« Prev 5. The Doctrine of the Romish Church. Next »

§ 5. The Doctrine of the Romish Church.

The doctrine of Romanists as to the original state of man agrees with that of Protestants, except in one important particular. They hold that man before the fall, was in a state of relative perfection; that is, not only free from any defect or infirmity of body, but endowed with all the attributes of a spirit, and imbued with knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, and invested with dominion over the creatures. Protestants include all this under the image of God; the Romanists understand by the image of God only the rational, and especially the voluntary nature of man, or the freedom of the will. They distinguish, therefore, between the image of God and original righteousness. The latter they say is lost, the former retained. Protestants, on the other hand, hold that it is the divine image in its most important constituents, that man forfeited by his apostasy. This, however, may be considered only a difference as to words. The important point of difference is, that the Protestants hold that original righteousness, so far as it consisted in the moral excellence of Adam, was natural, while the Romanists maintain that it was supernatural. According to their theory, God created man soul and body. These two constituents of his nature are naturally in conflict. To preserve the harmony between them, and the due subjection of the flesh to the spirit, God gave man the supernatural gift of original righteousness. It was this gift that man lost by his fall; so that since the apostasy he is in the state in which Adam was before he was invested with this supernatural endowment. In opposition to this doctrine, Protestants maintain that original righteousness was concreated and natural. Original righteousness, says Luther,126126In Genesis, cap. iii.; Works, edit. Wittenberg, 1555 (Latin), vol. vi., leaf 42, page 2.Non fuisse quoddam donum, quod ab extra accederet, separatum a natura hominis. Sed fuisse vere naturalem, ita ut natura Adæ esset, diligere Deum, credere Deo, agnoscere Deum, etc. Hæc tam naturalia fuere in Adamo, quam naturale est, quod oculi lumen recipiunt.” The Council of Trent does not speak explicitly on this point, but the language of the Roman Catechism is clearly in accordance with the more direct teachings of the theologians of the Church of Rome, to the effect that original righteousness is a supernatural 104gift. In describing the original state of man that Catechism says,127127Streitwolf, Libri Symbolici Ecclesiæ Catholicæe, vol. i. p. 127.Quod ad animam pertinet, eum ad imaginem et similitudinem suam formavit, liberumque ei arbitrium tribuit: omnes præterea motus animi atque appetitiones ita in eo temperavit, ut rationis imperio nunquam non parerent. Tum originalis justitiæ admirabile donum addidit, ac deinde cæteris animantibus præesse voluit.” Bellarmin128128De Gratia Primi Hominis 2. Disputationes, vol. iv. p. 7, c. states this doctrine in clearer terms: “Integritas illa, cum qua primus homo conditus fuit et sine qua post ejus lapsum homines omnes nascuntur, non fuit naturalis ejus conditio, sed supernaturalis evectio. . . . .129129Ibid. 5 — p. 15, c. d. Sciendum est primo, hominem naturaliter constare ex carne, et spiritu, et ideo partim cum bestiis, partim cum angelis communicare naturam, et quidem ratione carnis, et communionis cum bestiis, habere propensionem quandam ad bonum corporale, et sensibile, in quod fertur per sensum et appetitum: ratione spiritus et communionis cum angelis, habere propensionem ad bonum spirituale et intelligibile, in quod fertur per intelligentiam, et voluntatem. Ex his autem diversis, vel contrariis propensionibus existere in uno eodemque homine pugnam quandam, et ex ea pugna ingentem bene agendi difficultatem, dum una propensio alteram impedit. Sciendum secundo, divinam providentiam initio creationis, ut remedium adhiberet huic morbo seu languori naturæ humanæ, qui ex conditione materiæ oriebatur, addidisse homini donum quoddam insigne, justitiam videlicet originalem, qua veluti aureo quodam fræno pars inferior parti superiori, et pars superior Deo facile subjecta contineretur.

The question whether original righteousness was natural or supernatural cannot be answered until the meaning of the words be determined. The word natural is often used to designate that which constitutes nature. Reason is in such a sense natural to man that without it he ceases to be a man. Sometimes it designates what of necessity flows from the constitution of nature; as when we say it is natural for man to desire his own happiness; sometimes it designates what is concreated or innate as opposed to what is adventitious, accessory, or acquired; in this use of the word the sense of justice, pity, and the social affections, are natural to men. Original righteousness is asserted by Protestants to be natural, first, with the view of denying that human nature as at first constituted involved the conflicting principles of flesh and spirit as represented by Bellarmin, and that the pura naturalia, or simple principles of nature as they existed in Adam, were without moral character; and. secondly, to assert that the nature of man as created was good, that 105his reason was enlightened and his will and feelings were conformed to the moral image of God. It was natural in Adam to love God in the same sense as it was natural for him to love himself. It was as natural for him to apprehend the glory of God as it was for him to apprehend the beauties of creation. He was so constituted, so created, that in virtue of the nature which God gave him, and without any accessory ab extra gift, he was suited to fulfil the end of his being, namely, to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

Objections to the Romish Doctrine.

The obvious objections to the Romish doctrine that original righteousness was a supernatural gift, are, (1.) That it supposes a degrading view of the original constitution of our nature. According to this doctrine the seeds of evil were implanted in the nature of man as it came from the hands of God. It was disordered or diseased, there was about it what Bellarmin calls a morbus or languor, which needed a remedy. But this is derogatory to the justice and goodness of God, and to the express declarations of Scripture, that man, humanity, human nature, was good. (2.) This doctrine is evidently founded on the Manichean principle of the inherent evil of matter. It is because man has a material body, that this conflict between the flesh and spirit, between good and evil, is said to be unavoidable. But this is opposed to the word of God and the faith of the Church. Matter is not evil. And there is no necessary tendency to evil from the union of the soul and body which requires to be supernaturally corrected. (3.) This doctrine as to original righteousness arose out of the Semi-Pelagianism of the Church of Rome, and was designed to sustain it. The two doctrines are so related that they stand or fall together. According to the theory in question, original sin is the simple loss of original righteousness. Humanity since the fall is precisely what it was before the fall, and before the addition of the supernatural gift of righteousness. Bellarmin130130De Gratia Primi Hominis c. 5. Disputationes, vol. iv. p. 16, d. e. says: “Non magis differt status hominis post lapsum Adæ a statu ejusdem in puris naturalibus, quam differat spoliatus a nudo, neque deterior est humana natura, si culpam originalem detrahas, neque magis ignorantia et infirmitate laborat, quam esset et laboraret in puris naturalibus condita. Proinde corruptio naturæ non ex alicujus doni naturalis carentia, neque ex alicujus malæ qualitatis accessu, sed ex sola doni supernaturalis ob Adæ peccatum amissione profluxit.” The conflict between the flesh and spirit is normal and original, and therefore not sinful. Concupiscence, 106the theological term for this rebellion of the lower against the higher elements of our nature, is not of the nature of sin, Andradius131131Baur, Katholicismus und Protestantismus, Tübingen, 1836, p. 85, note. (the Romish theologian against whom Chemnitz directed his Examen of the Council of Trent) lays down the principle, “quod nihil habeat rationem peccati, nisi fiat a volente et sciente,” which of course excludes concupiscence, whether in the renewed or unrenewed, from the category of sin. Hence, Bellarmin says:132132De Amissione Gratiæ et Statu Peccati, v. 7; Disputationes, vol. iv. p. 287 a.Reatus est omnino inseparabilis ab eo, quod natura sua est dignum æterna damnatione, qualem esse volunt concupiscentiam adversarii.” This concupiscence remains after baptism, or regeneration, which Romanists say, removes all sin; and therefore, not being evil in its own nature, does not detract from the merit of good works, nor render perfect obedience, and even works of supererogation on the part of the faithful, impossible. This doctrine of the supernatural character of original righteousness as held by Romanists, is therefore intimately connected with their whole theological system; and is incompatible with the Scriptural doctrines not only of the original state of man, but also of sin and redemption. It will, however, appear in the sequel, that neither the standards of the Church of Rome nor the Romish theologians are consistent in their views of original sin and its relation to the loss of original righteousness.

« Prev 5. The Doctrine of the Romish Church. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection