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WESTERN CHRISTIANITY AND WESTERN THEOLOGIANS BEFORE AUGUSTINE.
The distinctive character of Western Christianity has been frequently referred to in our earlier volumes. We may now, before taking up Augustine and the Church influenced by him, appropriately review and describe the Christianity into which he entered, and on which he conferred an extraordinarily prolonged existence and new vital energies by the peculiar form and training to which he subjected it. It was the Roman Church that transmitted Christianity to the Middle Ages. But it might almost be named the Augustinian-Gregorian1717After Gregory I. with as much justice as that of the Augsburg Confession is called the Lutheran.
If, however, we ascend the history of the Latin Church to as near its origin as we can, we find ourselves confronted by a man in whom the character and the future of this Church were already announced, viz., Tertullian. Tertullian and Augustine are the Fathers of the Latin Church in so eminent a sense that, measured by them, the East possessed no Church Fathers at all.1818Möhler says very justly, from the Catholic standpoint (Patrologie, p. 737): “We are often surprised for a moment, and forget that in Tertullian we have before us a writer of the beginning of the third century, we feel so mush at home in reading the language, often very familiar to us, in which he discusses difficult questions concerning dogmatics, morals, or even the ritual of the Church.” The only one to rival them, Origen, exerted his influence in a more limited sphere. Eminently ecclesiastical as his activity was, his Christianity was not really ecclesiastical, but esoteric. His development and the import of his personal life were almost without significance for the mass; he continued to live in his books and among theologians. But with Tertullian and Augustine it was different. It is true that only a fraction of Tertullian’s teaching was retained, that he was tolerated by posterity only in Cyprian’s reduced version, and that Augustine became more and more a source of uneasiness to, and was secretly opposed by, his Church. Yet both passed into the history of the Western Catholic Church with their personality, with the characteristics of their Christian thought and feeling. The frictions and unresolved dissonances, in which they wore themselves out, were transmitted to the future as well as the concords they sounded, and the problems, which they could not master in their own inner experience, became the themes of world-historical spiritual conflicts.1919Ultimately men were content, indeed, with preserving the inconsistencies, treating them as problems of the schools, and ceasing to attempt to solve them; for time makes even self-contradictions tolerable, and indeed to some extent hallows them. We can exhibit the superiority of Western to Eastern Christianity at many points; we can even state a whole series of causes for this superiority; but one of the most outstanding is the fact that while the East was influenced by a commonplace succession of theologians and monks, the West was moulded by Tertullian and Augustine.
Roman Christianity, still (c. 180) essentially Greek in form, but already with important features of its own,2020See the 1 Ep. of Clement, also the tractate on The Players, and the testimonies of Ignatius, Dionysius of Corinth and others as to the old Roman Church. had won the Great African to its service.2121De præscr. 36: “Si Italiæ adjaces habes Romam, unde nobis auctoritas quoque praesto est.” It had already transmitted to him Latin translations of Biblical books; but on this foundation Tertullian laboured, creating both thought and language, because he was able thoroughly to assimilate the new faith, and to express his whole individuality in it.2222On Church Latin, see Koffmane’s work, which contains much that is valuable, Gesch. des Kirchenlateins, 1879-1881.
In doing so he adopted all the elements which tradition offered him. First, as a Christian Churchman, he took up the old enthusiastic and rigorous, as well as the new anti-heretical, faith. He sought to represent both, and in his sovereign law to verify the strict lex of the ancient disciplina, founded on eschatological hopes, and allied with unrestrained pneumatic dogmatics, and also the strict lex of the new rule of faith, which seemed ancient, because the heretics were undoubtedly innovators. He sought to be a disciple of the prophets and an obedient son of his Episcopal teachers. While he spent his strength in the fruitless attempt to unite them,2323See our expositions of this in Vol. II., p. 67 ff., 108 ff., 128 f., 311 f. he left both forces as an inheritance to the Church of the West. If the history of that Church down to the sixteenth century exhibits a conflict between orthodox clerical and enthusiastic, between biblical and pneumatic elements, if monachism here was constantly in danger of running into apocalyptics and enthusiasm, and of forming an opposition to the Episcopal and world-Church, all that is foreshadowed in Tertullian.
A further element, which here comes before us, is the juristic. We know that jurisprudence and legal thought held the chief place in mediæval philosophy, theology, and ethics.2424See v. Schulte, Gesch. der Quellen and Lit. d. kanonischen Rechts, Vol. I., pp. 92-103, Vol. II., p. 512 f. Also his Gedanken über Aufgabe and Reform d. jurist. Studiums, 1881: “The science of law was in practice the leading factor in Church and State from the twelfth century.” That it is so still may, to save many words, be confirmed by a testimony of Döllinger’s. In a memorable speech on Phillips he says, (Akad. Vorträge, Vol. II., p. 185 f.): “Frequent intercourse with the two closely-allied converts, Iarcke and Phillips, showed me how an ultramontane and papistical conception of the Christian religion was especially suggested and favoured by legal culture and mode of thought, which was dominated, even in the case of German specialists like Phillips, not by ancient German, but Roman legal ideas.” Post-apostolic Greek Christians had, indeed, already put Christianity forward as the “law,” and the Roman community may have cultivated this view with peculiar energy;2525On the designation of Holy Scripture as “lex” in the West, see Zahn, Gesch. d. neutestamentlichen Kanous, I. 1, p. 95 f. but in and by itself this term is capable of so many meanings as to be almost neutral. Yet through the agency of Tertullian, by his earlier profession a lawyer, all Christian forms received a legal impress. He not only transferred the technical terms of the jurists into the ecclesiastical language of the West, but he also contemplated, from a legal standpoint, all relations of the individual and the Church to the Deity, and vice versâ, all duties and rights, the moral imperative as well as the actions of God and Christ, nay, their mutual relationship. He who was so passionate and fanciful seemed never to be thoroughly satisfied until he had found the scheme of a legal relationship which he could proclaim as an inviolable authority; he never felt secure until he had demonstrated inner compulsions to be external demands, exuberant promises to be stipulated rewards. But with this the scheme of personal rights was applied almost universally. God appears as the mighty partner who watches jealously over his rights. Through Tertullian this tendency passed into the Western Church, which, being Roman, was disposed to favour it; there it operated in the most prejudicial way. If we grant that by it much that was valuable was preserved, and juristic thought did contribute to the understanding of some, not indeed the most precious, Pauline conceptions, yet, on the whole, religious reflection was led into a false channel, the ideas of satisfaction and merit becoming of the highest importance, and the separation of Western from primitive and Eastern Christianity was promoted.2626Consider, e.g., a sentence like this of Cyprian De unit. 15: “Justitia opus est, ut promereri quis possit deum judicem.”
Another element is closely connected with the legal, viz., the
syllogistic and dialetical. Tertullian has been extolled as a speculative theologian;
but this is wrong. Speculation was not his forte; we perceive this very plainly
when we look at his relation to Irenaeus. Notice how much he has borrowed from this
predecessor of his, and how carefully he has avoided, in doing so, his most profound
speculations! Tertullian was a Sophist in the good and bad sense of the term. He
was in his element in Aristotelian and Stoic dialectics; in his syllogisms he is
a philosophising advocate. But in this also he was the pioneer of his Church, whose
theologians have always reasoned more than they have philosophised. The manner in
which he rings the changes on auctoritas and ratio, or combines them, and spins
lines of thought out of them; the formal treatment of problems, meant to supply
the place of one dealing with the matter, until it ultimately loses sight of aim
and object, and falls a prey to the delusion that the certainty of the conclusion
guarantees the certainty of the
premises—this whole method only too well known from mediæval Scholasticism, had
its originator in Tertullian.2727 A series of legal schemes framed by Tertullian for his dogmatics
and ethics have been given in Vol. II., 279 f., 294 f., Vol. IV. pp. 110, 121. In
addition to his speculation on substantia, persona, and status,
the categories offendere,
satisfacere, promereri, acceptare, and rependere, etc., play the chief part in his
system. Most closely connected with the legal contemplation of problems is the abstract
reference to authority; for one does not obey a law because he finds it to be good
and just, but because it is law. (Tertullian, indeed, knows very well, when defending
himself against heathen insinuations, that the above dictum is not sufficient in
the sphere of religion and morals, see e.g., Apolog. 4.) This attitude of Tertullian,
led up to by his dialectical procedure and his alternations between auctoritas and
ratio, produces in many passages the impression that we are listening to a mediæval
Catholic. In regard to the alternation above described, the work De corona is especially
characteristic; but so is Adv. Marc. I., 23 f. He writes, De pænit. 4: “Nos pro
nostris angustiis unum inculcamus, bonum atque optimum esse quod deus præcipit.
Audaciam existimo de bono divini præcepti disputare. Neque enim quia bonum est,
idcirco auscultare debemus, sed quia deus præcepit. Ad exhibitionem obsequii prior
est majestas divinæ potestatis, prior est auctoritas imperantis quam utilitas servientis.”
(Compare Scorp. 2, 3; De fuga, 4; De cor. 2.) But the same theologian writes, De
pæn. 1: “Res dei ratio, quia deus nihil non ratione providit, nihil non ratione
tractari intellegique voluit.” The work De pænit. is in general peculiarly fitted
to initiate us into Tertullian’s style of thought. I shall in the sequel pick out
the most important points, and furnish parallels from his other writings. Be it
noticed first that the work emphasises the three parts, vera poenitentia (deflere,
metus dei), confessio and satisfactio, and then adds the
venia on the part of the effensus deus.
In chap. II. we already meet with the expression “merita pænitentiæ.” There we read: “ratio salutis certam formam tenet, ne bonis umquam factis cogitatisve quasi violenta aliqua manus injiciatur. Deus enim reprobationem bonorum ratam non habens, utpote suorum, quorum cum auctor et defensor sit necesse est, proinde et acceptator, si acceptator etiam remunerator bonum factum deum habet debitorem, sicuti et malum, quia judex omnis remunerator est causæ.” (De orat. 7: “pænitentia demonstratur acceptabilis deo;” we have also “commendatior”). Chap. III.; “Admissus ad dominica præcepta ex ipsis statim eruditur, id peccato deputandum, a quo deus arceat.” (The distinction between præcepta and consilia dominica is familiar in Tertullian; see Ad. uxor. II. 1; De coron. 4; Adv. Marc. II. 17. In Adv. Marc. I. 29, he says that we may not reject marriage altogether, because if we did there would be no meritorious sanctity. In Adv. Marc. I. 23, the distinction is drawn between “debita” and “indebita bonitas”). Chap. III.: as “Voluntas facti origo est;” a disquisition follows on velle, concupiscere, perficere. Chap. V.: “Ita qui per delictorum pænitentiam instituerat dominus satisfacere, diabolo per aliæ pænitentié pænitentiam satisfaciet, eritque tanto magis perosus deo, quanto æmulo ejus acceptus.” (See De orat. 11; “fratri satisfacere,” 18; “disciplinæ satisfacere,” 23; “satisfacimus deo domino nostro”; De jejun. 3; De pud. 9, 13; De pat. 10, 13, etc., etc.: “peccator patri satisfacit,” namely, through his penances; see De pud. 13: “hic jam carnis interitum in officium pænitentiæ interpretantur, quod videatur jejuniis et sordibus et incuria omni et dedita opera malæ tractationis carnem exterminando satis deo facere”). In ch. V. it is explained quite in the Catholic manner that timor is the fundamental form of the religious relation. Here, as in countless other passages, the “deus offenses” moves Tertullian’s soul (see De pat. 5: “hinc deus irasci exorsus, unde offendere homo inductus.”) Fear dominates the whole of penitence. (De pænit. 6: “metus est instrumentum pænitentiæ.” In general “offendere deum” and “satisfacere deo” are the proper technical terms; see De pæn. 7: “offendisti, sed reconciliari adhuc potes; habes cui satisfacias et quidem volentem.” Ch. X.: “intolerandum scilicet pudori, domino offenso satisfacere.” Ch. XI.: “castigationem victus atque cultus offenso domino præstare.” Along with satisfacere we have “deum iratum, indignatum mitigare, placare, reconciliare.” Ch. VI: “omnes salutis inpromerendo deo petitores sumus.” Compare with this “promereri deum” Scorp. 6: “quomodo multæ mansiones apud patrem, si non pro varietate meritorum . . . porro et si fidei propterea congruebat sublimitati et claritatis aliqua prolatio, tale quid esse opportuerat illud emolumenti, quod magno constaret labore, cruciatu, tormento, morte . . . eadem pretia quæ et merces.” De orat. 2: “meritum fidei.” 3: “nos angelorum, si meruimus, candidati”; 4: “merita cujusque.” De pænit. 6: “catechumenus mereri cupit baptismum, timet adhuc delinquere, ne non mereretur accipere.” De pat. 4: “artificium promerendi obsequium est, obsequii vero disciplina morigera subjectio est.” De virg. vel., 13: “deus justus est ad remuneranda quæ soli sibi fiunt.” De exhort. 1: “nemo indulgentia dei utendo promeretur, sed voluntati obsequendo;” 2: “deus quæ vult præcipit et accepto facit et æternitatis mercede dispungit.” De pud. 10: “pænitentiam deo immolare . . . magis merebitur fructum pænitentiæ qui nondum ea usus est quam qui jam et abusus est.” De jejun. 3: “ratio promerendi deum” [jejunium iratum deum homini reconciliat, ch. VII.]; 13: “ultro officium facere deo.” How familiar and important in general is to Tertullian the thought of performing a service, a favour to God, or of furnishing him with a spectacle! He indeed describes as a heathen idea (Apolog. 11) the sentence: “conlatio divinitatis meritorum remunerandorum fuit ratio”; but he himself comes very near it; thus he says (De exhortat. 10): “per continentiam negotiaberis magnam substantiam sanctitatis, parsimonia carnis spiritum acquires.” He sternly reproves, Scorp. 15, the saying of the “Lax”: Christus non vicem passionis sitit; he himself says (De pat. 16): “rependamus Christi patientiam, quam pro nobis ipse dependit.” De pænit. 6: “Quam porro ineptum, quam pænitentiam non adimplere, ei veniam delictorum sustinere? Hoc est pretium non exhibere, ad mercem manum emittere. Hoc enim pretio dominus veniam addicere instituit; hac pænitentiæ compensatione redimendam proponit impunitatem,” (see Scorp. 6: “nulli compensatio invidiosa est, in qua aut gratiæ aut injuriæ communis est ratio”). In Ch. VI. Tertullian uses “imputare,” and this word is not rarely found along with “reputare”; in Ch. VII. we have “indulgentia” (indulgere), and these terms are met somewhat frequently; so also “restituere” (ch. VII. 12: “restitutio peccatoris”). De pat. 8: “tantum relevat confessio delictorum, quantum dissimulatio exaggerat; confessio omni satisfactionis consilium est.” Further, ch. IX.: “Hujus igitur pænitentiæ secundæ et unius quanto in arte negotium est, tanto operosior probatio (that sounds quite mediæval), ut non sola conscientia præferatur, sed aliquo etiam actu administretur. Is actus, qui magis Græco vocabulo exprimitur et frequentatur, exomologesis est, qua delictum domino nostro confitemur, non quidem ut ignaro, sed quatenus satisfactio confessione disponitur, confessione pænitentia nascitur, pænitentia deus mitigator. Concerning this exhomologesis, this tearful confession, he goes on: “commendat pænitentiam deo et temporali afflictatione æterna supplicia non dicam frustratur sed expungit.” (“Commendare” as used above is common, see e.g., De virg. vel. 14, and De pat. 13: “patientia corporis [penances] precationes commendat, deprecationes affirmat; hæc aures Christi aperit, clementiam elicit.”). The conception is also distinctly expressed by Tertullian that in the ceremony of penance the Church completely represents Christ himself, see ch. X.: “in uno et altero ecclesia est, ecclesia vero Christus. Ergo cum te ad fratrum genua protendis, Christum contrectas, Christum exoras.” De pudic. 10, shows how he really bases pardon solely on the “cessatio delicti”; “etsi venia est pænitentiæ fructus, hanc quoque consistere non licet sine cessatione delicti. Ita cessatio delicti radix est veniæ ut venia sit pænitentiæ fructus.” Further ch. II.: “omne delictum aut venia dispungit aut poena, venia ex castigatione, poena ex damnatione”; but “satisfactio” is implied in the “castigatio.” In De pudic. 1 the notorious lax edict of Calixtus is called “liberalitas” (venia) i.e., “indulgence.” Let us further recall some formulas which are pertinent here. Thus we have the often-used figure of the “militia Christi,” and the regimental oath—sacramentum. So also the extremely characteristic alternation between “gratia” and “voluntas humana,” most clearly given in De exhort. 2: “non est bonæ et solidæ fidei sic omnia ad voluntatem dei referre et ita adulari unum quemque dicendo nihil fieri sine nutu ejus, ut non intellegamus, esse aliquid in nobis ipsis. . . . Non debemus quod nostro expositum est arbitrio in domini referre voluntatem”; Ad uxor. 1, 8: “quædam enim sunt divinæ liberalitatis, quædam nostræ operationis.” Then we have the remarkable attempt to distinguish two wills in God, one manifest and one hidden, and to identify these with præcepta and consilia, in order ultimately to establish the “hidden” or “higher” alone. De exhort. 2 f.: “cum solum sit in nobis velle, et in hoc probatur nostra erga deum mens, an ea velimus quæ cum voluntate ipsius faciunt, alte et impresse recogitandum esse dico dei voluntatem, quid etiam in occulto velit. Quæ enim in manifesto scimus omnes.” Now follows an exposition on the two wills in God, the higher, hidden, and proper one, and the lower: “Deus ostendens quid magis velit, minorem voluntatem majore delevit. Quantoque notitiæ tuæ utrumque proposuit, tanto definiit, id te sectari debere quod declaravit se magis velle. Ergo si ideo declaravit, ut id secteris quod magis vult, sine dubio, nisi ita facis, contra voluntatem ejus sapis, sapiendo contra potiorem ejus voluntatem, magisque offendis quam promereris, quod vult quidem faciendo et quod mavult respuendo. Ex parte delinquis; ex parte, si non delinquis, non tamen promereris. Non porro et promereri nolle delinquere est? Secundum igitur matrimonium, si est ex illa dei voluntate quæ indulgentia vocatur, etc., etc.” On the other hand, see the sharp distinction between sins of ignorance (“natural sins”) and sins of “conscientia et voluntas, ubi et culpa sapit et gratia,” De pud. 10. In the classical period of eastern theology men did not stop at auctoritas and ratio; they sought to reach the inner convincing phases of authority, and understood by ratio the reason determined by the conception of the matter in question. In the West, auctoritas and ratio stood for a very long time side by side without their relations being fixed—see the mediæval theologians from Cassian—and the speculation introduced by Augustine was ultimately once more eliminated, as is proved by the triumph of Nominalism. Stoic, or “Aristotelian” rationalism, united with the recognition of empirical authority under cover of Augustinian religious formulas, remained the characteristic of Roman Catholic dogmatics and morality.2828Augustine has also employed both notions in countless places since the writings De Ordine (see II. 26: ad discendum necessarie dupliciter ducimur, auctoritate atque ratione) and De vera religione (45: animae medicina distribuitur in auctoritatem atque rationem).
But the Western type of thought possessed, besides this, an element in which it was considerably superior to the Eastern, the psychological view. The importance due to Augustine in this respect has been better perceived in recent years, and we may look for better results as regards the share of Scholasticism in the development of modern psychology.2929See Kahl, Die Lehre vom Primat des Willens bei Augustin, Duns Scotus and Descartes 1886, as also the works of Siebeck; cf. his treatise “Die Anfänge der neueren Psychologie in der Scholastik” in the Ztschr. f. Philos. u. philosoph. Kritik. New series. 93 Vol., p. 161 ff., and Dilthey’s Einl. in d. Geisteswiss. Vol. I. In Augustine himself Stoic rationalism was thrust strongly into the background by his supreme effort to establish the psychology of the moral and immoral, the pious and impious on the basis of actual observation. His greatness as a scientific theologian is found essentially in the psychological element. But that also is first indicated in Tertullian. As a moralist he indeed follows, so far as he is a philosopher, the dogmatism of the Stoa; but Stoic physics could lead into an empirical psychology. In this respect Tertullian’s great writing, “De anima,” is an extremely important achievement. It contains germs of insight and aspirations which developed afterwards; and another Western before Augustine, Arnobius, also did better work in grasping problems psychologically than the great theologians of the East.3030See Franke, Die Psychologie and Erkenntnisslehre des Arnobius, 1878, in which the empiricism and criticism of this eclectic theologian are rightly emphasised. The perception that Arnobius was not original, but had taken his refutation of Platonism from Lucretius, and also that he remained, after becoming a Christian, the rhetorician that he had been before (see Röhricht Seelenlehre des Arnobius, Hamburg, 1893), cannot shake the fact that his psychology is influenced by the consciousness of redemption. This side of Western theology undoubtedly continued weak before Augustine, because the eclecticism and moralism to which Cicero had especially given currency held the upper hand through the reading of his works.3131Compare especially Minucius Felix and Lactantius.
Finally, still another element falls to be mentioned which distinguishes the features of Western Christianity from the Eastern, but which it is hard to summarise in one word. Many have spoken of its more practical attitude. But in the East, Christianity received as practical a form as people there required. What is meant is connected with the absence of the speculative tendency in the West. To this is to be attributed the fact that the West did not fix its attention above all on deification, nor, in consequence, on asceticism, but kept real life more distinctly in view; it therefore obtained to a greater extent from the gospel what could rule and correct that life. Thus Western Christianity appears to us from the first more popular and biblical, as well as more ecclesiastical. It may be that this impression is chiefly due to our descent from the Christianity in question, and that we can never therefore convey it to a Greek3232Conversely it is quite intelligible that he who has started with the ideals of classic antiquity, and has assimilated them, should derive more pleasure from men like Clemens Alex. Origen and Gregory of Nazianzus than from Tertullian and Augustine. But this sympathy is less due to the Christianity of the former scholars. We are no longer directly moved by the religious emotions of the older Greeks, while expressions of Tertullian and Augustine reach our heart.; but it is undeniable that as the Latin idiom of the Church was from its origin more popular than the Greek, which always retained something hieratic about it, so the West succeeded to a greater extent in giving effect to the words of the gospel. For both of these facts we have to refer again to Tertullian. He had the gift, granted to few Christian writers, of writing attractively, both for theologians and laymen. His style, popular and fresh, must have been extremely effective. On the other hand, he was able, in writings like De patientia, De oratione, De pænitentia, or De idololatria, to express the gospel in a concrete and homely form; and even in many of his learned and polemical works, which are full of paradoxes, antitheses, rhetorical figures, frigid sentences, and wild exaggerations, we do not fail to find the clear and pertinent application of evangelical sayings, astonishing only by its simplicity, and reminding us, where the thought takes a higher flight, not infrequently of Augustine.3333Not only is the distinction between “natura” and “gratia” (e.g., De anima 21), or between “gratia” and “virtus” common in Tertullian, not only has he—in his later writings—laid great stress on the continued effect of Adam’s sin and the transmission of death, but there also occur many detached thoughts and propositions which recall Augustine. (For the transmission of sin and death see De exhort. 2; Adv. Marc. I., 22; De pud. 6, 9; De jejun. 3, 4: “mors cum ipso genere traducto,” “primordiale delictum expiare,” cf. the expression “vitium originis”; further, also, the writing De pascha comput. 12, 21.)—De orat. 4: “summa est voluntatis dei salus eorum, quos adoptavit.” De pat. 1: “Bonorum quorundam intolerabilis magnitudo est, ut ad capienda et præstanda ea sola gratia divinæ inspirationis operetur. Nam quod maxime bonum, id maxime penes deum, nec alius id, quam qui possidet, dispensat, ut cuique dignatur.” De pænit. 2: “Bonorum unus est titulus salus hominis criminum pristinorum abolitione præmissa.” De pat. 12: “Dilectio summum fidei sacramentum, Christiani nominis thesaurus.” De orat. 4: In order to fulfil the will of God “opus est dei voluntate . . . Christus erat voluntas et potestas patris.” 5; “quidquid nobis optamus, in illum auguramur, et illi deputamus, quod ab illo exspectamus.” 9: “Deus solus docere potuit, quomodo se vellet orari.” De pænit. 2: “Quod homini proficit, deo servit.” 4: “Rape occasionem inopinatæ felicitatis, ut ille tu, nihil quondam penes deum nisi stilla situlæ et areæ pulvus et vasculum figuli, arbor exinde fias ills quæ penes aquas seritur, etc.” 4: “Obsequii ratio in similitudine animorum constituta est.” De orat. 7: “debitum in scripturis delicti figura est.” De bapt. 5: exempto reatu eximitur et poena. De pud. 22: “Quis alienam mortem sua solvit nisi solus dei filius.” Tertullian imputed the proposition “peccando promeremur” (De pud. 10) to his ecclesiastical opponents. The religious elements in his mode of thought seem to have been decided—apart from the New Testament books—by the reading of Seneca’s writings. In these Stoic morality seems to have been deepened, and in part transcended, by a really religious feeling and reflection, so that it was possible to pass from them to Pauline Christianity. Seneca, however, influenced Western thinkers generally: see Minucius Felix, Novatian, and Jerome De inl. vir. 12. Even in Cyprian there occur traits that might be termed Augustinian: notice how he emphasises the immanence of Christ in believers, e.g., Ep. 10, 3, and cf. the remarkable statement Ep. 10, 4: “Christus in certamine agonis nostri et coronat pariter et coronatur.” Add Ep. 58, 5: “Spiritus dei, qui cum a confitentibus non discedit neque dividitur, ipse in nobis loquitur et coronatur.” See also the Roman epistle Ep. 8, 3.
The Christianity and theology of Tertullian, whose elements we have here endeavoured to characterise, were above all headed by the primitive Christian hope and morality. In these was comprehended what he felt to be his inmost thought. Both phases recur in a large section of Latin literature of the third and of the first half of the fourth century.3434Compare especially also the writings which are falsely headed with the name of Cyprian, and have begun to be examined in very recent years. There it is hardly possible to find any traces of Antignostic dogmatics; on the contrary, Apocalyptics were developed with extreme vividness, and morality, often Stoic in colouring, received a stringent form.3535Compare the characteristics of the Christianity taught by Commodian, Arnobius, and Lactantius, vol. III. p. 77 ff. Novatian was accused of Stoicism by his opponents. Several of the writings headed by the name of Cyprian are very old and important for our knowledge of ancient Latin Christianity. I have verified that in the tractates De aleatoribus (Victor), Ad Novatianum (Sixtus), and De laude mart. (Novatian) (Texte and Unters, VI., 1; XIII., 1 and 4; see also the writings, to be attributed to Novatian, De spectac, and De bono pudic.); but let anyone read also “De duobus montibus” in order to gain an idea of the theological simplicity and archaic quality of these Latins. And yet the author of the above treatise succeeded in formulating the phrase (c. 9): “Lex Christianorum crux est sancta Christi filii dei vivi.” Most instructive are the Instructiones of Commodian. The great influence of Hermas’ Pastor, and the interest directed accordingly to the Church, are characteristic of this whole literature. Even unlearned authors continued to occupy themselves with the Church, see the Symbol of Carthage: “credo remissionem peccatorum per sanctam ecclesiam.” The whole of the abundant literary labours and dogmatic efforts of Hippolytus seem to have been lost on the West from the first and completely.
But Tertullian also was deprived by his Montanism of the full influence which he might have exerted on the Church.3636See my treatise on “Tertullian in der Litteratur der alten Kirche” in the Sitzungsber. d. K. Preuss. Akad. d. Wissensch, 1895, p. 545 ff. The results of his work passed to Cyprian, and, though much abbreviated and modified, were circulated by him. For the period from A.D. 260 down to Ambrose—indeed, properly speaking, to Augustine and Jerome—Cyprian became the Latin Church author par excellence. All known and unknown Latin writers of his time, and after him, had but a limited influence: he, as an edifying and standard author, dictated like a sovereign to the Western Church for the next 120 years. His authority ranked close after that of the Holy Scriptures, and it lasted up to the time of Augustine.3737See a short demonstration of this in my Texten und Unters, V 1, p. 2, and elaborated in my Altchristl. Litt.-Gesch., Part I., p. 688 ff. Pitra has furnished new material for the acquaintance also of the East with Cyprian in the Analecta Sacra. Cyprian’s unparalleled authority in the West is attested especially by Lucifer, Prudentius, Optatus, Pacian, Jerome, Augustine, and Mommsen’s catalogue of the Holy Scriptures. The see of Carthage was called in after times “Cathedra Cypriani,” as that of Rome “Cathedra Petri.” Optat. I., 10.
Cyprian had hardly one original theological thought; for even the work “De unitate ecclesiæ” rests on points of view which are partly derived from the earlier Catholic Fathers, and partly borrowed from the Roman Church, to which they were indigenous. In the extremely authoritative work, “De opere et eleemosynis” the Tertullian conceptions of merit and satisfaction are strictly developed, and are made to serve as the basis of penance, almost without reference to the grace of God in Christ. Cyprian’s chief importance is perhaps due to the fact that, influenced by the consequences of the Decian storm he founded, in union with the Roman bishop Cornelius, what was afterwards called the sacrament of penance; in this, indeed, he was the slave rather than the master of circumstances; and in addition, he was yielding to Roman influences which had been working in this direction since Calixtus. He established the rule of the hierarchy in the Church in the spheres of the sacrament, sacrifice, and discipline; he set his seal on Episcopalianism; he planted firmly the conceptions of a legal relation between man and God, of works of penance as means of grace, and of the “satisfactory” expiations of Christ. He also created clerical language with its solemn dignity, cold-blooded anger, and misuse of Biblical words to interpret and criticise contemporary affairs—a metamorphosis of the Tertullian genius for language. Cyprian by no means inherited the interest taken by Tertullian in Antignostic theology. Like all great princes of the Church, he was a theologian only in so far as he was a catechist. He held all the more firmly by the symbol, and knew how to state in few words its undoubted meaning, and to turn it skilfully even against allied movements like that of Novatian.
This had been learnt from Rome, where, since as early as the end of the second century, the “Apostles’” creed had been used with skill and tact against the motley opinions held about doctrine by Eastern immigrants. The Roman Bishops of the third century did not meddle with dogmatic disputes; the only two who tried it, and undoubtedly rendered great services to the Church, Hippolytus and Novatian, could not keep the sympathies of the clergy or the majority. In the West men did not live as Christians upon dogma, but they were obedient to the short law (lex) presented in the Symbol;3838The perversions adopted in order to represent the Christians as being bound to the “lex” are shown, e.g., by the argument in the, we admit, late and spurious writing attributed to Cyprian De XII., abusivis sæculi, chap. 12: “Dum Christus finis est legis, qui sine lege sunt sine Christo sunt; igitur populus sine lege populus sine Christo est.” As against this, verdicts such as that cursorily given by Tertullian (De spect. 2), that the natural man “deum non novit nisi naturali jure, non etiam familiari,” remained without effect. they impressed the East by the confidence with which, when necessary, they adopted a position in dogmatic questions, following in the doctrine of the Trinity and in Christology an original scheme formed by Tertullian and developed by Novatian;3939See on this Vol. II., p. 279 f., 312 f., and Vol. III. and IV. in various places; cf. Reuter, Augustin. Studien, pp. 153-230. Since the West never perceived clearly the close connection between the result of salvation (ἀφθαρσία) and the Incarnation, there always existed there a rationalistic element as regards the person of Christ, which afterwards disclosed itself completely in Pelagianism. The West only completed its own theory as to Christ after it had transferred to His work conceptions obtained in the discipline of penance. But that took place very gradually. while at the same time they worked at the consolidation of the constitution of the Church, the construction of a practical ecclesiastical moral code, as also the disciplining and training of the community through Divine Service and the rules of penance.4040Here again the Instructiones of Commodian are very instructive. The canons of Elvira, which, for the rest, are not lax, but are even distinguished by their stringency, show how strictness and clemency were united, Christendom being marked off from the world, while at the same time a life in the world was rendered possible, and even the grossest sins were still indulged in. The result was a complete ecclesiastical constitution, with an almost military organisation. At its head stood the Roman Bishop, who, in spite of the abstract equality of all Bishops, occupied a unique position, not only as representative, but also as actual defender of the unity of the Church, which, nevertheless, was severely shaken, first by Novatianism, and afterwards by Donatism.
When Constantine granted toleration and privileges to the Church, and enabled the provincial Churches to communicate with all freedom, Rome had already become a Latin city, and the Roman community was thoroughly Latinised; elsewhere also in the West the Greek element, once so powerful, had receded. Undoubtedly, Western Christians had no other idea than that they formed a single Church with the East; they were actually at one with the Eastern tendency represented by Athanasius in the fundamental conceptions of the doctrines of God, Christ, and eternal salvation. But their interests were often divided, and, in fact, there was little mutual understanding, particularly after Cappadocian orthodoxy triumphed in the East. From the middle of the third century the weakening of the central power had once more restored their independence to all the provinces, and had thus set free the principle of nationality; and this would have led to a complete reaction and wholesale particularism had not some energetic rulers, the migrations of the tribes, and the Church set up a barrier, which, indeed, ultimately proved too weak in the East.
It was the great dogmatic controversies which compelled the provincial Churches to look beyond their own borders. But the sympathy of the West for the East—there never developed any vital interest in the opposite direction4141An exception of short duration is formed by the interest taken by the Antiochenes in the Western scheme of Christology during the Eutychian controversy: see the epistolary collection of Theodoret and his Eranistes, as also the works of Theodore of Mopsuestia.—was no longer general or natural. It sprang, as a rule, from temporary necessities or ambitious purposes. Yet it became of incalculable importance for Western theology; for their relations with the East, into which the Western Church was brought by the Arian conflict, led Western Christians to observe more closely two great phenomena of the Eastern Church, the scientific theology (of Origen) and monachism.
It may here be at once said that the contact and influence which thus arose did not in the end change the genius and tendency of the Western Church to its depths. In so far as a lasting change was introduced in the fifth century, it is not to be derived from this quarter. But for their suggestiveness, the capital and impulse which were received from the East cannot be highly enough appreciated We need only compare the writings of the Latin theologians who were not influenced by the Greeks,4242E.g. Lucifer, so far as he does not simply imitate the Greeks. See on his “theology” Krüger’s Monograph, 1886. with Hilary, Victorinus Rhetor, Ambrose, Jerome, Rufinus, and the others dependent on them, in order to perceive the enormous difference. The exegetical and speculative science of the Greeks was imported into the West, and, besides monachism and the ideal of a virginity devoted to God, as the practical application of that science.
The West was not disposed to favour either of these, and since it is always hardest to carry through changes in the rules of practical life, the implanting of monachism cost embittered conflicts.4343See Jovinian and Vigilantius, as also the conflicts of monachism in Spain and Gaul (cf. the works of Sulpicius Severus). But the ideal of virginity, as denoting the love-bond with Christ, very soon established itself among the spiritual leaders of the West. (Even before this, Cyprian says, De hab. virg. 22: and you virgins have no husband, your lord and head is Christ in the similitude and place of a man.)4444“Virginibus nec maritus dominus, dominus vester ac caput Christus est ad instar et vicem masculi.” Before this he says of the Church (Cypr., de unit. 6): “sponsa Christi, unius cubiculi sanctitatem casto pudore custodit.” Afterwards this far from beautiful thought was transferred to the individual soul, and thus erotic spiritualism was produced. It then won through Ambrose the same significance for the West as it had obtained through Origen’s expositions of the Song of Songs and Methodius in the East. Nay, it was in the West that the ideal was first, so to speak, individualised, and that it created a profusion of forms in which it was allied with or excited the impassioned love of Christ.4545See details in Vol. III., p. 129 f. The conception of Methodius was quite current in Latin writers at the end of the fourth century, viz., that Christ must be born in every Christian, and that only so could redemption be appropriated. Thus Prudentius sings, “Virginitas et prompta fides Christum bibit alvo cordis et intactis condit paritura latebris.” Ambrose, Expos. in ev. sec. Luc. I. II., c. 26: “Vides non dubitasse Mariam, sed credidisse et ideo fructum fidei consecutam. . . . Sed et vos beati, qui audistis et credidistis; quæcunque enim crediderit anima et concipit et generat dei verbum et opera ejus agnoscit. Sit in singulis Mariæ anima, ut magnificet dominum; sit in singulis spiritus Mariæ, ut exultet in deo. Si secundum carnem una mater est Christi, secundum fidem tamen omnium fructus est Christus. Omnis enim anima accipit dei verbum, si tamen immaculata et immunis a vitiis intemerato castimoniam pudore custodiat.” The theological science of the Greeks could not have domesticated itself, even if the time had been less unfavourable; just then its authority was tottering even in the East, after the Cappadocians seemed to have reconciled faith and knowledge for a brief period. Where one has once been accustomed to regard a complex of thoughts as an inviolable law, a legal order, it is no longer possible to awaken for it for a length of time the inner sympathy which clings to spheres in which the spiritual life finds a home; and if it does succeed in obtaining an assured position, its treatment assumes a different character; there is no freedom in dealing with it. As a matter of fact, the West was always less free in relation to dogma proper than the East in the classic period of Church theology. In the West men reflected about, and now and again against, dogma; but they really thought little in it.
But how great, nevertheless, were the stores rescued to the West from the East4646We must pass by the older importer of Greek exegesis, Victorinus of Pettau, since, in spite of all his dependence on Origen, the Latin spirit held the upper hand, and his activity seems to have been limited. by Greek scholars, especially Hilary, Ambrose, and Jerome, at a time when the Greek sun had already ceased to warm the West! In the philosophical, historical, and theological elements transplanted by them, we have also one of Augustine’s roots. He learned the science of exegetical speculation from Ambrose, the disciple of the Cappadocians, and it was only by its help that he was delivered from Manichæism. He made himself familiar with Neoplatonic philosophy, and in this sphere he was apparently assisted by the works of another Greek scholar, Victorinus Rhetor. He acquired an astonishing amount of knowledge of the Egyptian monks, and the impression thus received became of decisive importance for him. These influences must be weighed if we are to understand thoroughly the conditions under which such a phenomenon as that which Augustine offers us was possible.4747We may disregard Jerome; he had no importance for Augustine, or if he had any, it was only in confirming the latter in his conservative attitude. This, indeed, does not refer to Jerome’s learning, which to Augustine was always something uncanny and even suspicious. Jerome’s erudition, acquired from the Greeks, and increased with some genius for learned investigations, became a great storehouse of the mediæval Church; yet Jerome did not mould the popular dogmatics of the Church, but confirmed them, and as a rhetorician made them eloquent, while his ascetic writings implanted monachism, and held out to it ideals which were in part extremely questionable. At the first glance it is a paradoxical fact that Jerome is rightly regarded as the doctor ecclesiæ Romanæ κατεξοχήν, and that we can yet pass him over in a history of dogma. The explanation of the paradox is that after he threw off the influence of Origen, he was exclusively the speaker and advocate of vulgar Catholicism, and that he possessed a just instinct for the “ecclesiastical mean” in controversies which were only to reveal their whole significance after his time (see the Semipelagian question and his relation to Augustinianism.) If that is a compliment to him, it is none to his Church. After Augustine’s time influences from the East were very scanty; yet we have to recall Junilius and Cassiodorus. But, on the other hand, Augustine continues the Western line represented by Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrosiaster, Optatus, Pacian, Prudentius, and also by Ambrose. Extremely characteristic is his relation to the Stoic Christian popular philosophy of Western teachers. We shall see that he retained a remnant of it. But his importance in the history of the Church, and of dogma, consisted essentially in the fact that he gave to the West, in place of Stoic Christian popular morality as that was comprised in Pelagianism, a religious and specifically Christian ethic, and that he impressed this so strongly on the Church that its formulas at least maintain their supremacy up to the present day in the whole of Western Christendom. In getting rid, however, of Stoic morals, he also thrust aside its curious complement, the realistic eschatology in which the ancient Latin Christians had given specific expression to their Christian faith.
Ambrose was sovereign among Western Bishops, and at the same time the Greek trained exegete and theologian. In both qualities he acted on Augustine, who looked up to him as Luther did to Staupitz.4848See Augustine’s testimony as to Ambrose in the Ballerinis’ ed. of the latter’s works. Contra Jul. I. 4, 10: “Audi excellentem dei dispensatorem, quem veneror ut patrem; in Christo Jesu enim per evangelium me genuit et eo Christi ministro lavacrum regenerationis accepi. Beatum loquor Ambrosium cujus pro Catholica fide gratiam, constantiam, labores, pericula sive operibus sive sermonibus et ipse sum expertus et mecum non dubitat orbis prædicare Romanus.” Op. imperf. c. Julian. I., 2: “Quem vero judicem poteris Ambrosio reperire meliorem? De quo magister tuus Pelagius ait, quod ejus fidem et purissimum in scripturis sensum ne inimicus quidem ausus est reprehendere.” Pelagius’ own words in De gratia Christi et lib. arb. 43 (47): “Beatus Ambrosius episcopus, in cujus præcipue libris Romana elucet fides, qui scriptorum inter Latinos flos quidam speciosus enituit, cujus fidem et purissimum in scripturis sensum ne inimicus quidem ausus est reprehendere” (see c. Jul. I., 30). The fame of Ambrose is also proclaimed by Rufinus, who defends him against Jerome, “who, as an envious Augur, censured Ambrose’s plagiarisms from the Greeks, while he himself was much more culpable since he always posed as original.” He comes first to be considered here in the latter respect. His education, his Episcopal chair in Milan, the Arian and Apollinarian conflict into which he had to enter, directed him to Greek theological literature. Philo, Hippolytus, Origen, and Basil were industriously read by him; he made extracts from them, and edited them in Latin.4949See detailed references in Förster, Ambrosius, p. 99 ff. He was united with Basil, not only by similiarity of situation, but above all by agreement in character and attitude. Basil was his real teacher in doctrine, and while the former was met with distrust in Alexandria and Rome, Ambrose highly honoured him, and fully recognised his orthodoxy. The importance of this attitude of the Milanese Bishop for the closing of the Arian controversy, and for the reconciliation of Roman and Alexandrian orthodoxy with that of the Cappadocians, has been described in an earlier volume.5050See Vol. IV., p. 93. It has indeed been recently shown, beyond dispute, that, in spite of his dependence on the Greeks, Ambrose preserved and further developed the Western system in his Christology.5151See Reuter, August. Studien, pp. 207-227. Tertullian, Novatian—directly or indirectly—and Hilary influenced him. But on the other hand there is no mistake that he emphasised more strongly than Augustine the fundamental position of the Nicene decision,5252See Ambrose de fid. I. prol et al. loc. in Reuter, 1.c. p. 185; on Augustine’s neutral position, id. p. 185 f. and that he was confirmed in his doctrine of the Two Substances by the Cappadocians, who had been involuntarily led to something approaching it in their fight against Apollinaris. Further, he treats the Logos in Jesus Christ so much as the subject, the human substance so much as form and matter, that here again Greek influence—as in Hilary, who was similarly dependent on the Greeks—cannot be overlooked; for his own conception of the work of Christ conflicts with this stunted view of his human nature. But the most important influence of the East upon Ambrose does not lie in the special domain of dogmatics. It consists in the reception of the allegorical method of exegesis, and of many separate schemes and doctrines. It is true Ambrose had his own reservations in dealing with Plato and Origen; he did not adopt the consequences of Origen’s theology;5353Not a few passages might here he quoted from Ambrose’s works. He rejects questionable principles held by Origen with tact and without judging him a heretic, always himself holding to the common Christian element. In a few important questions, the influence of Origen—Plato—is unmistakable; as in the doctrine of souls and the conception of hell. Greek influence appears to me to be strongest in the doctrine of the relative necessity and expediency of evil (“amplius nobis profuit culpa quam nocuit”). Therefore, I cannot see in this doctrine a bold theory of evil peculiar to Ambrose, like Deutsch (Des Ambrosius Lehre von der Sünde, etc., 1867, p. 8) and Förster (l.c. pp. 136, 142, 300). The teleological view from the standpoint of the fuller restoration is alone new perhaps. he was much too hasty and superficial in the sphere of speculative reflection to appropriate from the Greeks more than fragments. But he, as well as the heavier but more thorough Hilary, raised the West above the “meagreness” of a pedantically literal, and, in its practical application, wholly planless exegesis; and they transmitted to their countrymen a profusion of ideas attached to the text of Holy Scripture. Rufinus and, in his first period, Jerome also completed the work. Manichæism would hardly have been overcome in the West unless it had been confronted by the theosophic exegesis, the “Biblical alchemy” of the Greeks, and the great theme of virginity was praised with new tongues after Western Christians heard of the union of the soul with its bridegroom, Christ, as taught by Origen in his commentary on the Song of Songs.5454Ambrose, De Isaac et anima. The unity, so far as at all attainable, of ecclesiastical feeling in East and West, was restored in the loftiest regions of theology about A.D. 390. But the fight against Origen, which soon broke out with embittered hatred, had, among other sad consequences, the immediate result that the West refused to learn anything further from the great theologian. The West never attained a strict system in the science of allegorical exegesis.
The sacred histories of the Old Testament were also transformed into spiritual narratives for the West by Hilary,5555On Hilary’s exile in the East, epoch-making as it was for the history of theology, and his relation to Origen, see Reinken’s IIilarius, p. 128, 270, 281 ff. Augustine held him in high honour. Ambrose, Jerome, and Rufinus.5656In the interpretation of the New Testament, Ambrose kept more faithfully to the letter, following the Western tradition, and declining the gifts of the Greeks. He describes Origen (Ep. 75) as “Longe minor in novo quam in veteri testamento.” But Western Christians were first made familiar with the Old Testament by the Greeks. In this transformation Western Christians obtained a multitude of separate mystical Neoplatonic conceptions, though they failed to obtain any insight into the system as a whole. Another Western, the rhetorician Victorinus, that “aged man, most learned and skilled in the liberal sciences, who had read and weighed so many works of the philosophers; the instructor of so many noble Senators, who also, as a monument of his excellent discharge of his office, had deserved and obtained a statue in the Roman Forum,” had initiated his fellow-countrymen into Neoplatonism by translations and original works.5757Aug. Confess. VIII., 2. See there also the story of his conversion. That happened before he became a Christian. Having gone over to Christianity at an advanced age, and become a prolific ecclesiastical writer, he by no means abandoned Neoplatonism. If I am not mistaken, Augustine made him his model in the crucial period of his life, and although he understood enough Greek to read Neoplatonic writings, yet it was substantially by Victorinus that he was initiated into them. Above all, he here learned how to unite Neoplatonic speculation with the Christianity of the Church, and to oppose Manichæism from this as his starting-point. We do not require to describe in detail what the above combination and polemic meant to him. When Neoplatonism became a decisive element in Augustine’s religious and philosophical mode of thought, it did so also for the whole of the West. The religious philosophy of the Greeks was incorporated in the spiritual assets of the West, along with its ascetic and monachist impulses.5858If we disregard the fragments which reached the West through translations of Origen’s works, and plagiarisms from the Cappadocians, Neoplatonism, and with it Greek speculation in general, were imparted to it in three successive forms:—(1) By Victorinus and Augustine, and by Marius Mercator in the fourth and fifth centuries; (2) by Boethius in the sixth; (3) by the importation of the works of the Pseudo-Areopagite in the ninth century. Cassiodorus praises Boethius (Var. epp. 1, 45) for having given the Latins by translations the works of Pythagoras, Ptolemy, Nicomachus, Euclid, Plato the theologian, Aristotle the logician, Archimedes, and other Greeks. It seems now to me proven (Usener, Anecdoton Holderi, 1877) that Boethius was a Christian, and that he also wrote the frequently-suspected writings De sancta trimitate, Utrum pater et filius et spiritus s. de divinitate substantialiter prædicentur, Quomodo substantiæ in eo quod sint bonæ sint, cum non sint substantialia bona, De fide Catholica and Contra Eutychen et Nestorium. But he has influenced posterity, not by his Christian writings, but by his treatise, wholly dependent on Aristotle, “De consolatione philosophiæ.” which for that very reason could have been written by a heathen, and by his commentaries on Aristotle. He was really, along with Aristotle, the knowledge of whom was imperfect enough, the philosopher of the early Middle Ages. On the system of Boethius, see Nitzsch’s monograph, 1860. Many of his ideas recall Seneca and Proclus; an examination of his relation to Victorious would be desirable. “In his system the foundation is formed by Platonism, modified by certain Aristotelian thoughts; besides this we have unmistakably a Stoic trait, due to the Roman and personal character of the philosopher and the reading of Roman thinkers. In this eclecticism Christianity occupies as good as no position. For that reason we must renounce the attempt to give a place to the system of Boethius among those which represent or aim at a harmonising or fusion of Christianity with Platonism (e.g., Synesius, Pseudo-Dionysius)”; compare Nitzsch, l.c. p. 84 f. The fact that this man, who, in view of death, consoled himself with the ideas of heathen philosophers, wrote treatises on the central dogma of the Church, affords us the best means of observing that the dogma of Christ presented a side on which it led to the forgetting of Christ himself. But, unless all signs deceive, Augustine received from Victorinus the impulse which led him to assimilate Paul’s type of religious thought; for it appears from the works of the aged rhetorician that he had appropriated Paul’s characteristic ideas, and Augustine demonstrably devoted a patient study to the Pauline epistles from the moment when he became more thoroughly acquainted with Neoplatonism. Victorinus wrote very obscurely, and his works found but a slender circulation. But this is not the only case in history where the whole importance of an able writer was merged in the service he rendered to a greater successor. A great, epoch-making man is like a stream: the smaller brooks, which have had their origin perhaps further off in the country, lose themselves in it, having fed it, but without changing the course of its current. Not only Victorinus,5959It is to the credit of Ch. Gore that he has described, in his article “Victorinus” (Dict. of Christ. Biog. IV., pp. 1129-1138), the distinctive character of the theology of Victorinus and its importance for Augustine. He says rightly: “His theology is Neoplatonist in tone . . . he applied many principles of the Plotinian philosophy to the elucidation of the Christian mysteries. His importance in this respect has been entirely overlooked in the history of theology. He preceded the Pseudo-Dionysius. He anticipated a great deal that appears in Scotus Erigena.” In fact, when we study the works of Victorinus (Migne T. VIII., pp. 999-1310), we are astonished to find in him a perfect Christian Neoplatonist, and an Augustine before Augustine. The writings “Ad Justinum Manichæum,” and “De generatione verbi divini, and the great work against the Arians, read like compositions by Augustine, only the Neoplatonic element makes a much more natural appearance in him than in Augustine, who had to make an effort to grasp it. If we substitute the word “natura” for “deus” in the speculation of Victorinus, we have the complete system of Scotus Erigena. But even this exchange is unnecessary; for in Victorinus the terminology of the Church only rests like a thin covering on the Neoplatonic doctrine of identity. God in himself is “motus”—not mutatio: “moveri ipsum quo est esse”; but without the Son he is conceived as ὁ μή ὤ (speculation on the four-fold sense of the μὴ εἶναι as in the later mystics). The Son is ὁ ὤν. It appears clearly in the speculation on the relation of Father and Son, that consequent—pantheistic—Neoplatonism is favourable to the doctrine of the Homoousia. Because the Deity is movere, the Father finds himself in a “semper generans generatio.” So the Son proceeds from him, “re non tempore posterior.” The Son is the “potentia actuosa”; while the Father begets him, “ipse se ipsum conterminavit.” The Son is accordingly the eternal object of the divine will and the divine self-knowledge; he is the form and limitation of God, very essence of the Father; the Father in perceiving the Son perceives himself (“alteritas nata”). “In isto sine intellectu temporis, tempore . . . est alteritas nata, cito in identitatem revenit;” therefore the most perfect unity and absolute consubstantiality, although the Son is subordinate. Victorinus first designated the Spirit as the copula of the Deity (see Augustine); it is he who completes the perfect circle of the Deity; “omnes in alternis exsistentes et semper simul ὁμοούσιοι divina affectione, secundum actionem (tantummodo) subsistentiam propriam habentes.” This is elaborated in speculations which form the themes of Augustine’s great work “De trinitate.” The number three is in the end only apparent; “ante unum quod est in numero, plane simplex.” “Ipse quod est esse, subsistit tripliciter.” While anyone who is at all sharp-sighted sees clearly from this that the “Son” as “potentia actuosa” is the world-idea, that is perfectly evident in what follows. All things are potentially in God, actually in the Son; for “filius festinat in actionem.” The world is distinguished from God, as the many from the one, i.e., the world is God unfolding himself and returning to unity sub specie æternitatis. That which is alien and God-resisting in the world is simply not-being, matter. This is all as given by Proclus, and therefore, while the word “cream” is indeed retained, is transformed, in fact, into an emanation. The distinction between deus ipse and quæ a deo is preserved; but, in reality, the world is looked at under the point of view of the Deity developing himself. Ad Justinum 4: “Aliter quidem quod ipse est, aliter quæ ab ipso. Quod ipse est unum est totumque est quidquid ipse est; quod vero ab ipso est, innumerum est. Et hæc sunt quibus refletur omne quod uno toto clauditur et ambitur. Verum quod varia sunt quæ ab ipso sunt, qui a se est et unum est, variis cum convenit dominare. Et ut omnipotens apparet, contrariorum etiam origo ipse debuit inveniri.” But it is said of these “varia,” that “insubstantiata sunt omnia ὄντα in Jesu, hoc est, ἐν τῷ λόγῳ. He is the unity of nature, accordingly elementum, receptaculum, habitaculum, habitator, locus naturæ. He is the “unum totum” in which the universum presents itself as a unity. And now follows the process of emanation designated as “creation,” in whose description are employed the Christian and Neoplatonic stages: deus, Jesus, spiritus, νοῦς, anima (as world-soul) angeli et deinde corporalia omnia subministrata.” Redemption through Christ, and the return ad deum of all essences, in so far as they are a deo, is Neoplatonically conceived, as also we have then the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls and their pre-temporal fall. The Incarnation is admitted, but spiritualised, inasmuch as side by side with the conception of the assumption of a human form, which occurs once, the other prevails that Christ appears as burdened with humanity in its totality; “universalis caro, universalis anima; in isto omnia universalia erant” (Adv. Arian. III., 3). “Quia corpus ille catholicum ad omnem hominem habuit, omne quod passus est catholicum fecit; id est ut omnis caro in ipso crucifixa sit” (Ad Philipp, pp. 1196-1221; Adv. Arian. III., 3). But the most interesting features, because the most important for Augustine are (1), that Victorinus gives strong expression to the doctrine of Predestination—only he feels compelled in opposition to Manichæism to maintain the freedom of the will; and (2), that, especially in his commentaries, he places the highest value on justification by faith alone in opposition to all moralism. Neoplatonism had won his assent, or had prepared him in some measure to assent, to both these doctrines; we know, indeed, from other sources, that heathen Neoplatonists felt attracted to John and Paul, but not to the Synoptics or James. Thus Victorinus writes: “non omnia restaurantur sed quæ in Christo sunt” (p. 1245), “quæ salvari possent” (p. 1274), “universos sed qui sequerentur” (p. 1221). In a mystical way Christ is believing humanity (the Church), and believing humanity is humanity in general. Everything undergoes a strictly necessary development; therefore Victorious was a predestinationist. The passages in which Victorinus expresses himself in a strictly Pauline, and, so to speak, Antipelagian sense, are collected by Gore, p. 1137; see Ad Gal. 3, 22; Ad Philipp, 3, 9; “‘non meam justitiam’ tunc enim mea est vel nostra, cum moribus nostris justitiam dei mereri nos putamus perfectam per mores. At non, inquit, hanc habens justitiam, sed quam? Illam ex fide. Non illam quæ ex lege; væ in operibus est et carnali disciplina, sed hanc quæ ex deo procedit ‘justitia ex fide;’” Ad Phil. 4, 9; Ad Ephes. 2, 5: “non nostri laboris est, quod sæpe moneo, ut nos salvemus; sed sola fides in Christum nobis salus est . . . nostrum pene jam nihil est nisi solum credere qui superavit omnia. Hoc est enim plena salvatio, Christum hæc vicisse. Fidem in Christo habere, plenam fidem, nullus labor est, nulla difficultas, animi tantum voluntas est . . . justitia non tantum valet quantum fides”; Ad Ephes. 1, 14; 3, 7; Ad Phil. 2, 13: “quia ipsum velle a deo nobis operatur, fit ut ex deo et operationem et voluntatem habeamus.” Victorinus has been discussed most recently by Geiger (Programme von Metten, 1888, 1889), and Reinhold Schmid (Marius Victorinus Rhetor u. s. Bez. z. Augustin. Kiel, 1895)—compare also the dissertation by Koffmane, De Mario Victorino, philosopho Christiano, Breslau, 18So. Geiger has thoroughly expounded the complete Neoplatonic system of Victorious; Schmid seeks, after an excellent statement of his theological views, to show (p. 68 ff.), that he exerted no, or, at least, no decisive influence on Augustine. I cannot see that this proof has really been successful; yet I admit that Schmid has brought forward weighty arguments in support of his proposition. The name of Victorinus is not the important point for the history of dogma, but the indisputable fact that the combination of Neoplatonism and highly orthodox Christianity existed in the West, in Rome, before Augustine, under the badge of Paulinism. Since this combination was hardly of frequent occurrence in the fourth century, and since Augustine gives a prominent place to Victorinus in his Confessions, it will remain probable that he was influenced by him. The facts that he was less Neoplatonic than Victorine, and afterwards even opposed him, do not weigh against the above contention. But it is positively misleading to argue like Schmid (p. 68) against Augustine’s Neoplatonism by appealing to the fact that from the moment of his rejection of Manichæism and semi-scepticism, he was a “decided Christian.” but ultimately also Ambrose himself, Optatus, Cyprian, and Tertullian were lost to view in Augustine; but they made him the proud stream in whose waters the banks are mirrored, on whose bosom the ships sail, and which fertilises and passes through a whole region of the world. For not only the work of those Greek Latins, but also the line of representatives of genuine Western theology and ecclesiasticism ended in Augustine.6060Little is yet known regarding the history of ecclesiastical penance in the East; but I believe I can maintain that in the West the shock was less violent in its effect, which all official Church discipline received through the rapid extension of Christianity after Constantine. Here confidence in the Church was greater, the union of “sancta ecclesia” and “remissio peccatorum” closer (“credo remissionem peccatorum per sanctam ecclesiam”: Symbol. Carthag. ), and the sense of sin as guilt, which was to be atoned for by public confession and satisfactio, more acute. Whence this came, it is hard to say. In the East it would appear that greater stress was laid on the operations of the cultus as a collective institution, and on the other hand on private self-education through prayer and asceticism; while in the West the feeling was stronger that men occupied religious legal relationships, in which they were responsible to the Church, being able, however, to expect from the Church sacramental and intercessory aid in each individual case. The individual and the Church thus stood nearer each other in the West than in the East. Therefore, ecclesiastical penance asserted a much greater importance in the former than in the latter. We can study this significance in the works of the Africans on the one hand, and of Ambrose on the other. They have little else in common, but they agree in their view of penance (Ambrose, De pænitentia). The practice of penance now acquired an increasing influence in the West on all conditions of the ecclesiastical constitution and of theology, so that we can ultimately construct from this starting-point the whole of Western Catholicism in the Middle Ages and modern times, and can trace the subtle workings of the theory of penance to the most remote dogmas. But Augustine once more marks the decisive impetus in this development. With him began the process by which what had long existed in the Church was elevated into theory. He indeed created few formulas, and has not even once spoken of a sacrament of penance; but, on the one hand, he has clearly enough expressed the thing itself, and, on the other, where he has not yet drawn the theoretical consequences of the practice of penance, he has left such striking gaps (see his Christology) that they were filled up by unostentatious efforts, as if inevitably, in after times.
Augustine studied, above all, very thoroughly, and made himself familiar with Cyprian’s work. Cyprian was to him the “saintly,” the Church Father, κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν, and his view of heresy and the unity of the Church was dependent on Cyprian. But standing as a Bishop, unassailed, on the foundation which Cyprian had created, Augustine did not find it necessary to state Episcopalianism so uncompromisingly as the former, and being occupied with putting an end to a schism which was different from the Novatian, he learned to take a different view of the nature of schisms from the Bishop whom he venerated as a hero.6161See Reuter, August. Studien, pp. 232 ff., 355. Cursory remarks show, besides, that Augustine had made himself familiar with the literature of the Novatian controversy, and had learned from it for his notion of the Church. Some works quoted by him we no longer possess—e.g., that of Reticius against the Novatians.6262Lib I. c. Julian. 3 Op. imperf. c. Jul I., 55; Jerome de vir. inl., 82. What has been preserved to us of this literature,6363Pseudo-Cyprian = Sixtus II. ad Novatianum, Ambrosiaster in the Quæst. ex Vet. et Novo Testam. [the inserted tractate against Novatian] Pacianus c. Novat. proves that the Western Church was continually impelled, by its opposition to the Novatians in the course of the fourth century, to reflect on the nature of the Church.6464From Pacian’s Ep. I. ad Sempron. comes the famous sentence: “Christianus mihi nomen est, catholicus cognomen.” In the tractate of Ambrosiaster against Novatian, the objectivity of the Divine Word and of baptism, and their independence in their operation of the moral character of the priest, are consistently argued. In some of the sentences we imagine that we are listening to Augustine. On the whole, there is not a little in Ambrosiaster’s commentary and questions which must be described as leading up to Augustine, and is therewith genuinely Western.
But even when he entered into the Donatist controversy, Augustine did so as a man of the second or indeed of the third generation, and he therefore enjoyed the great advantage of having at his disposal a fund of conceptions and ideas already collected. In this sphere Optatus had especially wrought before him.6565Aug adv. Parmen. 1, 3: “Venerabilis memoriæ Milevitanus episcopus catholicæ communionis Optatus.” Fulgentius ranks Optatus along with Ambrose and Augustine.
This is not the place to describe the rise of Donatism; for the dispute did not originate in a dogmatic controversy.6666See Deutsch, Drei Actenstücke z. Gesch. des Donatismus, 1875, P. 40 f. Völter, Der Ursprung des Donatismus, 1882; Harnack, Theol. Lit-Zeit., 1884, No. 4; on the other side, Reuter l.c. 234 ff. whose contradiction, however, partly rests on a misunderstanding of my view. Seeck. Zitschr. für K.-Gesch. X. 4. Duschesne gives the best account, Le doissier du Donatisme, 1890. It arose in the first place out of Cæcilian’s action against the exaggerated veneration of martyrs, which disturbed the order and endangered the existence of the Church. Some of the clergy who did not desire a strong episcopal power seem to have made common cause with the discontented and refractory enthusiasts, to whom Cæcilian had been obnoxious even when Deacon. In any case, a point of principle did not immediately emerge in the controversy. But it was soon introduced, and indeed there is no doubt that Cyprian was played off against himself.6767See Vol. II., p. 114 ff. The Donatist party, which was at the same time, it appears, the African national party, found support both in Cyprian’s conception that the Bishop was only a Bishop if he possessed a certain Christian and moral quality, and in his defence of heretical baptism. The opposition, also carrying out ideas taught by Cyprian, gave such prominence to the official character of the episcopate, and the objective efficacy of the sacrament, that the personal quality of the official or dispenser became indifferent.6868Here these Africans abandoned the position, in the question of heretical baptisms, taken up by Cyprian; see the 8th Canon of Arles (A.D. 316): “De Afris quod propria lege sua utuntur, ut rebaptizent, placuit, ut si ad ecclesiam aliquis de hæresi venerit, interrogent eum symbolum; et si perviderint eum in patre et filio et spiritu sancto esse baptizatum, manus ei tantum imponatur ut accipiat spiritum sanctum. Quod si interrogatus non responderit hanc trinitatem, baptizetur.” Can. 13: “De his, qui scripturas s. tradidisse dicuntur vel vasa dominica vel nomina patrum suorum, placuit nobis, ut quicumque eorum ex actis publicis fuerit detectus, non verbis nudis, ab ordine cleri amoveatur. Nam si iidem aliquos ordinasse fuerint deprehensi et hi quos ordinaverunt rationales (able? capable?) subsistunt, non illis obsit ordinatio” (that is the decisive principle; even ordination by a traditor was to be valid). It may be that those martyrs and relic-worshipping enthusiasts in Carthage were inclined from the first to the conception once held by Cyprian against Calixtus and his successors, and that they thus required a standard of active, personal holiness for bishops, which could no longer be sustained in the great Church and during the devastating storms of the last persecution. But this cannot be proved. On the other hand, it is indisputable that, after the Synod of Arles, the controversy had reached a point where it must be regarded as the last link in the chain of the great phenomena (Encratites Montanists, adherents of Hippolytus and Novatians) in which Christendom strove against the secularisation that was imposed upon it by the removal of the attribute of holiness, and with it of the truth of the Church, from persons to institutions—the office and mysteries;6969Crises, similar to that of the Donatists, also arose elsewhere—as in Rome and Alexandria—at the beginning of the fourth century; but our information regarding them is wholly unsatisfactory; see Lipsius, Chronologie der römischen Bischöfe, p. 250 ff., where the epitaphs by Damasus on Marcellus and Eusebius are copied, and rightly compared with the passage in the Liber praedest., c. 16 on Heracleon (who is really Heraclius). Heraclius appears already (A.D. 307-309) to have exaggerated the view of the “objectivity” and power of the sacraments to such an extent as to declare all sins by baptised persons to be “venial,” and to hold a severe public penance to be unnecessary. Therefore it was said of him, “Christus in pace negavit” and “vetuit lapsos peccata dolere”; more precisely in Lib. prædest.: “Baptizatum hominem sive justum sive peccatorem loco sancti computari docebat nihilque obesse baptizatis peccata memorabat, dicens, sicut non in se recipit natura ignis gelu ita baptizatus non in se recipit peccatum. Sicut enim ignis resolvit aspectu suo nives quantæcunque juxta sint, sic semel baptizatus non recipit peccatorum reatum, etiam quantavis fuerint operibus ejus peccata permixta.” In this we can truly study the continuity of Western Christianity! How often this thought has cropped up on into the nineteenth century, and that precisely among evangelicals! It marks positively the “concealed poison,” which it is hard to distinguish from the wholesome medicine of evangelic comfort. But it is very noteworthy that this phase in the conception of the favoured position of the baptised can he first proved as existing in Rome. Developments always went furthest there, as the measures taken by Calixtus also show. Yet this one was rejected, after a schism had broken out in the community, and that is perfectly intelligible; for apart from the ruinous frivolity which had come in with the above view, what importance could the priestly class retain if every baptised person might, without further ceremony, and if he only willed it, feel and assert himself to be a member of the congregation even after the gravest sin? It is not very probable that Heraclius developed his ecclesiastical attitude on the basis of the Pauline theory of baptism and of the faith that lays hold of Christ. If we were to understand the matter so, he would have been a Luther before Luther. We have probably to suppose that he saw in baptism the magical bestowal of a stamp, as in the conception taken of certain heathen mysteries. In the Meletian schism in Egypt, the difference in principles as to the renewed reception of the lapsed, co-operated with opposition to the monarchial position of the Alexandrian Bishop. The dispute, which thus recalls the Donatist controversy, soon became one of Church politics, and personal. (Compare Meletius and the later Donatists; the limitation of the whole question to the Bishops is, however, peculiar to the Donatists.) See Walch, Ketzerhistorie, Vol. IV., and Möller in Herzog’s R.-E. IX., p. 534 ff. this change being due to the fact that otherwise men would have had to despair of the Christian character of the Church as Catholic. The Donatists denied the validity of any ordination conferred by a traditor, and therefore also of sacraments administered by a bishop who had been consecrated by a traditor. As a last remnant of a much more earnest conception, a minimum of personal worthiness was required of the clergy alone, and received into the notion of the Church itself: it was no longer Christian if this minimum was wanting, if the clergy—nothing being now said of the laity—were not free from every idolatrous stain. Compared with the measure of agreement which prevailed between Catholics and Donatists, the separate thesis of the latter looks like a caprice, and certainly much obstinacy, personal discontent, and insubordination lurked behind it. But we may not overlook the question of principle any more here than in the case of Novatianism. The legend of the Sybilline Books is constantly repeating itself in the history of spiritual conflicts. The remnant saved from the flames stands at as high a price as the whole collection. And what a price the Church has paid in order to escape the exhortations of separatists! The Novatian crisis—after the Decian persecution—drew from it the sacrament of penance, and thereby gave the impulse in general to substitute a system of sacraments for the sacrament that blotted out sin. (The formal establishment of the new sacrament had, indeed, still to be waited for for a long time.) The Donatist crisis—after the Diocletian persecution—taught the Church to value ordination as imparting an inalienable title (character indelebilis) and to form a stringent view of the “objectivity” of the sacraments; or, to use a plainer expression, to regard the Church primarily as an institution whose holiness and truth were inalienable, however melancholy the state of its members.
In this thought Catholicism was first complete. By it is explained its later history down to the present day, in so far as it is not a history of piety, but of the Church, the Hierarchy, sacramental magic, and implicit faith (fides implicita). But only in the West did the thought come to be deliberately and definitely expressed. It also made its way in the East, because it was inevitable; but it did so, as it were, unconsciously. This was no advantage; for the very fact that this conception of the Church was definitely thought out in the West, led over and over again to the quest for safeguards, or a form which could be reconciled with living faith, and the requirements of a holy life. Even Augustine, who stated it definitely and fully, aimed at reconciling the Christian conscience with it. But he was not the first to declare it; he rather received it from tradition. The first representative of the new conception known to us, and Augustine also knew him, was Optatus.
The work of Optatus, “De schismate Donatistarum,” was written in the interests of peace, and therefore in as friendly and conciliatory a tone as possible. This did not, indeed, prevent violent attacks in detail, and especially extremely insulting allegorical interpretations of texts from Scripture. But the author every now and then recalls the fact that his opponents are after all Christian brethren (IV., I., 2), who have disdainfully seceded from the Church, and only decline to recognise what is gladly offered them, Church fellowship. At the very beginning of his book, which, for the rest, is badly arranged, because it is a reply point by point to a writing by the Donatist, Parmenian, Optatus (I., 10 sq.)—differing from Cyprian—indicates the distinction in principle between heretics and schismatics, and he adheres firmly to the distinction—already drawn by Irenæus—to the end of his statement.7070Parmenian denied this distinction. Heretics are “deserters from or falsifiers of the Symbol” (I., 10, 12; II., 8), and accordingly are not Christians; the Donatists are seditious Christians. Since the definition holds (I., 11) that “a simple and true understanding in the law (scil. the two testaments), the unique and most true sacrament, and unity of minds constitute the Catholic (scil. Church),”7171“Catholicam (scil. ecclesiam) facit simplex et verus intellectus in lege (scil. duobus testamentis) singulare ac verissimum sacramentum et unitas animorum.” the Donatists only want the last point to be genuinely Catholic Christians. The heretics have “various and false baptisms,” no legitimate office of the keys, no true divine service; “but these things cannot be denied to you schismatics,7272Cyprian would never have admitted that. He accused the Novatians (Ep. 68) of infringing the Symbol like other heretics, by depriving the “remissio peccatorum” of its full authority; and he commanded all who had not been baptised in the Catholic Church to be re-baptised. Cyprian had on his side the logical consequence of the Catholic dogma of the Church; but since this consequence was hurtful to the expansion of the Church, and the development of its power, it was rejected with a correct instinct in Rome (see Ambrosiaster), and afterwards in Africa. although you be not in the Catholic Church, because you have received along with us true and common sacraments” (I., 12). He says afterwards (III., 9): “You and we have a common ground in the Church (ecclesiastica una conversatio), and if the minds of men contend, the sacraments do not.” Finally, we also can say: “We equally believe, and have been stamped with one seal, nor did we receive a different baptism from you; nor a different ordination. We read equally the Divine Testament; we pray to one God. Among you and us the prayer of our Lord is the same, but a rent having been made, with the parts hanging on this side and on that, it was necessary that it should be joined.” And (III., 10) he remarks very spiritually, founding on a passage in Ezechiel: “You build not a protecting house, like the Catholic Church, but only a wall; the partition supports no corner-stone; it has a needless door, nor does it guard what is enclosed; it is swept by the rain, destroyed by tempests, and is unable to keep out the robber. It is a house wall, but not a home. And your part is a quasi ecclesia, but not Catholic.” V., 1: “That is for both which is common to you and us: therefore it belongs also to you, because you proceed from us;” that is the famous principle which is still valid in the present day in the Catholic Church. “Finally, both you and we have one ecclesiastical language, common lessons, the same faith, the very sacraments of the faith, the same mysteries.” Undoubtedly Optatus also held ultimately that those things possessed by the schismatics were in the end fruitless, because their offence was especially aggravated. They merely constituted a “quasi ecclesia.” For the first mark of the one, true, and holy Church was not the holiness of the persons composing it; but exclusively the possession of the sacraments. II., 1: “It is the one Church whose sanctity is derived from the sacraments, and not estimated from the pride of persons. This cannot apply to all heretics and schismatics; it remains that it is (found) in one place.” The second mark consists in territorial Catholicity according to the promise: “I will give the heathen for an inheritance, and the ends of the world for a possession.” II., 1: “To whom, then, does the name of Catholic belong, since it is called Catholic because it is reasonable and diffused everywhere?”7373Compare l.c.: “Ecclesiam tu, frater Parmeniane, apud vos solos esse dixisti; nisi forte quia vobis specialem sanctitatem de superbia vindicare contenditis, ut, ubi vultis, ibi sit ecclesia, et non sit, ubi non vultis. Ergo ut in particula Africæ, in angulo parvæ regionis, apud vos esse possit, apud nos in alia parte Africa non erit?”
Optatus did not succeed in clearly describing the first mark in its negative and exclusive meaning; we could indeed easily charge him with contradicting himself on this point. The second was all the more important in his eyes,7474In connection with the territorial catholicity of the Church, Optatus always treats the assertion of its unity. Here he is dependent on Cyprian; see besides the details in Book 2 those in Book 7: “Ex persona beatissimi Petri forma unitatis retinendæ vel faciendæ descripta recitatur;” ch. 3 “Malum est contra interdictum aliquid facere; sed pejus est, unitatem non habere, cum possis . . . ” “Bono unitatis sepelienda esse peccata hinc intellegi datur, quod b. Paulus apostolus dicat, caritatem posse obstruere multitudinem peccatorum” (here, accordingly, is the identification of unitas and caritas). . . . “Hæc omnia Paulus viderat in apostolis ceteris, qui bono unitas per caritatem noluerunt a communione Petri recedere, ejus scil. qui negaverat Christum. Quod si major esset amor innocentiæ quam utilitas pacis unitatis, dicerent se non debere communicare Petro, qui negaverat magistrum.” That is still a dangerous fundamental thought of Catholicism at the present day. since the Donatists had only taken hold in Africa and, by means of a few emigrants, in Rome. In both signs he prepared the way for Augustine’s doctrine of the Church and the sacraments, in which Optatus’ thought was, of course, spiritualised. Optatus has himself shown, in the case of Baptism (V., 1-8), what he meant by the “sanctity of the sacraments.” In Baptism there were three essentials: the acting Holy Trinity (“confertur a trinitate”), the believer (“fides credentis”), and the administrator. These three were not, however, equally important; the two first rather belonged alone to the dogmatic notion of Baptism (“for I see that two are necessary, and one as if necessary [quasi necessariam]7575Notice that there already occur in Optatus terms compounded with “quasi” which were so significant in the later dogmatics of Catholicism.”), for the baptisers are not “lords” (domini), but “agents or ministers of baptism” (operarii vel ministri baptismi). (Ambrosiaster calls them advocates who plead, but have nothing to say at the end when sentence is passed.) They are only ministering and changing organs, and therefore contribute nothing to the notion and effect of Baptism; for “it is the part of God to cleanse by the sacrament.” But if the sacrament is independent of him who, by chance, dispenses it, because the rite presupposes only the ever the same Trinity and the ever the same faith,7676Here stands the following sentence (V., 7): “Ne quis putaret, in solis apostolis aut episcopis spem suam esse ponendam, sic Paulus ait: ‘Quid est enim Paulus vel quid Apollo? Utique ministri ejus, in quem credidistis. Est ergo in universis servientibus non dominium sed ministerium.” then it cannot be altered in its nature by the dispenser (V. 4: “the sacraments are holy in themselves, not through men: sacramenta per se esse sancta, non per homines”). That is the famous principle of the objectivity of the sacraments which became so fundamental for the development of the dogmatics of the Western Church, although it never could be carried out in all its purity in the Roman Church, because in that case it would have destroyed the prerogatives of the Clergy. It is to be noticed, however, that Optatus made the holiness of the sacraments to be effective only for the faith of the believer (fides credentis), and he is perfectly consistent in this respect, holding faith to be all important, to the complete exclusion of virtues. Here again he prepared the way for the future theology of the West by emphasising the sovereignty of faith.7777At this point there occur especially in V., 7, 8, very important expositions anticipating Augustine. “Ad gratiam dei pertinet qui credit, non ille, pro cujus voluntate, ut dicitis, sanctitas vestra succedit.”—“Nomen trinitatis est, quod sanctificat, non opus (operantis).”—“Restat jam de credentis merito aliquid dicere, cujus est fides, quam filius dei et sanctitati suæ anteposuit et majestati; non enim potestis sanctiores esse, quam Christus est.” Here follows the story of the Canaanitish woman, with the remarkable application: “Et ut ostenderet filius dei, se vacasse, fidem tantummodo operatam esse: vade, inquit, mulier in pace, fides tua te salvavit.” So also faith is extolled as having been the sole agent in the stories of the Centurion of Capernaum and the Issue of Blood. “Nec mulier petiit, nec Christus promisit, sed fides tantum quantum præsumpsit, exegit.” The same thoughts occur in Optatus’ contemporary, Ambrosiaster. It is all the more shocking to find that even Optatus uses the whole reflection to enable him to depreciate claims on the life of the members of the Church. We see clearly that the Catholic doctrine of the sacraments grew out of the desire to show that the Church was holy and therefore true, in spite of the irreligion of the Christians belonging to it. But in aiming at this, men lit, curiously, upon a trace of evangelical religion. Since it was impossible to point to active holiness, faith and its importance were called to mind. A great crisis, a perplexity, in which, seeing the actual condition of matters, the Catholic Church found itself involved with its doctrine of Baptism, virtue, and salvation, turned its attention to the promise of God and faith. Thus the most beneficent and momentous transformation experienced by Western Christianity before Luther was forced upon it by circumstances. But it would never have made its way if it had not been changed by the spiritual experiences of a Catholic Christian, Augustine, from an extorted theory7878This it was in the case of Ambrosiaster as well as in that of Optatus. into a joyful and confident confession.
Parmenian gave Optatus occasion to enumerate certain “endowments” (dotes) of the Church, i.e., the essential parts of its possession. Parmenian had numbered six, Optatus gives five: (1) cathedra (the [Episcopal] chair); (2) angelus; (3) spiritus; (4) fons; (5) sigillum (the symbol). The enumeration is so awkward that one can only regret that it is adapted to the formula of an opponent. But we learn, at least, in this way that Cyprian’s ideal of the unity of the Episcopate, as represented in Peter’s chair, had been received and fostered unsuspiciously in Africa. “Peter alone received the keys” (I., 10, 12). “You cannot deny your knowledge that on Peter, in the city of Rome, was first conferred the Episcopal chair, in which he sat, the head of all the Apostles, whence he was also called Cephas, in which one chair unity might be observed by all, lest the rest of the Apostles should severally defend one, each for himself, in order that he might now be a schismatic and sinner, who should appoint a second as against the one unique chair” (II., 2). The connection with Peter’s chair was of decisive importance, not only for Optatus, but also for his opponent (II., 4), who had appealed to the fact that Donatists had also possessed a Bishop in Rome. Optatus, besides, discusses the second point, the angelus, who is the legitimate Bishop of the local community, the chair (cathedra) guaranteeing the œcumenical unity, and he emphasises the connection of the African Catholic Churches with the Oriental, and especially the seven-fold ecclesia of Asia (Rev. II., 3), almost as strongly as that with the Roman Church (II., 6; VI., 3). His disquisitions on spiritus,7979The Donatist had said (II., 7): “Nam in illa (catholica) ecclesia quis spiritus esse potest, nisi qui pariat filios gehennæ?” That is the genuine confession of separatists. fons, and sigillum, are devoid of any special interest (II., 7-9). On the other hand, it is important to notice that he expressly subordinates the consideration of the endowments (dotes) of the Church, to the verification of “its sacred members and internal organs” (sancta membra ac viscera ecclesia), about which Parmenian had said nothing. These consisted in the sacraments and the names of the Trinity “in which meet the faith and profession of believers” (cui concurrit fides credentium et professio). Thus he returns to his natural and significant line of thought.8080We may here select a few details from the work of Optatus as characteristic of Western Christianity before Augustine. He regularly gives the name of “lex” to both the Testaments; he judges all dogmatic statements by the symbolum apostolicum, in which he finds the doctrine of the Trinity, to him the chief confession, without therefore mentioning the Nicene Creed; he confesses “per carnem Christi deo reconciliatus est mundus” (I., 10); he declares (VI., 1): “quid est altare, nisi sedes et corporis et sanguinis Christi, cujus illic per certa momenta corpus et sanguis habitabat?” He speaks of the reatus peccati and meritum fidei; he has definitely stated the distinction between præcepta and consilia (VI., 4) in his explanation of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The innkeeper is Paul, the two pence are the two Testaments, the additional sum still perhaps necessary are the consilia. He describes the position of the soteriological dogma in his time by the following exposition (II., 20):—“Est Christiani hominis, quod bonum est velle et in eo quod bene voluerit, currere; sed homini non est datum perficere, ut post spatia, quæ debet homo implere, restet aliquid deo, ubi deficienti succurrat, quia ipse solus est perfectio et perfectus solus dei filius Christus, cæteri omnes semi-perfecti sumus.” Here we perceive the great task that awaited Augustine. But even as regards Church politics Optatus betrays himself as an Epigone of the Constantinian era, and as a precursor of the Augustinian. See his thesis on the disloyalty of the Donatists to the State (III., 3): “Non respublica est in ecclesia, sed ecclesia in republica est, id est in imperio Romano.”
If Ambrosiaster and Optatus prepared the way for Augustine’s doctrines of the sacraments, faith, and the Church,8181In the West, before Augustine, the conception of gratia exhausted itself in that of the remissio peccatorum. We can see this in propositions like the following from Pacian, sermo de bapt. 3:—“Quid est gratia? peccati remissio, i.e., donum; gratia enim donum est.” Ambrose did so for those of sin, grace, and faith. We have endeavoured above to estimate his importance to Augustine as a disciple of the Greeks; we have now to regard him as a Western.8282In this respect Ambrose takes an isolated position; thus it is, e.g., characteristic that he does not seem to have read Cyprian’s works. But we have first of all to consider not the theologian, but the Bishop. It was the royal priest who first opened Augustine’s eyes to the authority and majesty of the Church. Only a Roman Bishop—even if he did not sit in the Roman chair—could teach him this, and perhaps the great work, De civitate Dei, would never have been written had it not been for the way in which this majesty had been impressed on Augustine by Ambrose; for great historical conceptions arise either from the fascinating impression made by great personalities or from political energy; and Augustine never possessed the latter. It was, on the contrary, in Ambrose, the priestly Chancellor of the State, that the imperial power (imperium) of the Catholic Church dawned upon him,8383I express myself thus intentionally; for Ambrose never, in words, thrust the actual, hierarchical Church into the foreground. and his experiences of the confusion and weakness of the civil power at the beginning of the fifth century completed the impression. Along with this Ambrose’s sermons fall to be considered.8484See proofs by Förster, l.c., p. 218 ff. If, on one side, they were wholly dependent on Greek models, yet they show, on the other hand, in their practical tone, the spirit of the West. Augustine’s demand that the preacher should “teach, sway, and move” (docere, flectere, movere) is as if drawn from those sermons. in spite of the asceticism and virginity which he also mainly preached, he constantly discussed all the concrete affairs of the time and the moral wants of the community.8585See at an earlier (late the Instructiones of Commodian. Ambrose was not such an advocate of Monachism as Jerome. Thus Ambrose represents the intimate union of the ascetic ideal with energetic insistence on positive morality, a union which the Western mediæval Church never lost, however much practical life was subordinated to the contemplative.
Three different types of thought are interwoven in Ambrose’s doctrine of sin and grace. First, he was dependent on the Greek conception that regarded evil as not-being, but at the same time as necessary.8686See above, p. 31. Secondly, he shows that he was strongly influenced by the popular morality of Ciceronian Stoicism,8787See Ewald, Der Einfluss der stoisch-ciceronianischen Moral auf die Darstellung der Ethik bei Ambrosius, 1881. “De officiis,” with all its apparent consistency, shows merely a considerable vacillation between virtue as the supreme good (in the Stoic sense) and eternal life—which latter term, for the rest, is not understood in its Christian meaning. The moralism of antiquity, as well as the eudaimonist trait of ancient moral philosophy dominate the book, in which ultimately the “true wise man” appears most clearly. In such circumstances the distinction drawn between præcepta and consilia, in itself so dangerous to evangelical morality, constitutes an advantage; for specifically Christian virtues appear in the form of the consilia. which was widespread among cultured Western Christians, and which had, by its combination with monastic morality, brought about, in Pelagianism, the crisis so decisive for the dogmatics of the West. Thirdly and finally, he carried very much further that view taken by Tertullian of the radical nature of evil and the guiltiness of sin which was made his fundamental principle by Augustine. Evil was radical, and yet its root was not found in the sensuous, but in “pride of mind” (superbia animi); it sprang from freedom, and was yet a power propagating itself in mankind. The Greeks had looked on the universal state of sinfulness as a more or less accidental product of circumstances; Ambrose regarded it as the decisive fact, made it the starting-point of his thought, and referred it more definitely than any previous teacher—Ambrosiaster excepted—to Adam’s Fall.8888Hilary also speaks of the vitium originis. Passages occur in his works which in this respect do not fall a whit behind the famous statements of Augustine.8989See Deutsch, Des Ambrosius Lehre von der Sünde and Sündentilgung, 1867. Förster,1.c., p. 146 ff. All human beings are sinners, even Mary. The “hæreditarium vinculum” of sin embraces all. “Fuit Adam, et in illo fuimus omnes; periit Adam, et in illo omnes perierunt.” It is not only an inherited infirmity that is meant, but a guilt that continues active. “Quicunque natus est sub peccato, quem ipsa nosciæ conditionis hæreditas adstrinxit ad culpam.” No doctrine of imputation, indeed, yet occurs in Ambrose; for as he conceived it, mankind in Adam was a unity, in which took place a peccatrix successio, a continuous evolution of Adam’s sin. Accordingly no imputation was necessary. Ambrosiaster (on Rom. V., 12) has also expressed Ambrose’s thought: “Manifestum itaque est, in Adam omnes peccasse quasi in massa; ipse enim per peccatum corruptus, quos genuit, omnes, nati sunt sub peccato. Ex eo igitur cuncti peccatores, quia ex eo ipso sumus omnes.” In the West this thought was traditional after Tertullian. See Cyprian, Ep. 64, 5; De opere 1, and Commodian, Instruct. I., 35.
But important as this phase was, in which thought was no longer directed primarily to sin’s results, or to the single sinful act, but to the sinful state which no virtue could remove, yet it is just in this alone that we can perceive the advance made by Ambrose. As regards religion, none is to be found in his works; for his doctrine of the traducian character and tenacity of sin was in no way connected with the heightened consciousness of God and salvation. Ambrose did not submit evil to be decided upon in the light of religion. Therefore he merely groped his way round the guilty character of sin, without hitting upon it; he could once more emphasise the weakness of the flesh as an essential factor; and he could maintain the proposition that man was of himself capable of willing the good. For this reason, finally, his doctrine of sin is to us an irreconcilable mass of contradictions. But we must, nevertheless, estimate very highly the advance made by Ambrose in contemplating the radical sinful condition. It was undoubtedly important for Augustine. And to this is to be added that he was able to speak in a very vivid way of faith, conceiving it to be a living communion with God or Christ. The religious individualism which shines clearly in Augustine already does so faintly in Ambrose: “Let Christ enter thy soul, let Jesus dwell in your minds. . . . What advantage is it to me, conscious of such great sins, if the Lord do come, unless He comes into my soul, returns into my mind, unless Christ lives in me?”9090“Intret in animam tuam Christus, inhabitet in mentibus tuis Jesus. . . . Quid mihi prodest tantorum conscio peccatorum, si dominus veniat, nisi veniat in meam animam, redeat in meam mentem, nisi vivat in me Christus.” In Ps. CXIX., exp. IV., 26: in Luc. enarr., X., 7; in Ps. XXXVI., exp. 63. The passages are collected by Förster (see esp. De poenit., II., 8). See also Vol. III., p. 130. For the rest, the author of the Quæstiones ex Vet. et. Nov. Testam. (Ambrosiaster) could also speak in tones whose pathetic individualism recalls Augustine; cf. e.g., the conclusion of the inserted tractate c. Novat.: “ego . . . te (scil. deum) quæsivi, te desideravi, tibi credidi; de homine nihil speravi . . . ego verbis antistitis fidem dedi, quæ a te data dicuntur, quæque te inspirant, te loquuntur, de te promittunt; huic de se nihil credidi nec gestis ejus, sed fidei quæ ex te est, me copulavi.” And while in many passages he distinctly describes the merit gained by works, and love as means of redemption, yet in some of his reflections, on the other hand, he rises as strongly to the lofty thought that God alone rouses in us the disposition for what is good, and that we can only depend on the grace of God in Christ.9191On Ps. CXIX., exp. XX., 14: “Nemo sibi arroget, nemo de meritis, nemo de potestate se jactet, sed omnes speremus per dominum Jesum misericordiam invenire—quæ enim spes alia peccatoribus?” St. Paul’s Epistles occupied the foreground in Ambrose’s thought,9292The interrogation mark in Reuter, August. Studien, p. 493, is due to exaggerated caution. The antithesis of nature and grace, which, wherever it occurs, has one of its roots in Paulinism, and was already familiar to Tertullian, is anew proclaimed in Ambrose; see De off. I., 7, 24; see also the address on the death of his brother. Ambrosiaster, too, makes use of the natura-gratia antithesis. and from them he learned that faith as confidence in God is a power by itself, and does not simply fall into the realm of pious belief. However much he adds that is alien, however often he conceives faith to be an act of obedience to an external authority, he can speak of it in different terms from his predecessors. Faith is to him the fundamental fact of the Christian life, not merely as belief in authority (“faith goes before reason,” fides prævenit rationem),9393De Abrah., I., 3, 21. but as faith which lays hold of redemption through Christ, and justifies because it is the foundation of perfect works, and because grace and faith are alone valid before God. “And that benefits me because we are not justified from the works of the law. I have no reason, therefore, to glory in my works, I have nothing to boast of; and therefore I will glory in Christ. I will not boast because I am just, but because I am redeemed. I will glory, not because I am without sins, but because my sins have been remitted. I will not glory because I have done good service, or because anyone has benefited me, but because the blood of Christ was shed for me.”9494De Jacob et vita beata I., 6, 21; other passages in Förster, pp. 160 ff., 303 ff. That is Augustinianism before Augustine, nay, it is more than Augustinianism.9595A detailed account would here require to discuss many other Western writers, e.g., Prudentius (see monographs by Brockhaus, 1872, and Rosier, 1886), Pacian, Zeno, Paulinus of Nola, etc.; but what we have given may serve to define the directions in which Western Christianity moved. As regards Hilary, Förster has shown very recently (Stud. u. Krit., 1888, p. 645 ff.) that even he, in spite of his dependence on the Greeks, did not belie the practical ethical interest of the Westerns.
In the dogmatic work of Western theologians of the fourth century, the genius of Western Christianity, which found its most vigorous expression in Cyprian’s De opere et eleemosynis, fell away to some extent. But it only receded, remaining still the prevailing spirit. The more vital notion of God, the strong feeling of responsibility to God as judge, the consciousness of God as moral power, neither restricted nor dissolved by any speculation on nature—all that constituted the superiority of Western to Eastern Christianity is seen in its worst form under the deteriorating influence of the legal doctrine of retribution, and the pseudo-moral one of merit.9696The East knew nothing of this excessive analysis; it took a man more as a whole, and judged him by the regular course taken by his will. In view of this, the inrush of Neoplatonic mysticism was highly important; for it created a counterpoise to a conception which threatened to dissolve religion into a series of legal transactions. But the weightiest counterpoise consisted in the doctrine of faith and grace as proclaimed by Augustine. However, it will be shown that Augustine taught his new conception in such a form that it did not shatter the prevailing system, but could rather be admitted into it; perhaps the greatest triumph ever achieved in the history of religion by a morality of calculations over religion.
The conception of religion as a legal relationship, which was concerned with the categories lex (law) delictum (fault) satisfactio, pœna (punishment) meritum, præmium, etc., was not destroyed by Augustine. Grace was rather inserted in a legal and objective form into the relationship, yet in such a way that it remained possible for the individual to construe the whole relationship from the point of view of grace.
We have attempted, in the above discussion, to exhibit the different lines existing in the West which meet in Augustine. Let us, in conclusion, emphasise further the following points.
1. Along with Holy Scripture, the Symbol, the Apostolic “law” (lex), was placed in the West on an unapproachable height. This law was framed in opposition to Marcionitism, Sabellianism, Arianism, and Apollinarianism, without essential variations, and without any process of reasoning, as a confession of faith in the unity of God in three persons, as also in the unity of Christ in two substances. The Western Church, therefore, apparently possessed a lofty certitude in dealing with Trinitarian and Christological problems. But with this certitude was contrasted the fact, of which we have many instances, that under cover of the official confession many more Christological heresies circulated, and were maintained in the West than in the Churches of the East, and that in particular the Christological formula, where it was not wholly unknown, was, for the laity and for many of the clergy, simply a noumenon.9797I have already discussed this briefly in Vol. III., p. 33 ff. Augustine (Confess. VII., 19) believed, up to the time of his conversion, that the doctrine of Christ held by the Catholic Church was almost identical with that of Photinus; his friend Alypius thought, on the contrary, that the Church denied Christ a human soul. We see from Hilary’s work, De trinitate, how many Christological conceptions circulated in the Western communities, among them even “quod in eo ex virgine creando efficax Dei sapientia et virtus exstiterit, et in nativitate ejus divinæ prudentiæ et potestatis opus intellegatur, sitque in eo efficientia potius quam natura sapientiæ.” Optatus (I., 8) had to blame Parmenian for calling the body of Christ sinful, and maintaining that it was purified by his baptism. Further, in spite of the doctrine of “two natures,” and the acceptance of Greek speculations, the thought of Hippolytus (Philos. X., 33): εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς θεόν σε ἠθέλησε ποιῆσαι, ἐδύνατο· ἔχεις τοῦ λόγου τὸ παράδειγμα, runs like a concealed thread through the Christological utterances of the West. We shall see that even in Ambrose and Augustine there is to be found a hidden, but intentionally retained, remnant of the old Adoptian conception. (How this is to be regarded, see above under 2). We may here pass over the influence of Manichæan Christology on many secondary minds in the Western Churches. This fact is further confirmed when we observe that Western theologians, as long as they were not directly involved in Eastern controversies, did not turn their attention to the principles contained in the above “law,” but to quite different questions. Augustine was not the first to write “expositions of the Symbol,” in which questions, wholly different from what his text would lead us to expect, were discussed. On the contrary, Western theologians from Cyprian show that they lived in a complex of ideas and questions which had little to do with the problems treated by Antignostics and Alexandrians, or with dogma.
2. In connection with the development of penance on the basis of works and merits (in the sense of satisfactions), and in harmony with the legal spirit characteristic of Western theological speculation, Christ’s expiatory work came now to the front. It was not so much the Incarnation—that was the antecedent condition—as the death of Christ, which was regarded as the salient point (punctum saliens);9898Pseudo-Cyprian, De duplici martyrio, 16: “Domini mors potentior erat quam vita.” and it was already treated from all conceivable points of view as a sacrificial death, atonement, ransom, and vicarious consummation of the crucifixion. At the same time, Ambrose discussed its relationship (reconciliatio, redemptio, satisfactio, immolatio, meritum) to sin as guilt (reatus). In such circumstances the accent fell on the human nature of Christ; the offerer and offering was the mediator as man, who received his value through the divine nature, though quite as much so by his acceptance on the part of the Deity. Thus the West had a Christological system of its own, which, while the formula of the two natures formed its starting-point, was pursued in a new direction: the mediator was looked on as the man whose voluntary achievement possessed an infinite value in virtue of the special dispensation of God.9999For fuller details, see Vol. III., p. 310 ff. Ritschl, Lehre v.d., Rechtfertigung u. Versöhnung, 2nd. ed., I., p, 38, III:, p. 362. Gesch. des Pietism. III., p. 426 ff. (Optat I., 10: “the world [was] reconciled to God by means of the flesh of Christ”: mundus reconciliatus deo per carnem Christi.) From this we can understand how Augustine, in not a few of his arguments, opposed, if in a veiled fashion, the doctrine of the divine nature of Christ, discussing the merits of the historical Christ as if that nature did not exist, but everything was given to Christ of grace.100100See e.g., the remarkable expositions ad Laurentium, c. 36 sq. The divine nature is indeed regarded as resting in the background; but in Jesus Christ there comes to the front the “individual” man, who, without previous merit, was of grace received into the Deity. The same reason further explains why afterwards modified Adoptianism was constantly re-emerging in the West,101101See the evidence in Bach’s Dogmengesch. des Mittelalters, Vol. II. it being from the stand-point of the consistent Greek Christology the worst of heresies because it dislocated the whole structure of the latter, and threw its purpose into confusion. Finally, the same fact also explains why, in later times, Western Christians, particularly such as had acquired the mystical monachist observance of intercourse with Christ, the chaste bridegroom, substantially reduced the Christological conception to “Ecce homo.” The vividness and thrilling power which this figure possessed for them, raising them above sorrow and suffering, cannot deceive us as to the fact that the Church Christology was no longer anything to them but a formula. But while the ancient Western form had become the basis of a view which left fancy and disposition to fix the significance of Christ’s Person, that must not be described as a necessary deduction from it. That form—in which Christ was the object of the Father’s grace, carried out what the Father entrusted him with, and by Him was exalted—rather corresponded to the clearest passages of the New Testament, and was the only protection against the superstitious conceptions of the Greeks which emptied the Gospel of all meaning. Of decisive value, however, are not the various mediæval attempts to appraise Christ’s work, but rather the whole tendency to understand Christianity as the religion of atonement; for in this tendency is expressed characteristically the fear of God as judge, which, in the East, disappeared behind mystic speculations.102102See Vol. III., p. 189.
3. An acute observer perceives that the soteriological question—How does man get rid,
and remain rid, of his sins and attain eternal life?—had
already, in the fourth century, actively engaged the earnest attention of thinkers
in the Western Church, and, indeed, in such a way that, as distinguished from the
East, the religious and moral sides of the problem are no longer found separate.
But the question was not clearly put before the Pelagian conflict, since the controversies
with Heraclius and Jovinian were not followed by a lasting movement. Opinions were
still jumbled together in a motley fashion, sometimes in
one and the same writer. If I see aright, five different conceptions
can be distinguished for the period about 400 A.D. First we have the
Manichæan which insinuated its way in the darkness, but was widely extended, even among the
clergy; according to it evil was a real physical power, and was overcome in the
individual by goodness, equally a physical force which was attached to natural potencies
and Christ.103103See on the extension of Manichæism in the West, Vol. III.,
p. 334 ff. It was always more Christian and therefore more dangerous there. On its
importance to Augustine, see under. Secondly, we have the Neoplatonic and Alexandrian view which taught
that evil was not-being, that which had not yet become, the necessary foil of the
good, the shadow of the light, the transitoriness cleaving to the “many” in opposition
to the “one.” It held that redemption was the return to the one, the existent, to
God; that it was identification with God in love; Christ was the strength and
crutches for such a return; for “energies and crutches come from one hand.”104104See the conceptions of Ambrose, Victorinus, and Augustine. Thirdly,
there was the rationalistic Stoic conception; this held that virtue was the supreme
good; sin was the separate evil act springing from free will; redemption was the
concentration of the will and its energetic direction to the good. Here again the
historical and Christological were really nothing but crutches.105105See the Western popular philosophies in the style of Cicero,
but also Ambrose’s De officiis. All these three
conceptions lay the greatest stress on asceticism. Fourthly, there was the sacramental
view, which may be characterised partly as morally lax, partly as “evangelical”; we find it, e.g.,
in Heraclius106106See above, p. 40 f. on the one hand, and in Jovinian107107Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine and Siricius give us information regarding him. on the other.
According to it he who was baptised possessing genuine faith obtained the guarantee
of felicity; sin could not harm him; no impeachment of sin (reatus peccati) could
touch him. It is proved that really lax and “evangelical” views met: a man could
always rely as a Christian on the grace of God; sin did not separate him from God,
if he stood firm in the faith. Nay, from the second century, really from Paul, there existed in the
Gentile Church movements which deliberately defended reliance
on faith alone (the “sola fide”) and “the most assured salvation through grace
granted in baptism” (salus per gratiam in baptismo donatam certissima.)108108 I have demonstrated this in the Ztschr. f. Theol. u. Kirche I.
(1891), pp. 82-178, and cannot repeat the proof here. From the I. Ep. of John onwards
undercurrents can be traced in the Gentile Church which required to have the saying
addressed to them: “Be not deceived, he who does righteousness is righteous.”
My main references are to the erroneous views opposed in the Catholic Epistles;
the lax Christians mentioned by Tertullian; the edict on penance of Calixtus, with
its noteworthy evangelical basis (see also Rolffs in the Texten u. Unters, Vol.
XI., part 3); Heraclius in Rome; the counter-efforts of the lax against the monachism
which was establishing itself in the West; Jovinian; and to the opponents assailed
by Augustine in his very important writing, “De fide et operibus.” This writing
is, along with Jovinian’s discussions, the most important source. There can be no
doubt that in the majority of cases an unbridled and accommodating trust in the
sacrament—accordingly a strained form of the popular Catholic feeling—was the leading
idea, and that the reference to Gospel texts, which bore witness to the unlimited
mercy of God, was only a drapery; that accordingly the “sola fide”—the catchword
occurs—was not conceived evangelically, but really meant “solo sacramento”—i e.,
even if the life did not correspond to the Christian demand for holiness. But there
were Christian teachers who had really grasped the evangelical thesis, and Jovinian
is to be counted one of them, even if his opponents be right (and I am doubtful
of this) in taking offence at his conduct; and even if it be certain that his doctrine,
in the circumstances of the time, could and did promote laxity. His main positions
were as follows:—1. The natural man is in the state of sin. Even the slightest
sin separates from God and exposes to damnation. 2. The state of the Christian rests
on baptism and faith; these produce regeneration. 3. Regeneration is the state
in which Christ is in us, and we are in Christ; there are no degrees in it, for
this personal relationship either does or does not exist. Where it does, there is
righteousness. 4. It is a relation formed by love that is in question: Father and
Son dwell in believers; but where there is such an indweller, the possessor can want for nothing. 5. Accordingly all blessings are bestowed with and in this relationship;
nothing can be thought of as capable of being added. 6. Since all blessings issue
from this relationship, there can be no special meritorious works; for at bottom
there is only one good, and that we possess as the best beloved children of God, who now participate
in the divine nature, and that good will be fully revealed in Heaven. 7. In him
who occupies this relationship of faith and love there is nothing to be condemned;
he can commit no sin which would separate him from God; the devil cannot make
him fall, for he ever recovers himself as a child of God by faith and penitence.
The relationship fixed in baptism through faith is something lasting and indissoluble.
8. But such an one must not only be baptised; he must have received baptism with
perfect faith, and by faith evince baptismal grace. He must labour and wrestle earnestly—though not in monkish efforts, for
they are valueless—not in order to deserve something
further, but that he may not lose what he has received. To him, too, the truth applies
that there are no small and great sins, but that the heart is either with God or
the devil. 9. Those who are baptised in Christ, and cling to Him with confident
faith, form the one, true Church. To her belong all the glorious promises: she
is bride, sister, mother, and is never without her bridegroom. She lives in one
faith, and is never violated or divided, but is a pure virgin. We may call Jovinian
actually a “witness of antiquity to the truth,” and a “Protestant of his time,”
though we must not mistake a point of difference: the indwelling of God and Christ
in the baptised is more strongly emphasised than the power of faith.
The Spaniard, Vigilantius, even surpassed Jovinian, both in range and intensity, in the energy with which he attacked the excrescences of monkery, relic-worship, virginity, etc.; but he does not belong to this section, for he was moved by the impression made upon him by the superstition and idolatry which he saw rising to supremacy in the Church. Jerome’s writing against him is miserable, but is surpassed in meanness by the same author’s books against Jovinian. A fifth conception was closely related to, yet different from, the last. We can call it briefly the doctrine of grace and merit. We have pointed out strong traces of it in Victorinus, Optatus, and Ambrose. According to it, evil as the inherent sin of Adam was only to be eradicated by divine grace in Christ; this grace produced faith to which, however, redemption was only granted when it had advanced and become the habitual love from which those good works spring that establish merit in the sight of God. Evil is godlessness and the vice that springs from it; goodness is the energy of grace and the good works that flow from it. Here, accordingly, nature and grace, unbelief and faith, selfishness and love of God are the antitheses, and the work of the historical Christ stands in the centre. Nevertheless, this view did not exclude asceticism, but required it, since only that faith was genuine and justified men which evinced itself in sanctification, i.e., in world-renouncing love. Thus a middle path was here sought between Jovinian on the one side and Manichæan and Priscillian asceticism on the other.109109The puzzling phenomenon of Priscillianism has not been made much clearer by the discovery of Priscillian’s homilies. I believe we may pass them over, since, important as were the points touched on in the Priscillian controversy (even the question as to the claims of the “Apocrypha” compared with the Bible), they neither evoked a dogmatic controversy, nor obtained a more general significance. The meritorious work by Paret, Priscillianus, ein Reformator des 4 Jahrh. (Würzburg, 1891) is not convincing in its leading thoughts (see on the other side Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschr. Vol. 35, 1892, pp. 1-85).
These different conceptions met and were inextricably mingled. The future of Christianity was necessarily to be decided by the victory of one or other of them.
4. In the West, interest in the question of the relation of grace and means of grace to the Church was awakened by the Novatian, heretical baptism, and Donatist controversy. This interest was, however, still further strengthened by the fact that the Church detached itself more forcibly from the State than in the East. The fall of the West Roman Empire, opposition to the remains of a still powerful heathen party in Rome, and finally dislike to the new Arian German forms of government all contributed to this.
One perhaps expects to find here by way of conclusion a characterisation of the different national Churches of the West; but little can be said from the standpoint of the history of dogma. The distinctive character of the North African Church was strongly marked. A darkness broods over the Churches of Spain, Gaul, and Britain, in which the only clear spot is the conflict of the priests with the monachism that was establishing itself. The conflict with Priscillianism in Spain, the attacks on Martin of Tours in Gaul, and, on the other hand, Vigilantius, come in here. It is not unimportant to notice that Southern Gaul was distinguished by its culture and taste for aesthetics and rhetoric about A.D. 360 (see Julian’s testimony) and A.D. 400 (see Sulp. Severus, Chron. init.). Rome only became a Christian city in the fifth century, but even in the time of Liberius and Damasus the Roman Bishop was the foremost Roman. What was wrested by Damasus, that unsaintly but sagacious man, from the State and the East, was never again abandoned by his energetic successors; they also tried vigorous intervention in the affairs of the provincial Churches. Holding faithfully to its confession, the Roman Church was, not only from its position, but also by its nature, the connecting link between East and West, between the monachist leanings of the former, and the tendency to ecclesiastical politics and sacramentarianism of the latter. It also united South and North in the West. Rome, again, from the time of Liberius pursued and explained that religious policy towards paganism, “by which the Catholic Church gained the means not only of winning but of satisfying the masses of the people who were, and, in spite of the confession, remained heathen” (Usener, Relig. Unters., I., p. 293): “it rendered heathenism harmless by giving its blessing to it, i.e., to all that belonged to the pagan cultus.” But that magnanimous way of opposing paganism, which has been rightly adduced, and which Usener (op. cit.) has begun to exhibit to us so learnedly and instructively, concealed within it the greatest dangers. In such circumstances it was of supreme value both for the contemporary and future fortunes of the Church that, just when the process of ethnicising was in full swing, Augustine, equally at home in North Africa, Rome, and Milan, appeared and reminded the Church what Christian faith was.
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