Preacher of Grace

A Critical Reappraisal of Augustine’s Doctrine of Grace in his Sermones ad Populum on Liturgical Feasts and during the Donatist Controversy


Augustine of Hippo (354-430) became known as the ‘doctor of grace’. He developed his theory of divine grace mainly in his systematic treatises directed against the Pelagians (ca. 411-430). Did he however also preach about this complex, and at first sight ‘demoralizing’, issue in his sermons to the people? In his previous book (BSCH 59), Anthony Dupont studied the profile of the treatment of gratia in the anti-Pelagian sermones ad populum. In a Preacher of Grace Dupont offers an account of the presence of the theme of grace in Augustine’s sermones not situated in the Pelagian controversy. He first studies sermons preached on important liturgical feasts, which belong to the (non-polemical) pastoral preaching genre. They are distributed throughout the 40 years of Augustine’s preaching activity, and are Christological in content and moralising in intention. Secondly, he examines sermons situated in the Donatist controversy, preceding the anti-Pelagian sermons chronologically and differing from them in terms of content. This research provides a global picture of the presence and treatment of gratia in Augustine’s sermones and clarifies the interaction between context, audience and preaching genre on the one hand, and the theme of grace as a whole on the other. It also contributes to the debate on (dis)continuity in Augustine’s thought on grace.

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Anthony Dupont, Ph.D (1979), Catholic University of Leuven, is Postdoctoral Fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO). His research and teaching are devoted to Late Antiquity in general, and Patristic preaching and Augustine’s doctrine of grace in particular. He was awarded the Research Council Award in Humanities and Social Sciences KU Leuven 2013 for his study of Augustine’s sermons.


1. Christmas
a. Secondary Literature for Christmas
b. Primary Literature for Christmas (ss. 140, 184-196A, 369, 370, ?371?, ?372?)
1. Christological themes
2. Grace on Christmas
2. Epiphany
a. Secondary Literature for Epiphany
b. Primary Literature for Epiphany (ss. 199-204A; 373-375)
1. Jews versus Gentiles
2. The Grace of Faith and of Christ
3. Easter Period
a. Secondary Literature for the Easter Period
b. Primary Literature for the Easter Period
Good Friday (‘The Passion of the Lord’: ss. 218-218C)
Easter Vigil (ss. 219-223K)
1. Vigil
2. Grace
Easter Day and the Easter Octave (ss. 224-260E, 272, 320, 375A-B-C, 376, 376A)
Biblical Themes
The Physicality of Christ
The Grace of Christ
The Imitation of Christ
4. Ascension
a. Secondary Literature for Ascension
b. Primary Literature for Ascension
1. Overview of the Ascension Sermones
Sermo 261
Sermo 262
Sermo 263 [Guelferbytanus 21]
Sermo 263A [Sermo ab A. Mai editus 98]
Sermo 264
Sermo 265
Sermo 265A [Sermo a F. Liverani editus 8]
Sermo 265B [Sermo in bibliotheca Casinensus editus 2, 76-77]
Sermo 265C [Sermo Moriniani ex collectione Guelferbytana 20]
Sermo 265D [Sermo a G. Morin editus 17]
Sermo 265E [Sermo a C. Lambot editus 16]
Sermo 265F [Sermo a C. Lambot editus 25]
Sermo 377
2. Content Analysis Sermones on Ascension
a. Ascension Themes
b. Polemical Elements
c. Human Sin and Divine Grace
5. Conclusion

1. Thematic Overview
a. Sermones without Explicit Reference to Pentecost: ss. 29, 29A, 29B & 272, 272A
b. Sermones with Explicit Reference to Pentecost: ss. 266, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271, 272B
2. Content Analysis
a. Grace in Augustine’s Pentecost Sermones
1. Grace in General – Vague References
2. Digitus Dei
3. Grace in Specific – Aspects of Anti-Pelagian Doctrine of Grace
b. Evaluation of Hoondert
1. Authenticity of Sermo 378 Reconsidered
2. Clearly Distinguishable Anti-Donatist and Anti-Pelagian Sermones?
3. Conclusion
4. Addendum I: Localization and Chronology of Pentecost Sermones
5. Addendum II: Overview of Pentecostes in Augustine’s Writings

1. Augustine’s Thinking and Preaching on Martyrs
2. Anti-Donatist Sermones ad Populum
3. Anti-Pelagian Sermones ad Populum
a. An Overview
b. Sermo 299
c. Sermo 335B
4. General Conclusion

1. Sin
a. Sinners Also Have a Place within the One Church
b. The Sin of Breaking Ecclesial Unity
c. The Sin of Pride
2. Anti-Donatist Treatment of Baptism and the Administers of Baptism
3. Grace
a. Not Explicitly Anti-Donatist
1. Forgiving, Healing, Restoring Grace
2. Grace as Medicine against Pride
3.The Grace of Christian Faith – Gratia Fidei
4. Assisting Grace – Gratia Christi
b. Explicitly Anti-Donatist
1. Christ versus Adam
2. Law versus Grace
3. Forgiving Grace
4. Unmerited Grace against Pride
5. Assisting Grace
4. Conclusion



All those interested in intellectual history, the history of Late Antiquity, Patristic exegesis, Christian Rhetoric, theological debates on grace, Roman North Africa, the evolution of the Christian liturgy, and the history of the Church, as well as philosophers, theologians and philologists.