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Theology') designed to exhibit in detail the conformity of Christian doctrine with our natural anticipations, and the eternal fitness of things. His results do not greatly differ from those of St. Thomas; but he follows the reasoning, and not unfrequently uses the language, of the Cur Deus Homo, rather than of the Summa. Man owed to God a natural debt of perfect obedience as His creature, and since the Fall he owes a second debt of satisfaction for sin. Merit is measured by the person towards whom an act is done; and as obedience to God deserved an infinite recompence, the enjoyment of Himself, disobedience incurred an infinite debt. This no man could pay, being himself involved in the guilt, and no angel, who himself is finite; God alone can pay what only man owes, therefore He who pays must be God and man. To restore man, against the resistance of his corrupt will, is a greater work than to create him out of nothing. But all the requisite conditions meet in Christ. His death is necessary, because that alone He does not owe as man to God; but He cannot kill Himself, and must therefore endure it at the hands of others, whose sinful life is rebuked by the unfailing holiness of His teaching and example, and whom Satan instigates to slay Him. The merit of His acts is doubly infinite, both from His own nature and from that of God, to whom they are offered, but He needs and can receive no reward for Himself, and therefore accepts as His reward our redemption; and thus mercy and justice are reconciled. His death was necessary for the satisfaction of sin, and it is against the wisdom of God for all mankind to perish. There is much in this to remind us of St. Anselm, but the treatment is partly different, and there is no such stringent statement of the absolute necessity of satisfaction.*
Nicolas of Cusa has not written a system of Theology, but he deals with several detached questions, partly metaphysical, partly theological. In speaking of the 'mystery of Christ's death' he dwells chiefly, like the Fathers, on His human nature containing in itself that of all men, and thus atoning for all, as all are baptized into His death, and united with Him in His resurrection. Elsewhere he refers with approval to the Cur Deus Homo, though somewhat modifying its statements. But he does not treat the question at length, or in a systematic way.t
* Raim. de Sabund. Theol. Nat. Solisb. 1852, Pars vi. pp. 412, sqq.
† Nic. de Cus. Opp. Basil. De Doct. Ignor, iii. pp. 50, 51. Exercit. iii. 418, 419.
THEORIES OF THE REFORMATION PERIOD.
We have now reached the period of the Reformation, and it therefore becomes necessary to exhibit at some length the views of the Atonement put forward by the various Protestant leaders, in so far as they are based on an acceptance of the traditional belief of Christendom about the Person of our divine Lord. Where that is rejected, as by the Socinians and later Rationalists, the terms for a comparison are wanting, and we should be led aside from our proper subject into the wide question of the limits and nature of revelation. Moreover Socinianism, like its Arian prototype, has never been able to construct a theology for itself, as was sorrowfully confessed not long since by its greatest representative in this country, whose own published Sermons, I may venture to add, sufficiently attest its failure to satisfy such minds as his.* On the Socinian
“I am constrained to say, that neither my intellectual preference nor my moral admiration goes heartily with the Unitarian heroes, sects, or productions of any age. Ebionites, Arians, Socinians, all seem to me to contrast unfavourably with their opponents, and to exhibit a type of thought far less worthy on the whole, of the true genius of Christianity. I am conscious that my deepest obligations are in almost every department to writers not of my own creed. In philosophy I have had to unlearn most that I had imbibed from my early text books, and the authors most in favour with them. In Biblical interpretation I
view, the benefits of Christ's incarnation are necessarily limited to His proclamation of the divine promises, the perfect example of His life, and still more of His death, and His pure utterance of the moral and spiritual law; and they even included in this last His revelation of the Lord's Prayer, forgetting that it was already in use among the Jews. His teaching and example were guaranteed by His death and resurrection, which also gave a pledge of ours, and He is henceforth to be adored as a glorified Man, our King and High Priest in heaven.* But there could be no room for a real mediation between man and God, where there was no real union of the divine and human natures in the Person of the Incarnate Word. The specific objections of Socinus, however, are mainly directed against the moral and theological aspects of the system originated by the earlier Reformers, as to satisfaction, imputed righteousness, and justification by faith; and are, many of them, perfectly just. We shall have occasion to refer to them again in this connection by and by.t
It has been already observed, that there was little of direct controversy raised between Catholic and Protestant writers on the doctrine of the Atonement, nor did any fresh definitions on the subject emanate from the Council of Trent. The Tridentine Catechism, though not possessing direct dogmatic authority, * is universally accepted and used in the Church, as containing a clear and luminous exposition of Christian doctrine on the Creed, Sacraments, Decalogue, and Lord's Prayer. In commenting on the fourth article of the Apostles' Creed, it recounts the benefits merited for us by the Passion of Christ, which are summed up under the four heads of a full and entire satisfaction offered after a certain admirable manner’ to the Father, a most acceptable sacrifice to God, a redemption from our vain conversation, and a bright example of patience, humility, charity, obedience, meekness, and constancy even unto death.† No explanations are added of questions disputed among the Schoolmen, or stirred at the Reformation. The expression on which some of the Reformers so strenuously insisted, that the death of Christ reconciled God to us, is not used at all in the Catechism, which .confines itself to stating, in the language of Scripture, that He reconciled us to God. But if no issue was raised on what may be called the objective side of the doctrine of Atonement, its subjective side, or, in other words, the doctrines of original sin and justification, formed, I need hardly say, matter of prolonged and vigorous controversy, and elicited from the
derive from Calvin and Whitby the help that fails me in Crell and Belsham. In devotional literature and religious thought I find nothing of ours that does not pale before Augustine, Taylor, Pascal. And in the poetry of the Church it is the Latin or German hymns, or the lines of Charles Wesley or of Keble, that fasten on my memory and heart, and make all else seem poor and cold. ...... I cannot help this. I can only say I am sure it is no perversity; and I believe the preference is founded on reason and nature, and is already widely spread among us." Martineau's Letter to Macdonald (London, 1859), quoted in Christian Remembrancer, Jan. 1864, pp. 204, 205.
* See Möhler's Symbolism, vol. ii. p. 335, sqq. (Robertson's Translation.)
† Socinus' system on the Atonement is to be gathered from his Prælect. Theol., Breviss. Instit. Christ. Relig., Refut. Sent. Vulg. de Satisf. Christi, and De Jesu Christo Servatore.
* When the controversy on grace and freewill (De Auxiliis) was under discussion before the Roman tribunals, the Jesuits protested against the Catechismus ad Parochos being appealed to as having a symbolic character, and their objection was admitted. Cf. Möhler Symb. v. i. pp. 18-20. But it possesses the highest sanction as a Catechetical manual. + Cat. ad Par. Paro, i. c. 5. Q. 15.
Ib. i. 1. 3. The Augsburgh Confession (Art. 3) says, 'ut reconciliaret nobis Patrem,' language which is of course capable of various interpretations.