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§ 7. History of the Doctrine of Grace.
The doctrines of sin and grace are so intimately related, that the one cannot be stated without involving a statement of the other. Hence the views of different parties in the Church in reference to the work of the Spirit in the salvation of men, have already been incidentally presented in the chapter on Sin. With regard to the period antecedent to the Pelagian controversy, it may be sufficient to remark, (1.) As there was no general discussion of these subjects, there were no defined parties whose opinions were clearly announced and generally known. (2.) It is therefore, not the creeds adopted by the Church, but the opinions of individual writers, to which reference can be made as characteristic of this period. (3.) That the statements of a few ecclesiastical writers are very insufficient data on which to found a judgment as to the faith of the people. The convictions of believers are not determined by the writings of theologians, but by the Scriptures, the services of the Church, and the inward teaching of the Spirit, that is, by the unction from the Holy One of which the Apostle speaks, 1 John ii. 20. (4.) There is abundant evidence that the Church then, as always, held that all men since the fall are in a state of sin and condemnation; that this universality of sin had its historical and causal origin in the voluntary apostasy of Adam; that deliverance from this state of sin and misery can be obtained only through Christ, and by the aid of his Spirit; and that even infants as soon 711as born need regeneration and redemption. The practice of infant baptism was a constant profession of faith in the doctrines of original sin and of regeneration by the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit. (5.) It is no doubt true that many declarations may be cited from the early writers, especially of the Greek Church, inconsistent with one or more of the doctrines just stated; but it is no less true that these same writers and others of equal authority explicitly avow them. (6.) As the prevalent heresies of that time tended to fatalism, the natural counter tendency of the Church was to the undue exaltation of the liberty and ability of the human will. (7.) That this tendency was specially characteristic of the Greek Church, and has continued to distinguish the theology of that Church to the present day.
The Pelagian doctrine has already repeatedly been presented. It is only in reference to the views of Pelagius and his followers on the subject of grace that anything need now be said. As the Pelagians insisted so strenuously upon the plenary ability of man to avoid all sin, and to fulfil all duty, it was obvious to object that they ignored the necessity of divine grace of which the Scriptures so frequently and so plainly speak. This objection, however, Pelagius resented as an injury. He insisted that he fully recognized the necessity of divine grace for everything good, and magnified its office on every occasion.532532See his letter to Innocent, A.D. 417, quoted by Augustine, De Gratia Christi [xxxi-xxxv.]. 33-38; Works, edit. Benedictines, Paris, 1838, vol. x. pp. 549-552. In a letter to Innocent he assures the Roman bishop that while praising the nature of man, we always add the help of the grace of God; “ut Dei semper gratiæ addamus auxilium.”533533Augustine, De Gratia Christi [xxxvii.], 40; p. 553, a. By grace, however, he meant, (1.) Free will, the ability to do right under all circumstances. This inalienable endowment of our nature he regarded as a great distinction or gift of God. (2.) The law, and especially the revelation of God in the Gospel, and the example of Christ. He says God rouses men from the pursuit of earthly things, by his promises of future blessedness, etc.534534Ibid. [x.], 11; pp. 535, 536. (3.) The forgiveness of sin. The Pelagian heresy “asserts that ‘the grace of God includes our being so created that we have power to avoid sin, that God has given us the help of the law and of his commands, and further that he pardons those who having sinned return unto him.’535535Augustine, de Gestis Pelagii; Works, vol. x. p. 513, b. In these things alone is the grace of 712God recognized.” (4.) Both Pelagius and Julian speak of the operation of the Spirit on the minds of men as a form of divine grace. In commenting on the words, “Ye are . . . . the epistle of Christ” (2 Cor. iii. 3), Pelagius says, “To all it is manifest that through our doctrine ye have believed on Christ, ‘confirmante virtutem Spiritu Sancto.’” This influence of the Spirit, however, he regarded as didactic, or enlightening the mind; while he denied the absolute necessity of such spiritual influence, and taught that it only rendered obedience more easy.536536Wiggers, p. 183. See Wiggers’ Augustinism and Pelagianism, ch. xiii., Andover, 1840, pp. 177-218.
We have already seen that Augustine, holding as he did that man since the fall is in a state of spiritual death, utterly disabled and opposite to all good, taught that his restoration to spiritual life was an act of God’s almighty power; and being an act of omnipotence was instantaneous, immediate, and irresistible. This point is sufficiently well known and already established.
The doctrine of Pelagius had been condemned in the provincial Synod of Carthage, A.D. 412; in the Council of Jerusalem, 413; and in the Third General Council at Ephesus, 431. The opposite doctrine of Augustine was declared to be Scriptural and the doctrine of the Church. It was one of the inevitable consequences of Augustine’s doctrine of efficacious grace, that God is sovereign in election and reprobation. If the sinner cannot convert himself, nor prepare himself for that work, nor coöperate in effecting it, then it can neither be out of regard to such preparation or coöperation, nor because of the foresight thereof that God makes one, and not another the subject of his saving grace. This Augustine freely admitted, and taught, in accordance with the plain teachings of the Scriptures, that God has mercy on whom He will have mercy. It was this inevitable consequence of the doctrine rather than the doctrine itself, whether of total depravity and helplessness, or of irresistible grace, that led to the strenuous opposition which continued to be made to the Augustinian system notwithstanding the decision of councils in its favour. So prominent was the doctrine of predestination in these controversies, and so strong was the antipathy to that doctrine, that the Augustinians were called by their opponents Prædestinati. To avoid the dreaded conclusion that fallen men lie at the mercy of God, and that He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, the Semi-Pelagians denied that the grace of God was irresistible. If not irresistible, then it depends 713on the sinner whether it be yielded to or rejected. But this yielding to the grace of God, is something right and good, and something leading to salvation. Fallen men therefore are not utterly disabled to all good. And if not thus powerless for spiritual good, they are not spiritually dead. Original sin consequently, is not so dreadful an evil as Augustine represented it. Men are weak and sick; but not helpless and dead. The Semi-Pelagians, as the designation implies, therefore, endeavoured to hold a middle ground between Augustine and Pelagius. They held, (1.) That in consequence of the fall of Adam, and our connection with him, all men are born in a state of sin and condemnation. (2.) That in consequence of this inherent, hereditary corruption, all the powers of man are weakened, so that he is of himself unable to resist sin and turn himself unto God. (3.) But while divine grace or aid is thus necessary to conversion, men may begin the work. They may seek after God, strive to walk in his ways, and comply with all the demands of the gospel. (4.) Those who thus begin the work of conversion, God assists in their endeavours by his grace; and if the sinner makes due improvement of this divine assistance, the work of conversion is effected. (5.) As it rests with those who hear the gospel to receive or to reject it, it cannot be admitted that any definite portion of the human race was given to Christ as us inheritance whose salvation is rendered certain by that gift, and by the efficacious grace of God securing their conversion and their perseverance in faith. As the conversion of the sinner depends upon himself, so does his perseverance. The truly regenerated, therefore, may fall away and be lost.
On some of these points the original leaders of the Semi-Pelagian party differed among themselves, but this is a correct exhibition of the system as known in history as a form of doctrine. The characteristic principle of the Semi-Pelagian theory, by which it is distinguished from the doctrine afterwards adopted in the Romish Church, and by the Remonstrants and others, is that the sinner begins the work of conversion. The Semi-Pelagians denied “preventing grace.” God helps those only who begin to help themselves. He is found only of those who seek Him.
The historical details of the rise of Semi-Pelagianism are given above in the section on Original Sin. The most obscure point in the system is the meaning to be attached to the word “grace.” It was used, as before remarked, in a sense so wide as to include all divine help, whether afforded externally in the revelation of the truth, the institutions of the Church, or the circumstances of life, 714or by the providential efficiency of God as exerted in coöperation with all second causes, or by the special influence of the Holy Spirit. This last came to be the accepted meaning of the word grace. According to Augustinians, this influence of the Spirit was mediate, or through the truth, in all those exercises which, in the case of adults, usually precede the work of regeneration, such as conviction, remorse, anxiety, desire for deliverance from the curse of the law, etc.; and also in the constant activity of the soul after regeneration in the exercise of all the gifts of the Spirit. It is, however, immediate, creative, and almighty in the work of regeneration. A blind man might be deeply sensible of the misery of his sightless state, and earnestly desire that his eyes should be opened. He might be informed that Jesus of Nazareth restored sight to the blind. Arguments might be used to awaken confidence in the power and willingness of Jesus to grant that blessing to him. Under these mediate influences he might frequent the place where Jesus was to be found, and seek his aid. If the Lord spake the word, his eyes were instantly opened. Then all the glories of the heavens and the wonders of the earth broke on his view. The state of that man’s mind was very complex. It was the result of many coöperating causes. But the restoration of sight itself, was the simple, mediate, instantaneous effort of almighty power. This was precisely what the Semi-Pelagians denied as in relation to regeneration. They saw that if that was admitted, they must admit the sovereignty of God in election and all the other features of the Augustinian system. They, therefore, insisted not only that the preliminary work was from the man himself, and not due to the Spirit’s drawing one man and not another, but that in every state of the process, the Spirit’s influence was mediate, i.e., a moral suasion through the truth, which could be, and in multitudes of cases actually is, effectually resisted. These are the doctrines condemned in the Councils of Orange and Valence, A.D. 529. The decrees of those Councils being ratified by the Bishop of Rome, Augustinianism was reestablished as the authoritative form of doctrine for the Latin Church.
All conceivable forms of doctrine concerning sin and grace were ventilated successively by the subtle intellects of the schoolmen of the Middle Ages. Some of the theologians of that period were really pantheistic in their philosophy; others, while recognizing a personal God, merge all the efficiency of second causes in his omnipresent 715agency; others went to the opposite extreme of making the human will independent of God, and maintained that men can act contrary to all kinds and degrees of influence not destructive of their nature, which may be brought to bear upon them. These sided naturally with Pelagius. Plenary ability, the power to do whatever is obligatory, they said, is essential to free agency. Men may, therefore, abstain from all sin. When sinners they may turn themselves unto God. If God condescends to aid them in this work, either by external revelations or by inward influence, they must have the power to yield or to refuse. The alternative rests with themselves. Others again come nearer to the Semi-Pelagian theory, admitting that man cannot save himself; cannot turn unto God; cannot repent or believe without divine aid. But this aid they held was given to all in sufficient measure to enable every man to become and to continue a true penitent and believer. Many of the most distinguished theologians of the Latin Church, however, during this period adhered more or less closely to the doctrines of Augustine. This was the case with Leo and Gregory the Great, in the fifth and sixth centuries, and Bede and Alcuin in the eighth and ninth. When, however, Gottschalk avowed the Augustinian doctrine, not only of original sin and grace, but also of predestination, it gave rise to violent opposition and issued in his condemnation in the Council of Chiersy, 849, under the influence of Hincmar; but in the opposing Council of Valence, 855 A.D., the doctrines of election and grace in the Augustinian sense were maintained.
Anselm in the eleventh century was essentially Augustinian in his views of sin and grace. He held that man is born in a state of sin, with a will enslaved to evil, free only in sinning. From this state of helplessness, he can be freed only by the grace of the Holy Spirit, not by his own power, and not by an influence which owes its success to the coöperation of an enslaved will.537537See J. A. Hasse’s Anselm von Canterbury; Parts I. and II., the second part containing en exposition of his doctrines. See also Dr. Shedd’s History of Christian Doctrine, vol. ii. ch. 5.
The two great contending powers in the Latin Church for two centuries before the Council of Trent, were the Dominicans and Franciscans, the Thomists and Scotists, the former the followers of Thomas Aquinas, and the latter of Duns Scotus. As Aquinas adopted very nearly the doctrine of Augustine concerning original sin, he approached more nearly to Augustinianism in his views concerning grace and predestination than the majority of the 716schoolmen. He held that man since the fall had lost all ability to anything spiritually good; that, without grace, he could do nothing acceptable to God or which secured salvation. But he held, —
1. That a gratia preveniens, a divine influence which precedes any good effort on the part of the sinner is granted to men, by which they are excited, encouraged, and aided. If this influence be improved, it secures the merit of congruity, “Quia congruum est, ut dum homo bene utitur sua virtute, Deus secundum superexcellentem virtutem excellentius operetur.”538538Summa, II. i. qu. cxiv. 6, edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 219 a, of second set. This divine influence is called “gratia prima,” and “gratia gratis data.”
2 To this preventing grace when improved, is added the “gratia gratum faciens,” renewing grace, called also “gratia operans;” and, in reference to its effects, “gratia habitualis,” by which is meant, “infusio gratiæ.”
3. To this succeeds the constant “gratia cooperans.” “Gratia,” he says, “dupliciter potest intelligi. Uno modo divinum auxilium quo nos movet ad bene volendum et agendum. Alio modo habituale donum.” Again, “Gratia dividitur in operantem et cooperantem, secundum diversos effectus, ita etiam in prævenientem et subsequentem, qualitercunque gratia accipiatur. Sunt autem quinque effectus gratiæ in nobis, quorum primus est, ut anima sanetur: secundus, ut bonum velit; tertius est, ut bonum quod vult, efficaciter operetur: quartus est, ut in bono perseveret: quintus est, ut ad gloriam perveniat.”539539Ibid. qu. cxi. 2, 3, pp. 210 b, 211 a.
Duns Scotus, in his philosophy and theology, was indeed devoted to the Church, but antagonistic to the views of her most distinguished teachers. This antagonism was most pronounced against Thomas Aquinas, whose opinions he took every opportunity of opposing. Scotus endeavoured, as far as possible, to obliterate the distinction between the supernatural and the natural. Admitting the operations of divine grace, and their necessity, he endeavoured to reduce them to the category of the natural or established agency of God in coöperation with second causes. He held the doctrine of “absolute power,” according to which everything, the moral law, the method of salvation, everything but absolute contradictions, are subject to the arbitrary will of God. God can, as Scotus taught, make right wrong and wrong right, love a crime and malice a virtue. Nothing has any value or merit in itself. It depend. simply on the good pleasure of God, what it avails. There is no 717merit, much less infinite merit in the work of Christ. God might have made anything else, even the most insignificant, the ground of our salvation. The requisition of faith and repentance in order to salvation is alike arbitrary. It depends solely on the absolute will of God that holiness, the supernatural work of the Spirit, has higher value than morality, which is the product of the unassisted free-will of man. Sin is wholly voluntary. Hereditary depravity is not truly sin; it is simply the want of the supernatural righteousness which Adam lost for himself and for all his posterity. The will remains free. Man can sin or avoid all sin. Nevertheless, God determines to accept only the fruits of grace, with which the will coöperates. It was principally the doctrine of Duns Scotus concerning original sin, and its universality, and especially in reference to the Virgin Mary, which was the subject of constant conflict between the Dominicans and Franciscans in the Latin Church.540540On the philosophical and theological position of Duns Scotus, see Ritter’s Geschichte der Christlichen Philosophie, Hamburg, 1845, vol. iv. pp. 354-472.
The Tridentine Doctrine.
The Council of Trent had a very difficult task to perform in framing a statement of the doctrines of sin and grace which, while it condemned the Protestant doctrine, should not obviously infringe against either the acknowledged doctrines of the Latin Church, or the cherished views of one or other of the conflicting parties within its pale. This, indeed, was not merely a difficult, but an impossible task. It was impossible to condemn the Protestant doctrine on these subjects without condemning the doctrine of Augustine, which the Church had already sanctioned. The Council availed itself of generalities as far as possible, and strove so to frame its canons as to secure the assent of the greatest number. On the subject of grace it, (1.) Expressly condemned the Pelagian doctrine of free-will or plenary ability. “Si quis dixerit hominem suis operibus, quæ vel per humanæ naturæ vires, vel per legis doctrinam fiant, absque divina per Jesum Christum gratia posse justificari (become holy) coram Deo; anathema sit.” “Si quis dixerit, ad hoc solum gratiam per Jesum Christum dari, ut facilius homo justi vivere, ac vitam æternam promereni possit; quasi per liberum arbitrium sine gratia utrumque, sed ægre tamen, et difficiliter possit; anathema sit.” (2.) It condemned with equal distinctness the Semi-Pelagian doctrine that man begins the work of conversion: “Si quis dixerit, sine prævenienti Spiritus Sancti inspiratione, atque ejus adjutorio, hominem credere, sperare, diligere 718aut pœnitere posse, sicut oportet, ut ei justificationis (regeneration) gratia conferatur; anathema sit.” (3.) Against the Reformers and Augustine the Council decided, “Si quis dixerit, liberum hominis arbitrium a Deo motum, et excitatum nihil cooperari assentiendo Deo excitanti, atque vocanti, quo ad obtinendam justificationis gratiam se disponat, ac præparet; neque posse dissentire si velit; sed velut inanime quoddam nihil omnino agere, mereque passive se habere; anathema sit.” “Si quis liberum homninis arbitrium [by which is meant, potestas ad utramque partem] post Adæ peccatum amissum, et extinctum esse dixerit; aut rem esse de solo titulo, immo titulum sine re, figmentum denique a Satana invectum in ecclesiam: anathema sit.”541541Sess. VI. can. i.-v.; Streitwolf, Libri Symbolici, pp. 33, 34.
There is of course confusion and misapprehension in all these statements. The Protestants did not deny that men coöperate in their own conversion, taking that word in the sense in which the Romanists used the term (and the still broader term justificatio), as including the whole work of turning unto God. No one denies that the man in the synagogue coöperated in stretching out his withered arm or that the impotent one at the pool was active in obeying the command of Christ, “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.” But the question is, Did they coöperate in the communication of vital power to their impotent limbs? So Protestants do not deny that the soul is active in conversion, that the “arbitrium a Deo motum” freely assents; but they do deny that the sinner is active and coöperating in the production of the new life in the exercise of which the sinner turns to God. Moehler, the ablest and most plausible of the modern defenders of Romanism, uses the word “new-birth” as including the life-long process of sanctification, in which the soul is abundantly coöperative. He recognizes, however, the radical difference between the Tridentine doctrine and that of the Protestants. He insists that in the whole work, in regeneration in its limited sense, as well as in conversion, the soul coöperates with the Spirit, and that it depends on this coöperation, whether the sinner receives the new life or not. The power of the Spirit in all its inward operations may be resisted or assented to as the free-will of the subjects of his influence may decide. “According to Catholic principles,” as before quoted, he says, “there are two agencies combined in the work of the new birth, the human and the divine, so that it is a divine-human work. The divine influence goes first, exciting, awakening and vivifying, without any agency of the man in meriting, 719invoking, or procuring it; but the subject must allow himself to be aroused and must freely follow. God offers his help to deliver from the fall, but the sinner must consent to be helped and embrace the offered aid; if he accepts, he is taken by the divine Spirit, and gradually, although in this life never perfectly, restored to the heights from which he fell. The Spirit of God does not work by necessitating, although he is actively urgent; his omnipotence sets itself a limit in human liberty, which it does not overstep; for such violation of free agency would be the destruction of the moral order of the world which eternal wisdom has founded on liberty.” He therefore justifies the Papal condemnation of the Jansenist doctrine: “Quando Deus vult animam salvam facere, et eam tangit interiori gratiæ suæ manu, nulla voluntas humana ei resistit. — Dei gratia nihil aliud est, quam ejus omnipotens voluntas.”542542Symbolik, 6th edit., Mainz, 1843, ch. III. § ii. pp. 105, 106. On the following page,543543Pages 113, 114. he says, “The Catholic doctrine that there are in fallen men moral and religious powers which do not always sin, and which must in the new birth be called into exercise, gave rise to the idea, that this activity of what is natural in man, was a transition into grace, that is, that the right use of what is natural conditions or secures grace. This would indeed be Pelagian, and the man, not Christ, would merit grace, and grace cease to be grace. . . . . The delicate and refined sense of the Catholic doctrine, which carefully distinguishes between nature and grace, avoids that difficulty. The finite, even when sinless, may stretch itself to the utmost, it never reaches the Infinite, so as to seize and appropriate it. Nature may honestly unfold all its powers, it never can by and out of itself be sublimated into the Supernatural; the human can by no exertion of power make itself divine. There is an impassable gulf between the two, if grace does not interpose. The divine must come down to the human, if the human is to become divine.” This is philosophy. The question is not, whether the finite can attain the Infinite, or the human become divine. Nor is the question between Romanists and Protestants, Whether fallen men can become holy without the supernatural grace of the Holy Spirit. But the question is, Whether the regeneration of the soul is due to the nature of the Spirit’s influence, and to the purpose of God, or to the consent and coöperation of the subject of that influence.720
The Synergistic Controversy.
The Lutherans from the beginning held the doctrine of original sin in its most extreme form. In the Augsburg Confession, in the Apology for that Confession, in the Smalcald Articles, and finally, in the Form of Concord, that doctrine is stated in stronger terms than in any other Christian Symbol. If men are since the fall in a state of condemnation, if the hereditary corruption derived from Adam is not only truly sin, but the deepest and greatest of all sins; if the soul is not merely morally sick and enfeebled, but spiritually dead, as taught in those Symbols, then it follows: (1.) That man since the fall has no ability to anything spiritually good (2.) That in order to his return to God he needs the life giving power of the Spirit of God. (3.) That the sinner can in no way prepare himself to be the subject of this grace, he cannot merit it, nor can he coöperate with it. Regeneration is exclusively the work of the Spirit, in which man is the subject and not the agent. (4.) That, therefore, it depends on God, and not on man, who are, and who are not, to be made partakers of eternal life. (5.) That consequently God acts as a sovereign, according to his good pleasure, and according to the counsel of his own will, in saving some and in passing by others, who are left to the just recompense of their sins. All these inferences are, as Augustinians believe, drawn in Scripture, and were freely accepted by Luther and, at first, by the Lutheran Church. Before the death of the Reformer, and more openly after that event, many of the Lutheran theologians adopted the later views of Melancthon, who taught, “Concurrunt tres causæ bonæ actionis, verbum Dei, Spiritus Sanctus, et humana voluntas assentiens nec repugnans verbo Dei. Posset enim excutere, ut excutit Saul sua sponte.”544544Loci Com. p. 90. He defined freewill as “facultas applicandi se, ad gratiam.”545545Page 92. In these views, which of necessity involved a modification of the doctrine of original sin, Melancthon was followed by a large class of Lutheran theologians, especially those of Wittemberg. The theologians of Jena, with one prominent exception, Strigel, adhered to the old Lutheran doctrine. Besides this discussion about sin and grace, there were several other subjects which greatly agitated the Lutheran Church. The doctrine concerning the person of Christ, the nature of justification, the necessity of good works, toleration of Papal ceremonies (the adiaphora), and the Lord’s Supper, were debated with so much zeal that the Protestant rulers were 721constrained to interfere. Under their auspices, Andreas and Chemnitz, assisted by other theologians, drew up what is known as the “Form of Concord,” in which with great clearness and skill they reviewed all the matters in dispute, and endeavoured to adopt a mode of statement which should secure general assent. In this they were not disappointed. The Form of Concord was so generally adopted that it received full symbolical authority, and has ever since been regarded as the standard of orthodoxy among the Lutherans.546546The Form of Concord consists of two parts; the first is called the Epitome and contains a brief statement of the several articles of faith and of the opposing errors; and the second is the Solida Declaratio or more extended exhibition and vindication of the doctrines taught. The Epitome itself occupies fifty pages in Hase’s edition of the Libri Symbolici of the Lutheran Church.
As to original sin, and the consequent utter inability of man to any spiritual good, the doctrine of Luther was retained in its integrity. Luther had said in his book, “De Servo Arbitrio,”547547Works, edit. Wittenberg (Latin), 1546, vol. ii. p. 522. “Admonitos velim liberi arbitrii tutores, ut sciant, sese esse abnegatores Christi dum asserunt liberum arbitrium. Nam si meo studio gratiam Dei obtineo, quid opus est Christi gratia pro mea gratia accipienda?” “Humiliari penitus non potest homo, donec sciat, prorsus extra suas vires, studia, voluntatem, opera, omnino ex alterius arbitrio, consilio, voluntate, opere suam pendere salutem, nempe Dei solius.”548548Ibid. p. 467, b. On this point the “Form of Concord” says, inter alia, “Credimus, quantum abest, ut corpus mortuum seipsum vivificare atque sibi ipsi corporalem vitam restituere possit, tantum abesse, ut homo, qui ratione peccati spiritualiter mortuus est, seipsum in vitam spiritualem revocandi ullam facultatem habeat.”549549Epitome, II. 3; Hase, Libri Symbolici, 3d edit. Leipzig, 1836, p. 579. Of course, if such be the state of the natural man, there can be no coöperation on the part of the sinner in the work of regeneration. This Symbol, therefore, says, “Antequam homo per Spiritum Sanctum illuminatur, convertitur, regeneratur et trahitur, ex sese et propriis naturalibus suis viribus in rebus spiritualibus et ad conversionem aut regenerationem suam, nihil inchoare operari, nut cooperari potest, nec plus, quam lapis, truncus, aut limus.”550550II. 24; Hase, p. 662. Again, “Quamvis renati etiam in hac vita eousque progrediantur, ut bonum velint eoque delectentur, et bene agere atque in pietate proficere studeant: tamen hoc ipsum non a nostra voluntate aut a viribus nostris proficiscitur, sed Spiritus Sanctus operatur in nobis illud velle et perficere.”551551II. 39; Ibid. p. 666.
If original sin involves spiritual death, and spiritual death implies 722utter inability to spiritual good, and to all coöperation in the work of regeneration, it follows that regeneration is exclusively the work of the Spirit, in which the subject is entirely passive. This, also, the “Form of Concord” admits. “Item, quod D. Lutherus scripsit, hominis voluntatem in conversione pure passive se habere: id recte et dextere est accipiendum, videlicet respectu divinæ gratiæ in accendendis novis motibus, hoc est, de eo intelligi oportet, quando Spiritus Dei per verbum auditum, aut per usum sacramentorum hominis voluntatem aggreditur, et conversionem atque regenerationem in homine operatur. Postquam enim Spiritus Sanctus hoc ipsum jam operatus est atque effecit, hominisque voluntatem sola sua divina virtute et operatione immutavit atque renovavit: tunc revera hominis nova illa voluntas instrumentum est et organon Dei Spiritus Sancti, ut ea non modo gratiam apprehendat, verum etiam in operibus sequentibus Spiritui Sancto cooperetur.”552552Epitome II. 18; Ibid. pp. 582, 583.
But if the reason why any man is regenerated is not that he yields of his own will to the grace of God, or that he coöperates with it, but simply that God gives him a new heart, then it would seem to follow that God saves some and not others of the fallen race of men, of his own good pleasure. In other words, it follows that election to eternal life is not founded in anything in us, but solely in the will or purpose of God. This conclusion the “Form of Concord” admits, so far as the saved are concerned. It teaches (1) That predestination has reference only to the saved. That God predestinates no one either to sin or to eternal death. (2.) That the election of some persons to salvation is not for anything good in them, but solely of the mercy or grace of God. (3.) That predestination to life is the cause of salvation. That is, it is because God from eternity purposed to save certain individuals of the human family, that they are saved. (4.) That this predestination or election renders the salvation of the elect certain. Should they for a time fall away, their election secures their restoration to a state of grace. The following passages contain the avowal of these several principles. “Prædestinatio, seu æterna Dei electio, tantum ad bonos et dilectos filios Dei pertinet; et hæc est causa ipsorum salutis. Etenim eorum salutem procurat, et ea, quæ ad ipsam pertinent, disponit. Super hanc Dei prædestinationem salus nostra ita fundata est, ut inferorum portæ eam evertere nequeant.”553553Formula Concordiæ, Epitome, XI. 5; Hase, p. 618. “Hac pia doctrina et declaratione articuli 723de æterna et salvifica electorum filiorum Dei prædestinatione Deo gloria sua omnis solide tribuitur, quod videlicet mera et gratuita misericordia in Christo (absque omnibus nostris meritis aut bonis operibus) salvos nos faciat, secundum voluntatis suæ propositum. Eph i. 5 sq. . . . . Falsum igitur est et cum verbo Dei pugnat, cum docetur, quod non sola Dei misericordia, et unicum sanctissimum Christi meritum, verum etiam aliquid in nobis causa sit electionis divinæ, propter quod nos Deus ad vitam æternam prædestinaverit. Non enim tantum antequam aliquid boni faceremus, verum etiam priusquam nasceremur, imo ante jacta fundamenta mundi elegit nos Deus in Christo. Ut secundum electionem propositum Dei maneret, non ex operibus, sed ex vocante, dictum est ei: Major serviet minori. Rom. 9, [11.]”554554XI. lxxxvii., lxxxviii., Hase, p. 821.
As to the perseverance of the saints, it is said, “Cum etiam electio nostra ad vitam æternam non virtutibus aut justitia nostra, sed solo Christi merito, et benigna cœlestis Patris voluntate nitatur, qui seipsum negare non potest (cum in voluntate et essentia sua sit immutabilis), eam ob causam, quando filii ipsius obedientiam non præstant, sed in peccata labuntur, per verbum eos ad pœnitentiam revocat, et Spiritus Sanctus per verbum vult in iis efficax esse, ut in viam redeant, et vitam emendent.”555555XI. lxxv.; Ibid. p. 817. The older Lutheran theologians adhered to this doctrine. Hutter556556Compendium Locorum Theologicum, loc. xiii. qu. 30; Wittenberg, 1659, p. 159. asks, “Siccine ergo electi non possunt excidere gratia Dei? Immo vero possunt; sed ita, ut per veram pœnitentiam et fidem sese rursus virtute Spiritus Sancti ad Deum convertant et ad vitam redeant. Nisi enim redirent, non essent in numero electorum.”
But if all men since the fall are in a state of spiritual death, utterly unable to do anything to secure the grace of God, or to give that grace, when offered, a saving effect; if election is not a mere general purpose to save those who believe, but a purpose to save particular individuals; if that purpose is of God’s mere good pleasure, and not founded upon anything actual or foreseen in its objects; if, moreover, it is the cause of salvation, and renders the salvation of its objects certain; then it would seem inevitably to follow, that although the judicial reason why the non-elect fail of salvation is their own sin, yet the reason why they, and not others equally guilty are left to suffer the penalty of their sins, is to be found in the sovereignty of God. “Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” This, however, the Lutherans of that day could not admit; and therefore, with what Guericke calls 724“göttlich nothwendiger Verstandes-Inconsequenz”557557Kirchengeschichte, Per. VII. B. cap. ii. § 203, 6th edit. Leipzig, 1846, vol. iii. p. 419. (a divinely necessitated logical inconsistency), they rejected that consequence of their avowed principles. In this illogical position the theologians of the Lutheran Church could not remain, and therefore, since Gerhard (who died A.D. 1637), they have adopted the more consistent scheme which has already been exhibited. According to that scheme, God sincerely not only desires, but purposes the salvation of all men; He makes abundant provision for the salvation of all; sends grace and truth to all, which grace and truth become certainly efficacious, unless resisted. Those whom God foresees will not resist, He elects to eternal life; those whom He foresees will resist unto the end, He foreordains to eternal death.
The experience of the Reformed Church conformed to that of the Lutheran, in so far as that the same defection from the original confessional doctrines occurred in both. As the followers of Melancthon adopted the theory of synergism, or of the coöperation of the sinner in his own regeneration, on which coöperation his fate depended, substantially the same view was adopted by the Remonstrants or Arminians within the pale of the Reformed Church. The departure of the Remonstrants from the principles of the Reformation, as to original sin, grace, ability, the satisfaction of Christ, justification and faith, was far more serious than that which occurred among the Lutherans. Another marked difference between the two cases is, that the synergistic controversy resulted in a modification of the Lutheran scheme of doctrine which became general and permanent; whereas the Remonstrants or Arminians formed a distinct ecclesiastical organization outside of the Reformed churches which adhered to the Reformed faith. The peculiar doctrines of the Remonstrants, both as to sin and as to grace, were stated above;558558Pages, 327, 328. and also those of the Evangelical or Wesleyan Arminians.559559Pages 329, 330. The decision of the Synod of Dort, condemnatory of the Arminian doctrines, was unanimous. That Synod included delegates from all the Reformed churches except that of France, whose delegates were prevented from attending by an order from the King. The established churches of England and Scotland, as well as those of Holland, Germany, and Switzerland were represented. The judgment of the Synod was therefore the judgment of the Reformed Church. In accordance with the acknowledged Symbols 725of that Church, the Synod decided, (1.) That “all mankind sinned in Adam and became exposed to the curse and eternal death. That God would have done no injustice to any one, if He had determined to leave the whole human race under sin and the curse.”560560Chapter i. art. 1. (2.) “That God out of the human race, fallen by their fault into sin and destruction, according to the most free good pleasure of his own will, and of mere grace, chose a certain number of men, neither better nor worthier than others to salvation in Christ.”561561Chapter i. art. 7. (3.) That this decree to elect “a certain number” to eternal life, involves of necessity and according to the teaching of Scripture, a purpose to pass by, and leave those not elected to suffer the just punishment of their sins.562562Chapter i. art. 15. (4.) That God out of infinite and unmerited love sent his Son “efficaciously to redeem” all those “who were from eternity chosen unto salvation and given to Him by the Father.”563563Chapter ii. art 8. (5.) That Christ makes satisfaction for us, being “made sin and a curse upon the cross for us, or in our stead,” and that “this death of the Son of God is a single and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, if infinite value and price abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”564564Chapter ii. art. 3. “The promise of the Gospel is, that whosoever believeth in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. Which promise ought to be announced and proposed, promiscuously and indiscriminately, to all nations and men to whom God, in his good pleasure, hath sent the Gospel, with the command to repent and believe.”565565Chapter ii. art. 5. “But because many who are called by the Gospel do not repent, nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief; this doth not arise from defect or insufficiency of the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but from their own fault.”566566Chapter ii. art. 6. This general invitation or call is perfectly sincere on the part of God; “for sincerely and most truly God shows in his Word what is pleasing to Him; namely, that they who are called should come to Him. And He sincerely promises to all who come to Him, and believe, the peace of their souls and eternal life.”567567Chapter iii. art. 9. That some do come and are converted, “is not to be ascribed to man, as if he distinguished himself by free-will from others furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (which the proud heresy of Pelagius states) but to God, who, as He chose his own people in Christ from eternity, so He effectually calls them in time.”568568Chapter iii. art. 10. “This regeneration is declared in the 726Scriptures to be a new creation, a resurrection from the dead, a giving of life which God without us (that is, without our concurrence) worketh in us. And this is by no means effected by the doctrine alone sounding without, by moral suasion, or by such a mode of operation, that after the operation of God (as far as He is concerned) it should remain in the power of man, to be regenerated or not regenerated, converted or not converted; but it is manifestly an operation supernatural, at the same time most powerful, most sweet, wonderful, secret, ineffable in its power, according to Scripture (which is inspired by the author of this operation) not less than, or inferior to, creation, or the resurrection of the dead.”569569Chapter iii. art. 12. “This grace God owes to no man.” He who receives it must render everlasting thanks; he who does not receive it, either cares not for spiritual things, and rests satisfied with himself, or, secure, he vainly boasts that he has that which he has not.570570Chapter iii. art. 15. “This divine grace of regeneration does not act upon men like stocks and trees, or take away the properties of his will, or violently compel it while unwilling; but it spiritually quickens (vivifies), heals, corrects, and sweetly, and at the same time powerfully inclines it.”571571Chapter iii. art. 6. “Those whom God, according to his purpose, calleth to fellowship of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by his Holy Spirit, He indeed sets free from the dominion and slavery of sin, but not entirely in this life from the flesh and the body of sin.”572572Chapter v. art 1. Because of these remains of sin, believers, if left to themselves, would fall away, “but God is faithful, who confirms them in the grace once mercifully conferred upon them, and powerfully preserves them in the same even unto the end.”573573Chapter v. art 3. See Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, Leipzig, 1840, pp. 693-716.
A class of theologians in the Reformed Church who did not agree with the Remonstrants against whom the decisions of the Synod of Dort, sustained by all branches of the Reformed body, were directed, were still unable to side with the great mass of their brethren. The most distinguished of these theologians were Amyraut, La Place, and Cappellus. Their views have already been briefly stated in the sections treating of mediate imputation; and of the order of decrees and of the design of redemption. These departures from the accepted doctrines of the Reformed Church produced protracted agitation, not in France only but also in Holland 727and Switzerland. The professors of the University of Leyden. Andreas Rivet and Frederick Spanheim, were especially prominent among the opposers of the innovations of the French theologians. The clergy of Geneva drew up a protest in the form of a Consensus of the Helvetic Churches which received symbolical authority The doctrines against which this protest was directed are, (1.) That God, out of general benevolence towards men, and not out of special love to his chosen people, determined to redeem all mankind, provided they should repent and believe on the appointed Redeemer. Hence the theory was called hypothetical universalism. (2.) That the death or work of Christ had no special reference to his own people; it rendered the salvation of no man certain, but the salvation of all men possible. (3.) As the call of the gospel is directed to all men, all have the power to repent and believe. (4.) God foreseeing that none, if left to themselves, would repent, determines of his own good pleasure to give saving grace to some and not to others. This is the principal distinguishing feature between the theory of these French theologians and of the Semi-Pelagians and Remonstrants. The former admit the sovereignty of God in election; the latter do not.
This system necessitates a thorough change in the related doctrines of the gospel. If fallen men have power to repent and believe, then original sin (subjectively considered) does not involve absolute spiritual death. If this be so, then mankind are not subject to the death threatened to Adam. Therefore, there is no immediate imputation of Adam’s sin to his posterity. As they derive a polluted nature from him, which is the ground of the displeasure of God, they may so far be said to share in his sin. This is mediate imputation. Again, if the death of Christ does not render certain the salvation of his people, then it was not vicarious in the proper sense of that word; nor did He die as a substitute. His satisfaction assumes of necessity the character of a general display, a didactic exhibition of truth. At least this is the logical tendency, and the actual historical consequence of the theory. Moreover, if Christ did not act as the substitute and representativc of his people, there is no ground for the imputation of his righteousness to them. The French theologians, therefore, denied that his active obedience is thus imputed to believers. The merit of his death may be said to be thus imputed as it is the ground of the forgiveness of sin. This of course destroys the idea of justification by merging it into an executive act of pardon. Moreover, the principles on which this theory is founded, require that as every 728other provision of the gospel is general and universal, so also the call must be. But as it is undeniable that neither the written word nor the preached gospel has extended to all men, it must be assumed that the revelation of God made in his works, in his providence, and in the constitution of man, is adequate to lead men to all the knowledge necessary to salvation; or, that the supernatural teaching and guidance of the Spirit securing such knowledge must be granted to all men. It is too obviously inconsistent and unreasonable to demand that redemption must be universal, and ability universal as the common heritage of man, and yet admit that the knowledge of that redemption and of what sinners are required to do in the exercise of their ability, is confined to comparatively few. The “Formula Consensus Helvetica,” therefore, includes in its protest the doctrine of those “qui vocationem ad salutem non sola Evangelii prædicatione, sed naturæ etiam ac Providentiæ operibuis, citra ullum exterius præconium expediri sentiunt,” etc.574574XX.; Niemeyer, Collectio Confessionum, Leipzig, 1840, p. 737. It is not wonderful, therefore, that this diluted form of Augustinianismn should be distasteful to the great body of the Reformed Churches. It was rejected universally except in France, where, after repeated acts of censure, it came to be tolerated.
Supernaturalism and Rationalism.
The departure from the doctrines of the church standards of the Protestant churches began early, with the decline of vital godliness. The only stable foundation for truth is either the external authority of the Church tolerating no dissent, or the inward testimony of the Spirit, the unction of the Holy One which both teaches and convinces. The former from its nature can secure only apparent conformity or the assent of indifference. Living faith can come only from a life-giving source.
The first great change was effected by the introduction of the Wolf-Leibnitzian method into theology. Wolf assumed that all the truths of religion, even its highest mysteries, were truths of the reason, and capable of being demonstrated to the reason. This was a complete revolution. It changed the foundation of faith from the testimony of God in his Word and by his Spirit, to the testimony of our own feeble, insignificant reason. No wonder that a building resting on such a foundation, first tottered, and then fell. If the demonstration of the doctrine of the Trinity from the truths of the reason failed to convince, the doctrine was rejected. So of all the other great doctrines of revelation, and so especially 729of the Scriptural doctrines of sin and grace. A class of Rationalists was therefore soon formed; some rejecting everything supernatural, all prophecy, immediate revelation, inspiration, miracles, and divine influence other than what was mediate and providential; and others, while admitting a supernatural revelation supernaturally authenticated, still maintained that the truths of such revelation were only those of natural religion, all others being explained away or rejected as accommodations to the modes of thinking and speaking in past ages. This change was of course gradual. The Rationalists proper soon came to deny any supernatural influence of the Spirit of God in the conversion of men. Being Theists, and admitting that God exercises a providential efficiency, not only in the external world, but also in the support and guidance of free agents, — an efficiency which is natural, as operating in accordance with natural laws, they referred all that the Scriptures teach and all that the Church teaches, of the operations of grace, to the general head of providence. God does no more and no less in the conversion of men than He does in their education, and in furthering their success in life, or in causing the rain to fall and the grass to grow. In denying the Scriptural account of the fall of man, the Rationalists rejected the foundation on which the whole Scriptural scheme of redemption rested.
The Supernaturalists, although united against the Rationalists, differed very much among themselves. Some stood on the dividing line, admitting supernatural intervention on the part of God, in revelation and in grace, not because asserted in the Scriptures, but because consistent with reason, and because probable and desirable. Thus Bretschneider says in reference to grace, “Reason finds the immediate operation of God on the souls of men for their illumination and improvement, not only possible, but probable. As God stands in connection with the external world, and in virtue of his infinitely perfect life constantly operates therein; so must He also stand in connection with the moral world, or there could be no moral government. But as his working in the natural world appears as natural, so that we never apprehend his supernatural efficiency; thus his operation in the moral world is also natural conformed to psychological laws, so that we are never conscious of his operation.”575575Handbuch der Dogmatik, § 185, 3d edit. Leipzig, 1828, vol. ii. p. 600. This divine influence, therefore, he says, is simply “moral.” “It can consist only in this, that God, through the ideas which the truth awakens in the soul, rouses it to decide for the good.”576576Ibid. p. 604.730
Morus577577Epitome, Theologiæ, V. iii. 4; 4th edit. Leipzig, 1799, pp. 229, 230. makes the reformation of men the work of God in so far that God sustains “nostrum in usu doctrinæ studium,” so that it is successful. He attributes to man the ability to devote himself to this study, and declares that we do not need to determine, “quid et quantum Deus atque homo faciant, ubi aut quando Deus aut homo incipiat, seu desinat, Deus solus agat, seu homo aliquid conferat.”
J. L. Z. Junkheim578578Von dem Uebernatürlichen in den Gnadenwirkungen, Erlangen, 1775. taught that the work of God in conversion as supernatural, not because He acts immediately, but because the means through which He works, his Word as a divine revelation, and the effect are supernatural. The modus agendi is purely natural, and the reformation only so far exceeds the natural power of man, as that the truth by which it is effected was not discovered by man, but revealed by God; and so far as this revealed truth has more power than the thoughts or speculations of men.
Michaelis579579Dogm. p. 180. and Döderlein580580Institutio Theoligi Christiani, edit. Nuremberg and Altorf, 1797, vol. II. p. 698. took the same ground, and denied any supernatural influence in the work of conversion. Others taught that the grace of God is universal, and that by grace is to be understood natural knowledge, and the helps to virtue, of which men have the opportunity and power to avail themselves. Eberhard,581581Apol. des Sokrat, 2 Thl. p. 387. Henke, Eckermann, and Wegscheider582582Institutiones Theologiæ, 5th edit. Halle, 1826, § 152. acknowledge only a general agency of God in conversion, in that He has written the moral law on the hearts of men, given them the power of self-reformation, and is the author of Christianity, and in his providence gives them the occasion and inducements to virtuous action. Ammon583583Summa, III. 4, § 158; 4th edit. Leipzig, 1830, p. 307. says grace consists in “procuratione institutionis salutaris, excitatione per exempla virtutis illustria, paupertate, calamitatibus, admonitionibus amicorum et inimicorum,” etc.584584See Bretschneider, vol. II. p. 615, 616. Dorner’s Geschichte der protestantischen Theologiæ. There was a class of theologians during this period to which Storr, Flatt, and Knapp belonged, who opposed these open denials of the principles, not only of Protestant, but also of Catholic Christianity, but who were nevertheless far below the standard of the Reformation.
To this state of extreme attenuation was the theology of the Reformers reduced, when the introduction of the speculative, transcendental, or pantheistic philosophy effected an entire revolution, which even such writers as Dorner are accustomed to call “the 731regeneration of theology.” The leading principle of this philosophy, in all its phases, is Monism, the denial of all real dualism between God and man. If man is only the modus existendi of God, then of course there is an end of all questions about sin and grace. Sin can only be imperfect development, and man’s activity bcing only a form of the agency of God, there is no place for what the Church means by grace. All resolves itself into the Hegelian dictum, “What God does I do, and what I do God does. “Der menschliche Wille eine Wirkungsform des göttlichen Willens . . . . ist.”585585See Hase’s Dogmatik, § 177, 3d edit. Leipzig, 1842, p. 305.
The change introduced by the new philosophy was pervading. Even those who did not adopt it in its anti-christian or anti-theistic results, had all their modes of thought and expression modified by its influence. The views thus induced, of the nature of God, of his relation to the world, of the nature or constitution of man, of the person of Christ, and of the method of redemption, were so diverse from those previously adopted, that the new theology, whether designated as mystic or speculative, has few points of contact with the systems previously adopted. Its whole nomenclature is changed, so that the productions of the writers of this class cannot be understood without some previous training. Of course it is out of the question to class these theologians, who differ greatly among themselves, under the old categories. To say that they were Pelagian, Semi-Pelagian, Tridentine, Lutheran, Reformed, or Arminian, would be absurd. Schleiermacher, Ullmann, Nitzsch, Twesten, Martensen, Lange, Liebner, Dorner, Schoeberlein, Delitzsch, and many others, are believers in the divine origin of Christianity; and are able, learned, and zealous in the support of the truth as they apprehend it; and yet, in their theological discussions, their whole mode of thinking, and their method of presenting the doctrines of Scripture, are so controlled by their philosophy, that to a great degree, and to a degree much greater in some cases than in others, their writings have the aspect of philosophical disquisitions, and not of exhibitions of Scriptural doctrines.586586It is characteristic of these writers, however, that some of their own productions are simple and Biblical, while others are in the highest degrees mystical and obscure. Lange’s Commentaries, for example, are for the most part intelligible enough, but his Philosophische Dogmatik none but a German, native or naturalized, can understand. It would be difficult to name a book more replete with sound Scriptural doctrine, clearly stated than Delitzsch’s Commentar zum Briefe an die Hebräer, with its archaeological and doctrinal Excursus on sacrifices and atonement, and yet at other times he writes like a Cabalist. With these writers as a class, all questions concerning grace, are merged into the more comprehensive questions of the nature of God, his 732relation to the world, the person of Christ, and the way in which his life becomes the life of his people. In many cases, indeed, the person, and the special work of the Spirit, are altogether ignored. We are redeemed because the divine and human are united in Christ, and we derive from Him, through the Church and the sacraments, the power of this divine-human life.
All the topics connected with the great doctrines of sin and grace have been frequently and earnestly debated by the theological writers of our own country. But into these debates no new questions have entered. The principles involved in these controversies are the same as those involved in the earlier conflicts in the Church. Even the system of Dr. Emmons, which has most appearance of originality, is the doctrine of a continued creation pushed to its legitimate consequences, combined with certain incongruous elements derived from other sources. With Dr. Emmons God is the only cause; second causes (so called), whether material or mental, have no efficiency. God creates everything at every moment; all volitions or mental states, as well as all things external. He denied all substance out of God; identity consists in a sameness and continuity of phenomena or effects connected by the will or constitution of God. The moral and religious convictions of this distinguished man were too strong to allow him to draw the legitimate conclusions from his theory of divine efficiency. He therefore maintained that men’s volitions are free, although created by God; and that they are morally good or evil, determining character and involving responsibility, although they are the acts of God, or the product of his creative power. This is very different from the Church doctrine of original or concreated righteousness, and of infused grace. The Bible does indeed teach that God created man in his own image in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. But this holiness was a permanent state of mind the character of a person, a suppositum, or individual subsistence; and not the character of an act which is good or bad according to the motives by which it is determined. If God creates holy acts, He is a Holy Being, but the acts have no moral character apart from their efficient cause or author. Faith and repentance are due to the power of God, they are his gifts; but they are truly our acts, and not God’s. They are his gifts, because it is under his gracious influence we are induced to repent and believe. There can be no moral character pertaining to an act which does not belong to the agent.
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