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4. Augustine’s Interpretation of the Symbol (Enchiridion ad Laurentium). The New System of Religion.
After the exposition given above p. 106 f., we shall best conclude our account of Augustine’s rôle in the history of dogma, by reviewing the expositions given in the Enchiridion of the contents of the Catholic religion. Everything is combined in this book to instruct us as to the nature of the revision (and on the other hand of the confirmation) by Augustine of the popular Catholic dogmatic doctrine that gave a new impress to the Western Church. We shall proceed first to give a minute analysis of the book, and then to set down systematically what was new and at the same time lasting.
Augustine begins by saying that the wisdom of man is piety (“hominis sapientia pietas est” or more accurately “θεοσέβεια”) (2). The answer to the question how God is to be worshipped, is—by faith, hope, and love. We have accordingly to determine what is meant by each of these three virtues (3). In them is comprised the whole doctrine of religion. They cannot, however, be established by reason or perception, but must be derived from Holy Scripture, and be implicitly believed in on the testimony of the sacred writers (4). When the soul has attained this faith, it will, if faith works in love, strive to reach that vision by which holy and perfected souls perceive the ineffable beauty, the complete contemplation of which is supreme blessedness. “The beginning in faith, the completion in sight, the foundation Christ.” But Christ is the foundation only of the Catholic faith, although heretics also call themselves by his name. The evidence for this exclusive relationship between Christ and the Catholic Church would carry us too far here (5). We do not intend to enter into controversy, but to expound (6). The Symbol and the Lord’s Prayer constitute the contents of faith (symbol), and of hope and love (prayer); but faith also prays (7). Faith applies also to things which we do not hope for, but fear; and further to our own affairs and those of others. So far as it—like hope—refers to invisible, future blessings, it is itself hope. But without love it profits nothing, 223because the devils also believe. Thus everything is comprehended in faith, which works by love and possesses hope (8)
Augustine now passes to the Symbol (the ancient Apostolic creed), in order to state the contents of faith. In § 9-32, he deals with the first article. The knowledge of nature and physics does not belong to faith—besides, scholars conjecture rather than know in this matter (opinantes quam scientes). It is enough for the Christian to believe that the goodness of the creator is simply the first cause of all things, so that there is no nature unless either it is he himself, or is of him. Further, that this creator is the “Trinity, supremely and equally, and unchangeably good” (trinitas summe et æquabiliter et immutabiliter bona), and that while created things do not Possess this quality, they are good; nay, everything collectively is very good, and produces a wonderful beauty, in which evil, set in its right place, only throws the good into relief (9, 10). Augustine at once passes to the doctrine of evil. God permits it only because he is so powerful that he can make good out of evil, i.e., he can restore the defect of the good (privatio boni), evil being represented as such defect (morbus [disease] vulnus [wound]). In the notion of that which is not supremely good (non summum bonum esse) we have the capacity for deterioration; but the good, which is involved in the existence of any substance, cannot be annihilated, unless the substance itself be destroyed. But in that case corruption itself also ceases, since it can never exist save in what is good: evil can only exist in what is good (in a bonum). This is expounded at length (11-15). The causes of good and evil must be known, in order to escape the errors and infirmities (ærumnæ) of this life. On the other hand, the causes of great movements in nature—Augustine returns to § 9—need not be known; we do not even know the conditions of our health, which yet lie nearest us (16)!
But is not every error an evil, and what are we to think of deception, lying? These questions are minutely discussed in §§ 17-22. Every case of ignorance is not an error, but only supposed knowledge is, and every error is not hurtful; there is even a good error, one that is of use. But since it is unseemly (deforme atque indecens) for the mind to hold the truth to be 224false, and the uncertain certain, our life is for that very reason wretched, because at times we need error that we may not lose our life. Such will not be that existence, “where truth itself will be the life of our soul” (ubi ipsa veritas vita animæ nostræ erit). But the lie is worst, so bad that even liars themselves hate being lied to. But yet falsehood offers a difficult problem. (The question of lying in an emergency, whether it can become a duty for a righteous man, is elaborately discussed.) Here again the most important point is to determine wherein one errs: “it is far more tolerable to lie in those things that are unconnected with religion than to be deceived in those without belief in, or knowledge of, which God cannot be worshipped” (18).492492“Longe tolerabilius est in his quæ a religione sunt sejuncta mentiri, quam in iis, sine quorum fide vel notitia deus coli non potest, falli.” E.g., to tell anyone falsely that a dead man is still alive is a much less evil than to believe erroneously that Christ will die once more. Looked at accurately, every error is an evil, though often, certainly, a small one. It is possible to doubt whether every error is also sinful—e.g., a confusion about twins, or holding sweet to be bitter, etc.; at all events, in such cases the sin is exceedingly small and trivial (minimum et levissimum peccatum), since it has nothing to do with the way that leads to God, i.e. with the faith that works in love. Error is, indeed, rather an evil than a sin, a sign of the misery of this life. In any case, however, we may not, in order to avoid all error, seek to hold nothing to be true—like the Academicians; for it is our duty to believe. Besides the standpoint of absolute nescience is impracticable; for even he who knows not must deduce his existence from this consciousness of nescience (20). We must, on the contrary, avoid the lie; for even when we err in our thought, we must always say what we think.493493C. 22. “Et utique verba propterea sunt instituta, non per quæ se homines invicem fallunt, sed per quæ in alterius quisque notitiam cogitationes suas perferat.” (Compare Talleyrand). Even the lie which benefits another is sinful, although men who have lied for the general advantage have contributed a great deal to prosperity (22). Augustine returns to § 16: we must know the causes of good and evil. The sole first cause of the good is the goodness of God; the cause of evil is the revolt of the will from the unchangeable God 225on the part of a being, good but changeable, first, an angel, then man (23). From this revolt follow all the other infirmities of the soul [ignorance, concupiscence, etc.] (24). But the craving for blessedness (appetitus beatitudinis) was not lost.
We now have an exposition of Adam’s endowment, the Fall, original sin, the sentence of death, the massa damnata, which suffers along with the doomed angels, etc. God’s goodness is shown, however, in his grant of continued existence to the wicked angels, for whom there is no conversion besides, and in his preservation of men. Although it would have been only justice to give them also over to eternal punishment, he resolved to bring good out of evil (25-27). It was his merciful intention, i.e., to supplement from mankind the number of the angels who persevered in goodness, rendered incomplete by the fall of some, in order that the heavenly Jerusalem might retain its full complement, nay, should be increased by the “sons of our Holy Mother” [filii sanctæ matris] (28-29). But the men chosen owe this not to the merits of their own works (to free will); for in themselves they are dead like the rest (suicides), and are only free to commit sin. Before they are made free, accordingly, they are slaves; they can only be redeemed by grace and faith. Even faith is God’s gift, and works will not fail to follow it. Thus they only become free, when God fashions them anew (into the nova creatura), producing the act of will as well as its accomplishment (“quamvis non possit credere, sperare, diligere homo rationalis, nisi velit”—although rational man cannot believe, hope, or love, unless he will).494494C. 32: “Ex utroque fit, id est, ex voluntate hominis et misericordia dei.” That is, God makes the will itself good (misericordia præveniens) and constantly assists it [miseric. subsequens] (30-32).
The exposition of the second article follows in §§ 33-55. Since all men are by nature children of wrath, and are burdened by original sin and their own sins, a mediator (reconciliator) was necessary, who should appease this wrath (justa vindicta) by presenting a unique sacrifice. That this was done, and we from being enemies became children, constitutes the grace of God through Jesus Christ (33). We know that this mediator is the “Word” that became flesh. The Word was not transformed, 226but assumed our complete human nature from the virgin, being conceived not by the libido matris, but by faith—and therefore sinlessly.495495Augustine’s whole conception of the sinfulness mingled with all procreation, and his view that sexual desire is due not to nature as originally cleated, but to sin, have admittedly their roots in the earliest period. But they were expressed with Augustine’s thoroughness only by the Gnostics, Marcion and—the author of the fragment De resurrectione ascribed to Justin. The parallel offered by the latter (c. 3) is extremely striking. There is not yet, naturally, any question of sin being propagated through sexual union; that union is held simply to be sinful; μήτρας ἐστὶν ἐνέργεια τὸ κυΐσκειν καὶ μορίου ἀνδρικοῦ τὸ σπερμαίνειν· ὥσπερ δέ, εἰ ταῦτα μέλλει ἐνεργεῖν ταύτας τὰς ἐνεργείας, οὕτως οὐκ ἀναγκαῖον αὐτοῖς ἐστιν τὸ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐνεργεῖν (ὁρῶμεν γοῦν πολλὰς γυναῖκας μὴ κυϊσκούσας, ὡς τὰς στείρας, καὶ μήτρας ἔχουσας), οὕτως οὐκ εὐθέως καὶ τὸ μήτραν ἔχειν καὶ κυΐσκειν ἀναγκάζει· ἀλλὰ καὶ μὴ στεῖραι μὲν ἐξ ἀρχῆς, παρθενεύουσαι δέ, κατήργησαν καὶ τὴν συνουσίαν, ἕτεραι δὲ καὶ ἀπὸ χρόνου· καὶ τοὺς ἄρσενας δὲ τοὺς μὲν ἀπ᾽ἀρχῆς παρθενεύοντας ὁρῶμεν, τοὺς δὲ ἀπὸ χρόνου, ὥστε δι᾽ αὐτῶν καταλύεσθαι τὸν δι᾽ ἐπιθυμίας ἄνομον γάμον· There are also beasts that refrain from having connection, ὥστε καὶ δι ἀνθρώπων καὶ δἰ ἀλόγων καταργουμένην συνουσίαν πρὶν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος ὁρᾶσθαι· καὶ ὁ κύριος δὲ ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦς ὁ Χριστὸς οὐ δι᾽ ἄλλο τι ἐκ παρθένου ἐγεννήθη, ἀλλ᾽ ἵνα καταργήσῃ γέννησιν ἐπιθυμίας ἀνόμου καὶ δείξῃ τῷ ἄρχοντι καὶ δίχα συνουσίας ἀνθρωπίνης δινατὴν εἶναι τῷ θεῷ τὴν ἀνθρώπου πλάσιν· The mother remained a virgin in giving birth (in partu) (34). We have now a short discussion on Christ as “God and man in unity of person, equal to God, and as man less than God” (35). Christ, the man who was deemed worthy to be assumed by God to form one person with him, is the most splendid example of grace given gratis, and not according to merits. The same grace that fell to the man Christ and made him sinless falls to us in justification from sins. It also revealed itself in Christ’s miraculous birth, in connection with which, besides, the Holy Ghost did not act like a natural father. It was rather the whole Trinity that created the offspring of the virgin: the man Jesus, like the world, is the creation of the Trinity. But why precisely the Holy Ghost is named, it is hard to say. In any case, the man Jesus was not the son of the Spirit, but the latter is probably named in order to point to the grace that, existing without any preceding merits, had become in the man Jesus an attribute which in some way was natural (quodammodo naturalis); for the Holy Spirit is “so far God that he may be called the gift of God” [sic deus, ut dicatur etiam dei donum] (36-40). This is followed again by a long section (41 to 52) on sin and the relation of Christ to it. Christ 227was free from original and actual sin, but was himself—on account of similarity to sinful flesh—absolutely called sin. That is, he became a sacrifice for sin, representing our sin in the flesh in which he was crucified, “that in some way he might die to sin, in dying to the flesh,”496496“Ut quodammodo peccato moreretur, dum moritur carni.” and from the Resurrection might seal our new life (41). That is bestowed on us in baptism. Everyone dies to sin in baptism—even the children, who die to original sin—and in this respect sin is to be understood collectively; for even in Adam’s sin many forms of sin were contained. But children are obviously infected not only by Adam’s sin, but also by those of their parents. For their birth is corrupt, because by Adam’s sin nature was perverted; moreover the actual sins of parents “although they cannot thus change nature, impose guilt on the children” (etsi non ita possunt mutare naturam, reatu tamen obligant filios). But Augustine refrains from deciding how far the sins of ancestors project their influence in the chain of descent. It is all expiated by the mediator, the man Jesus Christ, who was alone equipped with such grace as not to need regeneration; for he only accepted baptism by John in order to give a grand example of humility, just as he also submitted to death, not from compulsion, but in order to let the devil receive his rights (42-49). Christ is thus Adam’s anti-type; but the latter only introduced one sin into the world, while Christ took away all that had since been committed. All were condemned in Adam; none escapes the condemnation without Christ. Baptism is to be solemnised as “the grand mystery in the cross of Christ” (mysterium grande in cruce Christi); for according to Paul baptism is “nothing but the similitude of Christ’s death; but the death of Christ crucified is nothing but the similitude of the remission of sin, that as in him a true death took place, so in us a true remission of sins.”497497“Nihil aliud nisi similitudo mortis Christi; nihil autem aliud mortem Christi crucifixi nisi remissionis peccati similitudinem, ut quemadmodum in illo vera mors facta est, sic in nobis vera remissio peccatorum.” This is elaborated in accordance with Rom. VI; we are dead to sin through baptism (50-52). The clauses of the Symbol are now enumerated down to the “sitting at the right hand” 228with the observation: “It was so carried out that in these matters the Christian life which is borne here should be typified not only mystically by words but also by deeds.”498498“Ita gestum est, ut his rebus non mystice tantum dictis sed etiam gestis configuraretur vita Christiana quæ hic geritur.” That is established in connection with each separate article. Thus the “sitting at the right hand” means: “set your affections on those things that are above” (quæ sursum sunt sapite). On the other hand, the Return of Christ has no reference to our earthly life. It belongs entirely to the future. The judgment of the living and dead may also suggest to us the just and unjust (53-55).
To the third article §§ 56-113 are devoted; it is accordingly most elaborately elucidated. §§ 56-63 treat of the Holy Ghost, who completes the Trinity, and so is no part of creation, and also of the Holy Church. This is the temple and city of the Trinity. But it is here regarded as a whole. That is, it includes the section which exists in heaven and has never experienced a fall—the angels who aid the pilgrim part (pars peregrinans) being already united with it by love (56). The Church in heaven is void of evil and unchangeable. Augustine admits that he does not know whether there are degrees of rank among the angels, whether the stars belong to them, or what the truth is as to their bodily form (57-59). It is more important to determine when Satan invests himself in the form of an angel of light (60). We shall only know the state of the heavenly Church when we belong to it ourselves. The Church of this world, for which Christ died, we do know; for the angels he did not die; yet the result of his work also extends to them, in so far as enmity to them is at an end, and their number is once more complete. Thus by the one sacrifice the earthly host is again united with the heavenly, and the peace is restored that transcends all thought—not that of angels, but of men; but even angels, and men who have entered the state of felicity, will never comprehend the peace of God as God himself does (61-63).
Augustine now passes to the “remission of sins” (64-83): “by this stands the Church on earth” (per hanc stat ecclesia qua in terris est). So far as our sins are forgiven, “the angels 229are even now in harmony with us” (concordant nobiscum angeli etiam nunc). In addition to the “great indulgence,” there is a continuous remission of sins, which even the most advanced of the righteous need, for they often descend to their own level and sin. Certainly the life of the saints may be free from transgressions, but not from sin (64). But even for grave offences there is forgiveness in the Church after due penance; and the important point is not the time of penance, but the anguish of the penitent. But since this emotion is concealed from our fellow-men, and cannot be inspected, the bishops have rightly instituted penitential seasons “that the Church may also be satisfied,” the Church beyond whose pale there is no forgiveness; for it alone has received the pledge of the Holy Ghost (65). Evils remain in this world in spite of the salutaria sacramenta, that we may see that the future state is their goal. There are punitive evils; for sins last on, and are punished in this life or the next (66). We must certainly not fancy that faith by itself protects from future judgment (ὡς διὰ πυρός), it is rather only the faith that works in love (faith and works). By “wood and stubble” we are not to understand sins, but desires after earthly things lawful in themselves (67, 68). It is credible that a purifying fire exists for believers even after death (69)—sinners can only be saved by a corresponding penance combined with almsgiving. Almsgiving is now discussed in detail (69-77). At the Last Judgment the decision turns on it (Mat. XXV. 34 ff.). Of course we are at the same time to amend our lives; “God is to be propitiated for past sins by alms, not by any means to be bribed that we may always be allowed to commit sins with impunity.”499499“Per eleemosynas de peccatis præteritis est propitiandus deus, non ad hoc emendus quodam modo, ut peccata semper liceat impune committere.” Accordingly some Catholics must even then have looked on alms as conferring a license. God blots out sins “if due satisfaction is not neglected” (si satisfactio congrua non negligatur), without giving permission to sin (70). Daily prayer furnishes satisfaction for small and light daily sins (71).500500“Delet omnino hæc oratio minima et quotidiana peccata.” The forgiveness, also, that we bestow on others is a kind of alms. Speaking generally, everything good we give to others, 230advice, comfort, discipline, etc., is alms. By this we besides help to gain forgiveness of our own sins (72). But the highest stages of almsgiving are forgiveness of sins and love of our enemies (73).501501Augustine here says with great truth that love of our enemies is possible only to a small minority (the perfect). But even those who do not attain it are heard if they utter the fifth petition in faith. Those virtues everyone must practise, that he himself may be forgiven (74). But all these alms fail to benefit us unless we amend ourselves; that is, the alms we give to ourselves are the most important. Of him alone who has mercy on himself is the saying true: “Give alms and all is right (pure) with you.” We must love ourselves with the love that God has bestowed on us; this the Pharisees, who only gave outward alms, did not do, for they were the enemies of their own souls (75-77). The divine judgment, however, can alone determine what sins are light or grave. Many things permitted by the apostles—e.g., matrimonial intercourse prompted by desire—are yet sinful; many sins which we consider wholly trifling (e.g., reviling), are grave; and many—e.g., unchastity—which custom has brought us to look on lightly, are dreadful, even though Church discipline itself has become lax in dealing with them (78-80). All sin springs either from ignorance or weakness. The latter is the more serious; but divine grace alone aids us to overcome either (81). Unfortunately, from false weakness and shame, public penance is frequently withheld. Therefore God’s mercy is not only necessary in the case of penitence, but also that men may resolve to show penitence. But he who disbelieves in and despises the forgiveness of sin in the Church commits the sin against the Holy Ghost (82, 83).
The resurrection of the body is dealt with in §§ 84-113. First, the resurrection of abortions and monstrosities is discussed (85-87); then the relation of the new body to its old material—every particle of which need not pass into the former; and further, the corporeal difference, the stainlessness and spirituality of bodies in the future state (88-91). We must not concern ourselves with the constitution of the bodies of the lost who also rise again, although we are here confronted by the 231great paradox that a corruptible body does not die nor an incorruptible feel pain).502502In hell “mors ipsa non moritur.” (92). Those will have the mildest punishment who have only original, but not actual, sin. Damnation in general will be marked by degrees, depending in each case on the measure of sin (93). Augustine now comes to speak of predestination in detail (94-108): “no one is saved except by undeserved mercy, and no one is condemned except by a deserved judgment.”503503“Nisi per indebitam misericordiam nemo liberatur et nisi per debitum judicium nemo damnatur.” That is the theme. It will become manifest in eternal life why of two children the one is accepted out of mercy, and the other rejected in accordance with justice. God’s refusal of salvation is not unjust, though all might have been saved if he had willed; for nothing happens without his will or permission (95). Even in permitting evil his action is good, or the first article of the Symbol would no longer hold true (96). But if God’s will cannot be frustrated by any choice of his creatures, how does the fact that all are not saved agree with the assurance that “he wills that all should be saved” (1 Tim. II. 4)? The usual answer, that men will not, is obviously false; for they cannot hinder God’s will, as he can certainly turn even the bad into a good will. Accordingly, God does not will that all be saved, but he justly sentences sinners to death (Rom. IX.), that he who receives salvation may boast in the Lord. God is free in his election to grace; he would not have been to be blamed if he had redeemed no one after Adam’s Fall; so neither is he to be blamed if in his mercy he redeems only a few, that none may boast of his own merits, but in the Lord. God’s will is expressed in the case of the lost as much as in that of the saved (“in the very deed by which they opposed his will, his will regarding them was done”).504504“Hoc ipso quod contra voluntatem fecerunt ejus, de ipsis facta est voluntas ejus.” So great are the works of the Lord that nothing that takes place against his will happens outside (præter) of it. A good son wishes his father to live, but God, whose will is good, decides that he should die. Again, a bad son wishes his father to die, and God 232also wills this. The former wills what God does not; the latter what he does. Yet the former stands nearer God; for in the case of men it is the final intention that counts, while God accomplishes his good will even through the bad will of men. He is always just and always omnipotent (97-102). Therefore 1 Tim. II. 4 can only mean that God wills all classes of men to be saved, or that all those whom he resolves to save will be saved. In any case it is not to be imagined that he desires to save all, but is prevented (103).
Had God foreknown that Adam, in keeping with his constitution, would have retained forever the will to avoid sin, he would have preserved him in his original state of salvation. But he knew the opposite, and therefore shaped his own will to effect good through him who did evil. For man must have been so created originally as to be able to do good and evil. Afterwards he will be changed, and will no longer be able to will evil; “nor will he therefore be without free choice” (nec ideo libero carebit arbitrio); for free will still exists, even if a time comes when we cannot will evil, just as it even now exists, although we can never will our own damnation. Only the order of things had to be observed, first the “posse non,” then the “non posse.” But grace is always necessary, and would have been even if man had not sinned; for he could only have attained the “non posse” by the co-operation of grace. (Men can indeed starve voluntarily, but mere appetite will not keep them alive; they require food.) But since sin entered, grace is much greater, because the will had itself to be freed in order that it might co-operate with grace (104-106.) Eternal life, though a reward of good works, is also a gift of grace, because our merits are God’s gifts. God has made one vessel to honour and another to dishonour, that none should boast. The mediator who redeemed us required also to be God, “that the pride of man might be censured by the humility of God” (ut superbia humana per humilitatem dei argueretur), and that man might be shown how far he had departed from God, etc. (107, 108). After this long excursus, Augustine returns to § 93, and deals (log) with the intermediate state (in abditis receptaculis), and the mitigation obtained by departed souls through the Mass, 233and the alms of survivors in the Church; for there are many souls not good enough to be able to dispense with this provision, and not bad enough not to be benefited by it. “Wherefore here (on the earth) all merit is acquired by which anyone can be relieved or burdened after this life.”505505Quocirca hic (in terra) omne meritum comparatur, quo possit post hanc vitam relevari quispiam vel gravari. What the Church does for the dead (pro defunctis commendandis) is not inconsistent with Rom. XIV. 10; II. Cor. V. 10. For those who are wholly good it is a thanksgiving, for those not altogether bad an atonement, for those entirely wicked it is resultless, but gives comfort to the survivors; nay, while it makes remission complete (plena), it renders damnation more tolerable (110). After the Judgment there are only two states, though there are different grades in them. We must believe in the eternal duration of the pains of hell, although we may perhaps suppose that from time to time God lightens the punishment of the lost, or permits some sort of mitigation. “Death will continue without end, just as the collective eternal life of all saints will continue” (111-113).506506Manebit sine fine mors, sicut manebit communiter omnium vita æterna sanctorum.
Following his programme, Augustine ought now to have discussed in detail hope and love (prayer); but he omits doing so, because he has really touched on everything already. He therefore confines himself to affirming that hope applies solely to what we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer, that three petitions refer to eternal, four to temporal, benefits, and that Matthew and Luke do not really differ in their versions of the Prayer (114-116). As regards love, he points out that it is the greatest of all. It, and not faith and hope, decides the measure of goodness possessed by a man. Faith and hope can exist without love, but they are useless. The faith that works in love, i.e., the Holy Spirit by whom love is infused into our hearts, is all-important; for where love is wanting, fleshly lust reigns (117). There are four human conditions: life among the deepest shades of ignorance (altissimis ignorantiæ tenebris), under the law (which produces knowledge and conscious sin), under grace or good hope, and under peace (in the world beyond). Such 234has also been the history of God’s people; but God has shown his grace even at the first and second stages (118), and thus even now man is laid hold of sometimes at the first, sometimes at the second, stage, all his sins being forgiven in his regeneration (119), so that death itself no longer harms him (120). All divine commands aim at love, and no good, if done from fear of punishment or any other motive than love, is done as it ought. All precepts (mandata) and counsels (consilia) given by God are comprised in the command to love God and our neighbour, and they are only rightly performed when they spring, at present in faith, in the future in immediate knowledge, from love. In the world of sight each will know what he should love in the other. Even now desire abates as love increases, until it reaches the love that leads a man to give his life for another. But how great will love be in the future state, when there no longer exists any desire to be overcome!
No one can mistake the popular Catholic features of this system of religion. It is based on the ancient Symbol. The doctrines of the Trinity and the Two Natures are faithfully avowed. The importance of the Catholic Church is strictly guarded, and its relation to the heavenly Church, which is the proper object of faith, is left as indefinite as the current view required. Baptism is set in the foreground as the “grand mystery of renovation,” and is derived from Christ’s death, in which the devil has obtained his due. Faith is only regarded as a preliminary condition; eternal life is only imparted to merits which are products of grace and freedom. They consist of works of love, which are summed up in almsgiving. Almsgiving is freely treated; it constitutes penance. Within the Church forgiveness is to be had for all sins after baptism, if only a fitting satisfaction is furnished (satisfacere ecclesiæ; satisfactio congrua). There is a scale of sins, from crimes to quite trivial daily offences. For this reason, wicked and good men are graded; but even the best (sancti, perfecti) can only be sinless in the sense that they commit none but the lightest sins. The 235saints are the perfect ascetics; asceticism is the culmination of love; but all do not need to practise it; we must distinguish between commands and counsels. In the future state both felicity and perdition will also be graded. Departed souls, if at death they have only left trivial sins unatoned for by penance, will be benefited by the masses, alms, and prayers of survivors. They are placed in a purgatory that cleanses them in the form of a decreed punishment.507507The Enchiridion is not the only work in which Augustine has spoken of this ignis purgatarius. If here popular Catholic elements are already strengthened, and the way prepared for their future elaboration, that is equally true of the doctrines of the intermediate state, the temporary mitigation of the punishment of the lost, the help afforded by holy angels to the Church of the present world, the completion—by means of redeemed mortals —of the heavenly Church reduced in number through the Fall of the wicked angels, the virginity of Mary even in partu,508508The growing Marian dogma (see Vol. IV., p. 314) was thus strengthened rather than weakened by Augustine. He agreed entirely with Ambrose and Jerome (against Jovinian). By a woman came death, by a woman came life; Mary’s faith conceived the Saviour. Julian’s remarkable objection to the doctrine of original sin, that it made Mary to be subject to the devil (nascendi conditione), Augustine met by saying (Op. imp. IV. 122): “ipsa conditio nascendi solvitur gratia renascendi.” We may not maintain it to be certain (see Schwane II., p. 691 f.) that Augustine thus implicitly taught Mary’s immaculate conception. On the other hand, he undoubtedly held her to be without active sin; see De nat. et gr. 36: “Excepta itaque s. virgine Maria, de qua propter honorem domini nullam prorsus, cum de peccatis agitur, haberi volo quæstionem; unde enim scimus, quid ei plus gratiæ collatum fuerit ad vincendum omni ex parte peccatum, quæ concipere et parere meruit, quem constat nullum habuisse peccatum? hac ergo virgine excepta si omnes illos sanctos et sanctas, cum hic viverent, congregare possimus et interrogare, utrum essent sine peccato, quid fuisse responsuros putamus, utrum hoc quod ista dicit an quod Johannes apostolus?” Gen. ad litt. X. 18-21. Augustine helped to give Mary a special position between Christ and Christians, simply because he first emphasised strongly the sinfulness of all men, even the saints, and then excepted Mary. Mary’s passive receptivity in relation to grace is emphasised with the same words as that of the man Jesus. and the grace of Christ as being greater than Adam’s sin. This also applies to the opinion that the ignorant adherence to a false religion is worse than the knowing utterance of a lie, and to many other doctrines developed by Augustine in other writings. Finally, the conception of salvation that holds it to 236consist in “vision” and “fruition” is at the root of and runs through everything. Yet the most spiritual fact, the process of sanctification, is attached to mysteriously operating forces.
But on the other hand, this system of religion is new. The old Symbol—the Apostles interpreted by the Nicene—was supplemented by new material which could only be very loosely combined with it, and which at the same time modified the original elements. In all three articles the treatment of sin, forgiveness, and perfecting in love is the main matter (10-15; 25-33; 41-52; 64-83). Everything is presented as a spiritual process, to which the briefly discussed old dogmatic material appears subordinated. Therefore, also, the third article comes into the foreground; a half of the whole book is devoted to the few words contained in it. Even in the outline, novelty is shown: religion is so much a matter of the inner life that faith, hope, and love are all-important (3-8). No cosmology is given in the first article; indeed, physical teaching is expressly denied to form part of dogmatics (9, 16 f.). Therefore any Logos doctrine is also wanting. The Trinity, taught by tradition as dogma, is apprehended in the strictest unity; it is the creator. It is really one person; the “persons,” as Augustine teaches us in other writings, are inner phases (moments) in the one God; they have no cosmological import. Thus the whole Trinity also created the man Christ in Mary’s womb; the Holy Ghost is only named because “spiritus” is also a term for “God’s gift” (donum dei). Everything in religion relates to God as only source of all good, and to sin; the latter is distinguished from error. Hereby a breach is made with ancient intellectualism, though a trace of it remains in the contention that errors are very small sins. Wherever sin is thought of, so is free, predestinating grace (gratia gratis data). The latter is contrasted with the sin inherited from Adam; it first gives freedom to the enslaved will. The exposition of the first article closes with the reference to prevenient and subsequent mercy. How different would have been the wording of this article if Augustine had been able to give an independent version!
The case is not different with the second article. The actual contents of the Symbol are only briefly touched on—the 237Second Advent is merely mentioned without a single Chiliastic observation. On the other hand, the following points of view come to the front. On the one side we have the unity of Christ’s personality as the man (homo) with whose soul the Word united itself, the predestinating grace, that introduced this man into personal unity with the Deity, although he possessed no merits (hence the parallel with our regeneration); the close connection of Christ’s death with redemption from the devil, atonement, and baptism (forgiveness of sins). But on the other side we find the view of Christ’s appearance and history as loftiness in humility, and as the pattern of the Christian life. Christ’s significance as redeemer509509Sin and original sin are again discussed in §§ 41.52, but they are now looked at from the standpoint of their removal through the baptism that emanates from Christ’s death. is quite as strongly expressed for Augustine in this humility in splendour, and in his example of a Christian life (see S. Bernard and S. Francis), as in his death. He fluctuates between these two points of view. The Incarnation wholly recedes, or is set in a light entirely unfamiliar to the Greeks. Thus the second article has been completely changed.
The chief and novel point in the third article consists in the freedom and assurance with which Augustine teaches that the forgiveness of sins in the Church is inexhaustible. When we consider the attitude of the ancient Church, Augustine, and Luther, to the sins of baptised Christians, an external criticism might lead us to say that men grow more and more lax, and that the increasing prominence given to grace (the religious factor) was merely a means of evading the strict demands made by the gospel on morality—the Christian life. And this view is also correct, if we look at the great mass of those who followed those guides. But in their own case their new ideas were produced by a profounder consciousness of sin, and an absorption in the magnitude of divine grace as taught by Paul. Augustine stands midway between the ancient Church and Luther. The question of personal assurance of salvation had not yet come home to him; but the question: “How shall I get rid of my sins, and be filled with divine energy?” took the 238first place with him. Following the popular Catholic view, he looked to good works (alms, prayer, asceticism); but he conceived them to be the product of grace and the will subject to grace; further, he warned Christians against all external doing. As he set aside all ritualistic mysticism, so he was thoroughly aware that nothing was to be purchased by almsgiving pure and simple, but that the issue depended on an inner transformation, a pure heart, and a new spirit. At the same time he was sure that even after baptism the way of forgiveness was ever open to the penitent, and that he committed the sin against the Holy Ghost who did not believe in this remission of sins in the Church. That is an entirely new interpretation of the Gospel saying. The concluding section of the Symbol (resurrectio carnis) is explained even more thoroughly than the forgiveness of sins in its third treatment in the third article. But after a short discussion of the subject proper—the doctrine of predestination510510The doctrine of predestination—before Augustine almost unheard of in the Catholic Church—constituted the power of his religious life, as Chiliasm did that of the post-apostolic, and mysticism that of the Greek Church. In Augustine, in addition to its Biblical and Neoplatonic supports, the doctrine had indeed a strong religious root—free grace (gratia gratis data). But the latter by itself does not explain the importance which the doctrine had gained in his case. As everything that lives and works in nature is attached to something else, and is never found in an independent state, so, too, there is no distilled piety, On the contrary, so long as we men are men, precisely the most vital piety will be least isolated and free. None but the dogmatist can construct such a religion. But history teaches that all great religious personalities have connected their saving faith inextricably with convictions which to the reflecting mind appear to be irrelevant additions. In the history of Christianity there are the three named—Chiliasm, mysticism, and the doctrine of predestination. It is in the bark formed by these that faith has grown, just as it is not in the middle of the stem, but at its circumference, where stem and bark meet, that the sap of the plant flows. Strip the tree, and it will wither! Therefore it is well-meant, but foolish, to suppose that Augustine would have done better to have given forth his teaching without the doctrine of predestination.and a view which as doctrine is likewise virtually new, and takes the place of Origen’s theory of Apokatastasis—the main theme is the supposition of an intermediate state, and of a cleansing of souls in it, to which the offerings and prayers of survivors can contribute.
Piety: faith and love instead of fear and hope. Theory of 239religion: something higher than aught we call doctrine, a new life in the power of love. The doctrine of Scripture: the substance—the gospel, faith, love and hope—God. The Trinity: the one living God. Christology: the one mediator, the man Jesus into union with whose soul the Deity entered, without that soul having deserved it. Redemption: death for the benefit of enemies and humility in greatness. The Sacraments: the Word side by side with the Symbols. Salvation (felicity): the beata necessitas of the good. The good: blessedness in dependence on God. History: God works everything in accordance with His good pleasure. With that compare the dogmatics of the Greeks!511511An excellent comparison between Origen and Augustine occurs in Bigg, The Christian Platonists, pp. 284-290. He has sharply emphasised the inconsistencies in Augustine’s doctrine of the primitive state, original sin, and grace, but he has not overlooked the advance made by Augustine on Origen. If we evolve Augustine’s doctrine from predestination, then Bigg is right when he says: “Augustine’s system is in truth that of the Gnostics, the ancestors of the Manichees. For it makes no real difference whether our doom is stamped upon the nature given to us by our Creator, or fixed by an arbitrary decree.”
The extent and position of dogma were also modified by this revolution. The old dogmas of the undivided Church, simply because they passed into the background, and were no longer expressive of piety itself, became more rigid; they more and more received the character of a legal system. The new dogmas, on the contrary, the doctrines of sin and grace in which piety lived, did not yet receive in their positive form the position and value of the old, nor were they definitely stated in rounded formulas.512512The resistance of the Pelagians and their associates was also a resistance to the formation of new dogmas in general. Exactly like the Eusebians in the Arian conflict, they also fought against the new construction of dogmas by the North African Church on formal grounds. Thus, through the instrumentality of Augustine, the extent and importance, in the history of dogma, of the doctrine of the Church became more uncertain. On the one hand, that doctrine was referred back to the gospel itself; on the other, it was much less sharply marked off than before from theology, since the new thoughts were not enclosed in fixed formulas. There was formed round the old dogma, which held its ground as an inflexible authority, a vast indefinite circle of doctrines, in 240which the most important religious conceptions lived, and which yet no one was capable of examining and weaving into a fixed connection. That is the state of dogma in the Middle Ages. Side by side with the growing inflexibility, the process of internal dissolution had already begun.
During the storms of the tribal migrations, just before the power of barbarianism broke in, God bestowed on the Church a man who judged spiritual things spiritually, and taught Christendom what constituted Christian piety. So far as we can judge, the young Germano-Roman peoples, like the Slays, would have remained wholly incapable of ever appropriating independently and thoroughly the contemporary Christian religion, the Church system transmitted to them as law and cultus in fixed formulas, they would never have pierced through the husk to the kernel, if along with that system they had not also received Augustine. It was from him, or rather from the Gospel and Paulinism under his guidance, that they derived the courage to reform the Church and the strength to reform themselves.241
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