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tine. And no age can we study with greater profit for a right apprehension of many of the doctrinal views of evangelical Christians of the present day. If the doctrinal development of the Trinity were the subject of investigation, an earlier period should be selected. We should begin with Justin Martyr in the latter half of the second century, when the doctrines of the gospel came first in contact with intellects of Greek discipline and with the principles of the Platonic philosophy. And if we would understand the methods of reasoning and the peculiar language of the formulas of the church on that subject, we must trace down the stream through the Alexandrian school to the Council of Nice. Clement, Origen, and Athanasius are the teachers of that period, only made more intelligible by familiarity with the opposing doctrines of Praxeas, Noetus, Beryll, and Sabellius, or with those of Arius and his Eastern associates. But though the Divine nature, revealed as consisting in God the Father, and in the personal distinctions and divinity of the Son and Holy Spirit, received at that time ampler discussion than it had previously, or has since till after the Reformation, anthropological discussions had chiefly their commencement in the fifth century. Man, his nature and moral condition as a sinner,—sin, its origin and development,-grace as a divine influence acting on the human will, free or enslaved, and restoring in the soul the life of God, had not been studied as subjects of scientific inquiry. They had been hitherto objects of observation and facts of experience, from which few general principles had been deduced. Such deductions had not been attempted. To reconcile doctrine with doctrine, especially the acknowledged principles of human nature with those of the Divine agency and perfections, so as to meet with a response from enlightened and philosophic reason, was, if possible, more difficult than the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity, as well as that of the two natures and one person of Christ, possesses more for ever absolutely inaccessible to the approach of human reason; yet on this account less perplexity is experienced from them. The field of investigation is narrowed as that of faith is widened. What cannot receive a scientific solution, and ought to be and must be believed on the naked authority of revelation, includes most that is difficult in these subjects. This is not the fact in Anthropology. Though there are points which never have been satisfactorily explained, such as the successful influence of temptation on . the free will while under the dominion of holy affections, including aversion to sin,—the difference or identity of the cause
of holiness in Adam before the fall, and in himself and of renewed men in sanctification,—the rationale of the connection between Adam's first sin and the depravity and misery of his posterity, and the relation of the Divine to human agency in moral acts,—yet there is often a natural feeling that even these can and must be explained. In consequence of this the mind is always on the stretch, restless in attempting untried methods of solving these difficulties. Besides this, there is a wider range of principles; they are complicated and often entangled with one another. An inquiry into the mode of the Divine existence or the person of Christ may be more sublime ; but in proportion as the subject is complete in itself, and is disinvolved, it has less to dissatisfy the mind of the inquirer. This is one of those subjects which we are more willing to acknowledge may lie without the range of human inquiry,--something wholly beyond the reach of the most penetrating' sagacity. Revelation is here felt and confessed to be exclusive authority.
But, however difficult is the subject of Anthropology, with none has the human mind ever grappled with more intense earnestness than it did with this in the fifth century. Little additional light was contributed for the succeeding 1,000 years. The limit of genius in those ages was the ability to understand and elucidate the speculative results of that wonderful period.
Among the theological writers of the fifth century none are so deserving to be studied as Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo. God obviously raised him up to accomplish through him a particular work,—to defend the church from the corrupting influence of Pelagianism, and to give to subjective theology a scientific form. And there was a wonderful fitness between the instrument and the work to be done. It is not eulogy to say that few such intellects have ever adorned our race,fewer still have been the defenders of divine truth. “He was ready to dispute with sharpest wits, best furnished with choicest eloquence and learning. For in him was most plentiful study, most exact knowledge of Holy Writ, a sharp and clear judgment, a wit admirably clear and piercing."* Calvin, however profound or comprehensive and just as a systematizer, and though in him was even more "plentiful study” and “exact knowledge,” if not of “Holy Writ,” doubtless of general sciences, and of languages in particular, must for ever hold in the estimation of the Christian world an inferior rank. He had less genius-less spontaneity of thought. He holds the same relation to Augustine in theology which the younger
* Lodovicus Vives
Pitt does to the elder in eloquence, or Virgil to Homer in poetry. The judgment was equally sharp and clear, but the wit was not so quick and piercing. With Augustine the deep things of God welled up from the depths of the soul, from religious feelings of which Calvin's nature could not be the subject. Truth was first seen by Calvin and then felt. Augustine often perceived a doctrine to be true, because he had been conscious of its realization in his own experience. In this he resembled our Edwards.
It is not our design, nor are we qualified, to consider the works of Augustine generally. We shall confine our remarks to his Confessions. There are valid reasons why we select this from among his voluminous works, many of which were written expressly to explain and vindicate doctrines which will be brought under the notice of the reader of this article. The Confessions are a doctrinal narration of the author's personal experience, designed to honor the grace of God, setting forth the Divine love and the moral power of the gospel. It is a concrete or subjective view of divine truth. It is pervaded by a solemn sense of the degree of his own guilt and the strength of his own depravity, which constantly reminds us of David's confessions in the 51st Psalm. He speaks of himself as a man needing and receiving the grace of God. His mind was not so ripe as when at a later period he composed some of his other works. But the Confessions are more truthful, because they are not controversial. They were also written in the strength of his manhood.* A sufficient time after his conversion had elapsed to furnish opportunity to re-examine his theological positions. The extraordinary excitement of mind which preceded and attended his conversion must have subsided, allowing his opinions to settle down into calm as well as honest convictions. They are worthy to be read with the persuasion that they are his actual experience. He was no enthusiast. He was incapable of this vicious element of character. His wit was too piercing and his judgment too sharp to live years under a religious delusion. They are thoroughly interesting to the Biblical scholar, reminding him ever and anon of God's mysterious providence, and of those striking delineations of the soul-history of wayward men, under the “ severe mercy" as well as healing grace of Him who has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. His « great, but wild and ungoverned energies,”'t under the influence of temptations by which in early life he was tempest-driven, show the fear* A. D. 400, aged 46.
ful power of sin. No one can watch the progress of his soul,fiery lusts in violent conflict with the purifying and subduing grace of the Almighty, taming, regulating, and healing the soultill it finds sweet repose in the mercy and merits of Christ,without admiration of the might which is stronger than the strong man armed. Augustine's history shows what is in man, as ordinary minds cannot. It requires the arm of Vulcan grappling the sledge to disclose the form of the muscles in any arm. They all exist in the softest and feeblest, but they will not serve the artist as a model. Nor would Pelagius, his opponent, nor Alyppius, his friend and fellow-convert, furnish a copy from which to delineate human nature in its moral conflicts. There is no essential unlikeness in the principles of depravity in different men. Some are passionate and gentle, others irascible and hasty. Some men's sins are secret, others' open and noisy, going before to the judgment. But the principles are the same. There is in neither the love of God till visited by the Spirit of grace. Both are of the earth, earthy. The meadow brook as little violates its law of declivity as the mountain torrent. The Mississippi, though it has less impetuosity than the Niagara, is scarcely less irresistible, and is as certainly lost in the same ocean's gulfs. There is often depth and strength not perceptible. While therefore in reading these Confessions we are sensible that all men's moral features are not as distinctly developed, we are not, on the other hand, to forget that as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. “A man may see himself while he looks upon other men, as well as know other men by considering his own inclinations.”* That which is born of the flesh is flesh. The same likeness also characterizes every Christian heart. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. We would use Augustine's history, both before and after his conversion, only as a painter would Vulcan's arm.
Another reason why the Confessions are selected is, that they are an unbiased testimony as to the doctrines then prevalent in the church. It is difficult to read a controversial work—as many of Augustine's later ones were—without the suspicion that the method of argument at least is warped by opposition. The agonist in adjusting himself to his antagonist often finds his position a false and fatal one. Augustine's opinions at the time he wrote the Confessions were not a discovery, doctrines just broached and promulgated. Tertullian 200 years before, Gregory of Nazianzum,t Hilary of Poitiers, • * Bp. Patrick + Died A. D. 390.
Died A. D. 360.
and Ambrose of Milan,* all held substantially the same opinions concerning sin and grace as Augustine. Nor is there any reason to suppose that the doctrines of these writers are essentially unlike, or in advance of, the theological views of the mass in their immediate communion. The theological opinions of Ambrose, Augustine's spiritual teacher, though exhibited in a less scientific form, were not opposed or displaced by his illustrious pupil and convert. The coin, though it dropped from the mint with angles not so sharp, wanted nothing in weight. Pelagianism, so called, always had, without doubt, its advocates in the Christian church. So had also Augustinism. The writings of the apostle Paul laid the foundation for such a tendency. And there have always been men who, like Augustine, “suffer impatiently the lot of man;" who “ fret, sigh, weep, and go distracted;" who “bear about a shattered and bleeding soul,” and who find no place of repose. “Not in calm groves, not in games and music, nor in fragrant spots, nor in curious banquetings, nor in the pleasures of the bed and the couch, nor finally in books or poesy," do they find it. All things to such minds “ look ghastly, yea, the very light," when God's awful truth seizes the conscience with the authority of one who must be listened to and obeyed.
There are a few other facts in the history of Augustine which, to a right understanding of the Confessions, the reader needs to keep in mind. The age in which he lived had its own form of vices. One of his parents was a heathen,t the other a Christian. He was thoroughly instructed in heathen philosophy, especially in the Platonic, of which he was an admirer. He was for several years a Manichean, believing that sin is a substance,—the hulee of matter,—an eternal, unchangeable vitiosity, necessarily inhering in our bodies; that the soul is a portion of the Divinity, and is evilly affected by its union with the body, thus not only taking from sin its guilt, but destroying all morality. The whole picture therefore is that of a fiery spirit, bent on sinful indulgence, made war upon by the authority of God reiterated by the awful sanctions of conscience, and deepened by the fear of death and the final judgment. These are all seen near and distinct; with the conditions in Augustine's life just referred to, lying in the background scarcely less conspicuous, giving shape and size to those in the foreground, and rendering their peculiarities more striking and disagreeable. The reader should also keep in mind that the book is not a * Died A. D. 398.
which, to a right mind. The his parents instructed
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