Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Prolegomena/The Influence of St. Augustin
CHAPTER V.—The Influence of St. Augustin upon Posterity, and his Relation to Catholicism and Protestantism.
In conclusion we must add some observations respecting the influence of Augustin on the Church and the world since his time, and his position with reference to the great antagonism of Catholicism and Protestantism. All the church fathers are, indeed, the common inheritance of both parties; but no other of them has produced so permanent effects on both, and no other stands in so high regard with both, as Augustin. Upon the Greek Church alone has he exercised little or no influence; for this Church stopped with the undeveloped synergistic anthropology of the previous age, and rejects most decidedly, as a Latin heresy, the doctrine of the double procession of the Holy Spirit (the Filioque) for which Augustin is chiefly responsible.
1. Augustin, in the first place, contributed much to the development of the doctrinal basis which Catholicism and Protestantism hold in common against such radical heresies of antiquity as Manichæism, Arianism, and Pelagianism. In all these great intellectual conflicts he was in general the champion of the cause of Christian truth against dangerous errors. Through his influence the canon of Holy Scripture (including, indeed, the Old Testament Apocrypha) was fixed in its present form by the councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). He conquered the Manichæan dualism, hylozoism, and fatalism, and saved the biblical idea of God and of creation, and the biblical doctrine of the nature of sin and its origin in the free will of man. He developed the Nicene dogma of the Trinity, in opposition to tritheism on the one hand, and Sabellianism on the other, but also with the doubtful addition of the Filioque, and in opposition to the Greek, gave it the form in which it has ever since prevailed in the West. In this form the dogma received classical expression from his school in the falsely so called Athanasian Creed, which is not recognized by the Greek Church, and which better deserves the name of the Augustinian Creed.
In Christology, on the contrary, he added nothing new, and he died shortly before the great Christological conflicts opened, which reached their œcumenical settlement at the council of Chalcedon, twenty years after his death. Yet he anticipated Leo in giving currency in the West to the important formula: “Two natures in one person.”
2. Augustin is also the principal theological creator of the Latin-Catholic system as distinct from the Greek Catholicism on the one hand, and from evangelical protestantism on the other. He ruled the entire theology of the middle age, and became the father of scholasticism in virtue of his dialectic mind, and the father of mysticism in virtue of his devout heart, without being responsible for the excesses of either system. For scholasticism thought to comprehend the divine with the understanding, and lost itself at last in empty dialectics; and mysticism endeavoured to grasp the divine with feeling, and easily strayed into misty sentimentalism; Augustin sought to apprehend the divine with the united power of mind and heart, of bold thought and humble faith. Anselm, Bernard of Clairvaux, Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventura, are his nearest of kin in this respect. Even now, since the Catholic Church has become a Roman Church, he enjoys greater consideration in it than Ambrose, Hilary, Jerome, or Gregory the Great. All this cannot possibly be explained without an interior affinity.
His very conversion, in which, besides the Scriptures, the personal intercourse of the hierarchical Ambrose and the life of the ascetic Anthony had great influence, was a transition not from heathenism to Christianity (for he was already a Manichæan Christian), but from heresy to the historical, orthodox, episcopally organized church, as, for the time, the sole authorized vehicle of the apostolic Christianity in conflict with those sects and parties which more or less assailed the foundations of the Gospel. It was, indeed, a full and unconditional surrender of his mind and heart to God, but it was at the same time a submission of his private judgment to the authority of the church which led him to the faith of the gospel. In the same spirit he embraced the ascetic life, without which, according to the Catholic principle, no high religion is possible. He did not indeed enter a cloister, like Luther, whose conversion in Erfurt was likewise essentially catholic, but he lived in his house in the simplicity of a monk, and made and kept the vow of voluntary poverty and celibacy.
He adopted Cyprian’s doctrine of the church, and completed it in the conflict with Donatism by transferring the predicates of unity, holiness, universality, exclusiveness, and maternity, directly to the actual church of the time, which, with a firm episcopal organization, an unbroken succession, and the Apostles’ Creed, triumphantly withstood the eighty or the hundred opposing sects in the heretical catalogue of the day, and had its visible centre in Rome. In this church he had found rescue from the shipwreck of his life, the home of true Christianity, firm ground for his thinking, satisfaction for his heart, and a commensurate field for the wide range of his powers. The predicate of infallibility alone he does not plainly bring forward; he assumes a progressive correction of earlier councils by later; and in the Pelagian controversy he asserts the same independence towards pope Zosimus, which Cyprian before him had shown towards pope Stephen in the controversy on heretical baptism, with the advantage of having the right on his side, so that Zosimus found himself compelled to yield to the African church. But after the condemnation of the Pelagian errors by the Roman see (418), he declared that “the case is finished, if only the error were also finished.”
He was the first to give a clear and fixed definition of the sacrament, as a visible sign of invisible grace, resting on divine appointment; but he knows nothing of the number seven; this was a much later enactment. In the doctrine of baptism he is entirely Catholic, though in logical contradiction with his dogma of predestination; he maintained the necessity of baptism for salvation on the ground of John ii. 5 and Mark xvi. 16, and derived from it the horrible dogma of the eternal damnation of all unbaptized infants, though he reduced their condition to a mere absence of bliss, without actual suffering. In the doctrine of the holy communion he stands, like his predecessors, Tertullian and Cyprian, nearer to the Calvinistic than any other theory of a spiritual presence and fruition of Christ’s body and blood. He certainly can not be quoted in favor of transubstantiation. He was the chief authority of Ratramnus and Berengar in their opposition to this dogma.
He contributed to promote, at least in his later writings, the Catholic faith of miracles, and the worship of Mary; though he exempts the Virgin only from actual sin, not from original, and, with all his reverence for her, never calls her “mother of God.”
At first an advocate of religious liberty and of purely spiritual methods of opposing error, he afterwards asserted the fatal principle of forcible coërcion, and lent the great weight of his authority to the system of civil persecution, at the bloody fruits of which in the middle age he himself would have shuddered; for he was always at heart a man of love and gentleness, and personally acted on the glorious principle: “Nothing conquers but truth, and the victory of truth is love.”
Thus even truly great and good men have unintentionally, through mistaken zeal, become the authors of incalculable mischief.
3. But, on the other hand, Augustin is, of all the fathers, nearest to evangelical Protestantism, and may be called, in respect of his doctrine of sin and grace, the first forerunner of the Reformation. The Lutheran and Reformed churches have ever conceded to him, without scruple, the cognomen of Saint, and claimed him as one of the most enlightened witnesses of the truth and most striking examples of the marvellous power of divine grace in the transformation of a sinner. It is worthy of mark, that his Pauline doctrines, which are most nearly akin to Protestantism, are the later and more mature parts of his system, and that just these found great acceptance with the laity. The Pelagian controversy, in which he developed his anthropology, marks the culmination of his theological and ecclesiastical career, and his latest writings were directed against the Pelagian Julian and the Semi-Pelagians in Gaul, who were brought to his notice by two friendly laymen, Prosper and Hilary. These anti-Pelagian works have wrought mightily, it is most true, upon the Catholic church, and have held in check the Pelagianizing tendencies of the hierarchical and monastic system, but they have never passed into its blood and marrow. They waited for a favourable future, and nourished in silence an opposition to the prevailing system.
In the middle age the better sects, which attempted to simplify, purify, and spiritualize the reigning Christianity by return to the Holy Scriptures, and the Reformers before the Reformation, such as Wiclif, Hus, Wessel, resorted most, after the apostle Paul, to the bishop of Hippo as the representative of the doctrine of free grace.
The Reformers were led by his writings into a deeper understanding of Paul, and so prepared for their great vocation. No church teacher did so much to mould Luther and Calvin; none furnished them so powerful weapons against the dominant Pelagianism and formalism; none is so often quoted by them with esteem and love.
All the Reformers in the outset, Melanchthon and Zwingle among them, adopted his denial of free will and his doctrine of predestination, and sometimes even went beyond him into the abyss of supralapsarianism, to cut out the last roots of human merit and boasting. In this point Augustin holds the same relation to the Catholic church, as Luther to the Lutheran; that is, he is a heretic of unimpeachable authority, who is more admired than censured even in his extravagances; yet his doctrine of predestination was indirectly condemned by the pope in Jansenism, as Luther’s view was rejected as Calvinism by the Formula of Concord. For Jansenism was nothing but a revival of Augustinianism in the bosom of the Roman Catholic church.
The excess of Augustin and the Reformers in this direction is due to the earnestness and energy of their sense of sin and grace. The Pelagian looseness could never beget a reformer. It was only the unshaken conviction of man’s own inability, of unconditional dependence on God, and of the almighty power of his grace to give us strength for every good work, which could do this. He who would give others the conviction that he has a divine vocation for the church and for mankind, must himself be penetrated with the faith of an eternal, unalterable decree of God, and must cling to it in the darkest hours.
In great men, and only in great men, great opposites and apparently antagonistic truths live together. Small minds cannot hold them. The catholic, churchly, sacramental, and sacerdotal system stands in conflict with the evangelical Protestant Christianity of subjective, personal experience. The doctrine of universal baptismal regeneration, in particular, which presupposes a universal call (at least within the church), can on principles of logic hardly be united with the doctrine of an absolute predestination, which limits the decree of redemption to a portion of the baptized. Augustin supposes, on the one hand, that every baptized person, through the inward operation of the Holy Ghost, which accompanies the outward act of the sacrament, receives the forgiveness of sins, and is translated from the state of nature into the state of grace, and thus, qua baptizatus, is also a child of God and an heir of eternal life; and yet, on the other hand, he makes all these benefits dependent on the absolute will of God, who saves only a certain number out of the “mass of perdition,” and preserves these to the end. Regeneration and election, with him, do not, as with Calvin, coincide. The former may exist without the latter, but the latter cannot exist without the former. Augustin assumes that many are actually born into the kingdom of grace only to perish again; Calvin holds that in the case of the non-elect baptism is an unmeaning ceremony; the one putting the delusion in the inward effect, the other in the outward form. The sacramental, churchly system throws the main stress upon the baptismal regeneration, to the injury of the eternal election; the Calvinistic or Puritan system sacrifices the virtue of the sacrament to the election; the Lutheran and high Anglican systems seek a middle ground, without being able to give a satisfactory theological solution of the problem. The Anglican Church, however allows the two opposite views, and sanctions the one in the baptismal service of the Book of Common Prayer, the other in her Thirty-nine Articles, and other standards, as interpreted by the low church or evangelical party in a moderately Calvinistic sense.
It was an evident ordering of God, that Augustin’s theology, like the Latin Bible of Jerome, appeared just in the transitional period of history, in which the old civilization was passing away before the flood of barbarism, and a new order of things, under the guidance of the Christian religion, was in preparation. The church, with her strong, imposing organization and her firm system of doctrine, must save Christianity amidst the chaotic turmoil of the great migration, and must become a training-school for the barbarian nations of the middle age.
In this process of training, next to the Holy Scriptures, the scholarship of Jerome and the theology and fertile ideas of Augustin were the most important intellectual agents.
Augustin was held in so universal esteem that he could exert influence in all directions, and even in his excesses gave no offence. He was sufficiently catholic for the principle of church authority, and yet at the same time so free and evangelical that he modified its hierarchical and sacramental character, reacted against its tendencies to outward, mechanical ritualism, and kept alive a deep consciousness of sin and grace, and a spirit of fervent and truly Christian piety, until that spirit grew strong enough to break the shell of hierarchical tutelage, and enter a new stage of it development. No other father could have acted more beneficently on the Catholicism of the middle age, and more successfully provided for the evangelical Reformation than St. Augustin, the worthy successor of Paul, and the precursor of Luther and Calvin.
He had lived at the time of the Reformation, he would in all probability have taken the lead of the evangelical movement against the prevailing Pelagianism of the Roman church, though he would not have gone so far as Luther or Calvin. For we must not forget that, notwithstanding their strong affinity, there is an important difference between Catholicism and Romanism or Popery. They sustain a similar relation to each other as the Judaism of the Old Testament dispensation, which looked to, and prepared the way for, Christianity, and the Judaism after the crucifixion and after the destruction of Jerusalem, which is antagonistic to Christianity. Catholicism covers the entire ancient and mediæval history of the church, and includes the Pauline, Augustinian, or evangelical tendencies which increased with the corruptions of the papacy and the growing sense of the necessity of a “reformation in capite et membris.” Romanism proper dates from the council of Trent, which gave it symbolical expression and anathematized the doctrines of the Reformation. Catholicism is the strength of Romanism, Romanism is the weakness of Catholicism. Catholicism produced Jansenism, Popery condemned it. Popery never forgets and never learns anything, and can allow no change in doctrine (except by way of addition), without sacrificing its fundamental principle of infallibility, and thus committing suicide. But Catholicism may ultimately burst the chains of Popery which have so long kept it confined, and may assume new life and vigour.
Such a personage as Augustin, still holding a mediating place between the two great divisions of Christendom, revered alike by both, and of equal influence with both, is furthermore a welcome pledge of the elevating prospect of a future reconciliation of Catholicism and Protestantism in a high unity, conserving all the truths, losing all the errors, forgiving all the sins, forgetting all the enmities of both. After all, the contradiction between authority and freedom, the objective and the subjective, the churchly and the personal, the organic and the individual, the sacramental and the experimental in religion, is not absolute, but relative and temporary, and arises not so much from the nature of things, as from the deficiencies of man’s knowledge and piety in this world. These elements admit of an ultimate harmony in the perfect state of the church, corresponding to the union of the divine and human natures, which transcends the limits of finite thought and logical comprehension, and is yet completely realized in the person of Christ. They are in fact united in the theological system of St. Paul, who had the highest view of the church, as the mystical “body of Christ,” and “the pillar and ground of the truth,” and who was at the same time the great champion of evangelical freedom, individual responsibility, and personal union of the believer with his Saviour. We believe in and hope for one holy catholic apostolic church, one communion of saints, one flock, one Shepherd. The more the different churches become truly Christian, the nearer they draw to Christ, and the more they labor for His kingdom which rises above them all, the nearer will they come to one another. For Christ is the common head and vital centre of all believers, and the divine harmony of all discordant human sects and creeds. In Christ, says Pascal, one of the greatest and noblest disciples of Augustin, In Christ all contradictions are solved.
- The church fathers of the first six centuries are certainly far more Catholic than Protestant, and laid the doctrinal foundation of the orthodox Greek and Roman churches. But it betrays a contracted, slavish, and mechanical view of history, when Roman Catholic divines claim the fathers as their exclusive property; forgetting that they taught many things which are as inconsistent with the papal as with the Protestant Creed, and that they knew nothing of certain dogmas which are essential to Romanism (such as the infallibility of the pope, the seven sacraments, transubstantiation, purgatory, indulgences, auricular confession, the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, etc.). “I recollect well,” says Dr. Newman, the former intellectual leader of Oxford Tractarianism (in his Letter to Dr. Pusey on his Eirenicon, 1866, p. 5), “what an outcast I seemed to myself, when I took down from the shelves of my library the volumes of St. Athanasius or St. Basil, and set myself to study them; and how, on the contrary, when at length I was brought into Catholic communion, I kissed them with delight, with a feeling that in them I had more than all that I had lost, and, as though I were directly addressing the glorious saints, who bequeathed them to the Church, I said to the inanimate pages, ‘You are now mine, and I am yours, beyond any mistake.’” With the same right the Jews might lay exclusive claim to the writings of Moses and the prophets. The fathers were living men, representing the onward progress and conflicts of Christianity in their time, unfolding and defending great truths, but not unmixed with many errors and imperfections which subsequent times have corrected. Those are the true children of the fathers who, standing on the foundation of Christ and the apostles, and, kissing the New Testament rather than any human writings, follow them only as far as they followed Christ, and who carry forward their work in the onward march of evangelical catholic Christianity.
- He was summoned to the council of Ephesus, which condemned Nestorianism in 431, but died a year before it met. He prevailed upon the Gallic monk, Leporius, to retract Nestorianism. His Christology is in many points defective and obscure. Comp. Dorner’s History of Christology, ii. pp. 88-98 (Germ. ed.). Jerome did still less for this department of doctrine.
- Wigger’s (Pragmat. Darstellung des Augustinismus und Pelegianismus, i. p. 27) finds the most peculiar and remarkable point of Augustin’s character in his singular union of intellect and imagination, scholasticism and mysticism, in which neither can be said to predominate. So also Huber, l. c. p. 313.
- Nourrisson, the able expounder of the philosophy of Augustin, says (l. c. tom. i. p. iv): “Je ne crois pas, qu’excepté saint Paul, aucun homme ait contribué davantage, par sa parole comme par ses écrits, à organiser, à interpréter, à répandre le christianisme; et, après saint Paul, nul apparemment, non pas même le glorieux, l’invincible Athanase, n’a travaillé d’une manière aussi puissante à fonder l’unité catholique.”
- We recall his famous anti-Manichæan dictum: “Ego evangelio non crederem, nisi me catholicæ ecclesiæ commoveret auctoritas.” The Protestant would reverse this maxim, and ground his faith in the church on his faith in Christ and in the gospel. So with the well-known maxim of Irenæus: “Ubi ecclesia, ibi Spiritus Dei, et ubi Spiritus Dei, ibi ecclesia.” According to the spirit of Protestantism it would be said conversely: “Where the Spirit of God is, there is the church, and where the church is, there is the Spirit of God.”
- According to genuine Christian principles it would have been far more noble, if he had married the African woman with whom he had lived in illicit intercourse for thirteen years, who was always faithful to him, as he was to her, and had borne him his beloved and highly gifted Adeodatus; instead of casting her off, and, as he for a while intended, choosing another for the partner of his life, whose excellences were more numerous. The superiority of the evangelical Protestant morality over the Catholic asceticism is here palpable. But with the prevailing spirit of his age he would hardly have enjoyed so great regard, nor accomplished so much good if he had been married. Celibacy was the bridge from the heathen degradation of marriage to the evangelical Christian exaltation and sanctification of the family life.
- On Augustin’s doctrine of the church, see Ch. Hist. III. §71, and especially the thorough account by R. Rothe: Anfänge der christl. Kirche und ihrer Verfassung, vol. i. (1837), pp. 679-711. “Augustin,” says he, “decidely adopted Cyprian’s conception [of the church] in all essential points. And once adopting it, he penetrated it in its whole depth with his wonderfully powerful and exuberant soul, and, by means of his own clear, logical mind, gave it the perfect and rigorous system which perhaps it still lacked” (p. 679 sqq.). “Augustin’s conception of the doctrine of the church was about standard for succeeding times” (p. 685). See also an able article of Prof. Reuter, of Göttingen, on Augustin’s views concerning episcopacy, tradition, infallibility, in Brieger’s “Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol.” for 1885 (Bk. VIII. pp. 126-187).
- Hence the famous word: “Roma locuta est, causa finita est,” which is often quoted as an argument for the modern Vatican dogma of papal infallibility. But it is not found in this form, though we may admit that it is an epigrammatic condensation of sentences of Augustin. The nearest approach to it is in his Sermo CXXXI. cap. 10, §10 (Tom. VII. 645): “Iam enim de hac causa duo concilia missa sunt ad sedem apostolicam (Rome), inde etiam rescripta venerunt. Causa finita est, utinam aliquando error finiatur.” Comp. Reuter, l. c. p. 157.
- Respecting Augustin’s doctrine of baptism, see the thorough discussion in W. Wall’s History of Infant Baptism, vol. i. p. 173 sqq. (Oxford ed. of 1862). His view of the slight condemnation of all unbaptized children contains the germ of the scholastic fancy of the limbus infantum and the pæna damni, as distinct from the lower regions of hell and the pæna sensus.
- In his former writings he expressed a truly philosophical view concerning miracles (De vera relig. c. 25, §47; c. 50, §98; De utilit. credendi, c. 16, §34; De peccat. meritis et remiss. l. ii. c. 32, §52, and De civit. Dei, xxii. c. 8); but in his Retract. l. i. c. 14, §5, he corrects or modifies a former remark in his book De utilit. credendi, stating that he did not mean to deny the continuance of miracles altogether, but only such great miracles as occurred at the time of Christ (“quia non tanta nec omnia, non quia nulla fiunt”). See Ch. Hist. III. §§87 and 88, and the instructive monograph of the younger Nitzsch: Augustinus’ Lehre vom Wunder, Berlin, 1865 (97 pp.).
- See Ch. Hist. III. §§81 and 82.
- Comp. Tract. in Evang. Joannis, viii. c. 9, where he says: “Cur ergo ait matri filius; Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier? nondum venit hora mea (John ii. 4). Dominus noster Jesus Christus et Deus erat et homo: secundum quod Deus erat, matrem non habebat; secundum quod homo erat, habebat. Mater ergo [Maria] erat carnis, mater humanitatis, mater infirmitatis quam suscepit propter nos.” This strict separation of the Godhead from the manhood of Jesus in his birth from the Virgin would have exposed Augustin in the East to the suspicion of Nestorianism. But he died a year before the council of Ephesus, at which Nestorius was condemned.
- See Ch. Hist. III. §27, p. 144 sq. He changed his view partly from his experience that the Donatists, in his own diocese, were converted to the catholic unity “timore legum imperialium,” and were afterwards perfectly good Catholics. He adduces also a misinterpretation of Luke xiv. 23, and Prov. ix. 9: “Da sapienti occasionem et sapientior erit.” Ep. 93, ad Vincentium Rogatistam, §17 (tom. ii. p. 237 sq. ed. Bened.). But he expressly discouraged the infliction of death on heretics, and adjured the proconsul Donatus, Ep. 100, by Jesus Christ, not to repay the Donatists in kind. “Corrigi eos cupimus, non necari.”
- Luther pronounced upon the church fathers (with whom, however, excepting Augustin, he was but slightly acquainted) very condemnatory judgments, even upon Basil, Chrysostom, and Jerome (for Jerome he had a downright antipathy, on account of his advocacy of fasts, virginity, and monkery); he was at times dissatisfied even with Augustin, because he after all did not find in him his sola fide, his articulus stantis vel cadentis ecclesiæ, and says of him: “Augustin often erred; he cannot be trusted. Though he was good and holy, yet he, as well as other fathers, was wanting in the true faith.” But this cursory utterance is overborne by numerous commendations; and all such judgments of Luther must be taken cum grano salis. He calls Augustin the most pious, grave, and sincere of the fathers, and the patron of divines, who taught a pure doctrine and submitted it in Christian humility to the Holy Scriptures, etc., and he thinks, if he had lived in the sixteenth century, he would have been a Protestant (si hoc seculo viveret, nobiscum sentiret), while Jerome would have gone with Rome. Compare his singular but striking judgments on the fathers in Lutheri Colloquia, ed. H. E. Bindseil, 1863, tom. iii. 149, and many other places. Gangauf, a Roman Catholic (a pupil of the philosopher Günther), concedes (l. c. p. 28, note 13) that Luther and Calvin built their doctrinal system mainly on Augustin, but, as he correctly thinks, with only partial right. Nourrisson, likewise a Roman Catholic, derives Protestantism from a corrupted (!) Augustinianism, and very superficially makes Lutheranism and Calvinism essentially to consist in the denial of the freedom of the will, which was only one of the questions of the Reformation. “On ne saurait le méconnaître, de l’Augustinianisme corrompu, mais enfin de l’Augustinianisme procède le Protestantisme. Car, sans parler de Wiclif et de Huss, qui, nourris de saint Augustin, soutiennent, avec le réalisme platonicien, la doctrine de la prédestination: Luther et Calvin ne font guère autre chose, dans leurs principaux ouvrages, que cultiver des semences d’Augustinianisme” (l. c. ii. p. 176). But the Reformation is far more, of course, than a repristination of an old controversy; it is a new creation, and marks the epoch of modern Christianity which is different both from the mediæval and from ancient or patristic Christianity.
- It is well known that Luther, as late as 1526, in his work, De servo arbitrio, against Erasmus, which he never retracted, proceeded upon the most rigorous notion of the divine omnipotence, wholly denied the freedom of will, declared it a mere lie (merum mendacium), pronounced the calls of the Scriptures to repentance a divine irony, and based eternal salvation and eternal perdition upon the secret will of God; in all this he almost exceeded Calvin. See particulars in the books on doctrine-history; the inaugural dissertation of Jul. Müller: Lutheri de prædestinatione et libero arbitrio doctrina, Gött. 1832; and a historical treatise on predestination by Carl Beck in the “Studien und Kritiken” for 1847. We add, as a curiosity, the opinion of Gibbon (ch. xxxiii.), who, however, had a very limited and superficial knowledge of Augustin: “The rigid system of Christianity which he framed or restored, has been entertained, with public applause, and secret reluctance, by the Latin church. The church of Rome has canonized Augustin, and reprobated Calvin. Yet as the real difference between them is invisible even to a theological microscope, the Molinists are oppressed by the authority of the saint, and the Jansenists are disgraced by their resemblance to the heretic. In the mean while the Protestant Arminians stand aloof, and deride the mutual perplexity of the disputants. Perhaps a reasoner, still more independent, may smile in his turn when he peruses an Arminian commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.” Nourrisson (ii. 179), from his Roman stand-point, likewise makes Lutheranism to consist “essentiellement dans la question du libre arbitre.” But the principle of Lutheranism, and of Protestantism generally, is the supremacy of the Holy Scriptures as a rule of faith, and salvation by free grace through faith in Christ.
- On the mighty influence of Augustin in the seventeenth century in France, especially on the noble Jansenists, see the works on Jansenism, and also Nourrisson, l. c. tom. ii. pp. 186-276.
- Guizot, the Protestant historian and statesman, very correctly says in his Histoire générale de la civilisation en Europe (Deuxième lecon, p. 45 sq. ed.Bruxelles, 1850): “S’il n’eût pas été une église, je ne sais ce qui en serait avenu au milieu de la chute de l’empire romain.…Si le christianisme n’eût été comme dans les premiers temps, qu’une croyance, un sentiment, une conviction individuelle, on peut croire qu’il aurait succombé au milieu de la dissolution de l’empire et de l’invasion des barbares. Il a succombé plus tard, en Asie et dans tous le nord de l’Afrique, sous une invasion de même nature, sous l’invasion des barbares musulmans; il a succombé alors, quoiqu’il fût à l’êtat d’institution, d’église constituée. A bien plus forte raison le même fait aurait pu arriver au moment de la chute de l’empire romain. Il n’y avait alors aucun des moyens par lesquels aujourd’hui les influences morales s’établissent ou résistent indépendamment des institutions, aucun des moyens par lesquels une pure vérité, une pure idée acquiert un grand empire sur les esprits, gouverne les actions, dêtermine des événemens. Rien de semblable n’existait au IVe siècle, pour donner aux idées, aux sentiments personels, une pareille autorité. Il est clair qu’il fallait une société fortement organisée, fortement gouvernée, pour lutter contre un pareil désastre, pour sortir victorieuse d’un tel ouragan. Je ne crois pas trop dire en affirmant qu’à la fin du IVe et au commencement du Ve siècle, c’est l’église chrétienne qui a sauvé le christianisme; c’est l’église avec ses institutions, ses magistrats, son pouvoir, qui s’est défendue vigoureusement contre la dissolution intérieure de l’empire, contre la barbarie, qui a conquis les barbares, qui est devenue le lien, le moyen, le principe dé civilisation entre le monde romain et le monde barbare.”