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XV.

(Lecture IV., page 132).

AUGUSTINE AND CALVIN ON HUMAN CORRUPTION.

The expressions in the text are to be found in the second book of Calvin’s ‘Institutio Christianæ Religionis:’ 234the first, in the close of the second chapter of that book, being a quotation from Augustine (De Verbis Apost., Serm. 10)—“Nostrum nihil nisi peccatum;” and the second being the title of the third chapter of the same book. I am quite aware that both these modes of expression are capable of a strictly evangelical interpretation; or, in other words, that there is a sense in which they may be said to be in consistency with our Lord’s teaching. And I am far from attributing to Calvin especially, a lack of balance and comprehensiveness of judgment in dealing with the question of sin. No one can read the two chapters to which I refer without seeing that this would be doing Calvin injustice (as, indeed, injustice is often done to his special views). In the very same chapters, for example, he freely allows a good side in human nature, or at least an undestroyed power of distinguishing good and evil (“ratio, qua discernit homo inter bonum et malum”—L. II. c. ii. § 13)—even a power of virtue (“ad virtutis studium facultas”), conspicuously illustrated in such men as Camillus (L. II. c. iii. § 4). Calvin is seldom deficient in comprehensiveness of intellectual judgment. But he is none the less narrow, and sometimes unfair in tone. Neither he nor Augustine can frankly admit that what is good in human nature is after all really good. Admitting, for example, the external virtue of such a natural man as Camillus, he yet asks, “What if his mind was depraved, which it must have been if he was only a natural man?” (ibid.) In other words, there is a back-lying theory of human depravity which colours, in both these theologians, all their estimates 235of human life and character, Dogmatic abstractions are constantly obtruding upon their line of thought, and giving a direction to it very different from the broad and fair representations of the Gospels, where everything stands for what it really is of good or of evil, without any distorting and confusing effects of abstract theory. The tone is different in the two cases. This is all that is meant by the observation in the text.

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