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AUGUSTINE


92


AUGUSTINE


Church was framed on lines which he has suggested: its religious orders claimed liim as their patron; its mystics found a sympathetic tone in his teaching; its polity was to some extent the actualization of his picture of the Christian Church; it was in its various parts a carrying out of ideas which he cherished and diffused. Nor does his influence end with the de- cline of medievalism: we shall see presently how closely his language was akin to that of Descartes, who gave the first impulse to and defined the special character of modern philosophy." And after having established that the doctrine of St. Augustine was at the bottom of all the struggles between Jansenists and Catholics in the Church of France, between Arminians and Calvinists on the side of the Reform- ers, he adds: "And once more in our own land when a reaction arose against rationalism and Erastinian- ism it was to the African Doctor that men turned with enthusiasm: Dr. Pusey's edition of the Con- fessions was among the first-fruits of the O.xford Mo\'ement ' '.

But Adolf Harnack is the one who has oftenest emphasized the unique role of the Doctor of Hippo. He has studied Augustine's place in the history of the world as reformer of Christian piety and his influence as Doctor of the Church. In his study of the "Confessions" he comes back to it: "No man since Paul is comparable to him" — with the e.x- ception of Luther, he adds. — "Even to-day we live by Augustine, by his thought and his spirit; it is said that we are the sons of the Renaissance and the Reformation, but both one and the other depend upon him".

(2) Nature aiul different aspects of his doctrinal influence. — This influence is so varied and so complex that it is difficult to consider under all its different aspects. First of all, in his writings the great bishop collects and condenses the intellectual treasures of the old world and transmits them to the new. Har- nack goes so far as to say: "It would seem that the miserable existence of the Roman empire in the West was prolonged until then, only to permit Augustine's influence to be exercised on universal history". It was in order to fulfil this enormous task that Provi- dence brought liim into contact with the three worlds whose thought he was to transmit: with the Roman and Latin world in the midst of which he lived, with the Oriental world partially revealed to him through the study of Manichaeism, and with the Greek world shown to him by the Platonists. In philosophy he was initiated into the whole content and all the subtilties of the various schools, without, however, giving liis allegiance to any one of them. In theology it was he who acquainted the Latin Church with the great dogmatic work accomplished in the East during the fourth century and at the beginning of the fifth; he popularized the results of it by giving them the more exact and precise form of the Latin genius.

To synthesis of the past, Augustine adds the in- comparable wealth of his ovm thought, and he may be said to have been the most powerful instrument of Providence in development and advance of dogma. Here the danger has been not in denying, but in exaggerating, this advance. Augustine's dogmatic mission (in a lower sphere and apart from inspiration) recalls that of Paul in the preaching of the Gospel. It has also been subject to the same attacks and occasioned the same vagaries of criticism. Just as it was sought to make of Paulinism the real source of Christianity as we know it — a system that had smothered the primitive germ of (he Gospel of Jesus — so it was imagined that, under the name of Augustinianism, Augustine had installed in the Church some sort of syncretism of the ideas of Paul and of neo-Platonism which was a deviation from ancient Christianity, fortunate according to some.


but according to others utterly deplorable. These fantasies do not survive the reading of the texts] and Harnack liimself shows in Augustine the heir to the tradition that preceded him. Still, on the other hand, his share of invention and originality in the development of dogma must not be ignored although here and there, on special questions, human weaknesses crop out. He realized, better than anv of the Fathers, the progress so well expressed by Vincent of Lerins, his contemporary, in a page thatj some have turned against him.

In general, all Christian dogmatics are indebted to him for new theories that better justify and ex- plain revelation, new views, and greater clearness and precision. The many struggles with which he was identified, together with the speculative turn of his mind, brought almost every t^uestion within the scope of his research. Even his way of stating problems so left his impress upon them that there is no problem, one might almost say, in considering wliich the theologian does not feel the study of Augustine's thought to be an imperative obligation. Certain dogmas in particular he so amply developed, so skilfully unsheatliing the fruitful germ of the truths from their en\-elope of tradition, that many of these dogmas (wrongly, in our opinion) have been set down as " August inism". Augustine was not their inventor, he was only the first to put them in a strong light. They are cliiefly the dogmas of the Fal! the Atonement, Grace, and Predestination. Schatt' (op. cit., 97) has very properly said: "His appearance in the history of dogma forms a distinct epoch, especially as regards anthropological and soterio- logical doctrines, which he advanced considerably further, and brought to a greater clearness and pre- cision, than they had ever had before in the conscious- ness of the Church". But he is not only the Doctor of Grace, he is also the Doctor of the Chiu'ch: his twenty years' conflict with Donatism led to a com- plete exposition of the dogmas of the Church, the great work and mystical Body of Christ, and true Kingdom of God, of its part in salvation and of the intimate efficacy of its sacraments. It is on this point, as the very centre of Augustinian tlieolog}% that Renter has concentrated those " August inische Studien" which, according to Harnack, are the most learned of recent studies on St. Augustine. Mani- chsean controversies also led him to state clearly the great questions of the Divine Being and of the nature of evil, and he might also be called the Doctor of Good, or of good principles of all things. Lastly, the very idiosyncrasy of his genius and the practical, supernal lu'al, and Divine imprint left upon all his intellectual speculations have made him the Doctor of Charity.

Another step forward due to the works of Augus- tine is in the language of theology, for, if he did not create it, he at least contributed towards its definite settlement. It is indebted to liim for a great number of epigrammatic formulae, as significant as they are terse, afterwards singled out and adopted by Scholasticism. Besides, as Latin was more con- cise and less fluid in its forms than Greek, it was wonderfully well suited to the work. Augustine made it the dogmatic language par excellence, and Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and others followed his lead. At times he has even been credited with the pseudo-Athanasian creed which is undoubtedly of later date, but those critics were not mistaken who traced its inspiration to the formulae in "De Trini- tate". Whoever its author may have been, he was certainly familiar with Augustine and drew upon his works. It is unquestionably this gift of concise ex- pression, as well as his charity, that has so often caused the celebrated saying to be attributed to him: "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity".