Charles Hodge: Systematic Theology Christian Classics Ethereal Library (2024)

§6. Doctrine of the Church of Rome.

This is a point very difficult to decide. Romanists themselves are as much at variance as to what their Church teaches concerning original sin as those who do not belong to their communion. The sources of this difficulty are, (1.) First, the great diversity of opinions on this subject prevailing in the Latin Church before the authoritative decisions of the Council of Trent and of the Romish Catechism. (2.) The ambiguity and want of precision or fulness in the decisions of that council. (3.) The different interpretations given by prominent theologians of the true meaning of the Tridentine canons.

Diversity of Sentiment in the Latin Church.

As to the first of these points it may be remarked that there were mainly three conflicting elements in the Latin Church before the Reformation, in relation to the whole subject of sin. (1.) The doctrine of Augustine. (2.) That of the Semi-Pelagians, and (3.) That of those of the schoolmen who endeavoured to find a middle ground between the other two systems. The doctrine of Augustine, as exhibited above, was sanctioned by the Latin Church, and pronounced to be the true orthodox faith. But even during the lifetime of Augustine, and to a greater extent in the following century, serious departures from his system began to prevail. These departures related to all the intimately connected doctrines of sin, grace, and predestination. Pelagianism was universally disclaimed and condemned. It was 165admitted that the race of man fell in Adam; that his sin affected injuriously his posterity as well as himself; that men are born in s state of alienation from God; that they need the power of the Holy Spirit in order to their restoration to holiness. But what is the nature of original sin, or of that depravity or deterioration of our nature derived from Adam? And, What are the remains of the divine image which are still preserved, or what is the power fur good which fallen men still possess? And What is to be understood by the grace of God and the extent of its influence? And What is the ground on which God brings some and not others to the enjoyment of eternal life? These were questions which received very different answers. Augustine, as we have seen, answered the first of these questions by saying that original sin consists not only in the loss of original righteousness, but also in concupiscence, or disorder, or corruption of nature, which is truly and properly sin, including both guilt and pollution. The second question he answered by saying that fallen man has no power to effect what is spiritually good; he ran neither regenerate himself, prepare himself for regeneration, nor coöperate with the grace of God in that work. These principles necessarily lead to the doctrines of efficacious or irresistible grace and of sovereign election, as was seen and universally admitted. It was these necessary consequences, rattler than the principles themselves, which awakened opposition. But to get rid of the consequences it was necessary that the principles should be refuted. This opposition to, Augustinianism arose with the monks and prevailed principally among them. This, as Gieseler171171Kirchengeschichte, vol. vi. p. 350. says, was very natural. Augustine taught that man could do nothing good of himself, and could acquire no merit in the sight of God. The monks believed that they could do not only all, but more than all that God required of them. Else why submit to their vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience? The party thus formed against the orthodox or established doctrine was called Semi-Pelagian, because it held a middle ground between Pelagius and Augustine.

The Semi-Pelagians.

The principal leaders of this party were John Cassianus, an Eastern monk and disciple of Chrysostom; Vincentius Lerinensis, and Faustus of Rhegium. The most important work of Cassian was entitled “Collationes Patrum,” which is a collection of dialogues on various subjects. He was a devout rather than a speculative writer, relying on the authority of Scripture for the 166support of his doctrine. Educated in the Greek Church and trained in a monastery, all his prepossessions were adverse to Augustinianism. And when he transferred his residence to Marseilles in the south of France, and found himself in the midst of churches who bowed to the authority of Augustine, he set himself to modify and soften, but not directly to oppose the distinguishing doctrines of that father.172172See below, vol. iii., p. 449. Vincent of Lerins was a man of a different spirit and of higher powers. His reliance was on tradition. He held the highest doctrine concerning the Church, and taught that communion with her in faith and ordinances was the one essential condition of salvation. He was the author of the celebrated formula as to the rule of faith, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. His principal work is entitled “Commonitorium,” or Remembrancer, a collection mainly of extracts. This work was long considered a standard among Romanists, and has been held in high repute by many Protestants for the ability which it displays. It was intended as a guard against heresy, by exhibiting what the leaders of the Church had taught against heretics, and to determine the principle on which the authority of the fathers was to be admitted. A single father, even though a bishop, confessor, or martyr, might err, and his teachings be properly disregarded, but when he concurred with the general drift of ecclesiastical teaching, i.e., with tradition, he was to be fully believed.173173Sacr. Bibl. Sanc. Pat., 2d. edit. Paris, 1589, tom. iv. pp. 62-91.

The ablest and most influential of the leaders of the Semi-Pelagian party was Faustus of Rhegium, who secured the condemnation of Lucidus, an extreme advocate of the Augustinian doctrine, in the Synod of Arles, 475, A.D.; and who was called upon by the council to write the work “De gratia Dei et humanæ mentis libero arbitrio,” which attained great celebrity and authority. The Semi-Pelagians, however, were far from agreeing among themselves either as to sin or as to grace. Cassian taught that the effects of Adam's sin on his posterity were, (1.) That they became mortal, and subject to the physical infirmities of this life. (2.) That the knowledge of nature and of the divine law which Adam originally possessed, was in a great measure preserved until the sons of Seth intermarried with the daughters of Cain, when the race became greatly deteriorated. (3.) That the moral effects of the fall were to weaken the soul in all its power for good, so that men constantly need the assistance of divine grace. (4.) What that grace was, whether the supernatural influence of the Spirit, the providential efficiency of God, or his various gifts of faculties and of knowledge, he nowhere distinctly 167explains. He admitted that men could not save themselves; but held that they were not spiritually dead; they were sick; and constantly needed the aid of the Great Physician. He taught that man sometimes began the work of conversion; sometimes God; and sometimes, in a certain sense, God saves the unwilling.174174Magna Bib. Vet. Pat., Cologne, 1618, tom. v. par. ii., p. 90 ff. Vincent evidently regarded the Augustinian doctrine of original sin as making God the author of evil; for, he says, it assumes that God has created a nature, which acting according to its own laws and under the impulse of an enslaved will, can do nothing but sin.175175 Wiggers, ut supra, vol. ii., p. 214. And he pronounces heretical those who teach that grace saves those who do not ask, seek, or knock, in evident allusion to the doctrine of Augustine that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God who showeth mercy. Faustus admitted a moral corruption of nature as the consequence of the fall of Adam, which he called original sin (originale delictum). In his letter to Lucidus he anathematizes the doctrine of Pelagius that man is born “without sin.”176176Sac. Bibl. Sanc. Pat., 2d. edit. Paris, 1589, tom. iv. pp. 875, 876. From this deteriorated, infirm state, no man can deliver himself. He needs the grace of God. But what that grace was is doubtful. From some passages of his writings there would seem to be meant by it only, or principally, the moral influence of the truth as revealed by the Spirit in the Scriptures. He says God draws men to him, but “Quid est attrahere nisi prædicare, nisi scripturarum consolationibus excitare, increpationibus deterrere, desideranda proponere, intentare metuenda, judicium comminari, præmium polliceri?177177De Lib. Arbit. I. xvii.: Ibid. p. 906. Semi-Pelagians agreed, however, in rejecting the Pelagian doctrine that Adam's sin injured only himself; they admitted that the effects of that sin passed on all men, affecting both the soul and body. It rendered the body mortal, and liable to disease and suffering; and the soul it weakened, so that it became prone to evil and incapable, without divine assistance, of doing anything spiritually good. But as against Augustine they held, at least according to the statements of Prosper and Hilary, the advocates of Augustinianism in the south of France, (1.) That the beginning of salvation is with man. Man begins to seek God, and then God aids him. (2.) That this incipient turning of the soul towards God is something good, and in one sense meritorious. (3.) That the soul, in virtue of its liberty of will or ability for good, coöperates with the grace of God in regeneration as well as in sanctification. That these charges were well founded may be inferred from the decisions of the councils of Orange and 168Valence, A.D. 529, in which the doctrines of Augustine were again sanctioned. As the decisions of those councils were ratified by the Pope they were, according to the papal theory, declared to be the faith of the Church. Among the points thus pronounced to be included in the true Scriptural doctrine, are, (1.) That the consequence of Adam's sin is not confined to the body, or to the lower faculties of the soul, but involves the loss of ability to spiritual good. (2.) The sin derived from Adam is spiritual death. (3.) Grace is granted not because men seek it, but the disposition to seek is a work of grace and the gift of God. (1.) The beginning of faith and the disposition to believe is not from the human will, but from the grace of God. (5.) Believing, willing, desiring, seeking, asking, knocking at the door of mercy, are all to be referred to the work of the Spirit and not to the good which belongs to the nature of fallen man. The two great points, therefore, in dispute between the Augustinians and Semi-Pelagians were decided in favour of the former. Those points were (1.) That original sin, or the corruption of nature derived from Adam, was not simply a weakening of our power for good, but was spiritual death; really sin, incapacitating the soul for ally spiritual good. And (2.) That in the work of conversion it is not man that begins, but the Spirit of God. The sinner has no power to turn himself unto God, but is turned or renewed by divine grace before he can do anything spiritually good.178178Binius, Concilia, Cologne, 1618, t. ii. par. i. p. 638.

The decisions of the councils of Orange and Valence in favour of Augustinianism, did not arrest the controversy. The Semi-Pelagian party still continued numerous and active, and so far gained the ascendency, that in the ninth century Gottschalk was condemned for teaching the doctrine of predestination in the sense of Augustine. From this period to the time of the Reformation and the decisions of the Council of Trent, great diversity of opinion prevailed in the Latin Church on all the questions relating to sin, grace, and predestination. It having come to be generally admitted that original righteousness was a supernatural gift, it was also generally held that the effect of Adam's sin upon himself and upon his posterity was the loss of that righteousness. This was its only subjective effect. The soul, therefore, is left in the state in which it was originally created, and in which it existed, some said a longer, others a shorter, period, or no perceptible period at all, before the receipt of the supernatural endowment. It is in this state that met are born into the world since the apostasy of Adam.


The Doctrine of Anselm.

This loss of original righteousness was universally regarded as a penal evil. It was the punishment of the first sin of Adam which came equally upon him and upon all his descendants. The question now is, What is the moral state of a soul destitute of original righteousness considered as a supernatural gift? It was the different views taken as to the answer to that question, which gave rise to the conflicting views of the nature and consequences of original sin.

1. Some said that this negative state was itself sinful. Admitting that original sin is simply the loss of original righteousness, it was nevertheless truly and properly sin. This was the ground taken by Anselm, the father of the scholastic philosophy and theology. In his work, “De Conceptu Virginali et Originali Peccato,” he says of children,179179Cap. xxiii.; Opera, Paris, 1721, p. 104, B, d.Quod in illis non est justitia, quam debent habere, non hoc fecit illorum, voluntas personalis, sicut in Adam, sed egestas naturalis, quam ipsa natura accepit ab Adam — facit natura personas infantium peccatrices. Nullam infantibus injustitiam super prædictam nuditatem justitiæ.180180Cap. xxiv.; Ibid. p. 105, A, c. Peccatum originale aliud intelligere nequeo, nisi ipsam—factam per inobedientiam Adæ justitiæ debitæ nuditatem.181181Cap. xxvii.; Ibid. p. 106, A, b. This original sin, however, even in infants, although purely negative, is nevertheless truly and properly sin. Anselm says, “Omne peccatum est injustitia, et originale peccatum est absolute peccatum, unde sequitur quod est injustitia. Item si Deus non damnat nisi propter injustitiam; damnat autem aliquem propter originale peccatum, ergo non est aliud originale peccatum quam injustitia. Quod si ita est, originale peccatum non est aliud quam injustitia, i.e., absentia debitæ justitiæ.182182Cap. iii.; Ibid. p. 98, A, e, B, a.

Doctrine of Abelard.

2. The ground taken by others of the schoolmen was that the loss of original righteousness left Adam precisely in the state in which he was created, and therefore in puris naturalibus (i.e., in the simple essential attributes of his nature). And as his descendants share his fate, they are born in the same state. There is no inherent hereditary corruption, no moral character either goon or bad. The want of a supernatural gift not belonging to the nature of man, and which must be bestowed as a favour, cannot be accounted 170to men as sin. Original sin, therefore, in the posterity of Adam can consist in nothing but the imputation to them of his first transgression. They suffer the punishment of that sin, which punishment is the loss of original righteousness. According to this view, original sin is pœna but not culpa. It is true that the inevitable consequence of this privation of righteousness is that the lower powers of man's nature gain the ascendency over the higher, and that he grows up in sin. Nevertheless there is no inherent or subjective sin in the new-born infant. There is a natural proneness to sin arising out of the original and normal constitution of cur nature, and the absence of original righteousness which was a frenum, or check by which the lower powers were to be kept in subjection. But this being the condition in which Adam came from the hands of his Creator, it cannot be in itself sinful. Sin consists in assent and purpose. And, therefore, until the soul assents to this dominion of its lower nature and deliberately acts in accordance with it, it cannot be chargeable with any personal, inherent sin. There is therefore no sin of nature, as distinguished from actual sin. It is true, as the advocates of this theory taught, in obedience to the universal faith of the Church and the clear doctrine of the Bible, that men are born in sin. But this is the guilt of Adam's first sin, and not their own inherent corruption. They admitted the correctness of the Latin version of Romans v. 12, which makes the Apostle say that all men sinned in Adam (in quo omnes peccaverunt). But they understood that passage to teach nothing more than the imputation of Adam's first sin, and not any hereditary inherent corruption of nature. This was the theory of original sin adopted by Abelard, who held that nothing was properly of the nature of sin but an act performed with an evil intention. As there can be no such intention in infants there can be, properly speaking, no sin in them. There is a proneness to sin which he calls vitium; but sin consists in consent to this inclination, and not in the inclination itself. “Vitium itaque est, quo ad peccandum proni efficimur, hoc est inclinamur ad consentiendum ei, quod non convenit, ut illud scilicet faciamus aut dimittamus. Hunc vero consensum proprie peccatum nominamus, hoc est culpam animæ, qua damnationem meretur.183183Ethica seu liber dictus: scito se ipsum, cap. iii.; Opera, Paris, 1859, vol. ii. p. 596. He admitted original sin as a punishment, or as the guilt of Adam's sin, but this was external and not inherent.184184In Epistolam ad Romanos, lib. ii.; Ibid. vol. ii. p. 238. This view of the subject was strenuously 171maintained by some of the theologians of the Roman Church at the time of the Reformation, especially by Catharinus and Pighius. The latter, according to Chemnitz,185185Examen Concilii Tridentini, de Peccato Originale, edit. Frankfort, 1674, part i., p. 100. thus states his doctrine: “Quod nec carentia justitiæ originalis, nec concupiscentia habeat rationem peccati, sive in parvulis, sive adultis, sive ante, sive post baptismum. Has enim affectiones non esse vitia, sed naturæ conditiones in nobis. Peccatum igitur originis non esse defectum, non vitium aliquod non depravationem aliquam, non habitum corruptum, non qualitatem vitiosam hærentem in nostra substantia, ut quæ sit sine omni vitio et depravatione, sed hoc tantum esse peccatum originis, quod actualis transgressio Adæ reatu, tantum et pœna transmissa et propagata sit ad posteros sine vitio aliquo et pravitate hærente in ipsorum substantia: et reatum hunc esse; quod propter Adæ peccatum extorres facti sumus regni cœlorum, subjecti regno mortis et æternæ damnationi, et omnibus humanæ naturæ miseriis involuti. Sicut ex servis, qui proprio vitio libertatem amiserunt, nasc*ntur servi: non suo, sed parentum vitio. Et sicut filius scorti, sustinet infamiam matris, sine proprio aliquo in se hærente vitio.186186See also Köllner’s, Symbolik, vol. ii. p. 285.

Doctrine of Thomas Aquinas.

3. The third form of doctrine which prevailed during this period was that proposed by Thomas Aquinas (A.D. 1224-74) a Dominican monk, the Doctor Angelicus of the schoolmen, and by far the most influential theologian in the Latin Church since the days of Augustine. His “Summa Theologiæ” was long regarded as a standard work among Romanists, and is still referred to as an authority both by Romanists and Protestants. Thomas approached much nearer to Augustine than the other theologians of his age. He taught (1.) That original righteousness was to Adam a supernatural gift. (2.) That by his transgression he forfeited that gift for himself and his posterity. (3.) That original righteousness consisted essentially in the fixed bias of the will towards God, or the subjection of the will to God. (4.) That the inevitable consequence or adjunct of the loss of this original righteousness, this conversion of the will towards God, is the aversion of the will from God. (5.) That original sin, therefore, consists in two things, first, the loss of original righteousness and second, the disorder of the whole nature. The one he called the formale the other the materiale of original sin. To use his own illustration, a knife is 172iron; the iron is the material, the form is that which makes the material a knife. So in original sin this aversion of the will from God (as a habit), is the substance of original sin, it owes its existence and nature to the loss of original righteousness. (6.) The soul, therefore, after the loss of its primal rectitude, does not remain in puris naturalibus, but is in a state of corruption and sin. This state he sometimes calls inordinatio virium animæ; sometimes a deordinatio; sometimes aversio voluntatis a bono incommunicabili; sometimes a corrupt disposition, as when he says,187187Summa, II. i. lxxxii. art. ii. edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 144 of second set.Causa hujus corruptæ dispositionis, quæ dicitur originale peccatum, est una tantum, scilicet privatio originalis justitiæ, per quam sublata est subjectio humanæ mentis ad Deum.” Most frequently, in accordance with the usus loquendi of his own and of subsequent periods, this positive part of original sin is called concupiscence. This is a word which it is very important to understand, because it is used in such different senses even in relation to the same subject. Some by concupiscence mean simply the sexual instinct; others, what belongs to our sensuous nature in general; others, everything in man which has the seen and temporal for its object; and others still, for the wrong bias of the soul, by which, being averse to God, it turns to the creature and to evil. Everything depends therefore on the sense in which the word is taken, when it is said that original sin consists, positively considered, in concupiscence. If by concupiscence is meant merely our sensuous nature, then original sin is seated mainly in the body and in the animal affections, and the higher powers of the soul are unaffected by its contamination. By Thomas Aquinas the word is taken in its widest sense, as is obvious from its equivalents just mentioned, aversion from God, corrupt disposition, disorder, or deformity, of the powers of the soul. It is in this sense, he says, “Originale peccatum concupiscentia dicitur.” (7.) As to the constituent elements of this original corruption, or as he expresses it, the wounds under which our fallen nature is suffering, he says, they include, (a.) Ignorance and want of the right knowledge of God in the intelligence. (b.) An aversion in the will from the highest good. (c.) In the feelings or affections, or rather in that department of our nature of which the feelings are the manifestations, a tendency to delight in created things. The seat of original sin, therefore, with him is the whole soul. (8.) This concupiscence or inherent corruption, is not an act, or agency, or activity, but a habit, i.e., an immanent inherent disposition of the mind.188188Ibid. art. i. (9.) Finally 173original sin is a penal evil. The loss of original righteousness and the consequent disorder of our nature, are the penalty of Adam's first transgression. So far the doctrine of Thomas is in strict accordance with that of Augustine. His discussion of the subject might be framed into an exposition of the answer in the “Westminster Catechism” which declares the sinfulness of that estate into which men fell, to consist in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature. The point of difference relates to the degree of injury received from the apostasy of Adam, or the depth of that corruption of nature derived from him. This Thomas calls a languor or weakness. Men in consequence of the fall are utterly unable to save themselves, or to do anything really good in the sight of God without the aid of divine grace. But they still have the power to coöperate with that grace. They cannot, as the Semi-Pelagians taught, begin the work of turning unto God, and therefore need preventing grace (gratia præveniens), but with that grace they are enabled to coöperate. This makes the difference between the effectual (irresistible) grace of Augustine, and the synergism which enters into all other systems.

Doctrine of the Scotists.

4. Duns Scotus, a Franciscan, Professor of Theology at Oxford, Paris, and Cologne, where he died A.D. 1308, was the great opponent of Thomas Aquinas. So far as the subject of original sin is concerned, he sided with the Semi-Pelagians. He made original sin to consist solely in the loss of original righteousness, and as this was purely a. supernatural gift, not pertaining to the nature of man, its loss left Adam and his posterity after him, precisely in tile state in which man was originally created. Whatever of disorder is consequent on this loss of righteousness is not of the nature of sin. “Peccatum originale,” he says, “non potest esse aliud quam ista privatio [justitiæ originalis]. Non enim est concupiscentia: tum quia illa est naturalis, tum quia ipsa est in parte sensitiva, ubi non est peccatum.”189189In Lib. IV Sentent., lib. II. dist. xxx. qu. 2; Venice, 1506, 2d part, fol. 83, p. 2, b. Men, therefore, are born into the world in puris naturalibus, not in the Pelagian sense, as Pelagians do not admit any supernatural gift of righteousness to Adam, but in the sense that they possess all the essential attributes of their nature uninjured and uncontaminated. As free will, i.e., the ability to do and to be whatever is required of man by his Maker, belongs essentially to his nature, this also remains since the fall. It is indeed 174weakened and beset with difficulties, as the balance wheel of our nature, original righteousness, is gone, but still it exists. Man needs divine assistance. He cannot do good, or make himself good without the grace of God. But the dependence of which Scotus speaks is rather that of the creature upon the creator, than that of the sinner upon the Spirit of God. His endeavour seems to have been to reduce the supernatural to the natural; to confound the distinction constantly made in the Bible and by the Church, between the providential efficiency of God everywhere present and always operating in and with natural causes, and the efficiency of the Holy Ghost in the regeneration and sanctification of the soul.190190Ritter’s Geschichte der christlichen Philosophie, vol. iv. pp. 354-472.

The Dominicans and Franciscans became, and long continued the two most powerful orders of monks in the Roman Church. As they were antagonistic on so many other points, they were also opposed in doctrine. The Dominicans, as the disciples of Thomas Aquinas, were called Thomists, and the Franciscans, as followers of Duns Scotus, were called Scotists. The opposition between these parties, among other doctrinal points, embraced as we have seen, that of original sin. The Thomists were inclined to moderate Augustinianism, the Scotists to Semi-Pelagianism. All the theories however above mentioned, variously modified, had their zealous advocates in the Latin Church, when the Council of Trent was assembled to determine authoritatively the true doctrine and to erect a barrier to the increasing power of the Reformation.

Tridentine Doctrine on Original Sin.

The Council of Trent had a very difficult task to perform. In the first place, it was necessary to condemn the doctrines of the Reformers. But the Protestants, as well Lutheran as Reformed, had proclaimed their adherence to the Augustinian system in its purity and fulness; and that system had received the sanction of councils and popes and could not be directly impugned. This difficulty was surmounted by grossly misrepresenting the Protestant doctrine, and making it appear inconsistent with the doctrine of Augustine. This method has been persevered in to the present day. Moehler in his “Symbolik” represents the doctrine of the Protestants, and especially that of Luther, on original sin, as a form of Manicheism. The other, and more serious difficulty, was the great diversity of opinion existing in the Church and in the Council it self. Some were Augustinians; some held that original sin consisted 175simply in the want of original righteousness, but that that want is sin. Others admitted no original sin, but the imputation of Adam's first transgression. Others, with the Dominicans, insisted that the disorder of all the powers consequent on the loss of original righteousness, i.e., concupiscence, is truly and properly sin. This the Franciscans denied. Under these circ*mstances the pontifical legates, who attended the Council, exhorted the assembled fathers, that they should decide nothing as to the nature of original sin, reminding them that they were not called together o teach doctrines, but to condemn errors.191191Moehler’s Symbolik, 6th edition, p. 57. This advice the Council endeavoured to follow, and hence its decisions are expressed in very general terms.

1. The Synod pronounces an anathema on those who do not confess that Adam, when he transgressed in paradise the commandment of God, did immediately lose the holiness and righteousness in which he had been constituted (constitutus fuerat, or positus erat); and that by that offence he incurred the wrath and indignation of God, and thus also death and subjection to him who has the power of death, that is, the devil; and that the whole Adam by the offence of his transgression was as to the body and the soul. changed for the worst.

The effects of Adam's first sin upon himself therefore was: (1.) The loss of original righteousness. (2.) Death and captivity to Satan. (3.) The deterioration of his whole nature both soul and body.

2. The Synod also anathematizes those who say that the sin of Adam injured himself only, and not his posterity; or that he lost the holiness and righteousness which he received from God, for himself only and not also for us, or that he transmitted to the whole human race only death and corporeal pains (pœnas corporis), and not sin, which is the death of the soul.

It is here taught that the effects of Adam's sin upon his posterity are: (1.) The loss of original righteousness. (2.) Death and the miseries of this life; and (3.) Sin, or spiritual death (peccatum, quod est mors animæ). This is a distinct condemnation of Pelagianism, and the clear assertion of original sin, as something transmitted to all men. The nature of that however, is not further stated than that it is the death of the soul, which may be differently explained.

3. Those also are condemned who say that this sin of Adam, which is conveyed to all (omnibus transfusum), and inheres in 176every one as his own sin (inest unicuique proprium), can be removed by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of our one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God by his blood, and who is made unto us righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

It is here asserted: (1.) That original sin is conveyed by propagation and not, as the Pelagians say, by imitation. (2.) That it belongs to every man and inheres in him. (3.) That it cannot be removed by any other means than the blood of Christ.

4. The Synod condemns all who teach that new-born children should not be baptized; or, that although baptized for the remission of sins, they derive nothing of original sin from Adam, which needs to be expiated in the laver of regeneration in order to attain eternal life, so that baptism, in their case, would not be true but false. Children, therefore, who cannot have committed sin, in their own persons, are truly baptized for the remission of sins, that what they had contracted in generation, may be purged away in regeneration.

From this it appears that according to the Council of Trent there is sin in new-born infants which needs to be remitted and washed away by regeneration.

5. The fifth canon asserts that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted, and everything is removed which has the true and proper nature of sin. It is admitted that concupiscence (vel fomes) remains in the baptized, against which believers are to contend, but it is declared that this concupiscence, although sometimes (as is admitted) called sin by the Apostle, is not truly and properly sin in the regenerated.

This is all that the Council teaches under the caption of original sin, except to say that they do not intend their decisions to apply to the Virgin Mary. Whether she was the subject of original sin, as the Dominicans, after Thomas Aquinas, maintained, or whether she was immaculately conceived, as zealously asserted by the Franciscans after Duns Scotus, the Synod leaves undecided.

In the sixth session when treating of justification (i.e., regeneration and sanctification), the Council decides several points, which go to determine the view its members took of the nature of original sin. In the canons adopted in that session, it is among other things, declared: (1.) That men cannot without divine grace through Jesus Christ, by their own works, i.e., works performed in their own strength, be justified before God. (2.) That grace 177is not given simply to render good works more easy. (3.) That men cannot believe, hope, love, or repent so as to secure regenerating grace without the preventing grace of God (sine prævenienti Spiritus inspiratione, atque ejus adjutorio). (4.) Men can coöperate with this preventing grace, can assent to, or reject it. (5.) Men have not lost their liberum arbitrium, ability to good or evil by the fall. (6.) All works done before regeneration are not sinful.

From all this it appears that while the Council of Trent rejected the Pelagian doctrine of man's plenary ability since the fall, and the Semi-Pelagian doctrine that men can begin the work of reformation and conversion; it no less clearly condemns the Augustinian doctrine of the entire inability of man to do anything spiritually good, whereby he may prepare or dispose himself for conversion, or merit the regenerating grace of God.

The True Doctrine of the Church of Rome.

What was the true doctrine of the Church of Rome as to original sin, remained as much in doubt after the decisions of this Council as it had been before. Each party interpreted its canons according to their own views. The Synod declares that all men are born infected with original sin; but whether that sin consisted simply in the guilt of Adam's first sin; or in the want of original righteousness; or in concupiscence, is left undecided. And therefore all these views continued to be maintained by the theologians of the Romish Church. The older Protestants generally regarded the canons of the Council of Trent as designed to obscure the subject, and held that the real Doctrine of the Church involved the denial of any original sin in the sense of sin, subjective or inherent. In this view, many, if not the majority of modern theologians concur. Winer (in his “Comparative Darstellung,”) Guericke (in his “Symbolik”), Koellner (in his “Symbolik”), Baur (in his “Answer to Moehler”), and Dr. Shedd, in his “History of Christian Doctrine,” all represent the Church of Rome as teaching that original sin is merely negative, the want of original righteousness, and is denying that there is anything subjective in the state of human nature as men are born into the world, which has the proper nature of sin. The reasons which favour this view of the subject, are, —

1. The prevailing doctrine of the schoolmen and of the Romish theologians as to the nature of sin. According to Protestants, “Quidquid a norma justitiæ in Deo dissidet, et cum ea pugnat, 178habet rationem peccati.192192Chemnitz, Examen Concilii Tridentini, I. iv. edit. Frankfort, 1674, p. 116. To this the Romanists oppose from Andradius the definition: “Quod nihil habeat rationem peccati nisi fiat a volente et sciente.” If this be so, then it is impossible that there should be any inherent or innate sin. As infants are not “knowing and willing,” in the sense of moral agents, they cannot have sin. Bellarmin193193De Amissione Gratia et Statu Peccati, V. xviii., Disputationes, vol. iv. p. 333, d. says: “Non satis est ad culpam, ut aliquid sit voluntarium habituali voluntate, sed requiritur, ut processerit ab actu etiam voluntario: Alioqui voluntarium illud, habituale voluntate, naturale esset, et misericordia non reprehensione dignum.” He says, that if a man were created in puris naturalibus, without grace, and with this opposition of the flesh to the reason, he would not be a sinner. With the loss of original righteousness there is unavoidably connected this rebellion of the lower against the higher nature of man. With the loss of the bias of the will toward God, is of necessity connected aversion to God. This obliquity of the will which attends original sin, is not sin in itself, yet it is sin in us. For Bellarmin says, there is a “perversio voluntatis et obliquitas unicuique inhærens, per quam peccatores proprie et formaliter dicimur, cum primum homines esse incipimus.” This certainly appears contradictory. The perversion of the will, or concupiscence, consequent on the loss of original righteousness, is not itself sinful. Nevertheless, it constitutes us properly and formally sinners, as soon as we begin to exist. Nothing is of the nature of sin but voluntary action, or what proceeds from it, and yet infants are sinners from their birth. He attempts to reconcile these contradictions by saying: “Peccatum in Adamo actuale et personale in nobis originaliter dicitur. Solus enim ipse actuali voluntate illud commisit, nobis vero communicatur per generationem eo modo, quo communicari potest id, quod transiit, nimirum per imputationem. Omnibus enim imputatur, qui ex Adamo nasc*ntur, quoniam omnes in lumbis Adami existentes in eo et per eum peccavimus, cum ipse peccavit.” That is, the voluntary act of Adam was at the same time the act of the will of all his descendants. Thus original sin is sin in us, although nothing is sin in any creature which does not consist in an act of his own will, or which does not flow from such act. To this, however, Baur properly remarks: “What is an act of a non-existing will, an act to which the nature of sin is attributed, although it lies entirely out. side of the individual consciousness? Can any meaning be attached to such a representation? Does it not destroy the idea of guilt and 179sin, that it is imputed only because it is transmitted in ordinary generation?”194194Katholicismus und Protestantismus, Tübingen, 1836; second edit. p. 92, note. If a man or a church hold a theory of the nature of sin which is incompatible with the doctrine of original sin, it is argued, the existence of any such sin is thereby denied. (2.) Another reason urged in favour of the position that the Church of Rome denies original sin, is drawn from what that Church teaches of original righteousness. If original righteousness be a supernatural gift not belonging to the integrity of man's nature, its loss leaves him in the state in which he came from the hands of his Maker. And that state cannot be sinful unless God be the author of sin. Even Bellarmin, who contends for original sin, in a certain sense, still says that man since the fall is in the same state that Adam was as he was created. “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.195195De Gratia Primi Hominis, cap. v.; Disputationes, edit. Paris, 1608, vol. iv. p. 16, d, e. (3.) The Council of Trent expressly declares that concupiscence in the baptized, i.e., the regenerated, is not of the nature of sin. Then it cannot be in the unbaptized; for its nature is not changed by baptism.

On the other hand, however, it may be urged, (1.) That the Council of Trent expressly declares against the Pelagian doctrine, that Adam's sin injured only himself, and asserts that our whole nature, soul, and body, was thereby changed for the worse. (2.) They assert that we derived from Adam not merely a mortal nature, but sin which is the death of the soul. (3.) That new-born infants need baptism for the remission of sin, and that what is removed in the baptism of infants, veram et propriam peccati rationem habet. (4.) The Roman Catechism teaches196196P. iii. c. 10, qu. 4; Streitwolf, Libri Symbolici Ecclesiæ Catholicæ, vol. i. p. 579. that “we are born in sin,” that we are oppressed with corruption of nature (naturæ vitio premimur) and,197197P. iv. c. 14, qu. 5; Ibid. pp. 675, 676. that we nihil simus, nisi putida caro; that the virus of sin penetrates to the very bones, i.e., rationem, et voluntatem, quæ maxime solidæ sunt animæ partes. This last passage does not refer expressly to original sin, but to the state of men generally as sinners. Nevertheless, it indicates the view taken by the Roman Church as to the present condition of human 180nature. (5.) Bellarmin, who is often quoted to prove that Romanists make original sin merely the loss of original righteousness, says: “Si privationem justitiæ originalis ita velit esse effectum peccati, ut non sit etiam ipsa vere proprieque peccatum, Concilio Tridentino manifeste repugnat, neque distingui potest a sententia Catharini” (who made original sin to consist solely in the imputation of Adam’s first sin).

From all this it appears that although the doctrine of the Roman Church is neither logical nor self-consistent, it is nevertheless true that that Church does teach the doctrine of original sin, in the sense of a sinful corruption of nature, or of innate, hereditary sinfulness. It is also to be observed that all parties in the Roman Church, before and after the Council of Trent, however much they differed in other points, united in teaching the imputation of Adam’s sin; i.e., that for that sin the sentence of condemnation passed upon all men.

171Kirchengeschichte, vol. vi. p. 350.

172See below, vol. iii., p. 449.

173Sacr. Bibl. Sanc. Pat., 2d. edit. Paris, 1589, tom. iv. pp. 62-91.

174Magna Bib. Vet. Pat., Cologne, 1618, tom. v. par. ii., p. 90 ff.

175 Wiggers, ut supra, vol. ii., p. 214.

176Sac. Bibl. Sanc. Pat., 2d. edit. Paris, 1589, tom. iv. pp. 875, 876.

177De Lib. Arbit. I. xvii.: Ibid. p. 906.

178Binius, Concilia, Cologne, 1618, t. ii. par. i. p. 638.

179Cap. xxiii.; Opera, Paris, 1721, p. 104, B, d.

180Cap. xxiv.; Ibid. p. 105, A, c.

181Cap. xxvii.; Ibid. p. 106, A, b.

182Cap. iii.; Ibid. p. 98, A, e, B, a.

183Ethica seu liber dictus: scito se ipsum, cap. iii.; Opera, Paris, 1859, vol. ii. p. 596.

184In Epistolam ad Romanos, lib. ii.; Ibid. vol. ii. p. 238.

185Examen Concilii Tridentini, de Peccato Originale, edit. Frankfort, 1674, part i., p. 100.

186See also Köllner’s, Symbolik, vol. ii. p. 285.

187Summa, II. i. lxxxii. art. ii. edit. Cologne, 1640, p. 144 of second set.

188Ibid. art. i.

189In Lib. IV Sentent., lib. II. dist. xxx. qu. 2; Venice, 1506, 2d part, fol. 83, p. 2, b.

190Ritter’s Geschichte der christlichen Philosophie, vol. iv. pp. 354-472.

191Moehler’s Symbolik, 6th edition, p. 57.

192Chemnitz, Examen Concilii Tridentini, I. iv. edit. Frankfort, 1674, p. 116.

193De Amissione Gratia et Statu Peccati, V. xviii., Disputationes, vol. iv. p. 333, d.

194Katholicismus und Protestantismus, Tübingen, 1836; second edit. p. 92, note.

195De Gratia Primi Hominis, cap. v.; Disputationes, edit. Paris, 1608, vol. iv. p. 16, d, e.

196P. iii. c. 10, qu. 4; Streitwolf, Libri Symbolici Ecclesiæ Catholicæ, vol. i. p. 579.

197P. iv. c. 14, qu. 5; Ibid. pp. 675, 676.

Charles Hodge: Systematic Theology 
        Christian Classics Ethereal Library (2024)


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