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Free-will is impaired, but not destroyed; rather let us say, it is distracted. Man is out of harmony with himself, with mankind, with creation, and with God.
The reconciliation needed is not to be sought in God, but in man. Man must be brought into harmony with God, not God with man; the turbid, troubled pool must become limpid and still before it can reflect the sun overhead, the sun has not to be rectified by the pool.
Original sin is a fact as well as a doctrine, it causes perplexity to the Deist as well as to the Christian. We cannot deny that discord does exist in the world of men, and we cannot have learned the alphabet of our own nature if we deny that there is conflict within ourselves. But this is nothing else except original sin.
The word has an ugly sound; it is a horrible fact; but it is not so bad as it has been drawn. The exaggeration to which the fact has been dogmatically developed must be briefly stated.
According to the language of the Augsburg Confession, man is “ born with sin, without fear of God or confidence in Him;" in the language of the Formulary of Concord, he has lost all, even the slightest capacity and aptitude and power in spiritual things; he has lost the faculty of knowing God, and the will to do anything that is good; he can no more lead a good life than a stock or a stone; everything good in him is utterly obliterated. There is also a positive ingredient of sin infused into the veins of every man. Sin is, according to Luther, of the essence of man. Original sin, transmitted from father to son, is not, as the Church teaches, the loss of supernatural grace co-ordinating all man's faculties, and their consequent disorder; it is something born of the father and mother. The clay of which we are formed is damnable, the fætus in the mother's womb is
sin, man with his whole nature and essence is not only a sinner, but sin. Such are the expressions of Luther, endorsed by Quenstadt. Melancthon and the Formulary are equally explicit. Man receives from his parents a congenital evil force, a native impulse to sin; there is substituted in the place of the image of God an “intimate, most evil, most profound, inscrutable, ineffable corruption of our whole nature, and all its powers," which is implanted in the intellect, heart, and will. The results of this view, as regards the whole condition of the heathen world, and the gradual lightening of consciences and preparation for the Incarnation, on which the Fathers insist, contradict of course alike the witness of history and the instincts of our moral nature. Heathen virtues are scarcely even “splendid vices.” Melancthon calls them “shadows of virtues;" he says that all men's works and all their endeavours are sins, that the constancy of Socrates, the chastity of Xenocrates, the temperance of Zeno, are vices. Luther himself says that men's works, however specious and good they may appear, are probably mortal sins, a doctrine which Bishop Beveridge accepted, as shewn by the passage quoted in a former chapter.
Calvin clenches the matter by observing that from man's corrupted nature comes only what is damnable.
“Man," says he,“ has been so banished from the kingdom of God, that all in him that bears reference to the blessed life of the soul is extinct." And if men have any glimpses of better things, it is only that He may take from them every excuse when He damns them.3
i Oxenham : On the Atonement, 1869, pp. 211, 212. Moeler's Symbolik, bk. i. c. 2.
? Institutes, lib. ii. c. 2, sec. 12. 3 Ibid. sec. 18.
Opposed to this pessimism is the Catholic doctrine of original sin, which is simple and natural, and commends itself to common sense, whereas the other is difficult and revolting to the moral conscience.
The doctrine of the Church on this subject is what has been already laid down, the introduction of schism into man and into the world. This condition is transmitted from father to son.
The fathers of the Council of Trent attribute to fallen man free-will, representing it, however, as very much weakened, and in consequence teach that not every religious and moral action of man is necessarily sinful, though it is imperfect. When Racine read before Louis XIV. his grand strophes-
“ Mon Dieu, quelle guerre cruelle !
Et je fais le mal que je hais !” “ Ah!” exclaimed the king, “those are two men that I know very well.” And so does every one, though he may not choose to confess it; even Faust when about to surrender himself to Satan :
“Two souls, alas! are lodged within my breast,
Which struggle there for undivided reign :
There is this difference between the Christian doctrine of the Fall and that of Greeks and Romans. The latter placed their Golden Age in the past, and made man gradually deteriorate, and held out no hope of renovation for the future; whereas the Christian believes that the Fall is a thing of the past, out of which mankind is being gradually recovered, with perfection in full view on the horizon. Man is a house divided against itself. He is a beautiful instrument whose strings are in discord; a chime
“Of sweet bells jangled out of tune ;”
a city wrecked by an earthquake. Then comes the Incarnation. He is provided with the Conciliator, with One whose note is so clear and true, that he can raise the pitch of all his strings by that, and thus restore the lost music of the world.
As man had used his free-will for a wrong end, and had warped it, the example of another free-will, that never turned aside from what was right, becomes to him the rule by which his own crooked will may be straightened.
The Incarnation is the crowning act of that love which alone explains creation. It is God sacrificing Himself to man to restore the relations between them disturbed by man's fall; to infuse into him the spirit of order, whereby all those disorganized faculties, so very good in themselves, may fit into each other and form a complete synthesized whole; and man may not only be brought into a state of peace with himself and peace with God, but also society may be restored on the true foundations of universal charity.
To meet man and obtain his love, by which alone this reconciliation can be effected, the love of God feels on and on through life, through want and suffering, through contradiction and opposition, through error and violence, into the abyss of negation which is death, to pick up the broken thread of man's affection and restore the circle of charity.
By Atonement is meant the at-one-ment, the reconciliation of those who are estranged. God was not estranged from man. God is perfect love, it was man who had lost himself in a darkness of negation, and God's love, like a beam of light, shot down the gulf to fall on his face and illumine it when he lay in the shadow of death and despair.
The passion of Christ, which is a dogma following the Incarnation in the creed of the Church, is its necessary consequence. If Christ be God, made Man in order to restore the world to that condition of harmony which was shattered at the Fall, it is necessary, not merely that He should enter into the world, but that He should penetrate all its phases of disorganization. Thus He must enter into all oppositions, to stand between them and bring them together again.
As the Incarnation is the manifestation of perfect love, there can be no compulsion exercised by the God-Man from without on two conflicting elements. He must mediate between them, not force them into unity.
And as the contrariety of the elements in man and in society is the cause of all suffering, Christ must enter into this contrariety and undergo its consequence, suffering, before He can remove the contradiction.
As in man's own nature there is antinomy, Christ must feel that antinomy. And thus He is represented in the Gospels as endowed with two wills, and the conflict appears in the agony in Gethsemane, when He prays that if possible the cup may pass from Him; "nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." There is the opposition, but there is also the reconciliation.
As in society there is antinomy, Christ must feel that antinomy. And thus He undergoes His Passion among