the friend, associate, and partisan of Pelagius, whose followers were hence termed indifferently Pelagians
is believed from an expression used by Prosper to have been born in Campania, although others maintain that he was a native of Ireland or of Scotland.
He commenced his career as an advocate (auaitorialis scholasticus
), but in early life, in consequence perhaps of bodily deformity, became a monk, and in A. D. 409 accompanied Pelagius to Carthage. Here he soon excited the suspicions of the restless ecclesiastics of that province, and was impeached of heresy before the council held in 412. Having been found guilty and excommunicated, he prepared to appeal to Pope Innocent against the sentence; but, feeling probably that success was hopeless before such a judge, refrained from prosecuting the matter farther for the time being, and retired to Ephesus, where he was raised to the rank of presbyter, and passed five years in tranquillity. From thence, about the year 417, he passed over to Constantinople, but being speedily driven out of that city by Atticus, the enemy and supplanter of Chrysostom, he betook himself to Rome, and laying his whole case before Zosimus, the successor of Innocent, demanded that the allegations of his enemies should be fairly examined, and at the same time presented in writing a statement of the articles of his faith.
After a full and formal hearing before all the bishops and clergy then present in Rome, the council of Carthage was rebuked for precipitation and want of charity, their decree was reversed, and Coelestius was reinstated in all his privileges, to the great indignation of the African prelates, who passed a solemn resolution adhering to their first judgment; and fearing that these proceedings would tend to promote the extension of Pelagian doctrines, applied for relief to the imperial court. Accordingly St. Augustin obtained from Honorius an edict, published on the 30th of April, 418, banishing Coelestius, Pelagius, and their followers, from Rome and from the whole of the Roman dominions. Notwithstanding these strong measures, it would appear that Coelestius contrived to keep his ground, for similar denunciations were issued by Constantius (421) and Pope Coelestinus, and about 429 we find him expelled from Constantinople by a proclamation of Theodosius, granted in compliance with the solicitations of Marius Mercator. [MERCATOR, MARIUS.] Coelestius is mentioned in the Acts of the Council of Rome held in 430, but from that time his name disappears from ecclesiastical history, and the close of his life is unknown.
Coelestius was younger than Pelagius, and appears to have possessed a more bold, enthusiastic, and enterprising temperament than his master, and to have displayed more zeal and energy in the propagation and defence of their peculiar tenets. while he at the same time, with great acuteness, verbal subtlety, and dialectic skill, sought to establish these principles by metaphysical and a priori
reasoning, rather than by induction from the observed habits of mankind. [AUGUSTINUS; PELAGIUS; ZOSIMUS.]
While still a young man, before he had embraced the views of Pelagius, Coelestius composed in his monastery three Epistolae
on moral subjects, addressed to his parents.
These were followed by Contra Traducem Peccati,
on the origin, propagation, and transmission of sin, published, apparently, before the commentary of Pelagius on the Romans. Augustin, in his De Perfectione Justitiae,
replies to a work which he believes to have proceeded from Coelestius, entitled, it would seem, Definitiones.
or perhaps Ratiocinationes,
containing sixteen propositions to prove that man may be without sin. The Libellus Fidei,
or Confession of Faith, presented to Zosimus, is known to us from the treatise of Augustin, De Peccato Originali,
out of which Garnier has essayed to extract the original document in its perfect form. Finally, Augustin, De gestis Palaestinis
(13, 14), quotes from several chapters of a piece by Coelestius, without, however, giving it a name.
After his banishment from Rome, he addressed Epistles to his adherents; and, in like manner, when driven from Constantinople, he wrote to Nestorius, whose reply is still extant.
Of the above compositions none exist in an entire shape; but, a considerable portion, if not the whole, of the Ratiocinationes
and the Libellus Fidei,
as noticed above, may be extracted from the replies of Augustin.
For the best account of the life and the most complete collection of the fragments of Coelestius, we are indebted to the Jesuit Garnier, in the dissertations prefixed to his edition of the works of Marius Mercator, Paris, fol. 1673.