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The scope of this Essay is not controversial, but historical. It is designed to trace through the patristic, scholastic, and later periods of thcology the Catholic doctrine on the Atonement of the Son of God, comparing it also with the principal Reformed systems, to some of which the author ventures to think that the antipathy felt by many not irreligious minds towards the whole idea of Atonement is in great measure due. He has had, therefore, a certain undercurrent of practical aim, in showing that objections urged with more or less reason against what are either doubtful excrescences or erroneous perversions of the doctrine do not apply to it, as part of the Church's faith. But this secondary purpose has never been allowed (he trusts) to interfere with strict fidelity of statement in recording the belief whether of individuals or communities. References are in every case given to the writers or formularies under review, and their meaning is expressed, as far as possible, in their own words. .
Of authorities consulted, other than those forming the direct subject of inquiry, the following deserve special mention; for the Fathers of the first three centuries, Bähr's Die Lehre der Kirche vom Tode Jesu in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (Sulzbach, 1832), Thomasius' Origenes. Ein Beitrag zur Dogmengeschichte des dritten Jahrhunderts (Nürnberg, 1837), Redepenning's Origenes. Eine Darstellung seines Lebens und seiner Lehre (Bonn, 1841); for the later patristic and the scholastic period especially, and partly for the Reformation, Baur's Die christliche Lehre von der Versöhnung (Tübingen, 1838);* for the patristic period generally, Petavius De Incarnatione Verbi, Thomassin De Incarnatione Verbi Dei, Fabricius De Veritate Religionis Christianæ, cap. 41; and for the Reformation period Möhler's Symbolism (Robertson's Trans., London, 1843), Döllinger's Die Reformation (Regensburg, 1848), vol. iii., and Newman's Lectures on Justification (Oxford, 1840). Other authorities will be mentioned, as they occur. The author desires further to put on record his great personal obligations to the kindness of Dr. Döllinger, both for many valuable suggestions, and for allowing him the free use of his extensive library.
* Baur's work requires to be read with caution. He is on the whole reliable as a chronicler of opinions, but with a passion for systematizing, which sometimes leads him to give exclusive or disproportionate value to one side of a writer's view, to the exclusion or neglect of others. This is particularly shown in his treatment of the Fathers.
It may be as well to observe, that the manuscript was completed before he had an opportunity of referring to Archbishop Thomson's Bampton Lectures on the Atonement, which he had heard preached at Oxford in 1853, but had not seen in print; only two of them, however—the sixth and seventh—deal in part, and from the nature of the case very briefly, with the history of the doctrine. As a general rule, direct criticism on contemporary literature has been purposely avoided in this volume, as unsuitable to the character of a work not meant to be controversial; but it has not therefore been composed in forgetfulness of what living writers have said, or of the tone of the serial press on the subject. The treatise is chiefly occupied with recording the opinions of others; so far as it expresses his own, the author need scarcely add, that he trusts it will be found to contain nothing out of harmony with the spirit and teaching of the Church.