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THE HISTORICAL POSITION OF AUGUSTINE AS REFORMER OF CHRISTIAN PIETY.110110Of the immense literature about Augustine, the following works may be mentioned (with special regard to the Pelagian controversy): The critical investigations of the Benedictines in their editions of Aug.’s Opp., and the controversies over his doctrine of grace in the 16th to the 18th century; the works of Petavius, Noris (Hist. Pelag.), Tillemont, Gamier, Mansi, Hefele; Bindemaun, Der hl. Aug. 3 vols., 1844-69; Böhringer, Aur. Aug., 2 ed., 1877-78; Reuter, August. Studien, 1887 (the best of later works); A. Dorner, Aug., sein theol. System and seine relig.-philos. Anschauung, 1873; Loofs, “Augustinus in the 3 Ed. of the R.-Encykl. v. Hauck, Vol. II., pp. 257-285 (an excellent study, with an especially good discussion of the period to 395). Comprehensive expositions in Ritter, Baur, Nitzsch, Thomasius, Schwane, Huber (Philos. der KVV.), Jul. Müller (L. v. d. Sünde), Dorner (Entwicklgesch. d. L. v. d. Person Christi), Prantl (Gesch. d. Logik), Siebeck (Gesch. d. Psychologie), Zeller; see esp. Eucken, Die Lebenanschauungen der grossen Denker (1890) p. 258 ff.—Naville, S’ Aug., Etude sur le devéloppement de sa pensée jusqu à 1’époque de son ordination (Geneva 1872). Bornemanu, Aug.’s Bekenntnisse, 1888; Harnack, Aug.’s Confessionen, 1888; Boissier, La conversion de S. Aug. in the Rev. de deux mondes, 1888 Jan.; Wörter, Die Geistesentw. d. h. Aug. bis zu seiner Taufe, 1892; Overbeck, Aug. u. Hieronymus in the Histor. Ztschr. N. F., Vol. VI.; Feuerlein, Ueb. d. Stellung Aug.’s in the Kirchen und Culturgesch. Histor. Ztschr., XXII., p. 270 ff. (see Reuter, l.c. p. 479 ff.); Ritschl, Ueber die Methode der ältesten D.-G. in the Jahrbb. f. deutsche Theol., 1871 (idem, Rechtfert. and Versöhn. Vol. I., Gesch. d. Pietismus Vol. I.); Kattenbusch, Studien z. Symbolik in the Stud. u. Krit. 1878; Reinkens, Geschichtsphilos. d. hl. Aug., 1866; Seyrich, Geschichts philosophie Aug.’s, 1891; Gangauf, Metaphys. Psychologie d. hl. Aug., 1852; Bestmann, Qua ratione Aug. notiones philosophiæ græca, etc., 1877; Lœsche, De Aug. Platonizante 1880; Ferraz, Psychologie de S. Aug., 1862; Nourissou, La philosophic de S. Aug., 2 Ed., 1866; Storz, Die Philosophie des hl. Aug., 1882; Scipio, Des Aurel. Aug. Metaphysik, etc., 1886; Melzer, Die august. Lehre vom Causalitätsverhältniss Gottes zur Welt, 1892 Melzer, Augustini et Cartesii placita de mentis humanæ sui cognitione, 1860; Siebeck, Die Anfänge der neueren Psychologie in the Ztschr. f. Philos., 1888, p. 161 ff.; Kahl, Der Primat des Willens bei Aug., 1886; Schütz, August. non esse ontologum, 1867; Heinzelmann, Aug.’s Ansichten vom Wesen der menschlichen Seele, 1894; van Endert, Gottesbeweis in d. patrist. Zeit, 1869; Clauren, Aug. s. script. interpret., 1822; Gangauf, Des hl. Aug. Lehre von Gott dem Dreieinigen, 1865; Nitzsch, Aug.’s Lehre v. Wunder, 1865. Walch, De pelagianismo ante Pelagium, 1783; idem. hist. doctrinæ de peccato orig., 1783; Horn, Comm. de sentent. patrum . . . de pecc. originali, 180:; Dunker, Pecc. orig. et act., 1836; Krabinger, Der angebliche Pelagianismus d. voraugust. VV. Tüb Quartalschr., 1853; Kuhn, Der vorgebl. Pelagianismus d. voraugust. VV., in same journal; Walch, Ketzerhistorie, Vols. IV. and V.; Wiggers, Pragmat. Darstell. des Augustinismus u. Pelagianismus, 2 Vols., 1831-33 (the continuation on Semipelagianism in the Zeitschr. f. d. histor. Theol., 1854 ff.); Rottmanner, Der Augustinismus, 1892; Jacobi, Die Lehre des Pelagius, 1842; Leutzen, de Pelagianorum doctrinæ principiis, 1833; Jul. Muller, Der Pelagianismus in the deutsche Zeitschr f. christl. Wissensch., 1854, Nr. 40 f.; Wörter, Der Pelagianismus, 1866; Klasen, Die innere Entw. des Pelagianism., 1882; Geffcken, Histor. semipelag., 1826; Wiggers, de Joanne Cass., 1824-25; Wörter, Prosper v. Aquitanien über Gnade and Freiheit, 1867; Landerer, Das Verhältniss v. Gnade u. Freiheit in the Jahrbb. f. deutsche Theol., Vol. II., 1857; Luthardt, Die L. v. freien Willen u. s. Verh. z. Gnade, 1863; Kihn, Theodor. v. Mopsueste, 1880; Ritschl, Expos. doctr. S. Aug. de creat., peccato, gratia, 1843; Zeller, Die Lehre des Paulus u. Augustinus v. d. Sünde u. Gnade in ihrem Verhältniss z. protest. Kirchenlehre (Theol. Jahrbb., 1854, p. 295 ff.); Ehlers, Aug. de origine mali doctrina, 1857; Nirschl, Ursp. u. Wesen des Bösen nach Aug., 1854; Hamma, Die L. des hl. Aug. über die Concupiscenz in the Tüb. Quartalschr., 1873; Voigt, Comment. de theoria August., Pelag., Semipelag. et Synergist., 1829; Kühner, Aug.’s Anschauung v. d. Erlösungsbedeutung Christi, 1890; Dieckhoff, Aug.’s L. v. d. Gnade in the Mecklenb. Theol. Ztschr. I., 1860; Weber, Aug. de justificatione doctr.; Ernst, Die Werke der Ungläubigen nach Aug., 1871; Beck, Prädest.—Lehre in the Stud. u. Krit., 1847, II.; Koch, Autorität Aug.’s in der Lehre v. der Gnade u. Prædest., in the Tüb. Quartalschr., 1891, p. 95 ff.; H. Schmidt, Origenes u. Aug. als Apologeten, in the Jahrbb. f. deutsche Theologie, Vol. VIII.; Bigg, The Christian Platonists of Alexandria, 1886.—On Aug.’s doctrine of Baptism see Reuter, Kliefoth (Liturg. Abhandl.), and Höfling. Wilden, Die L. d. hl. Aug. v. Opfer d. Eucharistie, 1864; Ginzel L. d. hl. Aug. v. d. Kirche, in the Tüb. Theol. Quartalschr., 1849; Köstlin, Die kathol Auffass. v. d. Kirche, etc., in the deutschen Zeitschrift f. christl. Wissensch., 1856, Nr. 14; H. Schmidt, Aug.’s L. v. d. Kirche, in the Jahrbb. f. deutsche Theol., 1861 (id. Die Kirche, 1884); Seeberg, Begriff d. christl. Kirche, Pt. I., 1885; Roux, Diss. de. Aug. adversario Donatistarum, 1838; Ribbeck, Donatus and Augustinus, 1858.
“Virtues will so increase and be perfected as to conduct thee without any hesitation to the truly blessed life which only is eternal: where evils, which will not exist, are not discriminated from blessings by prudence, nor adversity is borne bravely, because there we shall find only what we love, not also what we tolerate, nor lust is bridled by temperance, where we shall not feel its 62incitements, nor the needy are aided justly, where we will have no need and nothing unworthy. There virtue will be one, and virtue and the reward of virtue will be that spoken of in sacred phrase by the man who loves it: “But to me to cling to God is a good thing.” This virtue will be there the full and eternal wisdom, and it will also truly be the life that is blessed. Surely this is 63to attain to the eternal and supreme blessing, to which to cling for ever is the end of our goodness. Let this (virtue) be called prudence, because it will cling to the good too eagerly for it to be lost, and fortitude, because it will cling to the good too firmly for it to be torn away, and temperance, because it will cling to the good too chastely to be corrupted, and justice, because it will cling to the good too justly to be inferior in any merit. Although even in this life the only virtue is to love what ought to be loved. But what should we choose chiefly to love except that than which we find nothing better? This is God, and if we prefer anything or esteem anything equal to love to him we fail to love ourselves. For it is the better for us, the more we enter into him, than whom there is nothing better. But we move not by walking, but by loving. We may not go (to him) afoot, but with our character. But our character is wont to be judged, not from what anyone knows, but from what he loves. Nothing makes character good or bad but good or bad affections. Therefore, by our corruption, we have been far from the righteousness of God. Whence we are corrected by loving the right, that being just we may be able to cling to the right.”111111August. Ep. 155 c. 12. 13. “Virtutes ita crescent et perficientur, ut te ad vitam vere beatam, quæ nonnisi æterna est, sine ulla dubitatione perducant: ubi jam nec prudenter discernantur a bonis mala, quæ non erunt, nec fortiter tolerentur adversa, quia non ibi erit nisi quod amemus, non etiam quod toleremus, nec temperanter libido frenetur, ubi nulla ejus incitamenta sentiemus, nec juste subveniatur ope indigentibus, ubi inopem atque indignum non habebimus. Una ibi virtus erit, et idipsum erit virtus præmiumque virtutis, quod dicit in sanctis eloquiis homo qui hoc amat: Mihi autem adhærere deo bonum est. Hæc ibi erit plena et sempiterna sapientia eademque veraciter vita jam beata. Perventio quippe est ad æternum ac summum bonum, cui adhærere est finis nostri boni. Dicatur hæc et prudentia quia prospectissime adhærebit bono quod non amittatur, et fortitudo, quia fermissime adhærebit bono unde non avellatur, et temperantia, quia castissime adhærebit bono, ubi non corrumpatur, et justitia, quia rectissime adhærebit bono, cui merito subjiciatur. Quamquam et in hac vita virtus non est nisi diligere quod diligendum est. Quid autem eligamus quod præcipue diligamus, nisi quo nihil melius invenimus? Hoc deus est, cui si diligendo aliquid vel præponimus vel æquamus, nos ipsos diligere nescimus. Tanto enim nobis melius est, quanto magis in illum imus, quo nihil melius est. Imus autem non ambulando, sed amando. Ad eum non pedibus ire licet, sed moribus. Mores autem nostri, non ex eo quod quisque novit, sed ex eo quod diligit, dijudicari solent. Nec faciunt bonos vel malos mores, nisi boni vel mali amores. Pravitate ergo nostra a rectitudine dei longe fuimus. Unde rectum amando corrigimur, ut recto recti adhærere possimus.”64
Augustine reveals his soul in these words; they therefore also mark his importance in the history of dogma. If, as we have attempted in the preceding chapter, we pursue and let converge the different lines along which Western Christianity developed in the fourth and fifth centuries, we can construct a system which approximates to “Augustinianism”; indeed we can even deduce the latter, as a necessary product, from the internal and external conditions in which the Church and theology then found themselves. But we cannot, for all that, match the man who was behind the system and lent it vigour and life. Similarly we can attempt—and it is a remunerative task—to make Augustine’s Christian conception of the world intelligible from the course of his education, and to show how no stage in his career failed to influence him. His pagan father, and pious, Christian mother, Cicero’s Hortensius, Manichæism, Aristotelianism, Neoplatonism, with its mysticism and scepticism, the impression produced by Ambrose and monachism—all contributed their share.112112Compare my lecture “Augustin’s Confessionen,” 1888. See also Essay by G. Boissier in the Rev. de deux mond., 1 Jan., 1888. But even from this stand-point we cannot finally do complete justice to the distinctive character of this man. That is his secret and his greatness, and perhaps all or any analysis itself is an injury: he knew his heart to be his worst possession, and the living God to be his highest good; he lived in the love of God, and he possessed a fascinating power of expressing his observations on the inner life. In doing this, he taught the world that the highest and sweetest enjoyment was to be sought in the feeling that springs from a soul that has triumphed over its pain, from the love of God as the fountain of good, and therefore from the certainty of grace. Theologians before him had taught that man must be changed in order to be blessed; he taught that man could be a new being if he let God find him, and if he found himself and God, from the midst of his distraction and dissipation.
He destroyed the delusion of ancient popular psychology and morality; he gave the final blow to the intellectualism of antiquity; but he resuscitated it in the pious thought of the man who found true being and the supreme good in the living 65God. He was the first to separate nature and grace, two spheres which men had long attempted unsuccessfully to divide; but by this means he connected religion and morality, and gave a new meaning to the idea of the good. He was the first to mark off the scope and force of the heart and will, and to deduce from this what moralists and religious philosophers imagined they had understood, but never had understood; he set up a fixed goal for the aimless striving of asceticism: perfection in the love of God, suppression of selfish ambition, humility. He taught men to realise the horror of the depth of sin and guilt which he disclosed, at the same time with the blessed feeling of an ever-comforted misery, and a perennial grace. He first perfected Christian pessimism, whose upholders till then had really reserved for themselves an extremely optimistic view of human nature. But while showing that radical evil was the mainspring of all human action, he preached also the regeneration of the will, by which man adapted himself to the blessed life. He did not bridge for feeling and thought the gulf which Christian tradition disclosed between this world and the next; but he testified so thrillingly to the blessedness of the man who had found rest in God, that nothing was reserved for the future life but an indescribable “vision.” But above all and in all, he exhibited to every soul its glory and its responsibility: God and the soul, the soul and its God. He took religion—a transfigured and moulded monachism, dominated by positive conceptions and trust in Christ—out of its congregational and ritualistic form, and set it in the hearts of individuals as a gift and a task. He preached the sincere humility which blossoms only on ruins—the ruins of self-righteousness; but he recognised in this very humility the charter of the soul, and even where he assigned an imperious power to the authority of the Church, he only did so in the end in order to give the individual soul an assurance which it could not attain by any exertion, or any individual act of pardon. Therefore, he became not only a pedagogue and teacher, but a Father of the Church. He was a tree, planted by the waters, whose leaves do not fade, and on whose branches the birds of the air dwell. His voice has pealed forth to the Church through 66the centuries, and he preached to Christendom the words “Blessed is the man whose strength Thou art; in whose heart are Thy ways.”
We do not require to prove that, for a man with such a personality, all that tradition offered him could only serve as material and means, that he only accepted it in order to work it into the shape that suited him. In this respect Augustine was akin to the great Alexandrians, and plenty of evidence can be adduced in support of this affinity, which was conditioned on both sides by the same loftiness of soul, as well as by dependence on Neoplatonic philosophy. But in spite of all they possessed in common, the distinction between them was extremely significant. It did not consist merely in the fact that while the former lived about A.D. 200, Augustine was a member of the Theodosian imperial Church, nor that he had passed through Manichæism, but it was due in a much greater degree to his having, in spite of his Neoplatonism, a different conception of the nature of the Christian religion, and also other ideas about the nature and authority of the Church.
I. He thought of sin, when he reflected on God and Christ, and he thought of the living God, who has created and redeemed us, when he reflected on evil: the steadfastness with which he referred these factors to each other was the novel feature which distinguished him above all his predecessors. But not less novel was the energy with which he combined the categories God, Christ, the word of God, the sacraments, and the Catholic Church for practical piety, compressing what was fullest of life and freest, the possession of God, into, as it were, an objective property, which was transferred to an institution, the Church. As he accordingly begot the feeling that Christian piety was grief of soul comforted, so, on the other hand, he created that inter-weaving, characteristic of Western Catholicism, of the freest, most personal surrender to the divine, with constant submission to the Church as an institution in possession of the means of grace.
According to this he is, in the first place, to be estimated, even 67for the history of dogma, not as a theologian, but as a reformer of Christian piety. The characteristic feature of the old Christian piety was its vacillation between hope and fear (Tertull., De uxor. II., 2: “Fear is the foundation of salvation, confidence is the barrier against fear”: timor fundamentum salutis est, præsumptio impedimentum timoris).113113In what follows the fundamental tendency is alone characterised. It is not to be denied that in some cases evangelical features were more marked. It was known that Jesus accepted sinners; but in that case men were accepted through baptism. The action of God was, as it were, exhausted.114114After the exposition given in Vols. I.-IV., and the indications in Chap. II. of this vol., I need not adduce further evidence that for the ancient Church the grace of God in Christ was exhausted in the gifts received in baptism. All other grace, which was hoped for, was beset with uncertainty. The whole Dogmatic (Trinity, Christology, etc.) had its practical culmination, and therewith its end, in the merely retrospective blessing received in baptism. What next? Men feared the judge, and hoped in an uncertain fashion for a still existent grace. The fear of the judge led to fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, and the uncertain hope groped after new means of grace. Men wavered between reliance on their own powers and hope in the inexhaustibility of Christ’s grace. But did they not possess faith? They did, and prized it as a lofty possession; but they valued it as a condition, as an indispensable card of admission. In order actually to enter, there were other and wholly different conditions to be fulfilled. Piety, when it concerned itself with the task of the present, did not live in faith. The psychological form of piety was unrest, i.e., fear and hope.115115Read the striking avowals of II. Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, Tertullian, the confessions of monks, and of the great theologians of the fourth century who were prevented by circumstances from becoming monks. Reliance was placed on free-will; but what was to be done if it led to one defeat after another? Repentance and amendment were required. No doubt was felt that repentance was sufficient wherever sins “against our neighbour” were in question, and where the injury could be made good. Repentance and compensation had the widest possible scope in relation to sin. Sin consisted in evil action; the good action united with repentance balanced it. One’s neighbour could forgive the offence committed against 68him, and the sin no longer existed; the Church could forgive what affected its constitution, and guilt was effaced.
But he who was baptised sinned also “against God.” However widely the Church might extend the circle of sins in which she was the injured party, the judge, and the possessor of the right to pardon, there were sins against God, and there were transgressions which could not be made good. Who could cancel murder and adultery, or a misspent life on the part of the baptised? Perhaps even these sins were not in such evil case; perhaps God did not impute them to the baptised at all—though that would be an Epicurean error; perhaps the power of the Church did not break on the rock of accomplished facts; perhaps there were other means of grace besides baptism. But who could know this? The Church created a kind of sacrament of penance in the third and fourth centuries; but it did not say clearly what was to be expected of this sacrament. Did it reconcile with the Church or with God; did it do away with sin, guilt, or punishment; was it effective through the penances of the penitent, or through the power of grace?116116Rothe says very truly, Kirchengesch., II., p. 33: “Men secretly distrusted inevitably the presupposed purely supernatural and accordingly magical operation of God’s grace, and they therefore arranged their plans on the eventuality that in the end everything might still require to be done by man alone.” Was it necessary? Was there in that case a sinful state, one that lasted, when the disposition had changed, when the will strove with all its powers after the good? Was there such a thing as guilt? Was not everything which man could do in accordance with his nature involved in the eternal alternation marked by good and evil actions, by knowledge, repentance, and striving? Knowledge and action decide. The man of to-day, who does the good, has no longer anything in common with the man of yesterday who did evil. But sins against God persisted in troubling them. Whence came fear, lasting fear? The Church threw its doors wider and wider; it forgave sin, all sin; but the earnest fled into the desert. There they tried to succeed by precisely the same means they had used in the world, and their mood remained the same—one of hope and fear. There was no consolation which was not confronted by a three-fold horror.69
That was the temper of the ancient Christians from the day when we can first observe them in the wide framework of the Roman Empire until the epoch with whose dawn we are here concerned. The “evangelical” ideas which are sometimes formed of the nature of their piety are not at all appropriate. The two most restless elements which can agitate a human breast, hope and fear, ruled over those Christians. These elements shattered the world and built the Church. Men, indeed, had a faith, and created a dogmatic for themselves; but these were insufficient to satisfy them regarding their daily life, or any life. They gave wings to hope, but they did not eradicate fear. They did not tell what the sins were with which the Christian daily fights, and what Christ had done for these sins. They left those questions to the individual conscience, and the answers given in ecclesiastical practice were not answers to soothe the heart. The only sure issue of the whole system of dogmatics was in the benefits of baptism. He who rose from the font had henceforth to go his way alone. If he reflected earnestly he could not doubt that all the Church could afterwards give him was a set of crutches.
“Against Thee only have I sinned.” “Thou, Lord, hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it finds rest in Thee.” “Grant what Thou dost command, and command what Thou dost desire” (da quod jubes, et jube quod vis).117117De pecc. mer. et remiss., II., 5; De spiritu et lit., 22; see Confessions, X, 40, and De dono persever., 53. The substance is given already in Soliloq., I., 5: “Jube quæso atque impera quidquid vis, sed sana et aperi aures meas.” Enchir., 117, “Fides impetrat quod lex imperat.” “The just by faith will live.” “No one enjoys what he knows, unless he also loves it, nor does anyone abide in that which he perceives unless by love” (eo quod quisque novit, non fruitur, nisi et id diligit, neque quisquam in eo quod percipit permanet nisi dilectione).118118De fide et symb., 19. These are the new tones sounded by Augustine, that is the mighty chord which he produced from Holy Scripture, from the most profound observations of human nature, and speculations concerning the first and last things. Everything in the mind that was without God was absolutely sinful; the only good thing left to it was that it existed. Sin 70was the sphere and form of the inner life of every natural man. It had been maintained in all theological systems from Paul to Origen, and later, that a great revolt lay at the root of the present state of the human race. But Augustine was the first to base all religious feeling and all theological thought on this revolt as still existent and damning in every natural man. The Apologists regarded the revolt as an uncertain datum; Origen looked upon it as a premundane fatality. To Augustine it was the most vital fact of the present, one which, at work from the beginning, determined the life of the individual and of the whole race. Further, all sin was sin against God; for the created spirit had only one lasting relationship, that to God. Sin was self-will, the proud striving of the heart (superbia); therefore it took the form of desire and unrest. In this unrest, lust, never quieted, and fear revealed themselves. Fear was evil; but in this unrest there was also revealed the inalienable goodness of the spirit that has come from the hand of God: “We wish to be happy, and wish not to be unhappy, but neither can we will.”119119De Trinit., XIII., 4: “Felices esse volumus et infelices esse nolumus, sed nec velle possumus.” De civit. dei, XI., 26: “Tam porro nemo est qui esse se nolit, quam nemo est qui non esse beatus velit. Quo modo enim potest beatus esse, si nihil sit?” We cannot but strive after blessings, after happiness. But there is only one good, one happiness, and one rest. “It is a good thing that I should cling to God.” All is included in that. Only in God as its element does the soul live. “Oh! who will give me to repose in Thee? Oh! that Thou wouldest enter into my heart, and inebriate it, that I may forget my ills, and embrace Thee, my only good! What art Thou to me? Of Thy mercy teach me to declare it. What am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and if I give it not, art angry with me, and threatenest me with grievous miseries? . . . For Thy mercies’ sake tell me, O Lord my God, what Thou art to me. Say unto my soul: ‘I am thy salvation.’ Say it so, that I may hear. Behold, Lord, the ears of my heart are before Thee; open Thou them, and say to my soul: I am thy salvation. I will run after this voice, and take hold on Thee. Hide not Thy face from me; let me die seeing it— 71only let me see it. Narrow is the tenement of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that it may be able to receive Thee. It is ruinous; repair Thou it. Within, it has these things that must offend Thine eyes; I confess and know; but who will cleanse it? or to whom shall I cry save Thee?”120120Confess., I., 5: Quis mihi dabit acquiescere in te? Quis mihi dabit ut venias in cor meum et inebries illud, ut obliviscar mala mea et unum bonum amplectar te? Quid mihi es? Miserere, ut loquar. Quid tibi sum ipse, ut amari te jubeas a me, et nisi faciam irascaris mihi et mineris ingentes miserias? . . . Dic mihi per miserationes tuas, domine deus meus, quid sis mihi. Dic animæ meæ: Salus tua ego sum. Sic dic, ut audiam. Ecce aures cordis mei ante te, domine; aperi eas, et dic animæ meæ: Salus tua ego sum. Curram post vocem hanc et apprehendam te. Noli abscondere a me faciem tuam; moriar ne moriar, ut eam videam. Angusta est domus animæ meæ quo venias ad eam; dilatetur abs te. Ruinosa est; refice eam. Habet quæ offendant oculos tuos; fateor et scio; sed quis mundabit eam? aut cui alteri præter te clamabo?
The same God who created us has redeemed us through Jesus Christ. That simply means that he has restored us to communion with himself. This takes place through grace and love, and in turn through faith and love. Through grace which lays hold of us and makes the unwilling willing (ex nolentibus volentes), which gives us an incomprehensibly new nature by imparting a new birth; and through love, which strengthens the weak spirit, and inspires it with powers of goodness. Through faith which holds to the saying, “He who is just by faith will live,” “which was written and confirmed by the all-powerful authority of apostolic teaching” (quod scriptum est et apostolicæ disciplinæ robustissima auctoritate firmatum); and through love, which humbly renounces all that is its own and longs for God and his law. Faith and love spring from God; for they are the means by which the living God enables us to appropriate him. The soul regards those possessions, in which it has obtained all that God requires of us, as an everlasting gift and a sacred mystery; for a heart equipped with faith and love fulfils the righteousness that is accepted by God. The peace of God is shed upon the soul which has the living God for its friend; it has risen from unrest to rest, from seeking to finding, from the false freedom to the free necessity, from fear to love; for perfect love casts out fear. It cannot for a moment forget that it is entangled in worldliness and sin, as long as it lives in this 72world; but it does not let its thoughts rest for a moment on sin, without remembering the living God who is its strength. The misery of sin overcome by faith, humility and love—that is Christian piety. In this temper the Christian was to live. He was constantly to feel the pain caused by sin, separation from God; but he was at the same time to console himself with the conviction that the grace of God had taken possession of him, that the Lord of heaven and earth had instilled His love into his heart, and that this love worked as mightily after as in baptism.121121Enchir., 64: “Excepto baptismatis munere ipsa etiam vita cetera, quantalibet præpolleat fœcunditate justitiæ, sine peccatorum remissione non agitur.” Thus Augustine dethroned the traditional feelings of the baptised, fear and hope, the elements of unrest, and substituted the elements of rest, faith, and love. For an uncertain and vacillating notion of sin he substituted the perception of its power and horror, for a still uncertain notion of grace he substituted the perception of its omnipotence. He did not abolish hope, he rather confirmed with all his power the old feeling that this life is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed. But in realising and preaching the rest bestowed by faith and love, he transformed the stormy and fanatical power of hope into a gentle and sure conviction.122122We will afterwards discuss how far Augustine failed to surmount this uncertainty and unrest, owing to the reception of popular Catholic elements into his piety.
I have here reproduced Augustine’s teaching, as we find it chiefly in his Confessions. This book has the advantage of giving us an account which is not influenced by any particular aims. Our exposition is by no means complete; we should require to add more than one caution, in order to be perfectly just.123123The most important caution—that Augustine fitted his new form of feeling and reflection into the old—will be discussed later on; it has been only mildly suggested in the above exposition. Further, the description has intentionally only considered the fundamental lines, and given expression to but one direction in which the epoch-making importance of Augustine comes to the front. But there can be no doubt that it is the most decisive. If we Western Christians are shut up to the conviction that religion moves between the poles of sin and grace—nature and grace; if we subordinate morality to faith, in so far as we reject 73the thought of an independent morality, one indifferent to religion; if we believe that it is necessary to pay much greater heed to the essence of sin than to the forms in which it is manifested—fixing our attention on its roots, not on its degrees, or on sinful actions; if we are convinced that universal sinfulness is the presupposition of religion; if we expect nothing from our own powers; if we comprise all means of salvation in the thought of God’s grace and of faith; if the preaching of faith and the love of God is substituted for that of fear, repentance, and hope;124124I need hardly guard against the misapprehension that I represent faith as not having been of fundamental importance to the Pre-Augustinian and Greek Church. The question here is as to the feeling and disposition of the Christian. The Pre-Augustinian Christian regarded faith as the self-evident presupposition of the righteousness which he had to gain by his own efforts. if, finally, we distinguish between law and gospel, gifts and tasks appointed by God—then we feel with the emotions, think in the thoughts, and speak with the words of Augustine.125125It need not be objected that this is the doctrine of Scripture. In the first place, Scripture has no homogeneous doctrine; secondly, even Paul’s range of thought, to which Augustine’s here most closely approximates, does not perfectly coincide with it. But we must undoubtedly recognise that the Augustinian reformation was quite essentially a Pauline reaction against the prevailing piety. Augustine, to some extent, appears as a second Marcion, see Vol. I., p. 136, Reuter, August. Studien, p. 492 “We can perhaps say that Paulinism, which the growing Catholic Church only half-learned to understand, which Marcion attempted to open up in an eccentric one-sidedness that the Church, in its opposition to him, had all but rejected, was exploited by our Church Father for the second time, in such a way, that much hitherto belonging to popular Catholicism was remodelled.” This is followed by a parallel between Augustine and Marcion. The triad “Faith, Love, and Hope,” is Pauline, and occurs in almost all Church Fathers; but Augustine first made it fruitful again (perhaps he learned here from Jovinian).
Who can deny that in this way religion disclosed deeper truths to feeling and thought, that the disease was recognised more surely, and the means of healing were demonstrated more reliably? Who can mistake the gain in laying bare the living heart, the need of the soul, the living God, the peace that exists in the disposition to trust and love? Even if he merely seeks to study these phenomena as a disinterested “historian of culture,” who can escape the impression that we have here an advance, at least in psychological knowledge, that can never 74again be lost? In fact, history seems to teach that the gain can never perish within the Christian Church; nay, it attests more, it would appear, than this: it tells us that a limit has been reached, beyond which the pious mood cannot receive a further development. If we review all the men and women of the West since Augustine’s time, whom, for the disposition that possessed them, history has designated as prominent Christians, we have always the same type; we find marked conviction of sin, complete renunciation of their own strength, and trust in grace, in the personal God who is apprehended as the Merciful One in the humility of Christ. The variations of this frame of mind are indeed numerous—we will speak of these later on; but the fundamental type is the same. And this frame of mind is taught in sermons and in instruction by truly pious Catholics and Evangelicals; to it youthful Christians are trained, and dogmatics are framed in harmony with it. It always produces so powerful an effect, even where it is only preached as the experience of others, that he who has once come in contact with it can never forget it; it accompanies him as a shadow by day and as a light in the dark; he who imagines that he has long shaken it off sees it rising up suddenly before him again. Since the days of Leibnitz, indeed, and the “Illumination,” a powerful opponent has grown up, an enemy that seemed to have mastered it during a whole century, that reduced the Christian religion, when it gave any countenance to it at all, once more to energetic action, and furnished it with the foil of a cheerful optimism, a mode of thought which removed the living God afar off, and subordinated the religious to the moral. But this opponent succumbed in our century, at least, within the Churches, before the power of the old frame of mind. Whether this triumph of Augustine is guaranteed to last, none but a prophet could tell. It is only certain that the constellation of circumstances in the fray has been favourable to the victor.
On the part of the Church no doubt prevails that the Augustinian feeling and type of thought are alone legitimate in Christianity, that they are alone Christian; for the conception of redemption (by God himself), in the sense of regeneration, 75dominates everything. But we cannot fail to be puzzled when we consider that it cannot by any means be directly deduced from the surest words of Jesus, and that the ancient and Greek Church was ignorant of it. Further, we cannot but be doubtful when we weigh its consequences; for their testimony is not all favourable. A quietistic, I might almost say a narcotic, element is contained in it, or is, at least, imperceptibly associated with it. There is something latent in it which seems to enervate the vital energies, to hinder the exertion of the will, and to substitute feelings for action. Is there no danger in substituting a general consciousness of sin for evident evil tendencies, heartless words and shameful deeds?126126I say nothing of the arrogant habit of those who, because they agree with the Augustinian doctrine, not only openly credit themselves with possessing “positive” Christianity, but also denounce their opponents as “half-believers.” For this nonsense Augustine is not responsible, and it only made its appearance in the nineteenth century. It is only in our days that evangelical Christendom has permitted itself to be terrorised by people who bear the deeper “knowledge of sin” as a motto, and with this shield guard themselves against the counsel to be just and modest. Is it safe to rely on the uniform operation of Grace, when we are called to be perfect and holy like God? Are all the energies of the Will actually set free, where the soul lives constantly in the mood shown in the “Confessions”? Are fear and hope really phases, necessarily to be superseded by faith and love? Perhaps it is correct to answer all these questions in accordance with the type of thought here considered; but even then a doubt remains. Is it advisable—apart from the variety in men’s temperaments—to present this ideal as the aim at all stages of spiritual development? Here, at least, the answer cannot be doubtful. That which is the last stage reached by the advanced Christian who has passed through a rich experience is a refinement to him who is in process of development. But a refined piety or morality is always pernicious; for it no longer starts at the point of duty and conscience. It deceives regarding our need and its satisfaction. And since it is strong enough to fascinate, and can also be comprehended as a doctrine by an intelligence that is far from advanced, in order, once comprehended, never to pass away again, so it can become dangerous to morality, and therefore also to piety. For, after all, in both these spheres, 76that only has any value which heightens the power to be and do good; everything else is a poisonous fog. Perhaps, if we consider the matter fairly, no feeling or mood, and no theory of the factors in the religious process, are alone legitimate. As man requires sleep and wakefulness, so also he must, if he is to preserve his moral and religious life in health, alternate between the sense of his freedom and power and that of his bondage and helplessness, between the sense of full moral responsibility and the conviction that he is a favoured child of God. Or is there a way of so grasping Augustine’s type of feeling and thought, that it may fashion faith into the strongest lever of moral energy and action? Are not the difficulties that rise against his type of piety due perhaps just to his not having developed it forcibly and absolutely enough?
This question will obtain its answer later on. Here we have to point out that the dissemination of the religious views, peculiar to Augustine, was not in every respect beneficial. They constituted his greatness; they conducted him to the wonderful path he trod; they led him to conceive redemption no longer as a solitary intervention, by means of baptism, in the course of human life, but as the element in which the soul lived—baptismal grace being therefore a continuously operative force. “Personal characteristics” lie beyond the sphere of errors and truths; they may be erroneous, looked at from without, true from within. They may for that very reason be even hurtful as influences, for “when they introduce disproportionately what is foreign, the question arises, how these adventitious peculiarities harmonise with those that are native to the soul, and whether by the very act of mingling they do not produce a sickly condition.”127127Compare Goethe in his wonderful reflections on Sterne, Werke (Hempel’s Ed.), Vol. XXIX., p. 749 f. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that Augustine submitted the traditional religious feeling to as thorough-going a revision as is conceivable, and even he who is not in a position to praise it unreservedly will not seek to minimise its benefits.128128Augustine’s Exposition of the Church I neither count one of his greater achievements, nor can I hold it to be the central idea which determines what is essential to him.77
II. No one was further than Augustine from intending to correct the tradition of the Church. If he has done this so emphatically, he was himself merely actuated by the feeling that he was thus assimilating more and more thoroughly the faith of the Church. Having forced his way through scepticism to the truth of the Catholic Church, he regarded the latter as the rock on which his faith was founded. We should misunderstand him were we to blink this fact. He rather sets us reflecting how it was possible for the most vital piety to have a double ground of conviction, inner experience, and external, nay, extremely external, attestation. We can make a still stronger assertion. Augustine first transformed the authority of the Church into a factor in religion; he first expressed pious contemplation, the view of God and self, in such a way that the religious man always found the authority of the Church side by side with sin and grace.129129Reuter says excellently (l.c., p. 494): “Many phases of the hitherto traditional and authoritative doctrine were transformed by him into really religious factors; he effected a revolution in the religious consciousness in those circles in and upon which he worked, yet without seeking to endanger its Catholicity.” Cf., also p. 102 (71-98): “Much, but very far from all, that belonged to popular Catholicism was revised by Augustine.” Paul and post-apostolic teachers, especially Tertullian, had, indeed, already introduced the Church into the religious relationship itself;130130See De bapt., 6: “Cum antem sub tribus et testatio fidei et sponsio salutis pignerentur, necessario adicitur ecclesiæ mentio, quoniam ubi tres, id est pater et filius et spiritus sanctus, ibi ecclesia, quæ trium corpus est.” De oral., 2: “Pater . . . filius . . . ne mater quidam ecclesia præteritur. Si quidem in filio et patre mater recognoscitur, de qua constat et patris et filii nomen.” De monog., 7: “Vivit enim unicus pater noster et mater ecclesia.” All this is based on the Symbol. but they were not thinking of its authority.
When we fix our attention on Augustine’s distinctive type of Christian piety as the foundation of his significance for Church and dogmatic history, we must not only consider the decisive tendency of his doctrine of sin and grace, but we must also review his reception and characteristic revision of traditional elements. For from these his piety, i.e., his sense of God, and sin and grace, obtained the form which is familiar to us as specifically Catholic. In addition to (l) the above-mentioned element of the authority of the Church, there are, if my view is 78correct, other three; (2) the confusion of personal relationship to God with a sacramental communication of grace; (3) uncertainty as to the nature of faith and the forgiveness of sins; (4) uncertainty as to the significance of the present life. Even in the way he felt and wrote about these things he created new states of feeling; but they appear merely to be modifications of the old; or, rather, he first enabled the old moods fully to understand themselves, in other words, enriched them from the dead material which they brought with them. This exerted in turn a very strong influence on the fundamental feeling—the sense of sin and grace, and first gave it the form which enabled it to take possession of souls, without creating a revolution, or producing a violent breach with tradition.
In the sequel we only discuss the fundamental features of these four elements.131131We don’t need now to say for the first time that Augustine was as closely as possible united to the past of the Church in all else (Scripture, doctrinal confession, etc.). Besides this, he shared with his contemporaries in the conception of the Church’s science in its relation to faith, and had on many points as naïve ideas as they of the limits and scope of knowledge. If he possessed the faculty of psychological observation in a much higher degree than his predecessors, he retained the absolute type of thought, and, with all the sceptical reserve which he practised in single questions, he further developed that conglomerate of cosmology, ethics, mythology, and rationalism, which was then called science. So also he was implicated in all the prejudices of contemporary exegesis. It is to be added, finally, that, although less credulous than his contemporaries, he was, like Origen, involved in the prejudices, the mania for miracles, and the superstition of the age. His works, sober in comparison with many other elaborations of the epoch, are yet full of miracles. A slave learns to read in answer to prayer, in three days, and without human help; and we have divine judgments, miracle-working relics, etc. He certainly made the absurd indispensable to the Church. Since Augustine’s time there are wholly absurd Church doctrines, whose abandonment would not be without danger, because they have excited, or at least have supported, like the vine-pole, the virtues of conscientiousness, strictness in self-examination, and tenderness of soul (see, e.g., his doctrine of original sin). But like all absurdities, they have also excited blind fanaticism and fearful despair.
1. Augustine introduced the authority of the Church as a religious factor for two reasons. Like the thought of redemption, the significance of the Church seems, on a superficial examination, to have received so sovereign and fixed an impress in the conception formed by the ancient Catholic and Greek Fathers, that any further accentuation of it is impossible. But, if we look more closely, redemption was presented as a solitary 79intervention, and the significance of the Church was exhausted in the fact that, while it was the presupposition of Christian life and the guarantee of Christian truth, it did not enter into the separate acts in which the religious and moral life ran its spiritual course. Here also Rothe’s saying is true that Christians tacitly “laid their plans to meet the chance that in the end everything might require to be done by men alone.” These “plans” were based since the days of the Apologists on the optimistic conception of the inalienable goodness of human nature, and the demonstrability (clearness and intelligibility) of the Christian religion. The course of a spontaneously moral life was ultimately modified, neither by the doctrine of redemption nor by that of the Church.
In both these respects Augustine’s experience had led to wholly different conclusions. His conflict with himself had convinced him of the badness of human nature, and Manichæism had left him in complete doubt as to the foundations and truth of the Christian faith.132132See Reuter, l.c. p. 490 f. His confidence in the rationality of Christian truth had been shaken to the very depths, and it was never restored. In other words, as an individual thinker he never gained the subjective certitude that Christian truth and as such everything contained in the two Testaments had to be regarded, was clear, consistent, and demonstrable.133133The few tendencies to this conception, which are also found in his works, are always combined with that neutralising of the historical displayed by the Apologists. We cannot here discuss more fully this undercurrent in his writings. But it is important to show clearly the main current, namely, that scholars were by no means confident of the rationality of the Catholic faith. The attacks made by heathens and Manichæans had shaken them. Some speak, partly with self-satisfaction, partly with pain, of “modern” doubts of the faith of the Church. But these doubts are so far from modern that the creation of the Augustinian and mediæval authority of the Church is their work. That ecclesiasticism is so powerful, nay, has become a dogmatic quantity, is due to the defective morality of Christians in the second and third centuries, and to their defective faith in the fourth and fifth. The distinction between Justin and Augustine is in this respect much greater than that between Augustine and a Christian of the sixteenth or nineteenth centuries. When he threw himself into the arms of the Catholic Church, he was perfectly conscious that he needed its 80authority, not to sink in scepticism or nihilism.134134See the middle Books of the Confessions, e.g., VI., 11: “Scripturæ sanctæ, quas ecclesiæ catholicæ commendat auctoritas.” VI., 7: “Libris tuis, quos tanta in omnibus fere gentibus auctoritate fundasti. . . . Non audiendos esse, si qui forte mihi dicerent; unde scis illos libros unius veri et veracissimi dei spiritu esse humano generi ministratos? idipsum enim maxime credendum erat.” VI., 8: “Ideoque cum essemus infirmi ad inveniendam liquida ratione veritatem, et ob hoc nobis opus esset auctoritate sanctarum litterarum, jam credere cœperam nullo modo te fuisse tributurum tam excellentem scripturæ per omnes jam terras auctoritatem, nisi et per ipsam tibi credi et per ipsam te quæri voluisses. Jam enim absurditatem quæ me in illis litteris solebat offendere, cum multa ex eis probabiliter exposita audissem, ad sacramentorum altitudinem referebam.” See also the treatise De utilit. credendi, and, in general, the writings against Manichæism. For example, nothing but the authority of the Church could remove the stumbling-blocks in the Old Testament. The thousand doubts excited by theology, and especially Christology, could only be allayed by the Church. As regards the former case, allegorical interpretation, of course, helped to get one over the difficulties; but it (as contrasted with the literal which solves everything) did not justify itself; the Church alone gave the right to apply it. The Church guaranteed the truth of the faith, where the individual could not perceive it; that is the new thought whose open declaration proves the thinker’s scepticism, as well as the man’s love of truth. He would not impose upon himself; he would not become the sophist of his faith. Openly he proclaimed it: I believe in many articles only on the Church’s authority; nay, I believe in the Gospel itself merely on the same ground.135135Contra Ep. Manichæi, 5: “Ego vero evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicae (ecclesiæ) commoveret auctoritas.” Innumerable parallels exist, especially in the writings against Manichæism, but also elsewhere. Thereby the Church had gained an enormous importance, an importance which it was henceforth to retain in Western Catholicism; upon it, an entity above all incomprehensible—for what and where is the Church?—a great part of the responsibility was rolled, which had hitherto to be borne by the individual. Thus henceforth the Church had its part in every act of faith. By this, however, a vast revolution was brought about in the relation to the “faith which is believed” (fides quæ creditur). Acts of faith were, at the same time, acts of obedience. The difficulties were recognised which the Alexandrians overcame by distinguishing between exoteric and 81esoteric religion, but this distinction was itself rejected. In its place was now openly proclaimed what had long—especially in the West (see ch. I., Scripture and Dogma as Law)—been secretly the expedient of thousands: partial renunciation of independent faith, and the substitution for it of obedience. It is obvious that thus a great body of dogmas, or of the contents of Scripture, was placed beyond the reach of the believing subject, that a wholly different relation to them was introduced, that, in a word, the doctrines of Scripture and the Church obtained a new meaning. Augustine was the father of the conception of implicit faith (fides implicita), by associating with the individual believer the Church, with which he believes and which believes for him, in as far as it takes the place for him in many points of a psychological element of faith, namely, inner conviction. In openly proclaiming this conception, which, as has been said, already lurked in darkness, Augustine, on the one hand, disburdened individual faith, and directed it more energetically to those spheres in which it could rest without difficulties, but, on the other hand, introduced all the evil consequences which spring from faith in authority.136136Reuter, who by no means over-values the importance of the idea of the Church in Augustine, declares (p. 499): “By Augustine the idea of the Church was rendered the central power in the religious state of mind and ecclesiastical activity of the West in a fashion unknown to the East.” “Central power” is almost saying too much (see Theol. Lit.-Zeit., 1887, No. 15).
However, this championship of faith in authority had an additional root, in the case of Augustine, besides scepticism. Tradition and grace are connected by secret ties. A genius, who was never a sceptic, and who was therefore never possessed by a mania for authority, has confessed: “The dew in which I bathe and find health is tradition, is grace.” Augustine was also led, both as a psychologist and a Christian of living faith, to tradition and therewith to the Church. In breaking with moralism, he broke too with the individualism and atomism of the ancient school. The “mass of perdition” (massa perditionis) was always confronted for him by grace (gratia) as a force working in history. I will not here yet go into his notion of the Church; it is certain that he possessed a lively sense that all great benefits, 82even communion with God himself, were attached to historical tradition, and it is manifest that religious individualism, as developed by him, was paralleled by and compatible with a conception, according to which the individual was supported by other persons, and by forces in the direction of goodness which he received through a visible medium. Augustine concentrated this correct historical conception in the idea of the Church. It was to him the organism and—for the individual—the womb of grace; it was further the communion of righteousness and love; and he felt this significance of the Church in his most personal piety much more acutely than any one before him.
But the sceptic who needs the authority of the Church, and the Christian of quick feeling and sure observation, who perceives and prizes the value of Church communion, do not part company. There has never yet existed in the world a strong religious faith, which has not appealed, at some decisive point or other, to an external authority. It is only in the colourless expositions of religious philosophers, or the polemical systems of Protestant theologians, that a faith is constructed which derives its certitude exclusively from its own inner impulses. These undoubtedly constitute the force by which it exists and is preserved. But are not conditions necessary, under which this force becomes operative? Jesus Christ appealed to the authority of the Old Testament, ancient Christians to the evidence of prophecy, Augustine to the Church, and Luther himself to the written Word of God. Only academic speculation thinks that it can eliminate external authority; life and history show that no faith is capable of convincing men or propagating itself, which does not include obedience to an external authority, or fails to be convinced of its absolute power. The only point is to determine the rightful authority, and to discover the just relationship between external and internal authority. Were it otherwise, we should not be weak, helpless beings. We cannot think too highly of the nobility of human talents; but they are not lofty enough to enable men so to appropriate the sum of all the ideal elements which compose the inner life, that these simply grow with the growth of the soul, or become its product. Above all, the thought of God, the thought of the love of God, 83can never receive an irrefragable certainty, without being supported by an external authority. It is not a false view of religion that the restless quest of the soul only ceases when there has dawned upon it an authority whose validity is independent of the degree of strength with which its justification is felt within the breast.137137This argument has been very badly received by some critics, but I find nothing to change in it. Perhaps it will help to its being understood if I add that the spiritual man is directly conscious of the Divine Spirit as his Lord—who constrains him to obedience, even where he himself does not perceive the inner authority—but the non-spiritual require some sort of intervening authority, whether consisting in persons, or a book, or Church. But in both cases we are dealing with a controlling power, whose authority rises above one’s own individuality and knowledge. I hope that in disclosing this state of the case I am safe from being (wrongly) understood to draw a fixed line between the spiritual and non-spiritual. Throughout it is only a question of the proportion in which the apocalyptic and mediated elements appear and are connected in personal religion. Even the spiritual man who holds direct communion with God has, as history shows, extremely seldom, perhaps never entirely, freed himself from all intermediate authority; on the contrary, he has clung to it firmly, in spite of his intercourse with the Deity. This is not the place to explain this phenomenon; but personal religion is not shown to be valueless by its being proved that its authorities are not sound (against Baumann, Die Grundfrage der Religion, 1895, p. 22 f.). The important point is what the pious man has derived from his authorities.
All this Augustine perceived and expressed. Therefore “the traditional, exclusively authoritative doctrine” of the Church was transformed by him into a conception, according to which the Church is a religious factor. By this, however, the distinctive character of piety itself received a new definition.138138It is only to a superficial observer that Eastern Christians seem to cling more strongly to the Church than Western. In the East the historical course of events welded ecclesiasticism and nationality into one, and the internal development made the cultus of the Church the chief matter. But what other rule does the Church play in personal piety than being the scene of Christian life, the teacher of doctrine, and the administrator of the mysteries? All these are, in fact, presupposed conditions; in the West, on the contrary, the Church has thrust itself into all relations and points of contact of the pious soul to God and Christ, as far as the Augustinian tradition is accepted.
2. The perception that religion is the possession of the living God, a personal relationship between the soul and God, is conspicuous in Augustine’s Confessions, but also in other writings by him. That nothing but God himself could give the soul rest and peace is the fundamental note of the Confessions: “Say unto my soul: I am thy salvation.” His great place in 84the history of piety is bound up with this perception, as we find it attached to Rom. VIII., 31-39. He is to be compared, in this also, to the great Alexandrians, especially Clement. But as Augustine did not merely reach this conclusion by means of a laborious speculation, so it assumed a much more forcible and purer form in his life and works than in theirs.139139Let anyone read attentively the Confessions B. VII. and VIII., as also the writings and epistles composed immediately after his conversion, and he will find that Augustine’s Neoplatonism had undoubtedly a share in giving him this perception. But he was brought to it in a much higher degree by his inner experience, and the reading of Paul and the Psalms. The Psalmists’ piety was revived in him (see esp. Confess., IX., 8-12). His style even was modelled on theirs. In Clement of Alex. and Origen, Neoplatonic speculation, on the contrary, prevailed. Even in the most glorious of their expositions, in which the power of feeling is clearly conspicuous, we cannot forget the speculative path by which they thought they had attained to the possession of God.
But the sure application of what is simplest in dogma is ever the hardest thing. Augustine found himself confronted by a tradition which taught that men enjoyed intercourse with God through laws and communications of grace; nay, the prevailing tradition was constantly in danger of reducing the latter to the former. In opposition to this, a great advance was at once made by insisting on the distinction between law and gospel, commands and grace. We now perceive that Augustine substantially limited himself to this in his polemical dogmatic writings. That is, he was not in a position to translate into his dogmatic theory the vital perception that God himself, as he appeared in Christ, was the possession of the soul. He substantially left standing the old scheme that God came to man’s assistance, like a benevolent judge with acts of pardon, or like a physician with medicines. In other words, he gave the force of absolute conviction to what had been uncertain, viz., that God operates continuously by a mysterious and omnipotent impartation of grace, i.e., by powers of grace.140140The final ground of this view with Augustine consists naturally in the fact that he never wholly got rid of the old Catholic scheme that the ultimate concern of Christianity was to transform human nature physically and morally for eternal life. He took a great step forward; but he was not able to give clear expression to the Pauline thought that the whole question turned on forgiveness of sins and sonship to God, or to frame all dogmatics in harmony with it. Thus grace (gratia per Christum) preserved even with him an objective character, and 85in his controversy with Donatists and Pelagians he completely developed this view of grace in connection with his doctrines of the Church and sacraments. He understood how to harmonise this, in his own feeling and self-criticism, with the conviction that the question involved was the possession of the living God. But as teacher of piety he did not succeed in doing so; indeed, we can say that, just because he laid all emphasis on grace through Christ, while conceiving it to consist in portions or instalments of grace, he was the means of establishing, along with the perception of its importance as beginning, middle, and end, the delusion that grace had an objective character. His age could understand, though with a great effort, his exposition of grace, as something imparted by the sacraments or the Church. It could bring that down to its own level. The magical element which adhered to this conception, the external solidity which the notion of grace received. in the sacrament, the apparent clearness of the view, the possibility of instituting theological computations with sin and grace—all these phases in the Augustinian doctrine of grace were greedily seized. Thus, in making grace the foundation and centre of all Christian theological reflection, it was due to his way of thinking that the living God and the personality of Christ lost ground in the consciousness of the Church he influenced. The believer had to do with the inheritance left by Christ, with what he had gained, with his merit, but not with Christ himself. The love of God was instilled into the soul in portions; but Augustine did not perceive that dogmatic was imperfect, nay, formed a hindrance to religion, as long as the supreme place was withheld from the principle: “Our heart is restless, until it rests in Thee.” The violent agitation which he had himself experienced, the crisis in which the sole question was whether he should or should not find God to be his God, he has extremely imperfectly expressed in the dogmatic theory of his later period. He poured the new wine into old bottles, and was thus partly to blame for the rise of that Catholic doctrine of grace, which is perhaps the most dreadful part of Catholic dogmatics; for “the corruption of the best is the worst” (corruptio optimi pessima). When a Roman Catholic dogmatist very recently called the 86doctrine of grace “thorny ground,” this description alone must have sufficed to show every common-sense Christian that the whole treatment of this main article had stumbled on a false path since the days of Augustine. Could there be a sadder admission than this, that reflection on what God grants the soul in Christ leads us among nothing but thorns? And could we conceive a greater contrast than that which exists between the sayings of Jesus and the Catholic doctrine of grace? But Protestantism, in its actual form, need not boast of having surmounted this pernicious Catholic doctrine. As it rests on the Augustinian doctrine of grace in the good sense of the term, and is distinguished thereby as Western Christianity from Eastern, it also bears the greatest part of the burden of this doctrine, and is therefore subject to the same dangers as Catholicism. It runs the risk of concealing the personal Christ by grace and the sacraments, of hedging in the living God through grace itself, and of setting up calculations about grace which make an account out of what is freest and holiest, and either dull the soul or leave it in unrest.
But as Augustine knew, for his part, by what his soul lived, and was able to testify to it in words that lived, and, indeed, in some of his discussions also doctrinally, he exerted a powerful influence in this respect, too, on posterity. He became the father not only of the Catholic doctrine of grace, but also of that mysticism which was naturalised in the Catholic Church, down to the Council of Trent, indeed, till the Jansenist controversy. In more than a hundred passages of his works, above all by his Christian personality, he incited men to gain a life with God, within which they apprehended the personal God in grace. We may here also recall his doctrine of predestination. One of its roots indisputably grew out of the thought of the supremacy of personal relationship to God. It was understood, too in this way, wherever it was the means in after-times of obviating the pernicious consequences of the Church doctrine of grace and sacraments. But there can undoubtedly be no mistake, that wherever Augustine threw into the background his questionable doctrine of grace, he at once also incurred the danger of neutralising Christ’s general significance. According to him, Christ’s 87work referred to, and exhausted itself in the forgiveness of sins. But, as we shall see in what immediately follows, forgiveness did not bestow all that the Christian requires for salvation. Therefore the doctrine of grace was relatively independent of the historical Christ. This danger of conceiving positive grace without reference to Christ, or of connecting it with him only in the form of esthetic observations, continued to exert an influence. Luther, who started from Augustinianism, first overcame it, in as far as, in his relation to God, he only thought of God at all as he knew him in Christ. Augustine was prevented from doing so by his religious philosophy, and also his Biblicism, both of which had established independent claims upon him. Thus it happened that he influenced the piety of Western Christians by a doctrine of grace which met their lower inclinations, as well as by a promulgation of the immediateness of the religious relationship which failed to do justice to Christ’s significance as mirror of God’s fatherly heart and as the eternal mediator. In the latter as the former case, he set his seal on and gave vitality to elements which existed in the traditional doctrine only as dead material or stunted germs.
3. Augustine shared with the whole of contemporary Christendom the thought, held to be all-important, that a time would come when at the judgment-seat of Christ “every one would receive in accordance with his actions”; and none will impugn the Christian character of this thought. But he went a step further, and also accepted the conception of merits current in the Church from the days of Tertullian and Cyprian. He did not get beyond the idea that in the final decision merits could alone be considered. He reconciled this principle, however, with his doctrine of grace, by teaching that God crowned his gifts (munera) in crowning our merits (merita).141141See e.g., Confess. IX. 34: “Quisquis tibi enumerat vera merita sua, quid tibi enumerat nisi munera tua.” Ep. 194, n. 19: “cum deus coronat merita nostra, nihil aliud coronat quam munera sua.” De gratia et lib. arb., 15: “Dona sua coronat deus non merita tua . . . si ergo dei dona sunt bona merita tua, non deus coronat merita tua tamquam merita tua sed tamquam dona sua.” De gestis Pelag., 35: “Redditur quidem meritis tuis corona sua, sed dei dona sunt merita tua.” De trinit., XIII., 14: “Et ea quæ dicuntur merita nostra, dona sunt eius,” etc. XV. 21: “Quid animam faciet beatam, nisi meritum suum et præmium domini sui? Sed et meritum ejus gratia est illius, cujus, præmium erit beatitudo ejus.” De prædest. sanct., 10. For this very reason the fundamental principle holds good, that grace is not granted secundum merita nostra. This seemed to correspond to both considerations, and the certainty with which this conception established itself in the Church appeared 88to guarantee that the correct view had now been reached. But, first, the question arises whether the ambiguity of the reconciliation did not contribute to its being received; secondly, it cannot fail to surprise us that there is not a word about faith in the principle. We are once more at a point where Augustine, in reforming the prevailing piety, paid it a very considerable tribute. He certainly expressed the importance and power of faith in a striking and novel fashion. He who disregards the formulas, but looks to the spirit, will everywhere find in Augustine’s works a stream of Pauline faith. None before him but his teachers Victorinus and Ambrose, in some of their expositions, had used similar language. Numerous passages can be cited in which Augustine extolled faith as the element in which the soul lives, as beginning, middle, and end of piety. But in the sphere of dogmatic reflection Augustine spoke of faith with extreme uncertainty, and, indeed, as a rule, not differently from his predecessors.
Different points meet here. Firstly, it was simply the power of tradition which prevented him from perceiving more in faith than the act of initiation. Secondly, Scriptural texts led him to the assumption that something else than faith, namely, habitual goodness (righteousness), must finally fall to be considered at the divine tribunal. Thirdly and lastly, he limited the significance of the forgiveness of sins. The last point is in his case the most paradoxical, but here the most important. He for whom the supreme thing was the certainty of possessing a God, and who called to his whole period: “You have not yet considered of how great weight sin is” (nondum considerasti, quanti ponderis sit peccatum), never realised the strict relation that exists between faith and forgiveness, nor could explain clearly that the assurance of forgiveness is life and salvation. At this point the moral element suddenly entered with sovereign power into religious reflection. It is as if Augustine had here sought to escape 89the quietistic consequences of his doctrine (see above), and, in his inability to deduce positive virtue from faith in forgiveness of sin, turned from faith to works. Or was he prevented by the remnants of religious philosophy and cosmology that still clung to his theory of religion from perceiving absolutely that religion is bound up in faith in forgiveness of sins?142142In his 177th letter, e.g. (Ad Innocent., c. 4), he expressly declares that it is an error to say that gratia is liberum arbitrium or remissio peccatorum. Or, again, is this perception itself erroneous and untenable, one that paralyses the power of moral exertion? We do not intend to examine these questions here. The fact is that Augustine conceived faith to be a preliminary stage, because he regarded forgiveness of sins as preliminary. If we look closely, we find that in his dogmatic theory sin was not guilt, but loss and infirmity. The very man who strove for, and found, a lasting relationship with God, was not capable of reproducing and stating his experience correctly in the shape of doctrine. He came back to the customary moralistic view, in so far as in his doctrine of grace he thought not of enmity to God, but the disease of sin, not of divine sonship, but of the restoration of a state in which man was rendered capable of becoming good, i.e., sinless. Therefore faith was merely something preliminary, and it is this that makes it so difficult to define Augustine’s conception of the forgiveness of sins. It appears to have been really identical with the external and magical idea of his predecessors, with the exception that he had a firmer grasp of the forgiveness being an act of God, on which the baptised might constantly rely. But his reflection rarely took the form of regarding assurance of forgiveness as something whereby the soul receives energy and wings. He substantially never got beyond the impression that something was actually swept away by it, though that was indeed the gravest of facts, sin.
The impossibility of carrying out this conception will always, however, leave a latent doubt. In spite of his new feeling, Augustine, for this reason, moved entirely in the lines of the old scheme when he sought to supplement and to build upon forgiveness of sin, and looked about him for a positive force which was required to take its place alongside of the negative effect. 90This he found in love. It was not in faith, but only in love, that he could recognise the force that really changed a man’s nature, that set him in a new relationship. But then, in spite of the empirical objections that confronted him, he did not doubt that love could be infused like a medicine. Certain that God alone effects everything, he transferred to love the conception applicable to faith (trust)—that it ceases to be itself where it is felt to be other than an assimilative organ (ὄργανον ληπτικόν)—as if love could also be as simply regarded as a gift of God through Christ (munus dei per Christum). The result of these reflections is that Augustine held that the relation of the pious soul to God was most appropriately described as a gradually advancing process of sanctification. To this he believed he could reduce all legitimate considerations, the fundamental importance of faith, the conception of (sacramental) grace as beginning, middle, and end, the need of positive forces capable of changing man’s state, the view that only the just could be saved, and that no one was righteous whose works were not perfect, i.e., the necessity of merits, etc. He believed that he had found a means of adjusting the claims of religion and morality, of grace and merits, of the doctrine of faith and eschatology. Omnipotent love became for him the principle that connected and supported everything. Faith, love, and merit were successive steps in the way to final salvation, and he has impressed this view on the Catholic Church of after times, and on its piety up to the present day. It is the ancient scheme of the process of sanctification leading to final salvation, but so transformed that grace acts upon all its stages. Excellent and—for many stages of development—appropriate as this conception appears, yet it cannot be mistaken that in it Augustine lagged behind his own experience, and that against his will he subordinated the religious sphere to moral goodness; for this subordination was by no means precluded by the equation “our merits, God’s gifts” (nostra merita, dei munera). Where merits play a part there is a failure to understand that there is a relationship to God which is maintained mid weakness and sin, as well as in misery and death.143143But, besides, the final and supreme question as to assurance of salvation is not less misunderstood.91
Of this even Augustine had a presentiment, and he therefore also imparted to the Church, to which he transmitted his doctrine of faith, love, and merit, germs of a conception which could not but be fatal to that doctrine. They are not only included in his doctrine of predestination, but at least as much so in every passage of his writings, where he gives voice to the confession, “To me to cling to God is a good thing.” In this avowal the religious possession and moral goodness coincide, and are referred to God, their source. But even apart from this, his idea of love: “in this life also virtue is nothing but loving what ought to be loved; good affections make a good character,”144144Et in hac vita virtus non est nisi diligere quod diligendum est; faciunt boni amores bonos mores. was so excellent and forcible that all criticism looks like impudent coxcombry. Nevertheless, we must criticise it from the standpoint of the gospel. We have already remarked above that Augustine’s doctrine of infused love is indifferent to the work of the historical Christ. Therefore he had a two-fold Christology: on the one hand, Christ is God, a member of the Trinity (unus ex trinitate); on the other hand, the chosen man, who was as much under grace as we are. All that leads us back ultimately to the fact that he under-estimated the significance of the forgiveness of sins and of the publican’s faith: that his piety was not yet simple enough.145145It has seemed necessary to concede to Augustine’s conception of sanctification that it had the merit of correcting the quietistic phase that clung dangerously to his doctrine of grace. But, on a closer inspection, we find that love did not certainly mean to him the exemplification of morality in serving our neighbour, but sentiments, or such works of love, as owed their value to reflex action at least as strongly as to philanthropy. Here again, in very many expositions, he did not advance beyond the old Catholic Christians, or Cyprian and Ambrose; man attends best to his own interests by means of caritas, and pleases God in divesting himself of what is worldly.
4. Finally, it is to be pointed out that Augustine in his reformation of Christian piety did not disturb its character as a preparation for the next world. He could have changed nothing here without wounding the Christian religion itself; for the view of some Protestants, that Christianity can be transformed into a religion of this world, is an illusion. Augustine lived as much in the future world as Justin and Irenæus. His eschatological 92reflections are inexhaustible, and if, as will be shown afterwards, he set aside a few of the older ideas, yet that affords no standard of the whole trend of his piety. He only intensified the pessimistic view of this life, this mortal life and living death (vita mortalis, mors vitalis), by his doctrine of sin. “What flood of eloquence would ever suffice to portray the tribulations of this life, to describe this wretchedness, which is, as it were, a kind of hell in our present existence? Verily, the new-born infant comes to our mortal light, not laughing but weeping, and by its tears prophesies in some fashion, even without knowing it, to what great evils it has come forth. . . . A heavy yoke burdens all the children of Adam from the day of birth to that of burial, when they return to the common mother of all. . . . And the sorest thing of all is that we cannot but know how, just by the grievous sin committed in Paradise, this life has become a punishment to us.”146146See also the thrilling description, De civitat, XIX., 4. Just as he has retained the pessimistic view of our present life, he has also described blessedness as the state of the perfect knowledge of God. He has done so in one of his earliest writings, De vita beata, and he substantially adhered to it.
But the very perception, that misery was not a mere fatality, but was incurred by guilt, and the confidence that grace could make man free and happy even upon this earth, exerted a certain counterpoise. He undoubtedly does not call the present life of the Christian “joy of felicity,” “but comfort of misery,” and declares that to be an extremely false felicity which is devised by men who seek here another happiness than that entertained by hope.147147In his Soliloquies, one of his earliest writings, he awards felicity to the soul that perceives God here below. But in his Retractations, I., 4, he says expressly, “Nec illud mihi placet, quod in ista vita deo intellecto jam beatam esse animam (in Soliloquiis) dixi, nisi forte spe.” In general, Augustine at a later date disavowed many arguments in his works written immediately after his conversion; nay, even in his Confessions, in which he is disposed to describe his conversion as instantaneous, he has admitted in one important sentence how imperfect his Christian thought was at that time: IX. 7, “Ibi (in Cassiciacum) quid egerim in litteris, jam quidem servientibus tibi, sed adhue superbiæ scholam tanquam in pausatione anhelantibus, testantur libri disputati cum præsentibus (libr. c. Academ.—de beata vita—de ordine) et cum ipso me solo (Soliloquia) coram te; quæ autem cum absente Nebridio, testantur epistolæ”). But our judgment must here be divided. What was written earlier was undoubtedly in many respects less complete, less churchly, more Neoplatonic; but on the other hand it was more direct, more personal and determined to a smaller degree by regard for the Catholicism of the Church. Yet he was already determined to have nothing to do with a felicity of inquiry and seeking; but only saw it in its possession (Adv. Acad. lib., I.). But in not a few passages he yet speaks of the joy in God which creates blessedness even here. He seldom obeyed this feeling. For that very reason he found this 93life in itself objectless, and there are only a few indications, especially in the work, De civitate dei, in which he tried to show that a kingdom of Christ may be built up even in this world, and that the just, who live by faith, constitute it, and have a present task to perform (see also De trinit. I., 16 and 21). Speaking generally, he propagated the feeling shown in ancient Christian eschatology in every respect, and prepared the ground for monachism. If he seems to have instigated the development of the Catholic Church in its tendency to masterful rule over this world, yet external circumstances, and the interpretation they produced of his work “De civitate dei,” contributed much more to the result than any intentional impulses given by him.148148On Augustine’s pessimistic and eschatological tendency, his view of the secular and clerical life, as also the efforts to surmount the popular Catholic conception, see Reuter, l.c., Studie VI. We return briefly to these subjects further on. Where, however, there has developed in Catholicism in after times a strong sense of the blessedness which the Christian can receive even in this state, it has always assumed a mystical and ecstatic character. This is a clear proof that in any case this life was disregarded; for the mystical feeling of blessedness, even as Augustine knew it, really exists, by means of an excess, already in the future state.
In the preceding pages the attempt has been made to show how the piety was constituted in which Augustine lived, and which he transmitted to posterity. It is extraordinary difficult to understand it aright; for experience and tradition are interwoven in it in the most wonderful way. Yet we cannot understand 94him as teacher of the Church, until we have formed our estimate of him as reformer of piety; for, besides Scripture and tradition, his theories have their strongest roots in the piety that animated him. They are in part nothing but states of feeling interpreted theoretically. But in these states of feeling there gathered round the grand experience of conversion from bondage to freedom in God all the manifold religious experiences and moral reflections of the ancient world. The Psalms and Paul, Plato and the Neoplatonists, the Moralists, Tertullian and Ambrose, we find all again in Augustine, and, side by side with the new psychological view constructed by him as disciple of the Neoplatonists, we come once more upon all the childish reflections and absolute theories which these men had pursued.95
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