Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/632

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566

ANTINOMIANISM


566


ANTINOMIANISM


ricola, it is a tlicoretical and not a practical Anti- nomianism that is inculcated. Much of the teaching of the members of this sect recalls "the wildest va- garies of the Antinomian heresy, while at the same time their earnest jirotests against such a construc- tion being put upon their words, and the evident desire of their writers to enforce a high standard of practical holiness, forbid us to foUow out some of their statements to what seems to be their logical conclusion." Indeed, the doctrine generally is held theoretically, where held at all, and has seldom been advocated as a principle to be pvit in practice and acted upon. Except, as has already been noted, in the case of the Anabaptists of Miinster and of some of the more fanatical sections of the Commonwealth, as well as in a small number of other isolated and sporadic cases, it is highly doubtful if it has ever been directly put forward as an excuse for licentious- ness; although, as can easily be seen, it offers the gravest possible incentive to, and even justification of, both private and public immorality in its worst and most insidious form.

As the doctrine of Antinomianism, or legal irre- sponsibility, is an extreme type of the heretical doc- trine of justification by faith alone as taught by the Reformers, it is only natural to find it condemned by the Catholic Church in company with this fun- damentally Protestant tenet. The sixth session of the fficumenical Council of Trent was occupied with this subject, and published its famous decree on Jus- tification. The fifteenth chapter of this decree is directly concerned with the Antinomian heresy, and condemns it in the following terms: "In opposition also to the cunning wits of certain men who, by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained that the re- ceived grace of justification is lost not only by in- fidelity, in which even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin soever, though faith be not lost; thereby defending the doctrine of the Divine law, which excludes from the Kingdom of God not only the unbelieving, but also the faithful who are fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of them- selves witli mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of Divine grace, they are able to refrain, and on account of which they are separate from the grace of Christ" (Cap. XV, cf. also Cap. xii). Also, among the canons anathematizing the various erroneous doctrines ad- vanced by the Reformers as to the meaning and nature of justification are to be found the following: "Can. xix. If anyone shall say that notliing be- sides faith is commanded in the Gospel; that other things are indifferent, neither commanded nor pro- hibited, but free; or that the Ten Commandments in no wise appertain to Christians; let him be anath- ema. — Can. XX. If anyone shall say that a man who is justified and how perfect soever is not bound to the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if, forsooth, the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observation of the commandments; let him be anathema. — Can. xxi. If anyone shall say that Christ Jesus was given of God unto men as a Redeemer in whom they should trust, and not also as a legislator whom tliey should obey; let him be anathema. — Can. xxvii. It anyone shall say that there is no deatlly sin but that of infidelity; or that grace once received is not lost by any other sin, however griev- ous and enormous, save only by that of infidelity; let him be anathema."

The minute care with which the thirty-three canons of tlii.s sixth session of the Council were drawn up iH evidence of the grave iin|)ortance of the Question of justification, as well as of the conflicting doctrine


advanced by the Reformers tliem.selves upon this subject. The four canons quoted above leave no doubt as to the distinctly .\ntinomian theory of jus- tification that falls under the anathema of the Church. That the moral law persists in the Gospel dispensation, and that the justified Cliristian is still imder the whole obligation of the laws of God and of the Church, is clearly asserted and defined under the solemn anathema of an (Ecumenical Council. The character of Christ as a lawgiver to be obeyed is insisted upon, as well as His character as a Re- deemer to be trusted; and the fact that there is grievous transgression, other than that of infidelity,

is taught without the slightest ambiguity thus

far, the most authoritative possible utterance of the teacliing Church. In connection with the Tri- dentine decrees and canons may be cited the con- troversial writings and direct teaching of Cardinal Bellarmin, the ablest upholder of orthodoxy against the various heretical tenets of the Protestant Refor- mation.

But so grossly and so palpably contrary to the whole spirit and teaching of the Christian revela- tion, so utterly discordant witli the doctrines incul- cated in the New Testament Scriptures, and so thoroughly opposed to the interpretation and tra- dition from which even the Reformers were unable to cut themselves entirely adrift, was the heresy of Antinomianism that, while we are able to find a few sectaries, as Agricola, Crisp, Richardson, Salt- marsh, and Hutchinson, defending the doctrine, the principal Reformers and their followers were instant in condemning and reproliating it. Luther himself. Rutherford, Schluffelburgh, Sedgwick, Gataker, Wit- sius. Bull, and Williams have written careful refu- tations of a doctrine that is quite as revolting in theory as it would ultimately have proved fatally dangerous in its practical consequences and inimical to the propagation of the other principles of the Re- formers. In Nelson's "Review and Analysis of Bishop Bull's Exposition ... of Justification" the advertisement of the Bishop of Salisbury has the following strong recommendation of works against the "Antinomian folly": ". . . To the censure of tampering with the strictness of the Divine Law may be opposed Bishop Horsley's recommendation of the Harinonia Apostolica as ' a preservative from the contagion of Antinomian folly.' As a powerful antidote to the Antinomian principles opposed by Bishop Bull, Cudworth's incomparable sermon, preached before the House of Commons in 1647, . . . cannot be too strongly recommended. " Tliis was the general attitude of the Anglican, as well as of the Lutheran, body. And where, as was upon several occasions the case, the ascendencv of religious leaders, at a time when religion playetl an extraordinarily strong part in the civil and political life of the individual, was not in itself sufficient to stamp out the heresy, or keep it within due bounds, the aid of the secular arm was promptly invoked, as in the case of the intervention of the Elector of Brandenburg and the enactments of the English Parliament of 1648. Indeed, at the time, and umler the peculiar circumstances obtaining in New England in 1637, the synodical condemnation of llrs. Hutch- inson did not fall far short of a civil judgment.

Impugned alike by the autlioritative teaching of the Catholic Church and by the disavowals and solemn declarations of tlic greater Protestant le;ul- ers and confessions or formularies, verging, as it does, to the discredit of the teaching of Clirist and of the Apostles, inimical to common morality and offering tiie grave possibility of becoming tlangerous to the established social and political order, it is not surprising to find the .\ntinomiaii heresy a compar- atively rare one in ecclesiiust ic.nl history, and, as a rule, where taught at all, one that is carefully kept