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IN former articles* we have exhibited the views of the Roman Catholic church upon the Scriptures, the church and the sacraments. We now propose, in conclusion, to present those doctrines which are more strictly theological. It would perhaps be most satisfactory to the reader, should we enter at once upon the doctrine of justification. But though this was the great topic in dispute at the Reformation, and is always a theme of the most vital interest to the Christian, it is so intimately connected with the doctrine of human depravity, that any essential difference of opinion upon the latter must lead to a corresponding diversity in respect to the former; and therefore a faithful exposition of the views of human sinfulness entertained by the Roman Catholic church, must form the basis of an intelligible exposition of her views of justification.
The design of Luther was not to frame a system of theology, but to correct existing abuses. Those abuses, however, sprang so legitimately from certain doctrinal errors, that it was impossible to effect a permanent reformation in practice without a corresponding reformation in faith. He was led therefore by degrees to renounce one doctrine after another, till he no longer held enough in com
* Those articles have no necessary connection with the present; so that new subscribers will suffer no inconvenience for want of the last volume.
mon with the Romish church to remain within her pale. Such is the course of all revolutions, civil or ecclesiastical. They are not conducted upon a previously digested plan comprehending all their bearings near and remote. Though often long contemplated, they burst forth suddenly at last, and sweep away old institutions, leaving it for time and circumstances to give shape, order and permanence to others in their stead. They settle some great principle, and leave minor points to arrange themselves under it in their proper place. But, says Dr. Moehler, “the more harmoniously a system is framed, and the more consistently it is carried out, the more will any modification in its fundamental principle affect all its parts. Whoever, therefore, assailed catholicism (whose doctrines are most closely interwoven) in its center, was forced by degrees to assail it also in many other points, whose connection with those first attacked was in the beginning scarcely imagined. At the commencement of the ecclesiastical revolution of the 16th century, attention was not called particularly either to the primitive or the future state of man; for a minute explanation of these articles of faith seemed to possess but a very subordinate interest, and many points appeared to be brought forward only to fill up a chasm in the general system of belief. That great controversy,
which still engages our attention, had its rise rather in the inmost center of human history; since it turned upon the mode whereby fallen man can regain fellowship with Christ, and become a partaker of the fruits of redemption. But from this center the opposition to the doctrine of the church spread backward and forward till it reached the two terms of human history, which were necessarily viewed in accordance with the changes introduced in the central point.” We might begin our present investigations at this central point, and show how every doctrine has been drawn into its circle. But we prefer to follow what Dr. Moehler calls “the natural progress of human history;”—to begin with the original state of man, speak next of his fall and its consequences, and then enter upon the main point in dispute, the doctrine of the restoration of man from his fall through Christ Jesus, with the appointed means of restoration and its consequences in a future State. The first point, then, to which we direct our attention, is THE PRIMITIVE STATE OF MAN. There is no essential difference between the views of Roman Catholics and Protestants upon the state of Adam before the fall; no greater difference in fact than exists among Protestants themselves. The leading Roman Catholic divines are not agreed upon some of the minor points pertaining to this subject, and the Council of Trent has left them still open for discussion. The unanimous opinion of these divines is, that Adam in his original state was endowed with a high order of mental and physical faculties, free from imperfection, and that his moral character was just and holy; by which is meant, not only that he was without positive sin, but that, by the proper exercise of his powers in acts of obedience, he was in all respects acceptable to God. But upon the
question whether this original holiness and justice was a supernatural endowment, or the result of his own voluntary act, aided indeed by the divine favor, there is much diversity of sentiment. Dr. Moehler inclines to the latter opinion ; but the Council of Trent has expressed itself with so much ambiguity that either opinion may be held without censure. The subject is only touched upon incidentally in the decree concerning original sin. “Si quis non confitetur primum hominem Adam, cum mandatum Dei in paradiso fuisset transgressus, statim sanctitatem et justitiam, in qua constitutus fuerat, amisisse, &c.”—Pallavicini informs us, that the declaration as first proposed asserted that Adam was created holy; “sanctitatem et justitiam, in qua conditus fuerat;” but that the word constitutus, “established,” was substituted at the suggestion of Pacecus, who reminded the Council that it was by no means settled beyond dispute that Adam possessed inward holiness at the very instant of his creation. Dr. Moehler insists strongly upon entire freedom of the will as a characteristic of the first man, and affirms that the Catholic church has laid down the doctrine of human freedom with peculiar earnestness, in order that, without any restriction, and without subterfuge, the responsibility for the existence of moral evil might fall on the head of man. He spurns the idea, that God caused or suffered evil to exist for the sake of the good which he might bring out of it. He illustrates it thus: “God instigates a man to murder, that he may display, his justice in punishing the crime when committed We leave it to the judgment of any one, whether such a course is compatible with the very notion of the Deity. How pernicious would it be, how subversive of all human morality, if men were to imitate God as he is here represented " We regret that the clear discrimination which is shown on this important point does not pervade all the articles of the Romish church. But none of her divines with whose writings we are acquainted, seem ever to have hit upon the mode of reconciling the doctrine of the purposes or decrees of God with the doctrine of free agency. Hence they often sacrifice divine sovereignty to human freedom. Thus Dr. Moehler observes, that “Calvin teaches an eternal, immutable predestination of the fall of the first man; an opinion which is certainly quite incompatible with the proposition that Adam was free, that is to say, could have avoided sinning.” Inability to reconcile these two doctrines seems to be one cause of that prominence which is afterwards given to works
in securing salvation, in distinction.
from a dependence on divine grace. But on this point we shall say more hereafter. We proceed next to THE FALL of MAN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES. The general sentiment of Roman Catholic divines is, that Adam fell by the voluntary transgression of the law of God through the temptation of Satan. Dr. Moehler, to whom we refer continually as the ablest expounder of the Roman Catholic faith, insists particularly upon the voluntariness of the fall. Regarding Calvin's doctrine of foreordination as mere fatalism, he says, “it is one of the most remarkable phenomena in the history of the religious controversies of the last three centuries, that the Reformers, according to whose principles Adam in his fall only succumbed to a sentence of irresistible necessity pronounced upon him, should have represented the Deity as kindling into so fearful a wrath, and inflicting so frightful a chastisement for this act of the first man, which, according to their own views, should be called rather his pure misfortune. How could Adam be the subject of such fearful wrath, if he did only what
he was obliged to do; if he perpetrated only what he could not avoid 2 It is no easy task to explain how ideas so disconnected could have been associated in the same head.” But Dr. Moehler did not rightly conceive of Calvin's views of predestination. Still we must confess that he is much more lucid and scriptural upon the point of man's responsibility in the fall than some Protestant theologians. In respect to the precise nature of Adam's sin, there has been a great deal of unprofitable speculation among Roman Catholics as well as Protestants. A single specimen from Dens will suffice. He enumerates seven sins of Eve and six of Adam. Eve's sins were pride, a disbelief of the divine threatening, assent to the charge of jealousy which the serpent brought against Jehovah, curiosity and a desire to gratify the palate, the outward act of disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit, tempting her husband to commit the same fault, and excusing her offense by charging it upon the serpent. The sins of Adam were pride, an inordinate desire to please his wife, a disbelief of the threatened penalty, curiosity and eagerness to gratify the palate, eating the forbidden fruit, and palliating his offense. This theologian then informs us, that if we consider the person, Adam's sin was the more grievous, but if we look at the sin itself, that of Eve was the most heinous and the most severely punished. Father Paul checks all such idle inquiries by the remark, that “he who will take St. Paul’s words for his ground, can put it (Adam's sin) in no other kind, but of pure disobedience.” The doctrine of the Roman Catholic church on original sin, may be reduced to the following propositions laid down by the Council of Trent at its fifth session. Adam, by transgressing the law of God, lost his original justice and holiness, drew down upon himself the displeasure and the judgments of the Almighty, incurred the penalty of death, became subject to Satan, and wholly corrupt in body and soul. Both sin and its consequences are transmitted from Adam to all his posterity, so that even infants need to be washed in the laver of regeneration in order to obtain eternal life.* Nevertheless, the freedom of the will was not wholly lost by the sin of Adam, so that man still retains the natural image of God, and all his actions are not necessarily sinful,t though none are in themselves acceptable to God. These propositions are derived from the anathemas of the Council against the contrary doctrines. The last is aimed against the doctrine of physical depravity which they ascribed to the Reformers. The Council carefully refrained from giving any definition of original sin, on the grounds that Scripture and tradition are alike silent on this
* “Si quis parvulos recentes ab uteris matrum baptizandos negat, etiam si fuerant a baptizatis parentibus orti; aut dicit in remissionem quidem peccatorum eos baptizari, sed nihil ex Adam trahere originalis peccati, quod regenerationis lavacro necesse sit expiari ad vitam atternam consequendam; unde sit consequens ut in eis forma baptismatis in remissionem peccatorum non vera, sed falsa intelligatur; anathema sit; quoniam non aliter intelligendum est it quod dixit Apostolus ; (Rom. v., 12.) nisi quemadmodum, ecclesia catholica ubique diffusa semper intellexit. Propter hanc enim regulam fidei ex traditione Apostolorum, etiam parvuli, qui nihil peccatorum in semetipsis adhuc committere potuerunt ideo in remissionem peccatorum veraciter baptizantur, ut in eis regeneratione mundetur quod generatione contraxerunt.” Dec. de pec. orig. Iv.
t Dens carries this doctrine farther, and maintains not only that mankind possess certain constitutional propensities which are in themselves innocuous, but that they are capable of performing what is meritorious in the sight of God, and of thus contributing to their own justification.
point, and that they were convoked not to define truth, but to condemn error. Many of the Council, indeed, insisted upon having some clear, intelligible definition of the nature of original sin set forth by the authority of the Holy Synod. Andreas Vega, a Franciscan divine, maintained, “that it was not convenient, nor ever used by any council, to condemn an opinion for heretical, without declaring first which is catholic; that no true negative hath in itself the cause of its truth, but is so by the truth of an affirmative ; nor ever any proposition was false, but because another is true: neither can the falsity of the one be known, but by him who knoweth the truth of the other. Therefore the opinion of the Lutherans can not be condemned of heresy, until the opinion of the church be set down. He that shall observe the manner of proceeding in all councils, which have handled matters of faith, will see, that they have laid first an orthodox foundation, and by that condemned the heresies, and so it is necessary to do now. For when it shall be read that the Council of Trent hath condemned the Lutherans, for saying original sin is ignorance, contempt, distrust and hate of heavenly things, and a corruption of the whole man in the will, soul and body, who is there that will not demand, what is it then 2 and will not say in himself, if this opinion be heretical, which is catholic 2 And when he shall see the opinion of Zuinglius condemned, that children, the sons of the faithful, are baptized into remission of sins, though nothing be transmitted from Adam but the punishments and the corruption of nature, will not suddenly ask, what else is then transmitted 2 In sum, he concluded, that the Council was assembled principally to tell the catholic truth, not only to condemn heresies.” These reasonable views, however, did not prevail. There were too many conflicting opinions in the Council itself to allow of harmonious action in any thing but the condemnation of Protestants; and “the prelates had no hope to be able by study to be well-informed in the crabbed school-points, neither durst they go about to make trial of it.” In this we commend their prudence. Pallavicini justifies the course of the Council by saying, that “if the church be unable to give any accurate definition of original sin, it is sufficient for her to denote what original sin is not; and this she can do with as much propriety as one, who, having no clear notion of heaven, could still assert with confidence, that it was not composed of linen adorned with gold-paper.” The articles proposed to be condemned as heretical, were the following.
“1. That Adam by transgressing the divine command, hath lost justice, and incurred the wrath of God and mortality; but though he is impaired both in soul and body, yet no sin is transferred from him to posterity, but only corporal punishment. “2. That Adam's sun is called original, because it is derived from him to posterity, not by transmission, but by imitation. “3. That original sin is ignorance, or contempt of 3. or want of fear, without confidence in his Majesty, without divine love, and with concupiscence and bad desires; and generally a corruption of the whole man in his will, soul and body. “4. That in children there is an inclination to evil, proceeding from a corrupted nature, so that after the use of reason, it bringeth forth a loathing of divine things, and an immersion in matters of the world; and that this is original sin. “5. That children, at least those born of believing parents, though they are baptized into the remission of sins, yet have no sin by descending from Adam. “6. That original sin is not cancelled in baptism, but not imputed, or so razed, that it beginneth to diminish in this life, and is wholly rooted out in that to come. “7. That the sin remaining in the baptized, hindereth his entrance into heaven. “8. That concupiscence which cherisheth sin, and remaineth after baptism, is truly sin.”
“9. That the principal punishment due to original sin, is hell-fire, besides corporal death, and other imperfections, to which man is subject in this life.”
These several articles were all condemned by the Council, though some of them elicited much discussion. Father Paul tells us, that the divines were most “troubled to discourse how sin was transmitted from Adam to posterity, and successively from father to son. For St. Austin, who opened the way to others, pressed with the objection of Julianus the Pelagian, who asked him of the manner of transmitting original sin when man is conceived, seeing that matrimony and the use thereof is holy, neither God the first author sinning, nor the parents, nor he that is born, by what chink sin entered, answered only, that chinks were not to be sought where a gate stood wide open, the Apostle saying that by Adam sin entered into the world.”
This is a specimen of the perplexity in which the “holy synod” was often involved in attempting to fix infallibly the faith of the world. It shows the utter futility of legislating upon metaphysical niceties.
The mode in which original sin is removed, will be considered when we come to treat of justification. It was upon this point alone that the Council were entirely unanimous, Much frivolous discussion arose respecting the condition of infants who die without baptism. Some held that they went to a Limbo, or a region of gloomy unconsciousness under the earth; others that after the resurrection they would inhabit the earth itself in light, but be deprived
the physical constitution; that it is wholly removed by baptism, and a change of the will; that whatever propensities to evil may remain in the system after baptism, they are not themselves sinful; nor even when they lead to sin, do they so enslave the will as to estrange it from God or to deprive the justified person of his good estate. It is important to notice the nicest shades of thought upon the doctrine of original sin, in view of their influence on the doctrine of justification.