Jerome con Against the Pelagians, by Saint Jerome (Illustrated)
The anti-Pelagian Dialogue is the last of Jerome's controversial works, having been written in the year 417, within three years of his death. It shows no lack of his old vigour, though perhaps something of the prolixity induced by old age. He looks at the subject more calmly than those of the previous treatises, mainly because it lay somewhat outside the track of his own thoughts. He was induced to interest himself in it by his increasing regard for Augustine, and by the coming of the young Spaniard, Orosius, in 414, from Augustine to sit at his feet. Pelagius also had come to Palestine, and, after an investigation of his tenets, at a small council at Jerusalem, in 415, presided over by Bishop John, and a second, at Diospolis in 416, had been admitted to communion. Jerome appears to have taken no part in these proceedings, and having been at peace with Bishop John for nearly twenty years, was no doubt unwilling to act against him. But he had come to look upon Pelagius as infected with the heretical impiety, which he looked upon (i. 28) as far worse than moral evil; and connected him, as we see from his letter to Ctesiphon (CXXXIII.), with Origenism and Rufinus; and he brings his great knowledge of Scripture to bear upon the controversy. He quotes a work of Pelagius, though giving only the headings, and the numbers of the chapters, up to 100 (i. 26-32); and, though at times his conviction appears weak, and there are passages (i. 5, ii. 6-30, iii. 1) which give occasion to the observation that he really, if unconsciously, inclined to the views of Pelagius, and that he is a Synergist, not, like Augustine, a thorough predestinarian, the Dialogue, as a whole, is clear and forms a substantial contribution to our knowledge. Although its tone is less violent than that of his ascetic treatises, it appears to have stirred up the strongest animosity against him. The adherents of Pelagius attacked and burned the monasteries of Bethlehem, and Jerome himself only escaped by taking refuge in a tower. His sufferings, and the interference of Pope Innocentius in his behalf, may be seen by referring to Letters CXXXV.-CXXXVII., with the introductory notes prefixed to them.