Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

idea of a literal punishment of our sins inflicted vicariously by the Father on His spotless Son, are foreign to their whole habit of thought. On the contrary, their way of looking at the matter seems to imply a belief, that in any case the predestined method for perfecting our nature, and bringing us into full communion with God, was the Incarnation of His Son. We have seen, again, how some of the greatest Fathers, like St. Augustine, are specially carefully to point out the priority of the idea of sacrifice to the idea of sin, and in this they are followed by later Catholic divines. Sacrifice is the spontaneous expression of the homage due from the creature to his Creator, and the purest Heathen sacrifices were those which simply expressed this idea. “All devotional feeling,” it has been truly said, “requires sacrificial expression.” Sin impressed on it, as on all human acts of devotion, an additional character of reparation. But from the beginning it was not so. If man had never fallen, the most perfect sacrifice would still have been offered to the Eternal Father in the human life, though not in the death, of Jesus; for it is the will that consecrates the outward act. Oblatus est quia Ipse voluit. To repeat once more the memorable words of St. Bernard, Non mors sed voluntas sponte morientis placuit. Without the Fall there would have been no Passion; perhaps, but only perhaps, there would have been no Eucharist. The earliest recorded type of Holy Communion is the tree of life in Paradise, the great prefigurement of the Christian sacrifice is the bloodless offering of Melchisedec, and that was not a sacrifice for sin. It is anyhow beyond dispute, that the Incarnation need not presuppose the Fall. A few words will suffice to indicate the bearing of the Scotist theory—which, though by no means universally accepted, has obtained the general suffrage of the later Church—on our way of regarding the Atonement. The very title of the Cur Deus Homo loses its meaning in the sense in which the author applied it. Theories about ransom and satisfaction, though not therefore rejected, sink into subordination to a higher truth, when the Incarnation is no longer looked upon as a merciful after-thought, to remedy man's corruption and make reparation to the wounded majesty of God, but as the fulfilment of an eternal purpose, modified indeed, but only modified, by sin into a deeper act of love. Bethlehem and Calvary are transfigured with a more exceeding brightuess, yet the brightness of a sunshine all our own, when they are seen to reveal, under the conditions of time and the pathetic incidents suited to our fallen state, the unutterable yearning of a Love which knows no change, to win our hearts, and make our natures His. The full extent of the difference between these two theories did not, as has already been remarked, make itself felt at once. We sometimes find St. Thomas using language that would seem rather to belong to the opposite school,' nor is it to be imagined that so

' Thus, e.g. he calls our Lord, “similitudo exemplaris totius naturae.” Summa, Pars III. Quaest. i. Art. 8.

great a mind as his would rest in any exclusive system. In their view of the satisfaction of Christ the Nominalists and Franciscans for the most part followed Duns Scotus, while the Dominicans naturally ranged themselves under the banners of Aquinas, but not without exceptions or modifications on either side. Thus the Dominican, Durandus of St. Pacian, denies that Christ satisfied in strict rigour of justice, because all He had, as Man, was already owed to God; Raymund Lully, the Franciscan, goes beyond or rather against Scotus, in maintaining the necessity of the Incarnation, assuming the creation of man, as the perfection and crown of human nature. But we need not examine in detail the later Scholastic writers, who add little new to what the great masters had said before them. It is worth while to observe that Wicliffe, the precursor of the Reformation, recurred to the Anselmic view of an absolute necessity for the Incarnation, as the only adequate satisfaction for Adam's sin, though his argument differs in some respects from that of the Cur Deus Homo." He gives a strange reason why Satan cannot be saved. As it was needful for the Second Person of the Trinity to be incarnated for man's redemption, who had sinned against the Wisdom of God, the Third Person must have been incarnated for the redemption of Satan, who had sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is therefore unpardonable, because no such Incarnation can possibly take place!

" John Wicliffe Trialog. iii. 24, 25. De Inc. et Morte Christi. He considers all God's external operations, and the Incarnation among them, absolutely necessary.

To sum up the Scholastic period; we have found, at its commencement, the idea of an absolute necessity for the Incarnation and death of Christ, as the only possible means of restoring fallen man, put forward for the first time by St. Anselm, but very generally rejected by subsequent writers of whatever school. On the other hand, the doctrine of satisfaction first distinctly enunciated by him becomes the subject of elaborate discussion, and branches out eventually into the two opposite theories of a superabundant satisfaction which had an inherent claim to be accepted, and a satisfaction, sufficient indeed, but relying for its efficacy on a free acceptance from the mercy, not the justice, of God. Meanwhile, underlying these notions, two opposite views of the motive of the Incarnation develope themselves, destined to exercise an influence on the course of later theology which only the next great epoch in Church history will adequately reveal. We shall then find the more rigid and technical notion of satisfaction, already adopted by Wicliffe, assuming a critical importance in the Lutheran and Calvinistic systems, where the Scotist view of the Incarnation could have little meaning; while, as that view gradually spreads among Catholic theologians, the broader and nobler idea of sacrifice predominates within the Church.

Two writers of the fifteenth century may be briefly noticed in conclusion, who, though following to a great extent scholastic opinions, can hardly be reckoned among the Schoolmen, because their method is entirely different—the Spanish Raymund of Sabunde, and Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa. The former has composed a Theologia Naturalis (which, I need hardly remind the reader, does not mean what we understand by Natural 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 recompense, 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 suffer 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

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »