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2. The Donatist Controversy. The Work: De civitate Dei. Doctrine of the Church, and Means of Grace.

Augustine was still occupied with the controversy with the Manichæans, in which he so sharply emphasised the authority 141of the Catholic Church,233233The Manichæans professed, in the controversy of the day, to be the men of “free inquiry” (“docendi fontem aperire gloriantur” De utilit. 21). We cannot here discuss how far they were; Augustine did not conscientiously feel that his breach with them was a breach with free inquiry. Therefore the efforts from the outset to define the relations of ratio and auctoritas, and to save what was still possible of the former. when his ecclesiastical position—Presbyter, A.D. 392, Bishop, A.D. 396, in Hippo—compelled him to take up the fight with the Donatists. In Hippo these formed the majority of the inhabitants, and so violent was their hatred that they even refused to make bread for the Catholics. Augustine fought with them from 393 to 411, and wrote against them a succession of works, some of these being very comprehensive.234234Psalmus c. partem Donati—C. Parmeniani epist. ad Tichonium b. III.—De bapt. c. Donatistas, b. VII.—C. litteras Petiliani, b. III.—Ep. ad Catholicos c. Donatistas—C. Cresconium, b. IV.—De unico bapt. c. Petilianum—Breviculus Collationis c. Donatistis—Post collationem ad Donatistas. Further, at a later date Sermo ad Cæsareensis ecclesiæ plebem—De gestis cum Emerito—C. Gaudentium Donatistam episcopum, b. II. The Sermo de Rusticiano is a forgery by the notorious Hieronymus Viguerius. We must here take for granted a knowledge of the course of the controversy at Synods, and as influenced by the intrusion of the Civil power.235235Augustine supported, at least from A.D. 407, the suppression by force of the Donatists by the Christian state in the interest of “loving discipline.” The discussion of A.D. 411 was a tragi-comedy. Last traces of the Donatists are still found in the time of Gregory I., who anew invoked the aid of the Civil power against them. It was carried on upon the ground prepared by Cyprian. His authority was accepted by the opponents. Accordingly, internal antitheses developed in the dispute which had remained latent in Cyprian’s theory. The new-fashioned Catholic theory had been already stated impressively by Optatus (see above, p. 42 ff.). It was reserved to Augustine to extend and complete it. But, as it usually happens in such questions, every newly-acquired position opened up new questions, and for one solution created any number of 142problems. And thus Augustine left more problems than he had solved.

The controversy did not now deal directly with the hierarchical constitution of the Church. Episcopacy was an accepted fact. The competency of the Church was questioned, and therewith its nature, significance, and extent. That ultimately the constitution of the Church should be dragged into the same peril was inevitable; for the hierarchy is, of course, the tenderest part in a constitution based upon it.

The schism was in itself the greatest evil. But in order to get over it, it was necessary to go to its roots and show that it was utterly impossible to sever oneself from the Catholic Church, that the unity, as well as truth of the Church, was indestructible. The main thesis of the Donatists was to the effect that the empirical is only the true Church when those who propagate it, the priests, are “pure”; for no one can propagate what he does not himself possess.236236C. Litt. Petil I. 3: “Qui fidem a perfido sumpserit non fidem percipit, sed reatum.” I. 2: “Conscientia dantis adtenditur, qui abluat accipientis.” Other Donatistic theses ran (l.c.) “Omnes res origine et radice consistit, et si caput non habet aliquid, nihil est.” “Nec quidquam bene regenerat, nisi bono semine (boni sacerdotis) regeneretur.” “Quæ potest esse perversitas ut qui suis criminibus reus est, alium faciat innocentem?” The true Church thus needs pure priests; it must therefore declare consecration by traditores to be invalid; and it cannot admit the efficacy of baptism administered by the impure—heretics, or those guilty of mortal sins; finally, it must exclude all that is manifestly stained and unworthy. This was followed by the breach with such Christian communions as did not strictly observe these rules, and by the practice of re-baptism.237237The Donatists, of course, did not regard it as re-baptism, l.c. “non repetimus quod jam erat, sed damus quod non erat.” Separation was imperative, no matter how great or small the extent of the Church. This thesis was supplemented, during the period of the State persecutions, by a second, that the persecuted Church was the true one, and that the State had nothing to do with the Church.

Augustine’s counter-argument, based on Cyprian, Ambrosiaster, and Optatus, but partly disavowing, though with due respect, the first-named, went far beyond a bare refutation of 143the separatists. He created the beginnings of a doctrine of the Church, and means of grace, of the Church as institute of salvation, the organism of the good, i.e., of divine powers in the world. Nor did the Donatist controversy furnish him with his only motive for developing this doctrine. The dispute with the Manichæans had already roused his interest in the authority of the Church, and led him to look more closely into it than his predecessors (see above, p. 79 ff.), who, indeed, were quite at one with him in their practical attitude to the Church. The Pelagian controversy, the state of the world, and the defence of Christianity against heathen attacks, had an extremely important influence on conceptions of the Church. Thus Augustine created the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church on earth, and we attempt in what follows to give, as far as possible, a complete and connected account of it. Finally, the earthly Church was and remained absolutely nothing but a means for the eternal salvation of the individual, and therefore the doctrines of the Church was also meant to be nothing but a subsidiary doctrine. But if all dogmatic ran the risk, with its means and subsidiary conceptions, of obscuring the important point, the danger was imminent here. Does not the doctrine of salvation appear in Catholicism to be almost nullified by the “subsidiary doctrine,” the doctrine of the Church?238238Doctrine is, strictly speaking, inaccurate; for Catholicism does not know of any “doctrines” here, but describes an actual state of matters brought about by God.

Grace and Authority—these two powers had, according to Augustine’s self-criticism, effected his conversion. The authority was the Church. Every one knew what the Church was: the empirical, visible Church, which had triumphed ever since the days of Constantine. A “logical definition” of the Church was therefore unnecessary. The important point was to show that men needed an authority, and why it was the authority. The weak intellect needed revelation, which brings truth to the individual, before he himself is capable of finding it; this revelation is bound up in the Church. The fact that the 144Church was the authority for doctrine constituted for long Augustine’s only interest in it. He produced in support of this principle proofs of subjective necessity and of an objective nature; yet he never reached in his exposition the stringency and certainty which as a Catholic he simply felt; for who can demonstrate that an external authority must be authoritative? The most important point was that the Church proclaimed itself to be the authority in doctrine. One was certainly a member of the Church only in so far as he submitted to its authority. There was no other way of belonging to it. Conversely, its significance seemed, on superficial reflection, to be entirely limited to doctrinal authority. We occupy our true relation to God and Christ, we possess and expect heavenly blessings only when we follow the doctrinal instructions given by the Church.

Augustine embraced this “superficial reflection” until his ecclesiastical office and the Donatist controversy led him to more comprehensive considerations. He had arrived at his doctrine of predestinating grace without any external instigation by independent meditation on the nature of conversion and piety. The development of his doctrine regarding the Church, so far as it carried out popular Catholic ideas, was entirely dependent on the external circumstances in which he found himself placed. But he did not himself feel that he was stating a doctrine; he was only describing an actual position accepted all along by every Catholic, one which each had to interpret to himself, but without subtraction or addition. In addition to the importance of the Church as a doctrinal authority, he also felt its significance as a sacred institution which imparted grace. On its latter feature he especially reflected; but the Church appeared to him much more vividly after he had gained his doctrine of grace: it was the one communion of saints, the dwelling-place of the Spirit who created faith, love, and hope. We condense his most important statements.

1. The Catholic Church, held together by the Holy Spirit, who is also the bond of union in the Trinity, possesses its most important mark in its unity, and that a unity in faith, love, and hope, as well as in Catholicity.


2. This unity in the midst of the divisions existing among men is the greatest of miracles, the proof that the Church is not the work of men, but of the Holy Spirit.

3. This follows still more clearly when we consider that unity presupposes love. Love is, however, the proper sphere of the Spirit’s activity; or more correctly, all love finds its source in the Holy Spirit;239239Grace is love and love is grace: “caritas est gratia testamenti novi.” for faith and hope can be acquired to a certain extent independently—therefore also outside of the Church—but love issues only from the Holy Spirit. The Church, accordingly, because it is a unity, is the alliance of love, in which alone sinners can be purified; for the Spirit only works in “love the bond of unity” (in unitatis vinculo caritate). If then the unity of the Church rests primarily on faith, yet it rests essentially on the sway of the spirit of love alone, which presupposes faith.240240C. Crescon. I. 34: “Non autem existimo quemquam ita desipere, ut credat ad ecclesiæ pertinere unitatem eum qui non habet caritatem. Sicut ergo deus unus colitur ignoranter etiam extra ecclesiam nec ideo non est ipse, et fides una habetur sine caritate etiam extra ecclesiam, nec ideo non est ipse, ita et unus baptismus, etc.” God and faith also exist extra ecclesiam but not “pie.” The relevant passages are so numerous that it would give a false idea to quote singly. The conception given here constitutes the core of Augustine’s doctrine of the Church: The Holy Ghost, love, unity, and Church occupy an exclusive connection: “caritas christiana nisi in unitate ecclesiæ non potest custodiri, etsi baptismum et fidem teneatis” (c. Pet. litt. II. 172).

4. The unity of the Church, represented in Holy Scripture by many symbols and figures, obtains its strongest guarantee from the fact that Christ has made the Church his bride and his body. This relationship is so close that we can absolutely call the Church “Christ”;241241De unit eccl. 7: “totus Christus caput et corpus est.” De civit. XXI. 25. De pecc. mer. I. 59: “Homines sancti et fideles fiunt cum homine Christo unus Christus, ut omnibus per ejus hanc gratiam societatemque adscendentibus ipse unus Christus adscendat in cælum, qui de cælo descendit.” Sermo 354, I: “Prædicat Christus Christum.” for it constitutes a real unity with Christ. Those who are in the Church are thus “among the members of Christ” (in membris Christi); the means and bond of this union are in turn nothing but love, more precisely the love that resides in unity (caritas unitatis).


5. Heretics, i.e., those who follow a faith chosen by themselves, cannot be in the Church, because they would at once destroy its presupposition, the unity of faith; the Church, however, is not a society like the State, which tolerates all sorts of philosophers in its midst. Expelled heretics serve the good of the Church, just as everything must benefit those who love God, for they exercise them in patience (by means of persecutions), in wisdom (by false contentions), and in love to their enemies, which has to be evinced on the one hand in saving beneficence, and on the other in the terrors of discipline.242242De civit. dei, XVIII. 51, X.

6. But neither do the Schismatics, i.e., those who possessed the true faith, belong to the Church; for in abandoning its unity—being urged thereto by pride like the heretics—they show that they do not possess love, and accordingly are beyond the pale of the operations of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly the Catholic Church is the only Church.

7. From this it follows that salvation (salus) is not to be found outside the Church, for since love is confined to the visible Church, even heroic acts of faith, and faith itself, are destitute of the saving stamp, which exists through love alone.243243Ep. 173, 6: “Foris ab ecclesia constitutus et separatus a compagine unitatis et vinculo caritatis æterno supplicio puniveris, etiam si pro Christi nomine vivus incenderis.” Means of sanctification, a sort of faith, and miraculous powers may accordingly exist outside of the Church (see afterwards), but they cannot produce the effect and afford the benefit they are meant to have.

8. The second mark of the Church is holiness. This consists in the fact that it is holy through its union with Christ and the activity of the Spirit, possesses the means—in the Word and sacraments—of sanctifying its individual members, i.e., of perfecting them in love, and has also actually attained this end. That it does not succeed in doing so in the case of all who are in its midst244244The Biblical texts are here used that had been already quoted against Calixtus and the Anti-Novatians (Noah’s Ark, The Wheat and Tares, etc.).—for it will only be without spot or wrinkle in the world beyond—nay, that it cannot entirely destroy sin except 147in a very few, detracts nothing from its holiness. Even a preponderance of the wicked and hypocritical over the good and spiritual245245Augustine seems to have thought that the bad were in the majority even in the Church. He at anyrate held that the majority of men would be lost (Enchir. 97). does not lessen it, for there would be no Church at all if the Donatist thesis were correct, that unholy members put an end to the Church’s existence. The Donatists required to limit their own contention in a quite capricious fashion, in order to avoid destroying the Church.246246De bapt. II. 8: If the Donatists were right, there would have been no Church even in Cyprian’s time; their own origin would therefore have been unholy. Augustine often reproaches them with the number of gross sinners in their midst. Their grossest sin, it is true, was—schism (c. litt. Pet. II. 221).

9. Although the tares are not to be rooted out, since men are not omniscient, and this world is not the scene of the consummation, yet the Church exercises its discipline, and in certain circumstances even excommunicates; but it does not do so properly in order to preserve its holiness, but to educate its members or guard them against infection. But the Church can also tolerate. “They do not know the wicked in the Catholic unity, or they tolerate those they know for the sake of unity.”247247C. Petil. I. 25: “Malos in unitate catholica vel non noverunt, vel pro unitate tolerant quos noverunt.” It can even suffer manifest and gross sinners, if in a particular case the infliction of punishment might result in greater harm.248248Here and there in Augustine the thought occurs that the new covenant was throughout milder than the old. It is itself secured from contamination by the profane by never approving evil, and always retaining its control over the means of sanctification.249249C. litt. Pet. III. 4: “Licet a malis interim vita, moribus, corde ac voluntate separari atque discedere, quæ separatio semper oportet custodiatur. Corporalis autem separatio ad sæculi finem fidenter, patienter, fortiter exspectatur.”

10. But it is indeed an attribute of its holiness also to beget actually holy members. It can furnish evidence of this, since a few have attained perfection in it, since miracles and signs have constantly been wrought, and a general elevation and sanctification of morals been achieved by it, and since, finally, its whole membership will in the end be holy.

11. Its holiness is, however, shown more clearly in the fact 148that it is only within the Church that personal holiness can be attained (see above sub. 7).250250Sermo 4, 11: “Omnes quotquot fuerunt sancti, ad ipsam ecclesiam pertinent.”

12. The unholy in the Church unquestionably belong to it; for being in its unity they are subject to the operation of the means of sanctification, and can still become good and spiritual. Yet they do not belong to the inner court of the Church, but form a wider circle in it. [They are “vessels to dishonour in the house of God” (vasa in contumeliam in domo dei); they are not themselves, like the “vessels to honour” (vasa in honorem), the house of God, but are “in it”; they are “in the communion of the sacraments,” not in the proper society of the house, but “adjoined to the communion of the saints” (congregationi sanctorum admixti); they are in a sense not in the Church, because they are not the Church self; therefore the Church can also be described as a “mixed body” (corpus permixtum).]251251“Corpus permixtum” against the second rule of Tichonius, who had spoken of a bipartite body of the Lord, a term rejected by Augustine. Not a few of Augustine’s arguments here suggest the idea that an invisible Church present “in occulto” in the visible was the true Church (De bapt. V. 38). Nay, even the heretics and schismatics, in so far as they have appropriated the Church’s means of sanctification (see under), belong to the Catholic Church, since the latter makes them sons without requiring to impart a second baptism.252252De bapt. I. 13: The question of the Donatists was whether in the view of Catholics baptism begot “sons” in the Donatist Church. if the Catholics said it did, then it should follow that the Donatists had a Church, and since there was only one, the Church; but if the question was answered in the negative, then they drew the inference: “Cur ergo apud vos non renascuntur per baptismum, qui transeunt a nobis ad vos, cum apud nos fuerint baptizati, si nondum nati sunt?” To this Augustine replies: “Quasi vero ex hoc generet unde separata est, et non ex hoc unde conjuncta est. Separata est enim a vinculo caritatis et pacio, sed juncta est in uno baptismate. Itaque est una ecclesia, quæ sola Catholica nominatur; et quidquid suum habet in communionibus diversorum a sua unitate separatis, per hoc quod suum in eis habet, ipsa utique general, non illæ.” The character of the Church’s holiness is not modified by these wider circles in the sphere to which it extends; for, as regards its foundation, means, and aim, it always remains the same, and a time will come when the holiness of all its members—for Augustine does not neglect this mark—will be an actual fact.


13. The third mark of the Church is Catholicity. It is that which, combined with unity, furnishes the most impressive external proof, and the surest criterion of its truth. That is, Catholicity—extension over the globe—was prophesied, and had been realised, although it must be described as a miracle, that an association which required such faith and obedience, and handed down such mysteries, should have obtained this extension. The obvious miracle is precisely the evidence of the truth. Donatists cannot be the Church, because they are virtually confined to Africa. The Church can only exist where it proves its Catholicity by union with Rome and the ancient Oriental Churches, with the communities of the whole globe. The objection that men’s sin hinders the extension is without weight; for that would have had to be prophesied. But it is the opposite that was prophesied and fulfilled.253253A Donatist, “historicus doctus,” indeed urged the telling objection (Ep. 93, 23) “Quantum ad totius mundi pertinet partes, modica pars est in compensatione totius mundi, in qua fides Christiana nominatur.” Augustine, naturally, was unable really to weaken the force of this objection. The reminder, also, that many heresies were extended over the world is of no consequence; for, firstly, almost all heresies are national, secondly, even the most wide-spread heresy finds another existing at its side, and thereby reveals its falsehood. [This is the old sophism: on the one hand, disintegration is regarded as the essential characteristic of heresies; on the other, they are represented as forming a unity in order that the existence of others side by side with it may be urged against each in turn.]

14. The fourth mark of the Church is its apostolicity. It was displayed in the Catholic Church, (1) in the possession of apostolic writings,254254We have already remarked that Augustine held these to have—at least in many respects—an independent authority; see Doctrina Christ. and Ep 54, 55. In not a few expositions it seems as if the appeal to the Church was solely to the Church that possessed Scripture. and doctrine, (2) in its ability to trace its existence up to the Apostolic communities and the Apostles, and to point to its unity (communicatio) with the churches founded by the latter.255255Besides the whole of the anti-Donatist writings, see, e.g., Ep. 43, 21; 44, 3; 49, 2, 3; 51, 5; 53, 3. This proof was especially to be adduced in the 150succession of the Bishops, though their importance is for the rest not so strongly emphasised by Augustine as by Cyprian; indeed passages occur in his works in which the universal priesthood, as maintained by Tertullian, is proclaimed.256256De civit. dei, XX. 10: Distinction between sacerdotes and proprie sacerdotes.

15. While among the apostolic communities those of the East are also very important, yet that of Rome, and in consequence its Bishop, hold the first place. Peter is the representative of the Apostles, of Christians in general (Ep. 53, 2: “totius ecclesiæ figuram gerens”), of weak Christians, and of Bishops, or the Episcopal ministry. Augustine maintained the theory of Cyprian and Optatus regarding Peter’s chair: it was occupied by the Roman Bishop and it was necessary to be in accord with it, because it was the apostolic seat par excellence, i.e., the bearer of the doctrinal authority and unity of the Church. His statements as to the infallibility of the Roman chair are as uncertain and contradictory as those dealing with the Councils and Episcopate. He had no doubt that a Council ranked above the Roman Bishop (Ep. 43, 19).257257Augustine’s attitude to the Roman Bishop, i.e. to the infallible Roman tradition, is shown clearly in his criticism of Zosimus (Reuter p. 312 ff., 325 ff.) and in the extremely valuable 36 Epistle, which discusses the work of an anonymous Roman writer, who had glorified the Roman Church along with Peter (c. 21 “Petrus, apostolorum caput, cœli janitor, ecclesiæ fundamentum”), and had declared statutory institutions of the Roman Church to be universally binding.

16. Augustine was convinced of the infallibility of the Catholic Church; for it is a necessary consequence of its authority as based on Apostolicity. But he never had any occasion to think out this predicate, and to establish it in the representation and decisions of the Church. Therefore he made many admissions, partly without thought, partly when hard pressed, which, logically understood, destroyed the Church’s infallibility.

17. So also he holds the indispensableness of the Church, for it follows from the exclusive relation to Christ and the Holy Spirit revealed in its unity and holiness. This indispensableness is expressed in the term “Mother Church”258258C. litt. Pet. III. 10: “deum patrem et ejus ecclesiam matrem habere.” (ecclesia mater or corpus Christi); on modifications, see later.

18. Finally, he was also convinced of the permanence of the 151Church, and therewith also of its primeval character; for this follows from the exclusive relation to God; yet ideas entered into the conception of permanence and primevalness, which did not flow from any consideration of the empirical Church (“the heavenly Church” on the one hand, the “city of God” on the other; on this see under).

19. The empirical Catholic Church is also the “Kingdom of God” (regnum dei, civitas dei). As a matter of fact these terms are primarily employed in a view which is indifferent to the empirical Church (see under); but since to Augustine there was ultimately only one Church, everything that was true of it was also applicable to the empirical Church. At all times he referred to the Catholic Church the old term which had long been applied to the Church, “the kingdom (city) of God,” of course having in mind not that the Church was the mixed, but the true body (corpus permixtum, verum).259259Perhaps the most cogent evidence of this is Ep. 36, 17. The anonymous Roman Christian had appealed to the verse “Non est regnum dei esca et potus,” and simply identified “regnum dei” with “ecclesia,” to prove that the Roman command to fast on the Sabbath was apostolic. Augustine does not reject this identification, but only the inference drawn from it by the anonymous writer. Here, however, ecclesia is manifestly the Catholic Church. In De trinit. I. 16, 20, 21, Augustine has no doubt that the regnum, which Christ will hand over to the Father, “omnes justi sunt, in quibus nunc regnat mediator,” or the “credentes et viventes ex fide; fideles quippe ejus quos redemit sanguine suo dicti sunt regnum ejus.” That is the Church; but at the same time it is self-evident that its “wrinkles” are ignored, yet not so its organisation; see on Ps. CXXVI. 3: “Quæ autem domus dei et ipsa civitas? Domus enim dei populus dei, quia domus dei templum dei . . . omnes fideles, quæ est domus dei, cum angelis faciunt unam civitatem. Habet custodes. Christus custodiebat, custos erat. Et episcopi hoc faciunt. Nam ideo altior locus positus est episcopis, ut ipsi superintendant et tamquam custodiant populum.”

20. But Augustine gave a much stronger hold than his predecessors to the conception that the Church is the kingdom of God, and by the manner in which in his “Divine Comedy,” the “De civitate dei,” he contrasted the Church with the State, far more than his own expressed view, he roused the conviction that the empirical Catholic Church sans phrase was the kingdom of God, and the independent State that of the devil. That is, although primarily the earthly State (civitas terrena) consisted for Augustine in the society of the profane and reprobate, inclusive of demons, while the city of God (civitas dei) was the 152heavenly communion of all saints of all times, comprising the angels, yet he held that the former found their earthly historical form of expression and manifestation in the secular State, the latter in the empirical Church; for there were by no means two cities, kingdoms, temples, or houses of God. Accordingly the kingdom of God is the Church. And, carried away by the Church’s authority and triumph in the world, as also profoundly moved by the fall of the Roman world-empire, whose internal and external power manifestly no longer existed save in the Church, Augustine saw in the present epoch, i.e., in the Church’s History, the millennial kingdom that had been announced by John (De civit. XX.). By this means he revised, without completely abolishing, the ancient Chiliasm of the Latin Church.260260How far he went in this is shown by observing that in B. XX. he has connected with the present, as already fulfilled, not a few passages which plainly refer to Christ’s Second Advent; see c. 5: “Multa præterea quæ de ultimo judicio ita dici videntur, ut diligenter considerata reperiantur ambigua vel magis ad aliud pertinentia, sive scilicet ad eum salva oris adventum, quo per totum hoc tempus in ecclesia sua venit, hoc est in membris suis, particulatim atque paulatim, quoniam tota corpus est ejus, sive ad excidium terrenæ Hierusalem, quia et de illo cum loquitur, plerumque sic loquitur tamquam de fine sæculi atque illo die judicii novissimo et magno loquatur.” Yet he has left standing much of the dramatic eschatology. But if it were once determined that the millennial kingdom was now, since Christ’s appearance, in existence, the Church was elevated to the throne of supremacy over the world; for while this kingdom consists in Christ’s reign, he only reigns in the present through the Church. Augustine neither followed out nor clearly perceived the hierarchical tendency of his position; yet he reasoned out the present reign of Christ which he had to demonstrate (XX. 9-13) by reflecting that only the “saints” (sancti) reign with Christ, and not, say, the “tares”; that thus only those reign in the kingdom who themselves constitute the kingdom; and that they reign because they aim at what is above, fight the fight of sanctification, and practise patience in suffering, etc. But he himself prepared the way directly for the sacerdotal interpretation of his thought, or positively expressed it, in two of his arguments. The one was drawn from him by exegesis,261261See Reuter, Studie III. the other is a result of a manifest view of his own. In the first place, viz., he had to show that Rev. XX. 4 153(“those sitting on thrones judge”) was even now being fulfilled. He found this fulfilment in the heads of the Church, who controlled the keys of binding and loosing, accordingly in the clergy (XX. 9). Secondly, he prepared the way for the supremacy of the Church over the State262262Augustine had already written in Ep. 35 (A.D. 396, c. 3): “Dominus jugo suo in gremio ecclesiæ toto orbe diffuso omnia terrena regna subjecit.” in his explicit arguments both against and in favour of the latter (XIX., and even before this in V.). The earthly State (civitas terrena) and accordingly secular kingdoms are sprung from sin, the virtue of the ambitious, and simply because they strive for earthly possessions—summed up in the pax terrena, carried out in all earthly affairs—they are sinful, and must finally perish, even if they be legitimate and salutary on earth. The secular kingdom is finally, indeed, a vast robbery (IV. 4): “righteousness being abolished, what are kingdoms but great robberies?”)263263“Remota justitia quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia”? which ends in hell in everlasting war; the Roman Republic never possessed peace (XIX. 21). From this point of view the Divine State is the only legitimate association.

But Augustine had yet another version to give of the matter. The establishment of earthly peace (pax terrena)—see its manifold forms in XIX. 13—is necessary upon earth. Even those who treasure heavenly peace as the highest good are bound to care on earth by love for earthly peace. (Already the Jewish State was legitimate in this sense; see the description IV. 34, and the general principle XV. 2: “We therefore find two forms in the earthly State, one demonstrating its present existence, the other serving to signify the heavenly State by its presence”;264264“Invenimus ergo in terrena civitate dual formas, unam suam præsentiam demonstrantem, alteram cælesti civitati signifcandæ sua præsentia servientem.” here the Divine State is also to be understood by the earthly, in so far as the former is copied on earth.) The Roman kingdom has become Christian, and Augustine rejoices in the fact.265265It is not, accordingly, involved under all circumstances in the notion of the earthly State that it is the organism of sin. Passages on the Christian State, Christian ages, and Catholic emperors, are given in Reuter, p. 141. But it is only by the help of justitia that rests on love that the State can secure earthly peace, and lose the 154character of being a robbery (latrocinium). But righteousness and love only exist where the worship of the true God is found, in the Church, God’s State.266266Augustine, indeed, also holds that there is an earthly justitia, which is a great good contrasted with flagitia and facinora; he can even appreciate the value of relative blessings (Reuter, p. 135 ff.), but this righteousness finally is dissipated, because, not having itself issued from “the Good,” it cannot permanently institute anything good. Accordingly the State must be dependent on the kingdom of God; in other words, those who, as rulers, administer the earthly peace of society, are legitimate and “blessed” (felices), when they make “their power subservient to the divine majesty for the extension as widely as possible of the worship of God, if they love that kingdom more, where they do not fear having colleagues.”267267V. 24: If they “suam potestatem ad dei cultum maxime dilatandum majestati ejus famulam faciunt, si plus amant illud regnum, ubi non timent habere consortes.” Rulers, therefore, must not only be Christians, but must serve the Church in order to attain their own object (pax terrena); for outside the Divine State—of love and righteousness—there are no virtues, but only the semblance of virtues, i.e., splendid vices (XIX. 25). However much Augustine may have recognised, here and elsewhere, the relative independence and title of the State,268268What holds true of the State applies equally, of course, to all particular blessings marriage, family, property, etc. the proposition stands, that since the Church is the kingdom of God it is the duty of the State to serve it, because the State becomes more legitimate by being, as it were, embodied in it.269269Augustine, therefore, hold; a different view from Optatus (see above, p. 48); at least, a second consideration is frequent, in which the Church does not exist in the Roman empire, but that empire is attached to the Church. In matters of terrena felicitas the Church, according to Augustine, was bound to obey the State. It is especially the duty of the State, however, to aid the Church by forcible measures against idolatry, heretics, and schismatics; for compulsion is suitable in such cases to prevent the good from being seduced, to instruct the wavering and ignorant, and to punish the wicked. But it by no means follows from this that in Augustine’s view the State was to pursue anything that might be called an independent ecclesiastical or religious policy. It rather in matters of religion constantly supports the cause of the Church, and this at once implies that it is to receive its 155instructions from the Church. And this was actually Augustine’s procedure. His conception of the “Christian State” did not include any imperial papistical title on the part of the civil power; such a title was rather absolutely precluded. Even if the Church begged for clemency to heretics, against whom it had itself invoked the arm of the State, this did not establish the independent right of the latter to inflict punishment: it served the Church in punishing, and it gratified it in practising clemency.270270On the relation of Church and State, see Dorner, pp. 295-312, and the modifications considered necessary by Reuter in Studien, 3 and 6. Augustine did not at first approve the theory of inquisition and compulsion (c. Ep. Man. c. 1-3), but he was convinced of its necessity in the Donatist controversy (“coge intrare”). He now held all means of compulsion legitimate except the death penalty; Optatus approved of the latter also. If it is not difficult to demonstrate that Augustine always recognised an independent right of the State to be obeyed, yet that proves little. It may, indeed, be the case that Augustine valued the State relatively more highly than the ancient Christians, who were still more strongly influenced by eschatological views. But we may not forget that he advanced not only the cælestis societas, but the catholica, in opposition to the State.

II. 21. Augustine was compelled by the Donatist practice of re-baptism and re-ordination to examine more closely, following Optatus, the significance and efficacy of the functions of the Church. It was inevitable that in doing so he should give a more prominent place to the notion of the Church as the communion of the Sacraments, and at the same time have instituted extremely sophistical discussions on the Sacraments—which, however, he did not yet carry out to their conclusion—in order to prove their objectivity, and make them independent of men, yet without completely externalising them, while vindicating them as the Church’s exclusive property.

22. To begin with, it was an immense advance, only possible to so spiritual a man as Augustine, to rank the Word along with the Sacraments. It is to him we owe the phrase “the Word and Sacraments.” If he did not duly appreciate and carry out the import of the “Word,” yet he perceived that as gospel it lay at the root of every saving rite of the Church.271271Ep. 21, 3: “sacramentum et verbum dei populo ministrare.” Very frequently verbum = evangelium = Christ and the first cause of regeneration. C. litt. Pet. I. 8: “Semen quo regeneror verbum dei est.” The objective efficacy of the Word is sharply emphasised, but—outside of the Church it does not succeed in infusing love. C. Pet. III. 67: “minister verbi et sacramenti evangelici, si bonus est, consocius fit evangelii, si autem malus est, non ideo dispensator non est evangelii.” II. 11: “Nascitur credens non ex ministri sterilitate, sed ex veritatis fœcunditate.” Still, Luther was right when he included even Augustine among the new-fashioned theologians who talk much about the Sacraments and little about the Word.


23. Exhaustively as he dealt with the Sacraments, he was far from outlining a doctrine regarding them; he contented himself rather with empirical reflections on ecclesiastical procedure and its defence. He did not evolve a harmonious theory either of the number or notion of the Sacraments.272272“Aliud videtur aliud intelligitur” (Sermo 272) is Augustine’s main thought, which Ratramnus afterwards enforced so energetically. Hahn (L. v. d. Sacram., p. 11 ff.) has detailed Augustine’s various statements on the notion of the Sacrament. We learn, e.g., from Ep. 36 and 54, the strange point of view from which at times he regarded the conception of the Sacrament: see 54, 1: “Dominus noster, sicut ipse in evangelio loquitur, leni jugo suo nos subdidit et sarcinæ levi; unde sacramentis numero paucissimis, observatione facillimis, significatione præstantissimis societatem novi populi colligavit.” Baptism and the Lord’s Supper follow “et si quid aliud in scripturis canonicis commendatur. . . . Illa autem quæ non scripta, sed tradita custodimus, quæ quidem toto terrarum orbe servantur, datur intelligi vel ab ipsis apostolis, vel plenariis conciliis, quorum est in ecclesia saluberrima auctoritas, commendata atque statuta retineri, sicut quod domini passio et resurrectio et ascensio in cælum et adventus de cælo spiritus sancti anniversaria sollemnitate celebrantur, et si quid aliud tale occurrit quod servatur ab universa, quacumque se diffundit, ecclesia.” Every material sign with which a salvation-conferring word was connected was to him a Sacrament. “The word is added to the element, and a Sacrament is constituted, itself being, as it were, a visible word.”273273On John T. 80, 3: “Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum, etiam ipsum tamquam visibile verbum. The emphasis rests so strongly on the Word and faith (on John XXV. 12: “believe and thou hast eaten”) that the sign is simply described in many places, and indeed, as a rule, as a figure. But this view is modified by the fact that in almost as many passages the Word, with its saving power, is also conceived as a sign of an accompanying invisible entity,274274De catech. rud. 50: “Signacula quidem rerum divinarum esse visibilia, sed res ipsas invisibiles in eis honorari.” and all are admonished to take whatever is here presented to the senses as a guarantee of the reality. But everything beyond this is involved in obscurity, since we do not know to what signs Augustine would have us apply his ideas about the Sacrament; 157in De doctr. Christ. he speaks as if Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were almost alone in question, but in other passages his language is different.275275Hahn (p. 12) gives the following definition as Augustinian: “The Sacrament is a corporeal sign, instituted by God, of a holy object, which, from its nature, it is adapted by a certain resemblance to represent, and by means of it God, under certain conditions, imparts his grace to those who make use of it.”

24. He himself had no occasion to pursue his reflections further in this direction. On the other hand, the Donatist thesis that the efficacy of the Sacrament depended on the celebrant, and the Donatist practice of re-baptism, forced him to set up two self-contradictory positions. First, the Sacraments are only efficacious in the Church, but they are also efficacious in circles outside the Church. If he abandoned the former principle, he denied the indispensableness of the Church; if he sacrificed the second, he would have required to approve of re-baptism. Secondly, the Sacraments are independent of any human disposition, and they are inseparably attached to the Catholic Church and faith. To give up the one thesis meant that the Donatist was right; to doubt the other was to make the Sacrament a magical performance indifferent to Christianity and faith. In order to remove these contradictions, it was necessary to look for distinctions. These he found, not, say, by discriminating between the offer and bestowal of grace, but by assuming a twofold efficacy of the Sacraments. These were (1) an indelible marking of every recipient, which took place wherever the Sacrament was administered, no matter by whom,276276Ep. 173, 3: “Vos oves Christi estis, characterem dominicum portatis in Sacramento.” De bapt. c. Donat. IV. 16: “Manifestum est, fieri posse, ut in eis qui sunt ex parte diaboli sanctum sit sacramentum Christi, non ad salutem, sed ad judicium eorum . . . signa nostri imperatoris in eis cognoscimus . . . desertores sunt.” VI. 1: “Oves dominicum characterem a fallacibus deprædatoribus foris adeptæ.” and (2) an administration of grace, in which the believer participated only in the union of the Catholic Church. According to this he could teach that: the Sacraments belong exclusively to the Catholic Church, and only in it bestow grace on faith; but they can be purloined from that Church, since, “being holy in themselves,” they primarily produce an effect which depends solely on the Word and sign (the impression of an indelible “stamp”), 158and not on a human factor.277277De bapt. IV. 16: “Per se ipsum considerandus est baptismus verbis evangelicis, non adjuncta neque permixta ulla perversitate atque malitia sive accipientium sive tradentium . . . non cogitandum, quis det sed quid det.” C. litt. Pet. I . 8: “(Against various Donatist theses, e.g., ‘conscientia dantis adtenditur, qui abluat accipientis’) Sæpe mihi ignota est humana conscientia, sed certus sum de Christi misericordia . . . non est perfidus Christus, a quo fidem percipio, non reatum . . . origo mea Christus est, radix mea Christus est . . . semen quo regeneror, verbum dei est . . . etiam si ille, per quem audio, quæ mihi dicit ipse non facit . . . me innocentem non facit nisi qui mortuus est propter delicta nostra et resurrexit propter justificationem nostram. Non enim in ministrum, per quem baptizor, credo, sed in eum, qui justificat impium.” Heretics have stolen it, and administer it validly in their associations. Therefore the Church does not again baptise repentant heretics (schismatics), being certain that at the moment of faithful submission to the Catholic communion of love, the Sacrament is “efficacious for salvation” (ad salutem valet) to him who had been baptised outside its pale.278278We have to emphasise the distinction between “habere” and “utiliter habere” often drawn in the writings against the Donatists; c. Cresc. I. 34: “Vobis (Donatistis) pacem nos annuntiamus, non ut, cum ad nos veneritis, alterum baptismum accipiatis, sed ut eum qui jam apud vos erat utiliter habeatis,” or “una catholica ecclesia non in qua sola unus baptismus habetur, sed in qua sola unus baptismus salubriter habetur.” De bapt. c. Donat. IV. 24: “Qui in invidia intus et malevolentia sine caritate vivunt, verum baptisma possunt et accipere et tradere. (Sed) salus, inquit Cyprianus, extra ecclesiam non est. Quis negat? Et ideo quæcumque ipsius ecclesiæ habentur, extra ecclesiam non valent ad salutem. Sed aliud est non habere, aliud non utiliter habere.”

25. This theory could not but leave the nature of the “stamp” impressed and its relation to the communication of grace obscure.279279In the Catholic Church the seal and salvation coincide where faith is present. Augustine’s primary concern was that the believer should receive in the Sacrament a firm conviction of the mercy of Christ. The legal claim of schismatics and heretics to belong to the Catholic Church appears to be the most important, and, indeed, the sole effect of the “objectivity” of the Sacraments outside the Church.280280Augustine did not really lay any stress on legal relation; but he did, as a matter of fact, a great deal to set matters in this light. But the theory was only worked out by Augustine in baptism and ordination, though even here he did not succeed in settling all the problems that arose, or in actually demonstrating the “objectivity.” But in his treatment of the Lord’s Supper, e.g., it cannot be demonstrated at all. For 159since, according to him, the reality of the Sacrament (res sacramenti) was invisible incorporation in the body of Christ (Augustine deals with the elements symbolically), and the eucharistic sacrifice was the sacrifice of love or peace, the co-operation of the Catholic Church is always taken to be essential to the Lord’s Supper. Accordingly there is here no “stamp” independent of the Church.281281Sermo 57, 7: “Eucharistia panis noster quotidianus est; sed sic accipiamus illum, ut non solum ventre sed et mente reficiamur. Virtus enim ipsa, quæ ibi intelligitur, unitas est, ut redacti in corpus ejus, effecti membra ejus, simus quod accipimus.” 272: “panis est corpus Christi . . . corpus Christi si vis intelligere, apostolum audi: vos estis corpus Christi.” Augustine maintains the traditional conception that, in speaking of the “body of Christ,” we may think of all the ideas connected with the word (the body is πνευματικόν, is itself spirit, is the Church), but he prefers the latter, and, like the ancient Church, suffers the reference to forgiveness of sins to fall into the background. Unitas and vita (De pecc. mer. I. 34) occupy the foreground. Therefore in this case also, nay, more than in that of any other signum, the sign is wholly irrelevant. This “sacramentum unitatis” assures believers and gives them what they are, on condition of their possessing faith. (On John XXVI. 1: “credere in eum, hoc est manducare panem vivum”; De civit. XX I. 25.) No one has more strongly resisted the realistic interpretation of the Lord’s Supper, and pointed out that what “visibiliter celebratur, oportet invisibiliter intelligi” (On Ps. XCVIII. 9 fin.). “The flesh profits nothing,” and Christ is not on earth “secundum corporis præsentiam.” Now it is possible that, like the Greeks, Augustine might here or there have entertained the thought that the sacramental body of the Lord must also be identified with the real. But I have found no passage which clearly supports this (see also Dorner, p. 267 ff.). All we can say is that not a few passages at a first glance can be, and soon were, understood in this way. Augustine, the spiritual thinker, has in general greatly weakened the dogmatic significance of the Sacrament. He indeed describes it, like Baptism, as necessary to salvation; but since he hardly ever cites the argument that it is connected with the resurrection and eternal life, the necessity is reduced to the unity and love which find one expression along with others in the Lord’s Supper. The holy food is rather, in general, a declaration and assurance, or the avowal of an existing state, than a gift. In this Augustine agrees undoubtedly with the so-called pre-Reformers and Zwingli. This leads us to the import of the rite as a sacrifice (“sacrificium corporis Christi”). Here there are four possible views. The Church presents itself as a sacrifice in Christ’s body; Christ’s sacrificial death is symbolically repeated by the priest in memory of him; Christ’s body is really offered anew by the priest; and Christ, as priest, continually and everywhere presents himself as a sacrifice to the Father. Of these views, 1, 2, and 4 can certainly be instanced in Augustine, but not the third. He strictly maintains the prerogative of the priest; but there is as little mention of a “conficere corpus Christi” as of Transubstantiation; for the passage (Sermo 234, 2) to which Catholics delight to appeal: “non omnis panis sed accipiens benedictionem fit corpus Christi,” only means that, as in all Sacraments, the res is now added to the panis, and makes it the signum rei invisibilis; by consecration the bread becomes something different from what it was before. The res invisibilis is not, however, the real body, but incorporation into Christ’s body, which is the Church. According to Augustine, the unworthy also obtain the valid Sacrament, but what they do receive is indeed wholly obscure. I could not say with Dorner (p. 274): “Augustine does not know of any participation in the real (?) body and blood on the part of unbelievers.” But in the case of Baptism, he could assume that 160it could establish, even outside of the Church, an inalienable relation to the triune God, whose place could not be supplied by anything else, which in certain circumstances created a kind of faith, but which only bestowed salvation within the pale of the Church.282282It is now the proper administration of baptism (rite) that is emphasised. The Sacrament belongs to God; therefore it cannot be rendered invalid by sin or heresy. The indispensableness of baptism rests of sheer necessity on the “stamp,” and that is the most fatal turn it could take, because in that case faith is by no means certainly implied. The “Punici” are praised in De pecc. mer. I. 34, because they simply call baptism “salus”; but yet the indispensableness of the rite is not held to consist in its power of conferring salvation, but in the stamp. This indispensableness is only infringed by the baptism of blood, or by the wish to receive baptism where circumstances render that impossible. In the corresponding line of thought baptism rightly administered among heretics appears, because possessed unlawfully, to be actually inefficacious, nay, it brings a judgment. The Euphrates, which flows in Paradise and in profane countries, only brings forth fruit in the former. Therefore the controversy between Dorner and Schmidt, whether Augustine did or did not hold the Sacrament to be dependent on the Catholic Church, is idle. It is independent of it, in so far as it is necessary; dependent, if it is to bestow salvation. Yet Dorner (l.c. p. 252 f., and elsewhere) seems to me to be advancing not an Augustinian conception, but at most a deduction from one, when he maintains that Augustine does not contradict the idea that the Church is rendered holy by its membership, by emphasising the Sacraments, but by laying stress on the sanctity of the whole, namely the Church. He repeatedly makes the suggestion, however, in order to remove the difficulties in Augustine’s notion of the Sacraments, that he must have distinguished between the offer and bestowal of grace; even the former securing their objective validity. But this is extremely questionable, and would fall short of Augustine; for his correct religious view is that grace operates and does not merely make an offer. Augustine, besides, has wavered to such an extent in marking off the place of the stamp, and of saving efficacy in baptism, that he has even supposed a momentary forgiveness of sin in the case of heretics (De bapt. I. 19; III. 18: “rursus debita redeunt per hæresis aut schismatis obstinationem et ideo necessarium habent hujusmodi homines venire ad Catholicam pacem;” for, on John XXVII. 6: “pax ecclesiæ dimittit peccata et ab ecclesiæ pace alienatio tenet peccata; petra tenet, petra dimittit; columba tenet, columba dimittit; unitas tenet, unitas dimittit”). The most questionable feature of Augustine’s doctrine of baptism (within the Church) is that he not only did not get rid of the magical idea, but strengthened it by his interest in infant baptism. While he intended that baptism and faith should be connected, infant baptism made a cleavage between them. He deduced the indispensableness of infant baptism from original sin, but by no means also from the tendency to make the salvation of all men dependent on the Church (see Dorner, p. 257). In order to conserve faith in baptism, Augustine assumed a kind of vicarious faith on the part of god-parents, but, as it would appear, he laid no stress on it, since his true opinion was that baptism took the place of faith for children. However, the whole doctrine of baptism is ultimately for Augustine merely preliminary. Baptism is indispensable, but it is, after all, nothing more. The main thing is the active presence of the Holy Spirit in the soul; so that, from this point of view, baptism is of no real importance for salvation. But Augustine was far from drawing this inference. 161And in the case of Ordination he could teach that, properly bestowed, it conveyed the inalienable power to administer the Sacraments, although the recipient, if he stood outside the Church, only officiated to his own perdition.283283Little reflection had hitherto been given in the Church to ordination. The Donatists furnished a motive for thinking about it, and it was once more Augustine who bestowed on the Church a series of sacerdotal ideas, without himself being interested in their sacerdotal tendency. The practice had indeed for long been sacerdotal; but it was only by its fateful combination with baptism, and the principle that ordination did not require (as against Cyprian) a moral disposition to render it valid, that the new sacrament became perfect. It now conferred an inalienable stamp, and was, therefore, if it had been properly administered, even though outside the Church, not repeated, and as it communicated an objective holiness, it gave the power also to propagate holiness. From Book I. c. 1 of De bapt. c. Donat. onwards, the sacramentum baptismi and the sacramentum baptismi dandi are treated in common (§ 2: “sicut baptizatus, si ab unitate recesserit, sacramentum baptismi non amittit, sic etiam ordinatus, si ab unitate recesserit, sacramentum dandi baptismi non amittit.” C. ep. Parm. II. 28: “utrumque in Catholica non licet iterari.” The clearest passage is De bono conjug. 32: “Quemadmodum si fiat ordinatio cleri ad plebem congregandam, etiamsi plebis congregatio non subsequatur, manet tamen in illis ordinatis sacramentum ordinationis, et si aliqua culpa quisquam ab officio removeatur, sacramento domini semel imposito non carebit, quamvis ad judicium permanente”). The priests are alone appointed to administer the sacraments (in c. ep. Parm. II. 29 we have the remarkably tortuous explanation of lay-baptism; Augustine holds that it is a veniale delictum, even when the necessity is urgent; he, at least, believes it possible that it is so. But baptism, even when unnecessarily usurped by laymen, is valid, although illicite datum; for the “stamp” is there. Yet Augustine warns urgently against encroaching on the office of the priest.) None but the priest can celebrate the Lord’s Supper. That was ancient tradition. The judicial functions of priests fall into the background in Augustine (as compared with Cyprian). We do not find in him, in a technical form, a sacrament of penance. Yet it actually existed, and he was the first to give it a substructure by his conception that the gratia Christi was not exhausted in the retrospective effect of baptismal grace. In that period, baptism and penance were named together as if they were the two chief Sacraments, without the latter being expressly called a Sacrament; see Pelagius’ confession of faith (Hahn, § 133): “Hominem, si post baptismum lapsus fuerit, per pænitentiam credimus posse salvari;” which is almost identical with that of Julian of Eclanum (l.c. § 535): “Eum, qui post baptismum peccaverit, per pænitentiam credimus posse salvari;” and Augustine’s (Enchir. 46): “Peccata, quæ male agendo postea committuntur, possunt et pænitendo sanari, sicut etiam post baptismum fieri videmus;” (c. 65): “Neque de ipsis criminibus quamlibet magnis remittendis in sancta ecclesia dei misericordia desperanda est agentibus pænitentiam secundum modum sui cujusque peccati.” He is not speaking of baptism, but of the Church’s treatment of its members after baptism, when he says (l.c. c. 83): “Qui vero in ecclesia remitti peccata non credens contemnit tantam divini muneris largitatem et in hac obstinatione mentis diem claudit extremum, reus est illo irremissibili peccato in spiritum sanctum.” In both cases his 162view was determined by the following considerations. First, he sought to defend the Church, and to put the Donatists in the wrong. Secondly, he desired to indicate the mark of the Church’s holiness, which could not, with certainty, be established in any other way, in the objective holiness of the Sacraments. And, thirdly, he wished to give expression to the thought that there must exist somewhere, in the action of the Church, an element to which faith can cling, which is not supported by men, but which sustains faith itself, and corresponds to the assurance which the believer rests on grace. Augustine’s doctrine of grace has a very great share in his doctrine of the sacraments, or, more accurately, of the sacrament of baptism. On the other hand, he had by no means any sacerdotal interest in this conception. But it could not fail afterwards to develop in an essentially sacerdotal sense. But, at the same time, men were impelled in quite a different direction by the distinction between the outward rite and accompanying effect, by the value given to the “Word” and the desire to maintain the objectivity of the Sacrament. The above distinction could not but lead in later times to a spiritualising which refined away the Sacraments, or, on the other hand, centred them in the “Word,” where stress was laid on a given and certain authority, and therewith on the supremacy of the Word. Both these cases occurred. Not only does the Mediæval Catholic doctrine of the Sacraments go back to Augustine, but so do the spiritualists of the Middle Ages, and, in turn, Luther and Calvin are indebted to him for suggestions.284284A passage in Augustine’s letter to Januarius (Ep. 55, c. 2) on the nature of the sacrament became very important for after ages: “Primum oportet noveris diem natalem domini non in sacramento celebrari, sed tantum in memoriam revocari quod natus sit, ac per hoc nihil opus erat, nisi revolutum anni diem, quo ipsa res acta est, festa devotione signari. Sacramentum est autem in aliqua celebratione, cum rei gestæ commemoratio ita fit, ut aliquid etiam signfcari intelligatur, quod sancte accipiendum est. Eo itaque modo egimus pascha ut non solum in memoriam quod gestum est, revocemus, id est, quod mortuus est Christus et resurrexit, sed etiam cetera, quæ circa ea adtestantur ad sacramenti significationem non omittamus.”


Augustine’s conception, above described, of the visible Church and means of grace is full of self-contradictions. His identification of the Church with the visible Catholic Church was not a success. He meant that there should be only one Church, and that none but believers should belong to it; but the wicked and hypocrites were also in it, without being it; nay, even heretics were in a sense in it, since they participated in the Sacraments. But in that case is the Church still visible? It is—in the Sacraments. But the Church which is visible in the Sacraments is certainly not the bride and body of Christ, the indispensable institution of salvation; that is alone the Church which is possessed by the spirit of love; and yet it is masked by the presence of the wicked and hypocritical. And the Sacrament cannot be relied upon; for while it is certainly not efficacious for salvation outside the Catholic Church, it is by no means certainly efficacious within it. The one Church is the true body of Christ, a mixed body, and the outward society of the Sacraments; in each instance we have a different circle; but it is as essential and important that it should be the one as the other. What is the meaning, then, “of being in the Church” (in ecclesia esse)? Every speculation on the notions of things is fated to stumble on contradictions; everything can be something else, anything is everything, and everything is nothing. The speculation surprises us with a hundred points of view—that is its strength—to end in none of them being really authoritative.

But all Augustine’s deliverances on this subject are seen to be merely conditional in their value, not only from their self-contradictions, but from the fact that the theologian is not, or is only to a very limited extent, expressing his religious conviction. He felt and wrote as he did because he was the defender of the practice of the Church, whose authority he needed for his faith. But this faith took quite other directions. Even those inconsistencies, 164which indeed were partly traditional, show that his conception of the Church was penetrated by an element which resisted the idea that it was visible. This element, however, was itself by no means congruous throughout, but again cornprehended various though intertwined features.

1. The Church is heavenly; as bride and body of Christ it is quite essentially a heavenly society (cælestis societas). This ancient traditional idea stood in the foreground of Augustine’s practical faith. What the Church is, it cannot at all be on earth; it possesses its truth, its seat, in heaven. There alone is to be found the true sphere of its members; a small fragment wander as pilgrims here upon earth for a time. It may indeed be said that upon earth we have only the copy of the heavenly Church for in so far as the earthly fragment is a “civitas terrena” (an earthly state) it is not yet what it will be. It is united with the heavenly Church by hope. It is folly to regard the present Church as the Kingdom of Heaven. “What is left them but to assert that the kingdom of heaven itself belongs to the temporal life in which we now exist? For why should not blind presumption advance to such a pitch of madness? And what is wilder than that assertion? For although the Church even as it now exists is sometimes called the kingdom of heaven, it is surely so named because of its future and eternal existence?”285285De virgin. 24: “Quid aliud istis restat nisi ut ipsum regnum cælorum ad hanc temporalem vitam, in qua nunc sumus, asserant pertinere? Cur enim non et in hanc insaniam progrediatur cæca præsumptio? Et quid hac assertione furiosius? Nam etsi regnum cælorum aliquando ecclesia etiam quæ hoc tempore est appellatur ad hoc utique sic appellatur, quia futuræ vitæ sempiternæque colligitur.” It is needless to quote more passages, they are so numerous.

2. The Church is primeval, and its members are therefore not all included in the visible institution of the Catholic Church. We now meet with the conception expounded by Augustine in his great work “De civitate dei,” at which he wrought for almost fifteen years. The civitas dei, i.e., the society in which there rules “the love of God to the contempt of self” (amor dei usque ad contemptum sui, XIV. 28), and which therefore aspires to “heavenly peace” (pax cælestis), began in the angelic world. With this the above conception (see sub. 1) is combined: the 165city of God is the heavenly Jerusalem. But it embraces all believers of the past, present, and future; it mingled with the earthly State (civitas terrena) before the Deluge,286286See on this above, p. 151. ran through a history on earth in six periods (the Deluge, Abraham, David, the Exile, Christ, and Christ’s second Advent), and continues intermingled with the secular State to the end. With the transcendental conception of the City of God is thus combined, here and elsewhere,287287E.g., Ep. 102, quæst 2, esp. § 12. the universalist belief applied to the present world:288288See above, p. 152, n. 2. Christianity, old as the world, has everywhere and in all ages had its confessors who “without doubt” have received salvation; for the “Word” was ever the same, and has always been at work under the most varied forms (“prius occultius, postea manifestius”)289289Formerly more hiddenly, afterwards more manifestly. down to the Incarnation. He who believed on this Word, that is Christ, received eternal salvation.290290In this line of thought the historical Christ takes a very secondary place; but it is quite different in others; see Sermo 116, 6: “Per Christum factus est alter mundus.”

3. The Church is the communion of those who believe in the crucified Christ, and are subject to the influences of his death, and who are therefore holy and spiritual (sancti et spiritales). To this view we are conducted by the conclusion from the previous one, the humanist and universalist element being stript away. If we ask: Where is the Church? Augustine answers in innumerable passages, wherever the communion of these holy and spiritual persons is found. They are Christ’s body, the house, temple, or city of God. Grace on the one hand, faith, love, and hope on the other, constitute accordingly the notion of the Church. Or briefly: “the Church which is on earth exists by the remission of sins,” or still more certainly “the Church exists in love.”291291“Per remissionem peccatorum stat ecclesia quæ est in terris.” “In caritate stat ecclesia.” In any number of expositions Augustine ignores every idea of the Church except this, which leads him to think of a spiritual communion alone, and he is as 166indifferent to the conception of the Church being an outward communion of the Sacraments as to the last one now to be mentioned.292292We see here that the assumption that the Church was a corpus permixtum or an externa communio sacramentorum was only a make-shift conception; see the splendid exposition De baptis. V. 38, which, however, passes into the doctrine of predestination.

4. The Church is the number of the elect. The final consequence of Augustine’s doctrine of grace (see next section) teaches that salvation depends on God’s inscrutable predestination (election of grace) and on that alone. Therefore the Church cannot be anything but the number of the elect. This is not, however, absolutely comprehended in the external communion of the Catholic Church—for some have been elect, who were never Catholics, and others are elect who are not yet Catholics. Nor is it simply identical with the communion of the saints (that is of those who submit themselves in faith to the operation of the means of grace); for these may include for the time such as will yet relapse, and may not include others who will ultimately be saved. Thus the thought of predestination shatters every notion of the Church—that mentioned under 2 can alone to some extent hold its ground—and renders valueless all divine ordinances, the institution and means of salvation. The number of the elect is no Church. The elect of God are to be found inside and outside the Church, under the operation and remote from the operation of sacramental grace; God has his subjects among the enemy, and his enemies among those who for the time being are “good.”293293De bapt. V. 38: “Numerus ille justorum, qui secundum propositum vocati sunt, ipse est (ecclesia). . . . Sunt etiam quidam ex eo numero qui adhuc nequiter vivant aut etiam in hæresibus vel in gentilium superstitionibus jaceant, et tamen etiam illic novit dominus qui sunt ejus. Namque in illa ineffabili præscientia dei multi qui foris videntur, intus sunt, et multi, qui intus videntur, foris sunt.” We return to this in dealing with Augustine’s doctrine of predestination. Augustine, the Catholic, did not, however, venture to draw the inexorable consequences of this conception; if he was ever led to see them he contented himself with bringing more closely together the notions of the external communion, communion of saints, Christ’s body, city of God, kingdom of heaven, and number of elect, and with thus making 167it appear as if they were identified. He stated his conviction that the number of the elect was substantially confined to the empirical Catholic Church, and that we must therefore use diligently all its benefits. But on the other hand, the faith that actuated his own life was too personal to let him bind grace, the source of faith, love, and hope, indissolubly to mechanical means and external institutions, and he was too strongly dominated by the thought of God’s majesty and self-sufficiency to bring himself to examine God narrowly as to the why and how of his actions. He never did maintain that predestination was realised by means of the Church and its communication of grace.294294Here Reuter is entirely right as against Dorner.

Augustine’s different conceptions of the Church are only united in the person of their originator, whose rich inner life was ruled by varied tendencies. The attempts to harmonise them which occur in his writings are, besides being few in number, quite worthless. But the scholastic endeavour to combine or pack together the different notions by new and flimsy distinctions leads to theological chatter. Even Augustine’s opponents apparently felt only a small part of the inconsistencies. Men at that time were far from seeking in religious conceptions that kind of consistency which is even at the present day felt as a want by only a small minority, and in any case is no necessary condition of a sincere piety. Perhaps the most important consequence of Augustine’s doctrine of the Church and Sacraments consists in the fact that a complex of magical ceremonies and ideas, which was originally designed to counter-balance a moralistic mode of thought based on the doctrine of free-will, now held its ground alongside of a religious frame of mind. The Sacrament had a deteriorating effect on the latter; but, on the other hand, it was only by this combination that it was itself rendered capable of being reformed. It is impossible to mistake, even in the case of Augustine himself, that the notion of the Church in which his own life centred was swayed by the thought of the certainty of grace and earnestness of faith and love, and that, similarly, his supreme intention, in his doctrine of the means of grace, was to establish the comfort derived from the sure grace of God in Christ, which was 168independent of human agency. Augustine subordinated the notions of the Church and Sacraments to the spiritual doctrine of God, Christ, the gospel, faith and love, as far as that was at all possible about A.D. 400.

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