Vince'ntius or Vince'ntius Lirinensis
surnamed LIRINENSIS, from the celebrated monastery in the island of Lerins, where he officiated as a presbyter, was by birth a native of Gaul.
We are not acquainted with any particulars regarding his career, except that he died in the reign of Theodosius and Valentinian, about A. D. 450.
Vincentius' fame rests upon a treatise against heretics, composed, as we are told in the body of the work itself, three years after the council of Ephesus, that is, in A. D. 434.
It commonly bears the title Commonitorium pro Catholicae fidei antiquitate et universitate adversus profanas omnium Haereticorum novitates,
but according to Gennadius, when first published, it did not exhibit the name of the writer, and was designated “Peregrini1 adversus Haereticos.
” We are farther told that it was originally divided into two parts, but that the second of these having been stolen from the repositories of the author, he contented himself with briefly recapitulating the substance of what it had contained, and gave his work to the world in one book.
The great aim of this production, which is composed in a very lively and impressive style, is in the first place to collect the opinions of the early fathers on the points which had given rise to the most important doctrinal controversies ; and, in the second place, to establish some rule by which error may be detected and avoided, and the true faith maintained in purity.
He determines that the means for accomplishing this object are two-fold : 1.
The authority of Holy Scripture. 2.
The tradition of the Catholic church, the latter being indispensable for the right understanding of the former. We are to hold that as a Catholic tradition, which has been believed in the Catholic church everywhere, always, and by all (quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est
), thus obtaining universality, antiquity and consent.
being the first work on which the proposition, which now forms the broad line of demarcation between the Protestant and Roman churches, is broadly and distinctly affirmed, it has always been regarded with great interest and studied with much care, while the opinions formed with regard to its merits have depended, in a great measure, on the theological predilections of its critics.
The charge of Semi-Pelagianism frequently urged against Vincentius seems altogether unfounded, and indeed probably originated in the erroneous belief that Vincent of Lerins was the author of the tract first published by Sirmond (4to. Paris, 1643), entitled Praedestinatus
s. Praedestinatorum Haeresis et libri S. Augustino temere adscripti Refutatio,
and also of the attack upon the tenets of Augustine known to us only from the reply of Prosper, Pro Augustini Doctrina Responsiones ad capitula objectionum Vincentianarum.
The Commonitorium was first printed in the Antidotum contra diversas omnium fere saeculorum Haereses of Jo. Sichardus, fol. Basil. 1528
, and has, since that period, been very frequently republished both in a separate form, and in all the larger collections of the Fathers. The standard edition is that of Baluzius, 8vo. Paris, 1663, 1669, 1684
, and the last of these is followed by Galland, in his Bibliotheca Patrum, vol. x. p. 103, fol. Venet. 1774.
The most recent edition is that of Klüpfel, 8vo. Vienn. 1809, which deserves to be consulted.
Gennadius, de Viris Illustr.
64; Trithemius, de Scriptt. Eccles.
145; Schoenemann, Biblioth. Patrum, Lat.
vol. 2.37; Bähr, Geschicht. der Römisch. Litterat.
Suppl. Band. 2te Abtheil. § 154. Consult also the historians of Semipelagianism [Cassianus] and the Prolegomena of Galland and Klüpfel.