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us more closely to Himself. For this He exalted His head, not on a throne of earthly glory, but on the cross of death. It is, indeed, no accident of the few, but a law of our present being, which the poet's words express :
* That to the Cross the mourner's eye should turn
Sooner than where the stars of Christmas burn.' For all, in their several ways and degrees, are mourners. The dark threads are woven more thickly than the bright ones into the tangled skein of human life; and as time passes on, the conviction that it is so is brought home to us with increasing force.”ı
The dogma of Justification is closely allied to that of the Atonement.
According to the teaching of the Church, Justification is the exaltation of man from a state of sinfulness to that of grace; an annihilation of the will opposed to God, which throws man into anarchy, and the contraction of fellowship with Christ, for the renewal of the inward man and the restoration of mankind to the primeval state of humanity." "They all agreed (at Trent),” says Pallavicini, “on the signification of the name Justification, that it was a transition from a state of enmity to a state of friendship, and of adoptive sonship to God.”3 To man is imparted, not imputed, the grace of God, to rise from his condition of negation, opposition, and universal antagonism into a state of unity, tranquillity, and charity.
“The death of Christ justifies us,” says the Master of Sentences, “by exciting His love in our hearts.” “We were reconciled to God, when He already loved us. For
| Oxenham : Doctrine of the Atonement, 1869, pp. 290-292. 2 Concil. Trid., sess. vi. c. 5, 7. 3 Lib. viii. c. 4, p. 259.
He did not begin to love us from the time we were reconciled to Him by His Son's blood, but before the world, and before we existed. How then were we reconciled to God when He loved us? On account of our sins we were at enmity with Him, who had love towards us, even while we showed our enmity against Him by working iniquity.
Christ, therefore, is called a Mediator, because standing between men and God, He reconciles thein to God. But He reconciles them, by taking from the sight of God what offends in man, that is, by destroying sins which offended God and made us His enemies."
And again, He reconciled all believers by His death to God, since all were healed of their iniquities who by believing God loved the humility of Christ, and by loving imitated it.” Nothing can be simpler. Man in a state of discord, by faith accepts Christ; his love to God is restored. He stands on another footing, or turns in another direction; he no more contemplates his shadow, but faces the sun. To recur to an illustration already used, He accepts Christ's life as the pitch pipe to the relaxed chords of his own being, and he spends the rest of his days in tuning up string after string to harmony with that note.
But the Protestant doctrine is quite another thing.
As Luther had denied man free-will, and the smallest capacity of doing good, co-operation on his part is an impossibility; the whole work must be done for him. And so it is. Terrified by the preaching of a law he is powerless to obey, he listens to and grasps at the merits of Christ, and is thus justified. His repentance, such as it is, springs out of fear, not love. Justification, according to the Formulary, is simply acquittal from sin and its eternal penalties“ on account of the righteousness of Christ which is (not imparted but) imputed to faith,” and that, while by reason of their corrupt nature men continue to sin, sinful acts are not sinful in the justified; and consequently Luther lays down the revolting doctrine that fornication, adultery, theft, and murder, committed by the justified are no more sinful.
1 Pet. Lombard : Sentent. iii. 9.
The doctrine of vicarious suffering is one which was introduced at the Reformation, to account for the death of Christ, the Catholic dogma of sacrifice having been abandoned or put on one side.
The Reformers taught that the Almighty had laid down a law that punishment must be the penalty of sin, and that to liberate man from the law, Christ took
Himself the penalty for the sin of the world, and suffered instead of man. It was not, as had often been taught before, that His obedience was an acceptable sacrifice, but that it was accepted by God instead of the penalty due from us, which we, with a nature so hopelessly corrupted, could never ourselves pay. As our sins were excessive, excessive suffering was due to God, and this Christ endured instead of us. He was punished and accursed in our place. Quenstadt maintained that for God to pardon us without satisfaction is against His nature, His veracity, His sanctity, and His justice; yet he explained, that "by a certain kind of relaxation of the law," another person is substituted for the debtor. In other words, though it is matter of indispensable justice to the nature of God to punish sin, it is immaterial whether He punishes the right person or the wrong one. Suflering is His due, and He will have it. “It is not too much to say that the Lutheran view of the Atonement, with whatever occasional similarities of language, is a complete innovation in all its essential points on that previously held, and in a sense directly calculated to dis
credit the whole doctrine in the eye both of reason and of
Calvin retained the new ideas of a substituted obedience and punishment, and he expressly asserted that our obligation of suffering for our sins and the curse entailed were transferred to the Son of God; and, as the pangs of death on the Cross did not seem to him sufficient, he added, with Quenstadt and Gerhard, that He expiated the requisite tortures in the flames of Hell.
Some theologians have attempted to justify this vicarious suffering by instancing the law observable in the world of penalty for misdeeds not always falling on the doers of evil. Louis XIV. sacrificed five thousand lives in the marshes of Maintenon to convey water to his fountains at Versailles, and the penalty fell on the widows and orphans. Louis XV. ruined the exchequer, and Louis XVI. lost his head for the misdeeds of his ancestor. Such being the law, the penalty fell on Christ instead of us. But surely this is not law, but the violation of law through the disorganization of society. What sort of justice would that be which because A had stolen a sheep hanged Z? It would be the acme of injustice. To make the disorder of justice the rule for God, is to subordinate Him to the evil in the world. When Grotius put the question whether it was unjust that Christ should be punished for our sins, he answered it in the negative; because, as he said, it generally happens that there is malversation of justice in the world, and because, as a fact, God did visit His most innocent Son with the bitterest torments and death, and God cannot be unjust. That is, what is unjust in man is just in God. But it is begging the whole question to say that it was not unjust because He did so punish the just for the unjust.
i Oxenham, p. 216.
2 See for the argument in favour of vicarious suffering, “The Philosophy of Evangelicism," 1867.
If the inequalities of the earth are the law of God's dealings, alas ! for the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, when righteousness is equivalent to injustice.
Both the Protestant doctrines of original sin and vicarious sacrifice have no positive element in them, they are mere negations, upon which a horrible system has been erected, repugnant to the essence of Christianity and to the moral sense. The Protestant doctrine of original sin is the negation of all trace of good in man. The doctrine of vicarious sacrifice is the negation of divine justice.
To sum up in few words the Catholic doctrine as deduced from the premises already laid down :
The Incarnation being the perfect manifestation of Divine Love, Christ must exhibit the most perfect self-sacrifice.
The object of the Incarnation being the restoration of man's disorganized nature, Christ must descend to the depths of this disorganization in order to reconcile what is opposed.
As all the faculties of man are positively good and only negatively evil by their being disordered and opposed, Justification is the restoration of these faculties to their proper order.
But this can only be effected by man recognizing and loving God.
Therefore Christ in His infinite love condescends to seek man in every phase of life, and even in death, to obtain his love, and thus lead him into the way of reconciliation.
The Atonement is the perfect reconciliation of man in himself, and man with man, and man with God.