thus be well pre-
pared for his work, as a guide and a guardian to the church for days
to come. He cannot even well understand the formulas themselves,
without a knowledge of their history, and of the times in which they
were drawn up, and of the errors against which they were intended
to guard. Much less will he be adequate to the high but most deli-
cate office of timely espying and judiciously remedying those inci-
pient tendencies to such errors which, though with shifting form, are
continually re-appearing. If a timid or an ambitious alarmist, he
may cry wolf, when no wolf is coming : — or if of an opposite cha-
racter, he may be dumb when the monster is just crouching to leap
the walls of his fold.

But, again ; and in a different view, for him who would know what
truth is. How is truth best elicited } and best learned } Didac-
tic reading is good. And meditation thereon is excellent. And the
guidance of a living Gamaliel, (if a Gamaliel he be), is admirable.
But with and above all these, to the mind of some independence and
judgment, is discussion; — at once the light and life of truth; — dis-
cussion, as forensic, as diologistic even, as it can be made. So the
young lawyers are taught by their seniors to believe and to practice,
and to hold their moot courts, and when they can, to frequent the
more solemn halls of justice where real questions of life and death
are pending.

But who shall write or speak the dialogue for the young divine }
Not himself, if he would gain the highest good, and not rivet him-
self in prejudice : not one man for both parties ; nor yet two men
of the same party, if truth is to be saved from the peril of betrayal
or feeble defence, and to shine with new splendor. Hearty com-
batants must tread the stage. Nor should they, for his highest good,
be those of his own land or period, lest party spirit prejudice his
judgment. Away in space and time should they belong, the farther
off the better ; and all the better, too, the more diverse the modes
of speech and illustration. Let there come up before him some old

10 translator's preface.

Romans : and though they come with something of their gladiato-
rial zeal, and deal their mighty thrusts, at least his interest will be
kept the more awake.

And such, indeed, is what the modern listener will sometimes
think he has before him, in these ancient and robust personages of
the Latin church. And, what he might hardly expect, from their
lips will he hear about all that has ever yet been uttered on either
side of the specific questions they discuss ; — and that, sometimes,
with a zest and freshness which nothing but the strength of feeling
and the novelty of the debate, would inspire. And often — so Dr.
Wiggers has drawn up his book — the matter comes almost in the
shape of dialogue.

Nor am 1 quite alone in all these views. Says Dr. W. in the pre-
face to his volume on the history of semipelagianism, " a satisfying
knowledge of christian doctrine can be gained only in the historical
way, and the rich contents of the articles of faith, received by our
church [the Lutheran], first come up vividly to view, and are per-
ceived in all their blessed fulness, when we see how they speak
themselves forth, in conflict with error, precisely in this and in no
oihe?- manner. By this means, as efFectual preparation is made
against a shallow rationalism, as against a frozen belief in the letter,
so killing to spiritual life."

It was with the hope of promoting such an object as this, that our
author also wrote the present work ; and it is with the like hope,
that this translation has been made. May the author of truth and
protector of the church, bless it to this goodly issue.

But I must turn from these general views of the subject itself, to
some brief notices of the life of Dr. W. For the few facts I can here
present, I am indebted in part to the kindness of Prof. Sears of New-
ton Theological Seminary, whose residence in Germany afforded
him the best means of information.

Prof. ^Viggers was born at Biestow, near Rostock, in 1777. His
education was completed at Göttingen, where he enjoyed the in-
struction of the excellent G. J. Planck, then professor of divinity in
the university there, and whose works on doctrinal history, have been
productive of such lasting feme to himself and such benefit to the
cause of " Protestant Theology." It was from an attendance on the
lectures of Dr. P., that our author's early taste for historical research,
appears to have received both its encouragement and its happy di-

translator's PREFACE. / 11

rection. Afier finishing his studies at Gottingen, he was privatdo-
cent at Rostock ; and in 1810, was pVofessor Ordinarius of theology
in the University of Rostock, and also director of the pedagogical
seminary. The highly honorary title of ConsistorialraUi, or Coun-
sellor of the Consistory, which is conferred by the government, he
enjoyed in 1813. Other "marks of respect and esteem received
from his countrymen, need not here be detailed.

His publications have been somewhat numerous, and such as have
required historical research. None of them, however, so far as I
can learn, have yet appeared in English. To some of these, he oc-
casionally refers in the progress of this history : and for this, as well
as for other reasons, it may be well here to present the titles of a
part of them.

His principal works are the following : Examen Argumentorum
Platonis pro Immortalitate Animi Humani. Rostock 1803, 4[o. —
Commentatio in Platonis Eutyphronem. Rostock 1804, 8vo. — De
Joh. Cassiano Massil., qui semipelagianismi Auctor vulgo perhibitur,
Commentationes tres. Rostock 1804 ss, 4to. — Socrates als Mensch,
als Bürger, und als Philosoph, oder Versuch einer Characteristik
des Socrates. Rostock 1807. — Dissertatio De Juliane Apostata,
Religionis Christianae et Christianorum Persecutore. Rostockii
1811, 4to. — Versuch einer pragmatischen Darstellung des Au-
gustinismus und Pelagianismus nach ihrer geschichtlichen Entwick-
elung. Von Gustav Friedrich Wiggers, Grossherzoglich Mecklen-
burgischem Consistorialrathe, Doctor und Professor der Theologie
auf der Universität zu Rostock. In zwei Theilen. Hamburg 1833.

The last is the title of our present work as found in the edition I
have used. As a literal version of it would have been too barba-
rous to an English ear, I have taken a liberty in forming the Eng-
lish title that I have nowhere else indulged. — This work was pub-
lished in 1821, and was followed, in 1833, by what Dr. W. calls
" the second part" of the history, but which he also more specifi-
cally entitles. Versuch einer pragmatischen Darstellung des Semi-
pelagianismus in seinem Kampfe gegen den Augustinismus bis zur
zweiten Synode zu Orange.

The following extract from the preface to this last part, may show
how the first had then, for twelve years, been regarded in Germany.
" The reception which the first part of my history of Augustinism
has found, can be no otherwise than grateful to me. All the re-

12 translator's preface.

viewers, — even those the most diverse in their religious views, and
some of whom have wished I had spoken with rather more affection
of Augustine, while others, on the contrary, have thought ihey saw
too great a predilection in his favor, — have fully justified my histo-
rical presentation as being in accordance with the original sour-

To this I may add the following remarks with which Prof. Sears
commences an article on the same work in the Christian Review,
No. IX. Sept. 1838. " It is pleasing to see a man of great talents
and profound learning, who is every way qualified to represent the
present improved state of philological and historical criticism in Ger-
many, applying all his energies and resources to produce a complete
history of the Pelagian controversy. It may be safely affirmed, that
the subject has never before been treated with such ability and suc-
cess. The work of Vossius was, indeed, very learned and valua-
ble, as well as that of Norisius ; but neither of them penetrates so
deeply into the original sources of information, nor so completely
exhausts the various topics connected with the discussion. Though
the writer evidently finds the sentiments of Pelagius most congenial
to his own, yet he appears to be free from polemical zeal, and writes,
for the most part, with the fairness and candor becoming a historian.
None but a warm partisan will find frequent occasion for dissatisfac-
tion with him in this respect."

No candid reader of the entire work, I think, can fail to pronounce
this criticism of Prof. Sears, as just as it is discriminating. Till near
the close of the volume, however, he might be left to infer that Dr.
W. is much more inclined to the positive part of Pelagianism, than
he there allows us to suppose. And in his history of semipelagian-
ism,lie shows still more clearly his evangelical views on many points
•—and especially in respect to the Trinity and the agency of the Di-
vine Spirit. But while he notices freely what he regards as errone-
ous either in Augustine or in the Pelagians, it seems nowhere his
object to obtrude his own tenets. In this excellent trait, he resem-
bles his illustrious preceptor.

In those instances where I have found any reason to suppose Dr.
W. has failed of a just presentation of the views on either side, it has
been my earnest endeavor to afford the means of correcting the mis-
take. In order to accomplish this object, I have taken the liberty, in
very many passages, of giving a more extended extract from the

translator's preface. 13

original sources — often without troubling the reader with' the notice
of so harmless a fact. In other cases, I have added a note. In others,
as the surest and most concise mode of correction, I have silently sub-
stituted the entire passage, from the original source, instead of our au-
thor's summary of its contents. (His summaries generally embody
an exact translation of the essential words, and are distinguished from
the full citations only by the omission of quotation marks). But
the principal additions I have made to the work, are included in
brackets, and interspersed in their proper places in the text, as being
more convenient for the reader than to have them in an appendix. —
But while I made such additions, in no case have I omitted or cur-
tailed any of the citations or the remarks of our author.

Most of the quotations I have translated from the originals ; but
in some instances the books have not been at hand, or the case was
too plain to require the labor of searching perhaps a folio page in or-
der to find half a sentence.

Mistakes in translation I have doubtless made ; but I have certain-
ly taken much pains to avoid them. Always, my first object has
been, in simple and perspicuous language, to give exactly the thought
of the author ; — my second, to do the least possible violence to our
own idiom. But who — I may well venture to put the question to
men of some skill who have tried the experiment— has succeeded,
even to his own satisfaction, in attaining both these objects ? and es-
pecially if he has had to translate a modern German author. Many
who have not tried the experiment, for any practical purpose, may
continue to think it one of the easiest, as well as the most inglorious,

Online LibraryGustav Friedrich WiggersAn historical presentation of Augustinism and Pelagianism from the original sources → online text (page 1 of 40)