« AnteriorContinuar »
the Manichæan doctrines which had wrought strongly in his nature, and which wrought there still. When in the wild career of sensuality he had sought to justify himself
, or at least to silence the rebukes of conscience,
the weakness and the unavoidable concupiscence of the flesh presented the expedient. And now that he had engaged in a struggle for godliness and heaven, although he no longer sought to excuse the motions of sin, and hush the accusing voice within, still the very energy and painfulness of the struggle by which the spirit endeavored to master the flesh, would revive, however unconsciously of the source from whence it sprung, the idea of the vitiosity of matter. It was not difficult to make his interpretations of Scripture correspond with opinions which had worked themselves out of the two most excited states of his strongest passions, their conquering state, and their state of being conquered ; since, in addition to the strength which these opinions derived from the circumstances of their formation, they seemed to find a support in the language of the apostle. This evil concupiscence, to his consciousness, had always been working in his nature, and had at no period been introduced by his will
. What he observed in himself he found verified by his observations upon others. It was therefore an inherited concupiscence.
Again: the manner in which he had yielded to its impulses, notwithstanding the instructions, prayers and tears of his mother, and notwithstanding his own frequent perceptions of the higher beauty and excellence of godliness; and, in addition to this, the fact that even while under the instructions and example of Ambrose, with strong yearnings after spirituality of mind, he found himself unable
to break away from the fascinations of pleasure, but was held in a sort of compulsive bondage until the divine voice spoke to him in the garden, and, by an interposition which appeared to him almost if not altogether miraculous, gave him freedom and peace, naturally influenced his opinions respecting the slavery of the will. And here again, it is probable that the doctrines of the Manichæans, unconsciously to him, reappeared and gave their touch to the mould of his thoughts.
The evil concupiscence and the loss of freedom consequent upon it, in the long line of inheritance, necessarily brought him back to the first man. He had already made the will of Adam responsible for sin, and in doing so had made it a free will; and he had also made men universally responsible for sin. But as the first man alone had a free will, how shall his posterity retain their responsibility, when they sin necessarily by a will enslaved to the evil concupiscence? There was but one way in which the difficulty could be evaded or removed. As each man, by a long but regular series of generations, had derived his being, with all its powers physical and mental, and all its vitiosity from Adam, so each man could be conceived of as in some sort existing in Adam. When therefore Adam sinned, the whole race, potentially contained in him, sinned likewise. The will of the individual was indeed enslaved to the evil concupiscence; but then, in Adam, by an act of the all comprehending free will of the race, he had freely sinned, and inherited a bondage of the will, a guilt and condemnation which were therefore justly his due. Having formed his theory, Augustine found many passages of Scripture which plainly affirm that we all have become sinners through or by means of Adam, and were therefore not difficult of accommodation, particularly, as they appeared in the Latin version, the only one which he used.
Augustine's entire system finds its cardinal basis in his theory of original sin.
1. The condition of infants, and the nature and efficacy of baptism. The whole race sinned in Adam, and are condemned with him for the first sin: infants, therefore, are condemned; and dying, without divine interposition, are inevitably lost. This divine interposition appears in the rite of baptism. All baptised infants will be saved, if they die in a state of infancy. Adults, also, are saved from original sin by baptism, and cannot be saved without it.
Augustine, in his theory of original sin, creates an extraordinary form of guilt; and he creates an equally extraordinary form of purification to meet it. It certainly is not more difficult to believe, that the application of water in a solemn rite, should remove guilt and eternal condemnation, than that this guilt and condemnation should spring from a personal participation in Adam's sin by all his posterity. After this, perhaps, we ought not to be surprised even at the farther extension of the efficacy of baptism, so as to make it embrace the removal of actual sin and physical imperfection. In the extraordinary virtues attributed to it, we behold one form of that portentous corruption of Christianity, which, from early and small beginnings, gradually diffused itself abroad, until the simplicity of Christ, and the sublime spirituality of his doctrines were supplanted by gorgeous and complicated ceremonies, and manipulatory devotions.
2. Grace. Salvation through the death of Christ is actually revealed. But how can it take effect with a race totally enslaved to sin, and without the slightest ability to good ? Clearly, the work of restoration cannot begin with man, not even in the feeblest initiatory step; for he is incapable of forming the remotest purpose of returning to holiness. Salvation can take effect, therefore, only by a divine interposition: and as this interposition does not lie in any visible, natural influences, it must consist of " causes hidden” in God himself, and directly acting upon the human will and affections.
3. Limited Redemption. All men do not believe; all men are not saved. But why? Because, all men being unable to make any effort for salvation, God is pleased to provide salvation, and to communicate grace only to a part. The whole race, by original sin, are condemned, lost and helpless; and only those are and can be saved, whom God elects as the subjects of redemption and grace.
4. Election. According to Augustine, this cannot be a mere purpose to receive all, who, by making certain efforts, comply with the prescribed conditions, which conditions are within the scope of their ability : but, on the contrary, it is an absolute predestination, which contains within itself the only causal influence which can, in any manner or degree, lead the sinner to Christ. It is impossible that the sinner should go to Christ, unless he wills to go; but he cannot will to go, because he has no freedom of will or ability to good: he goes, therefore, only as God elects him to go, and gives him grace accordingly.
Let us now turn to the system of Pelagius. The origin of Pelagius and his early education are unknown. His life, as far as known, was unstained: he was exemplary in the practice of virtue, and earnest in its inculcation. The strength of human passions, the feebleness of human resolutions, and the fierce conflict between matured habits of dissoluteness and a quickened conscience, which characterized his great opponent, probably never appeared in him to a degree to tempt him to doubt the freedom of the will. Besides, he appears to have been under no prejudices derived from early associations with any philosophical sect. SECOND SERIES, VOL. V. NO. I.
Pelagius asserted the doctrine of human freedom. This ground of obligation, which Augustine admitted only in the instance of the first man, he extended to the whole human race. He erred, however, in his deductions. It is but reasonable to believe that he was driven into many extreme positions, by the persecution which he experienced. Truth requires to be quietly and securely followed. The excitation of fierce dispute, the competition and mutual abuse of parties, the arrogance of power, the obstinacy of the calumniated and trodden down, the subtleties to which the persecuted are compelled to resort, the inconsistencies and self-contradictions which fear extorts are all foreign to her sweet and quiet walks, her soft and gentle voice, and her benign and heaven-beaming countenance. Augustine and Pelagius were both acute men, and men of rare gifts. The holy walks of Truth were open to them both; and they would have met her more frequently, had they been less eager to search out each other in hot debate.
The error of Pelagius was just opposite to that of Augustine. The latter, by extending the effects of Adam's fall to every faculty of his being, was led to the denial of human freedom; and was then driven to his theory of original sin, with all its consequences. Pelagius, in dwelling too intensely upon the inherent freedom of man, overlooked the possibility of a corruption derived by natural generation, without impairing that freedom. He analyzed too exclusively one faculty of our being. This was his great philosophical error.
Man can will both good and evil. So far he was correct. But the consequence which he drew—therefore man can be good or evil is not legitimate. Man has intelligence, and therefore he can know. He has will, and therefore he can .choose and do. But it does not follow, that, because he has affections of love and hate, he can direct these affections to any object known by his intelligence and selected by his will. The intelligence may affirm what objects ought to be loved, and what objects ought to be hated, and the will may direct the whole attention to the contemplation of these objects and their qualities, and call up any known influence within its reach, that may conduce to the required affection : but the affection itself can no more be a creation of the will, than a perception of the intelligence.
It is a fact of universal consciousness, that the affections of man are, in many important points, opposed to the decisions of
reason and conscience. While this opposition exists, man cannot be called good in a perfect sense. Moral responsibility, except in the case of Adam, cannot extend to the mere fact that this opposition exists; for it was induced by his act alone. His posterity are responsible only for their personal acts,—that is, the determinations and volitions of the will, together with their involved consequences as the end or aim of the acts. A multitude of these personal acts have directly for their end or aim the excitation and gratification of desires and passions at war with reason and conscience. Those acts, which resist the demands of the corrupt passions, and aim to obey the reason in the acknowledgment of its supreme authority, contain the very element of praiseworthiness.
Now, let it be supposed that an individual, up to a given moment, has, in every personal act, obeyed the reason and denied his impure propensities: it is not philosophically conceivable that he has incurred any guilt on account of the mere existence of these propensities ; on the contrary, his virtues have taken a nobler cast from the stern resistance to temptation under which they were moulded. But is he perfectly good ? No. The evil element is within him; and therefore we know not but the next demand of conscience may be one which he shall choose to disobey. He contains perpetually within his own nature motives to transgression.
Two forms of evil are found in man ;-the evil of a depraved moral sensitivity, or a sensitivity at war with reason, wherein lie motives, temptations and inducements to personal or free acts of sin; and the evil of positive acts of the free will, transgressing the law of conscience. Pelagius obtained his perfect man by shutting out of view the first form of evil, and coneentrating his idea in the second. If it were not for the first, in the absolute freedom of the will, perfection would seem an easy attainment. But inasmuch as the first is continually present, until perfection is actually gained,-besides the bare possibility of sin which attaches itself to the free will, there is the probability arising from the subjective motives lying in the sensitivity. The man is never deprived of responsibility, because he is never deprived of free will the power of striving after self-regeneration ; but the probability of transgression found in his depraved faculty, exemplified in the history of so many generations, has grown to a moral certainty. Christianity made her appearance after the long experiment of ages had been made upon