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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/118

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AUGUSTINE


94


AUGUSTINE


V, 234, 235) the same critic dwells at length upon the features of what he calls the "popular Catholicism to which Augustine belongs. These features are (a) the Church as a hierarchical institution with doc- trinal authority; (b) eternal life by merits, and dis- regard of the Protestant thesis of "salvation by faith" — that is, salvation by that firm confidence in God which the certainty ol pardon produces; (c) the forgiveness of sins- in the Church and by the Church; (d) the distinction between commands and counsels — between grievous sins and venial sins — the scale of wicked men and good men — the various degrees of happiness in heaven according to one's deserts; (e) Augustine is accused of "outdoing the superstitious ideas" of tltis popular Catholicism — the infinite value of Christ's satisfaction — salvation considered as enjoyment of God in heaven — the mysterious efficacy of the sacraments {ex opere operato) — Mary's \'irginity even in cliildbirth — "the idea of her purity and her conception, unique in their kind". Harnack does not assert that Augustine taught the Immaculate Conception, but Schaff (op. cit., p. 98) says unhesitatingly: "He is responsi- ble also for many grievous errors of the Roman Church ... he anticipated the dogma of the im- maculate conception of the Mrgin Mary, and his ominous word, Roma locuta est, causa finita est, might almost be quoted in favour of the Vatican decree of papal infallibility".

Nevertheless, it were a mistake to suppose that modern Protestants relinquish all claim upon Au- gustine; they will have it that, despite his essential Catholicism, it was he who inspired Luther and Calvin. The new thesis, therefore, is that each of the two Churches may claim him in turn. Burke's expression quoted by Schaff (ibid., p. 102) is characteristic: ■■ In Augustine ancient and modem ideas are melted and to his authority the papal Church has as much right to appeal as the Churches of the Reformation". No one notes this contradiction more clearly than Loofs. .\fter stating that .\ugustine has accentuated the characteristic elements of ^Yestem (Catholic) Christianity, that in succeeding ages he became its Father, and that "the Ecclesiasticism of Roman CathoUcism, Scholasticism, Mysticism, and even the claims of the pajjacy to temporal rule, are founded upon a tendency initiated by him", Loofs also afitnns that he is the teacher of all the reformers and their bond of union, and concludes with this strange para- dox: "The historv' of Catholicism is the history of the progressive elimination of .\ugustinism". The singular aptitude of these critics for supposing the existence of flagrant contradictions in a genius like .\ugustine is not so astonishing when we remember that, with Renter, they justify this theory by the reflection: "In whom are to be foimd more frequent contradictions than in Luther?" But their theories are based upon a false interpretation of -Augustine's opinion, which is frequently misconstrtied by those who are not sufficiently familiar with his language and teniiinology.

(4) The character of his genius. — We have now to ascertain what is the dominating quality which accounts for his fascinating influence upon posterity. One after another the critics have considered the various aspects of this great genius. Some have been particularly impressed by the depth and originality of his conceptions, and for these .•Vugustine is the great sower of the ideas by which future minds are to live. Others, like Jungmann and Stockl. have praised in him the mari'ellous harmony of all the mind's higher quahties, or, again, the universahty and the compass of his doctrine. " In the great .\frican Doctor", says the Rev. J. A. Zahm (Bible, Science and Faith. Fr. tr., p. 56). "we seem to have foimd imited and combined the powerful and pene- trating logic of Plato, the deep scientific conceptions


of .\ristotle. the knowledge and intellectual sup- pleness of Origen, the grace and eloquence of Basil and Chrysostom. Whether we consider him as philosopher, as theologian, or as exegetist ... he still appears admirable . . . the unquestioned Master of all the centuries." PhiUp SchafT (op. cit., p. 97) admires above all "such a rare union of i the speculative talent of the Greek and of the prac- ' tical spirit of the Latin Church as he alone possessed ". In all these opinions there is a great measure of ' truth; nevertheless we believe that the dominating characteristic of -Augustine's genius and the true secret of his influence are to be found in his heart — a heart that penetrates the most exalted speculations of a profound mind and animates them with the most ardent feeling. It is at bottom only the tra- ditional and general estimate of the saint that we express; for he has always been represented with a heart for his emblem, just as Thomas -Aquinas with a Sim. Mgr. Bougaiid thus interpreted this s^mibol: " Never did man unite in one and the same soul such stern rigour of logic with such tenderness of heart". This is also the opinion of Harnack. Btih- ringer, Nourisson, Storz, and others. Great in- tellectuality admirably fused with an enlightened mysticism is .Augustine's distinguishing characteris- tic. Truth is not for him only an object of contempla- tion; it is a good that must be possessed, that must be loved and lived by. What constitutes .Augustine's genius is his marvellous gift of embracing truth with all the fibres of his soul; not with the heart alone, for the heart does not think; not with the mind alone, for the mind grasps only the abstract or, as it were, lifeless truth. -Augustine seeks the living truth, and even when he is combating certain Platonic ideas he is of the family of Plato, not of -Aristotle. He belongs indisputably to all ages because he is in touch with all souls, but he is pre-eminently modem because his doctrine is not the cold light of the School; he is living and penetrated with personal sentiment. Religion is not a simple theorj', Chris- tianity is not a series of dogmas; it is also a life, as they say nowadays, or, more accurately, a source of life. However, let us not be deceived. Augustine is not a sentimentalist, a pure mystic, and heart alone does not account for his power. If in him the hard, cold intellectuality of the metaphysician gives place to an impassioned vision of truth, that truth is the basis of it all. He never knew the vaporous mysticism of our day, that allows itself to be lulled by a vague, aimless sentimentalisra. His emotion is deep, true, engrossing, precisely because it is born of a strong, secure, accurate dogmatism that wishes to know what it loves and why it loves. Christianity is life, but life in the eternal, tmchangcable truth. -And if none of the Fathers has put so much of his heart into his writings, neither has any turned upon truth the searchlight of a stronger, clearer intellect. -Augustine's passion is characterized not by violence, but by a communicative tenderness; and his ex- quisite delicacy experiences first one and then another of the most intimate emotions and tests them; hence the irresistible effect of the "Con- fessions". Feuerlein. a Protestant thinker, has brought out in relief (exaggeratedly, to be sure, and leaving the marvellous powers of his intellect in the shade) -Augustine's exquisite sensibility — what he calls the "feininine elements" of his genius. He says: "It was not merely a chance or accidental part that his mother, Monica, played in his in- tellectual development, and therein lies what es- sentially distinguishes him from Luther, of whom it was said: 'Everything about him bespeaks the man'". -And Schlosser, whom Feuerlein qviotes, not afraid to say that -Augustine's works contain more genuine poetry than all the writings of the Greek Fathers. -At least it cannot be denied that no