"St. Augustine and Calvinism" BQR for July 1863 (What the Catholic Church teaches about the damned)

St. Augustine and Calvinism


Each of the three works, whose titles we have placed at the head of this present article, gives expression to a very common misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine.  It is for the purpose of bringing into view, and with the hope of correcting this misunderstanding, and not for the sake of reviewing them as a whole, that we have placed together these three very different specimens of our recent literature.  This misunderstanding consists in ascribing the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity, together with the rigorous and appalling views of the condition and destiny of the principal portion of mankind, which follow from it, to the Catholic Church, and to her great Doctors and Theologians, especially St. Augustine.  The author of the interesting and well-written sketch of Mr. Buckle, which is prefixed to his “Essays,” who appears to us to write like a man of a candid and philosophic temper, brings out this misapprehension in the clearest manner, even in the very act of softening down the harsher censures of Mr. Buckle.  His mistake is, no doubt, one which he could not be expected to avoid, and therefore we cite his language the more readily, as it shows how incorrect the medium must be through which even well-intentioned persons look at Catholic doctrines.  The following extract will show what we mean:

“Of the clergy he saw only one, and that not the more favorable side. He regarded them as writers or preachers alone, and not as active or humanizing elements in society.  He is right in ascribing to dogmatic theology, dark, cruel, ignorant and groundless theories, alike at variance with a divine Author,  and dishonorable to human nature.  He is wrong when he represents the orator in the pulpit, or the scholar in the closet, as hard, bigoted, and severe as his doctrines.  In the Confessions of Augustine we have the outpourings of a large and liberal heart; in his writings on Fate, Free Will, and Foreknowledge, he appears only as the durus pater infantium, the precursor of the implacable and gloomy Calvin.” P. 19

Miss Beecher, who is very implacable, though by no means gloomy antagonist of Calvin, attributes the specific tenets of his school to the Council of Trent, and traces the original sanction she supposes to have been given to them by the Catholic Church to the times and influence of Augustine. 

Of Dr. Holmes we shall have occasion to speak more fully bye and bye, and it is therefore enough to remark now en passant, that his works betray the existence of the same misapprehension in his mind, regarding the teachings of the Catholic Church, though he does not speak anywhere of St. Augustine in particular.

Calvinists themselves are far from seeking any shelter under the theological batteries erected by the Council of Trent, or claiming any protection for their doctrine from the Roman Church of the last twelve centuries.  They do, however, claim St. Augustine as their father, and as the precursor of Calvin and Luther.  A durus pater infantium, in very deed to them, they would find him, if they would really study his writings.

We wish to put a lance in rest and do battle against all these antagonists, whatever banner they may fly, in defense of the great Philosopher and Theologian of the Catholic Church.  It is, in particular, the charge made against him of holding the doctrine of the essential and total corruption of human nature, that we wish to refute.  Not so much for the vindication of his personal fame, as for the vindication of Catholic doctrine, do we wish to do this.  St. Augustine is the chief of what may be called the most severe and rigorous of the different schools of Catholic Theology.  He is also by far the greatest theologian the Catholic Church has ever produced, and the one whose mind has swayed the most powerful and extensive influence, in giving shape to philosophy, theology, and even the decisions of the Holy See and General Councils.

If we can vindicate him from holding a cruel and unreasonable doctrine regarding the nature and destiny of man, which is inconsistent with the goodness of God, and dishonorable to human nature, and if we can prove that his real doctrine was just the contrary of this, we have not only vindicated him as an individual theologian, but also Catholic Doctrine.  For, if the Augustinian method of stating Catholic Doctrine, which is the one presenting the greatest difficulties to the Pelasgian and the pure rationalist, can be successfully defended against their objections, a fortiori, the methods of the other Catholic schools which are less objectionable to them, can be vindicated.

We begin our task by asserting, that Augustine not only nowhere teaches that human nature is intrinsically evil and substantially corrupt, but that he invariably teaches that it is substantially good.  Not only this, but he uniformly teaches that there is and can be no such thing as a positively evil nature or substance, and that the existence of such a substance is metaphysically inconceivable.

“every nature inasmuch as it is nature is good; because it is incorruptible it is better than that which is corruptible; but if it is corruptible, since it becomes less good by being corrupted, it is without doubt good.  Now, every nature is either capable or incapable of being corrupted.  Therefore every nature is good; and by nature I mean the same with that which is commonly called substance.  Therefore every substance is either God, or from God.” De Lib. Arbitrio, 3. 36

Here is the whole of the philosophy of St. Augustine, and the whole of all Catholic philosophy from his day to our own, on this particular point, in a nutshell.  St. Thomas, the great disciple of St. Augustine, has done nothing else than develop by the fine machinery of his own philosophic genius this first principle which he derived from his mater, and it runs into the warp and woof of the whole texture of dogmatic and moral theology on the pages of every Catholic writer.  St. Augustine had been a Manichaean.  He had attempted to solve the question of the origin of evil by the dualistic theory of two eternal, self-existing, and antagonistic principles, the one of good and the other of evil, making the evil principle the author of the material universe.  Having sounded all the absurdities of this theory to the bottom, he seized hold of the contrary idea of the unity of God, and of the universe in Him, with such a grasp of comprehension that not even in his warfare with the Pelagians did he ever let go his hold of it for a single instant.

Every substance is either God, or from God.  God is the only self-existent, eternal and unchangeable Being.  The Good in him is Infinite and Invariable, for the very idea of good is being, the absolute being must be absolute good.  All contingent and finite existences are from God, and their very existence consists in participating by a partial and variable mode, in His absolute being, which is identical with good.  Therefore, in so far as they exist, that is, have nature or substance, they are good, and can cease to be good only by ceasing to exist.  The Self-Existent is incorruptible, because His Being can admit of no diminution.  The Finite and Contingent, is not of its own nature incorruptible, but the only corruption conceivable is the diminution of its being or good, or the partial return to the Nothingness from which it was taken; leaving it however still good so far as it retains positive existence.

“Therefore, these two created things, body and life, since they are of the class of things which exist by their form, according to the doctrine we have laid down above, and when they lose their form entirely fall back into nothingness, sufficiently show that they have their subsistence from that form which is ever the same.  Wherefore all kinds of things which are good, however great or however small, cannot have being except from God.  For what is greater among creatures than intelligent life, or what can be less than body?  Now these, however deficient they may become, and however they may tend in the direction of not existing, nevertheless retain some form, in order to exist at all.  But whatever there is of form remaining in any deficient thing, is from that form which knows no deficiency.”  De Lib. Arbit., 2, 46 (*We have omitted the Latin, and given only Brownson’s translation of St. Augustine)

This passage shows clearly St. Augustine’s doctrine that every spiritual and corporeal nature is good, as existing only in God, and is capable of only a negative deficiency from good, but not of being transformed in a nature positively evil.  This excludes the possibility of an essential corruption or depravity of human nature.  Whatever change human nature has undergone at the Fall, it can only be a privation or loss of some good, and not the addition or substitution of some evil substance in lieu of it.  The very notion of total depravity is impossible.  For there is no depravation other than a deficiency from the original form received from God, and a total deficiency from this form is annihilation.

The form of the rational nature of the angelic and human creature is essentially good, by participation in the immutable form of the Creator.  That form cannot be entirely lost while the creature continues to exist.  The rational creature tends toward good by a necessary law of its being; for it must tend toward the Creator or the creature, and both are good.  There is no positive evil in the universe for the will to choose, and it must therefore choose among the intrinsically good objects which are under the cognizance of reason, either the infinite or the finite.  Once more we will let the great African Doctor speak for himself, that it may be seen we are giving his doctrine and not merely our own.

“The work of God remains good in all works, however evil, of the wicked…And the very unclean spirit himself is good inasmuch as he is a spirit, but evil inasmuch as he is unclean.” – De Pecc. Orig., 2. 44.

“Those things which are made need His good, to wit, the chief good, that is, the highest essence.  They become less than they were, when by the sin of the soul their motion toward Him is lessened; but they are not therefore entirely separated from Him, otherwise they would become nothing at all.” – De. Ver. Relig. 14.

“Therefore they enquire of us whence is evil.  We answer, from the good, but not from the sovereign and unchangeable good.  Therefore from inferior good, and such as are changeable, evils have arisen.  And although we perceive that these evils are not natures, but vices of natures, yet we also understand that they could not exist unless from and in certain natures; and that there is no evil except a defection from goodness.” – Cont. Julian 1. 37. 

“The will, therefore, adhering to the common and immutable good, obtains the first and chief goods of man.  But when the will is averted from the common and immutable good and converted toward its own good, or the good of another, or an inferior good, it sins.  Hence it is that neither those goods which are desired by sinners are in any way evil, nor is the free-will itself evil; but the evil is its aversion from the common and immutable good and its conversion to mutable goods.” – De Lib. Arb., 2. 53.

“Wherefore there is a nature in which there is no evil, and in which indeed there can be no evil; but there cannot be a nature in which there is no good.  Hence, not even the nature of the devil himself is evil.” – De Civ. Dei., 19. 31. (*Once again, we have omitted the Latin by Brownson, giving only his English translation of the Doctor of Grace)

It was from St. Augustine, as these passages show, that St. Thomas derived his famous proposition, Diabolus, in quantum habet esse est bonus.  From the same source is derived the maxim of Catholic theology that the will necessarily seeks good, and cannot seek evil ratione mali, but only ratione boni, whence all sin that has ever been committed up to the first lapse from God of Satan, has been caused by the desire for an apparent good, and had its ground not in an evil nature but in the defectibility of a creature that has been drawn out of nothingness, and is therefore liable to fall away from that which is infinite, eternal and complete in the order of being, to that which is limited, temporal, and defective.

The doctrine of St. Augustine in regard to the eternal destiny of that portion of the rational creation, which actually and finally falls away from the sovereign good, must necessarily correspond with his doctrine of the cause and character of this fall.  The appalling doctrine which springs from the Calvinistic idea of Total Depravity must vanish with the disappearance of its substratum.  St. Augustine’s mind was too logical to hold a sophistical and inconsistent system.  If all that exists participates at least partially in good, existence cannot be a total and absolute evil to any nature, however far it may have fallen from its original archetype of good.  We find accordingly that St. Augustine teaches in explicit terms that existence is a good even to angels and men who are eternally bound by the consequences of sin; that they partially fulfill their ultimate end by contributing to the glory of God and the beauty of creation, and participate in a limited sense in the general order and harmony of the universe.

The logical and consistent Calvinist who comprehends perfectly his own theory, takes his starting point from the doctrine that God decreed the sin and the eternal misery of a large portion of His creatures as the necessary means of manifesting His attributes in the most perfect manner.  St. Augustine distinctly repudiates this revolting doctrine, which, like others from the same school, we fully agree with, the “Autocrat of the Breakfast Table” in saying ought to drive anyone mad who believes it.  He is replying to a certain minus intelligens objector, who says it would follow from certain premises of St. Augustine that,

“The Objector – Even our sins are necessary to the perfection of the universe which God made.  How then does he justly punish sins, in the lack of which his creation would not have been full and perfect?  St. Augustine – To this answered, that sins themselves and misery itself, are not necessary to the perfection of the universe, but the souls inasmuch as they are souls.” – De Lib. Arb., 3. 26.

God, therefore, created all spirits in view of the good in which they participate by their existence, and not in view of inflicting punishment on any of them in order to manifest His justice.  We may conclude from this, that all spiritual beings who have sinned are preserved in immortality on account of the good which remains in them, and not in order to make them suffer pain.  In the same wonderful treatise on Free Will, from which the foregoing extract is taken, the great Catholic Doctor expresses in still plainer language both these ideas; viz., that it is better for a soul which God foresaw would sin and remain forever in sin, to have been created than not to have been created, and better to exist forever in that state rather than to be annihilated.

“Neither, indeed, did God withhold the largesse of His goodness from that creature which he foresaw would not only sin but also persevere in the determination of sinning, so as not to create it.  For as even a shying horse is better than a stone that does not shy because it lacks motion and sense in itself, so a creature which sins by free-will is more excellent than one which does not sin because it does not possess free-will.” – ibid. 3. 15.

“If the entire angelic creation had fallen away from his precepts by sinning, He would regulate all things in the best and most becoming manner by His own Majesty; not even thus envying the spiritual creation its existence.” Ibid., 35.

In accordance with this idea of existence in its beginning and its eternal duration as a real boon from God even to those who forfeit the chief good, St. Augustine explains the idea of spiritual and eternal death contained in Holy Scripture, in a sense entirely different from that of the extinction of all the good of being, and extermination from the sphere of the Divine Love.  Such terms as perdition, death, destruction, etc., taken in this sense, logically, imply annihilation.  Accordingly, we find a recent writer, Prof. Hudson, maintaining, with many signs of approbation from the Protestant press, the ultimate annihilation of the wicked.  This opinion is certainly less repugnant to reason than the notion of Hell as a sphere of absolute and infinite evil, and we do not wonder that some minds seek a refuge in it from the gloomy doctrine of Calvinism on the one hand, and the baseless system of Universalism on the other.  The great Catholic Doctor, whose wide-embracing, far-reaching, wisdom has anticipated many of the latest questionings of the human soul on these awful subjects, resorts to no such desperate cutting of the intertwisted strands of the great cable of Chrisitan doctrine.  His vast mind swings easily on the broad bosom of Truth, and while it holds firmly to the anchorage of faith, does not chafe and fret reason by too violent a strain.  He neither gives up the revealed doctrine that the ultimate result of sin is eternal death, nor the immortality of all spiritual beings, but he interprets them in accordance with his grand idea of the goodness of God and of all His works.  Eternal death is a subsidence into a lower form of life, a lapse into an inferior mode of existence, a privation of the highest vital influx from God in order to everlasting life or supreme beatitude, but not of all vital flux in order to an endless existence which is a partial and incomplete participation in good.  

“The will, etc., sins.  And thus man having become proud and curious and lascivious, is received into another life which, in comparison with the former life, is death, but which, nevertheless, is ruled by the administration of Divine Providence, that assigns all things to their proper places and distributes to each one what belongs to him, according to his merits.”

Eternal death is then a relative term to the higher life of the beatific state, and is to be preferred to a complete extinction of being, as St. Augustine argues at length in another place.

“Wherefore, let not the fact that sinful souls are vituperated move you to say in your heart that it would be better they should not exist.  For they are vituperated by comparison with themselves, while we think what they would have been if they had not sinned.  Nevertheless, their Creator God is to be praised to the highest degree that our human faculties will permit, not only because he disposes of them justly when they have sinned, but also because He has made them such, that even when they are defiled by sin they are in no respect surpassed by the dignity of corporeal light, on account of which He is notwithstanding justly praised.” – Ibid. 3. 12.

“If anyone should say: I would rather not be, than be miserable; I should answer: You lie.” – 18.

“It is in no way possible that anyone should prefer not to be.” – 23.

“Consider, therefore, so far as you are able, how great a good is being itself, when both the blessed and the miserable desire it.” – 20.

If then sinful souls are good so far as they have positive being, and their existence is a real good to themselves and the universe, they must in a measure fulfill the end of their creation, and have a place and function in harmony with the general order of the cosmos.  St. Augustine develops this idea most beautifully in his treaise De Libero Arbitrio, to which we must refer those who wish to read his own words, for fear of overloading our pages with extracts.  The place he assigns them is that of the ornatum congruentissimum infimae corporeae creaturae.  He draws a sublime sketch of the plan of the universe, showing how all things rise in a graduated ascending series, from the lowest form of existence, to the highest.  At the summit are the beatified spirits, and between these and the material world is the place into which sinful souls have fallen.  Here, they adorn the universe by their natural beauty and excellence, and fulfill certain offices deputed to them by the great Ruler of all things.  The idea of St. Augustine seems to be that they preside over the forces and elements of the material world, and regulate the outer cosmos.  Their place is on the confines of the intellectual universe of which they form the lowest and outermost circle, and they are the connecting link between the material and spiritual kingdoms of God’s empire.  They are the equals of the beatified angels and men in nature, but their inferiors in office.  Their existence is not a blot on the universe, but their extension would mar its beauty.  Not that their fall was necessary, in order to fulfill the sphere they occupy; but that God has assigned them a sphere and an office, below the celestial, which would have been provided for in another way if they had merited a higher one.  As if, for instance, a Colonel should assign picket duty to a company that had mutinied, which would otherwise have been performed by the whole regiment, without any exclusion from the honors and privileges of soldiers in good standing.

Everyone must see that the doctrine of St. Augustine in regard to the future destiny of those who have sinned, excludes completely a certain class of most appalling views in regard to eternal punishment, which prevail to a certain extent in the popular teaching and belief of various Christian communities.  There is no trace of the idea that God hates a portion of his creatures with an absolute, infinite, and eternal hatred, and is hated with a perfect and eternally enduring hatred by them in return, to the utmost extent of their capacity.  On the contrary, the original act of created love, which brought every creature into being, is represented as an enduring and eternal act, in which even Satan is included.  This act of love from God as First Cause, is reflected back toward God by a partial return toward him as Final Cause, even by Satan; of whom St. Thomas, in accordance with the teaching of his master, says, that it is impossible for him to hate God in the natural order.

There is no trace of the idea that God has withdrawn Himself from a portion of His creatures, except so far as to retain them in existence, that they may be capable of enduring a pain as a creature can suffer.  That He exerts His omnipotence to inflict an extreme and unmitigated torment on the lost.  That those who die in sin lose all that is good in their nature, and all good of existence, become completely evil and continue to grow everlastingly in the direction of an infinite wickedness which merits a corresponding degree of pain.

On the contrary, St. Augustine teaches that God preserves in endless existence those creatures who have forfeited their capacity of attaining to the supreme good, because of the good of which they are still capable.  That their nature still remains essentially good and far superior in excellence and beauty to material light, which is the highest corporeal substance; so good that it is too good to be destroyed.  That so far from violating the divine law or order and harmony in the universe, they fulfill it in their proper place and office, and that, although forever excluded from the celestial sphere, they have not fallen into a sphere of absolute evil, but into one of a lower degree of good.  “Minus sunt quam erant, cum per animae peccatum minus ad illum moventur; nec tamen penitus separantur.” Civ. Dei, 19. 13.

St. Augustine no doubt teaches that sinners endure severe suffering throughout eternity, as a penalty for violating the moral law of their Creator.  Yet this very suffering he makes a result and a sign of the goodness of their nature, and consistent with a certain degree of peace,

“Grief for lost good in a state of punishment, is a witness of a good nature.  For he who grieves for the lost peace of his nature, grieves for it, by means of some remains of peace, by which it is caused that nature should be friendly to itself.”   - ibid.

The lost soul is not in a state of absolute strife and conflict with itself, not altogether dead to happiness. 

“Wherefore, as there is a certain life without pain, but there can be no pain without some life; so there is a certain peace without any war, but there can be no war without some peace; not inasmuch as it is war, but inasmuch as it is carried on by or in those, who are natures of some kind, which they could in no wise be, if they did not subsist in some degree of peace.  Wherefore there is a nature in which there is and can possibly be no evil; but there cannot be a nature in which there is no good.” 

The theology of St. Augustine necessarily demands the recognition of a certain degree of beatitude in all those intelligent beings who have lost the supreme beatitude of heaven.  For they participate in some way in the life, the peace, and the goodness of God, by their very nature; and in so far as they have positive existence, they participate in His Being, and therefore in His Beatitude, since His being is essential beatitude.  However great their suffering from the pain of loss or the pain of sense may be, according to the doctrine of St. Augustine, it cannot be such throughout eternity, as to destroy the good of existence, and make it a pure, unmitigated, penal evil, to live forever;  to make it the very end of their immortality to endure a positive infliction of vindictive torments without end or diminution.

St. Augustine not only teaches that those who have committed actual sin suffer, but also, that infants, dying in original sin, likewise suffer, though they have no personal sin whatever by which they have merited punishment.  It is on account of this doctrine that he is accused of teaching a cruel and unjust system, even by those who believe in the eternal punishment of actual, personal sins.  From this he has received the name of durus pater infantium, and is supposed to have had a gloomy, inhuman and pitiless spirit, which could delight itself, like the fabulous ogre of the nursery story-book, in the spectacle of hapless infants writhing in torments.

 Whatever we may think of St. Augustine’s opinion on this particular point, the spirit of his teaching has been much misrepresented, through a confusion of his ideas of original sin, depravation of nature, and eternal death, with Calvinistic notions.

He taught the eternal suffering of unregenerate infants, because he thought it a necessary consequence from the doctrine of original sin, as explained in the foregoing article of this Review.  His contest with the Pelagians required him to bring out as clearly as possible the Catholic dogma which they denied, and to insist on the truth that infants dying in original sin are excluded from everlasting life.  He does not, however, as many suppose, teach that the soul of an unregenerate infant is a vile and unclean thing, the object of hatred to God and holy beings, and therefore worthy to be made the victim of Divine anger and vindictive justice throughout eternity.  All that he writes on the subject breathes the spirit of love and pity, and in one passage of exquisite beauty and tenderness he rebukes those who, through a false notion of original sin looked on newborn infants before baptism with abhorrence.  The first part of the extract is a quotation from St. Cyprian.

“Nor should any one of us,” he says, “abhor that which the Lord has deigned to make.  For although the infant has been but newly brought forth, it is not such, nevertheless, that one ought to abhor kissing it, when grace is to be given to it, and peace imparted: since in the kissing of the infant, every one according to his piety ought to think of the recent hands of God, which in a certain manner we kiss in a human being just formed and recently born, when we embrace that which God has made.”

“Did he who thus praises the Creator and the creature, the artificer and his work, even restraining and correcting the disgust of the senses by which men disdain to kiss children recently from the womb, by interposing the reverence due to the Creator himself, saying, etc.?  Did he, in confessing original sin, condemn either nature or marriage?  Did he, because he applied the purification of regeneration to one born in Adam’s guilt, therefore deny that God is the creator of those who are born?  Did he, because from fear lest any however young should perish, he decreed with a council of his colleagues that children should be liberated by the sacrament of baptism before the eighth day, therefore accuse marriage, when he shows that the recent hands of God are worthy of the kiss of peace in the infant?  If therefore the holy bishop and most glorious martyr Cyprian could think that original sin is to be healed by the medicine of Christ in infants, saving the praise of the creature, saving the praise of marriage; why does this pestilent novelty which dares not call him a Manichaean, think to impute to Catholics who maintain the same things, a crime which does not belong to them, in order to screen themselves?”

The infant child, although born in original sin, and therefore degenerate from its archetype of perfection, is thus, according to St. Augustine, worthy of love and reverence as a work of God.  It has no actual and personal sin, and if it dies, is forever incapable of committing any sin and incurring any demerit.  Its eternal separation from God as the chief good, as we have already said, involved in the mind of St. Augustine the necessity of suffering.  He admits this necessity however with evident repugnance, endeavors to soften it down as much as possible, and evidently would be glad to escape from it altogether.  An able expositor of his doctrine on this point in modern times, Antoine, explains this suffering of infants dying in original sin as levis tristitia.  There is nothing in the simple and naked statement of the doctrine, made in this way, which mere philosophers, who appeal simply to the authority of reason, ought to condemn in such severe language as they have employed.  The idea amounts simply to this, that there is a certain element of pain incident to a mode of existence which is confined to the limitations of finite and created good.  There has been this element of pain, as a condition of existence in all orders of sentient creation, throughout all the long ages of their existence.  This element of pain is incident to our human life in all its stages, infancy included.  Nevertheless, the existence of sentient creatures, and the existence of man on earth is a good, and philosophers argue from it to the goodness and benevolence of the Creator.  Philosophy cannot show any reason to suppose that this element of pain will ever be eliminated from the life of rational and sentient creatures, throughout endless duration.  The very conception of a rational existence in which the utmost pain of which it is capable is a levis tristitia, presupposes the enjoyment of an amount of good which makes life on a the whole a great blessing.  We conclude therefore that St. Augustine’s doctrine is not liable to the severe denunciation which has been made against it.  But we do not intend to affirm that unbaptized infants dying in infancy suffer any actual pain, much less to maintain that anyone is bound to believe it, as of faith.

It is well known that St. Thomas and a great number of theologians with him, hold that those who die in original sin only, suffer no pain whatever from the privation of the beatific vision.  There is no theological reason why we should not suppose with Balmez that a large class of adults, especially among barbarous nations, whose intellectual and moral powers are feebly developed, are to be classed with infants, in respect to their future destiny.  We may admit also the limitations of freedom and accountability arising from causes within and without the individual, for which Dr. Holmes contends to strongly, just so far as sound reason can prove these limitations.  Just so far as these causes limit the freedom of the will, they must be admitted to diminish both personal guilt, and the liability to punishment.  We must also recognize within the sphere of voluntary action, all the gradations which exist, between the greatest amount of natural goodness compatible with the state of sin, and the greatest amount of sin compatible with the essential goodness of nature; with the corresponding gradations of punishment in eternity.  That class of Protestants represented by Miss Beecher, who insist so strongly on the liberty of the will, and who object not to eternal punishment as the penalty of voluntary transgression, but as due to an evil nature which sins by necessity, need find no difficulty on this score with the current theology Catholic writers and preachers.  For they always, in their most fearful delineations of the torments of hell, represent them as incurred by willful sins which might have been avoided by the aid of an easily accessible grace.  The notion of catholic doctrine as teaching that infants and young children and idiots, and ignorant persons, and all who are not in the external communion of the Catholic Church, are huddled indiscriminately into a furnace of infernal fire, is a mere phantom in the minds of those who entertain it.  We trust we have vindicated the theology of St. Augustine on this point, without seeking to deny or cover up the sterner and more rigorous views which he presents.  We do not wish to dent, however, that in his works there may be a certain amount of dross and crude material, which he had not time or opportunity to pass though the crucible of his own mind.  Opinions current in the thought of his day, interpretations of Scripture, floating traditions, statements accepted on the personal authority of men, imperfect conceptions resulting from the defects of his own mind, all these no doubt mingle with and alloy the pure gold of his doctrine.  They alloy the works of all the great theologians; they allow the theological teaching of all ages, and form the crude material from which heresies are developed.  No doubt Calvinism and Jansenism found some of this crude material in St. Augustine, and in the common theological tradition of all ages.  In these heresies, it has been brought out to its results, so that not only the Catholic intelligence rejects it, but reason also cries out against it.  We have no wish therefore to insist on a blind adhesion to the entire system of St. Augustine or of any other man, as pure, dogmatic truth; and thus to shut out all re-examination and discussion of his opinions.  It is the doctrine of St. Augustine, in so far as it is accepted as the basis of all Catholic theology and philosophy, and especially in so far as sanctioned by the definitions of the Church, that we value and insist upon.  These grand principles of his philosophy, so far as they relate to the origin, nature, and eternal effects of evil, we think we have fairly exhibited, and that they furnish a solution of this great problem which reason can apprehend and accept.  That he carries his solution successfully into all the details of the question as discussed at the present day, we do not pretend.  But we have shown that his fundamental idea of sin is, the lapse of a rational creature in the initial state of supernatural beatitude, into a sphere of inchoate and imperfect being, in which his destiny cannot be fulfilled.   His idea of hell is that this state is made perpetual, or that a soul remains forever below the plane of its destiny.  Now, this is all that the Church has ever defined in regard to Hell.  Petavius states that the dogma of faith is simply this: That there is a hell, or state of Eternal Damnation.  These words, in the English, are, as Dr. Holmes expresses it, “polarized” by the current of popular thought, and are fraught with fearful meaning to our ears.  The Latin word, Infernus, which the Church uses, expresses merely the Lower Sphere, or Sphere Below the Celestial, the abode of angels and men who are forever below the plane of their destiny.  The radical idea of the infernal state does not necessarily include positive suffering or torment, or the privation of any part of the natural good of physical and intellectual being.   It is the sphere of the inchoate and the undeveloped, of potential angels and saints nipped in the bud, and doomed to remain spiritual embryos forever.  Nevertheless, as St. Augustine says, “Si enim formae perfectio bonum est, non nullum jam bonum est et formae inchoatio.” De Lib. Arb., 2. 54.

The question, whether the privation of the supreme good necessarily produces intense pain, or any main, in the common sense of the word, has not been decided by the Church.  We think it quite certain that we can hold, in perfect conformity with the general spirit and tenor of Catholic theology, that even those who have forfeited heaven by their own personal sins, still enjoy that good and that happiness of which their nature is capable.  This is perfectly consistent with the doctrine that they suffer a pain, whether it be a pain of loss only, or also a pain of sense, varying from the mowest degree of inteisty in the least sinful, to the highest in the most guilty.  The great Thomist theologian, Billuart, argues that angels have from their very nature a perfect knowledge and love of God as the Author of nature, and even after their fall are obliged “Illum diligere ut Auctorem naturalem et esse conversos ad Deum ut Auctorem naturalem physice et necessario per naturam.”  He also says that some, whose opinion he considers probable, maintain “quod daemones sint simpliciter et absolute miseri propter poenas et miserias quibus afficiuntur, et secundum quid beati; ratione cognitionis et dilectionis naturalis Dei, sicut, inquiunt, homo qui inter durissimos cruciatus perfectissimam Dei contemplationem haberet, posset dici beatus secundum quid.” Tract. De Angelis, Diss. 4, art. 1.  (Google trans. “To love Him as a natural Author and to be converted to God as a natural Author physically and necessarily through nature…that the demons are simply and absolutely miserable because of the punishments and miseries to which they are affected, and in some respects blessed;  on account of the natural knowledge and love of God, just as, they say, a man who had the most perfect contemplation of God in the midst of the most severe tortures, could be said to be truly blessed.”)

The doctrine of eternal and positive suffering as the penalty of sin, graduated according to a scale of merit, is not then incompatible with the idea that hell is the sphere of the most perfect natural good which can exist in a state of inchoate and incomplete being, even though these sufferings be not expiatory, but vindictive, and not subject to diminution.  F. Faber asserts, however, that the common opinion before the time of Durandus was, that there are “condonations within certain limits;” and an able writer in the London Tablet remarks that the celebrated M. Emery, a former Superior General of the Sulpicians, also advocated this opinion. Another writer in the Rambler asserts that it is the prevalent opinion in the Greek Church.   The notion of temporal punishment joined with the eternal penalty of sin, is not then one which is new in theology.  Jeremy Taylor, whose doctrine on this matter is sound, and whose knowledge of the Fathers was profound, says in his third sermon on Christ’s Advent, “I observe that the primitive doctors were very willing to believe that the mercy of God would find out a period to the torment of accursed souls.”  Billuart admits that there may be temporal punishment in hell for venial sins and mortal sins which have been remitted in the Sacrament of Penance.  How far all punishment beyond the perpetual exclusion form the sovereign beatitude in heaven, may be expiatory and purgative, removing from the sphere of the natural the disorder of sin, and compensating for the violation of the moral law, which is strictly a finite act, by a finite endurance of pain, is a question which appears worthy of deep consideration.  That a certain modified admission of the temporal element of punishment with the essential and eternal poena damni is compatible with the generally received principles of scholastic theology, seems quite certain.  The extension of the theory of temporal punishment so far as to include the ultimate cessation of all punishment in the case of those who have committed actual sin, over and above the essential punishment which constitutes the radical idea of hell, would seem to contradict scholastic theology.  Yet there is some reason in what Jeremy Taylor says in the sermon already quoted, that “when the schoolmen go about to reconcile the Divine justice to that severity, and consider why God punishes eternally a temporal sin, or a state of evil, they speak variously, and uncertainly, and unsatisfyingly.”  The wise and holy prelate who occupies the highest place in our national hierarchy, and who is as free from the spirit of rash speculation as he is from undue subserviency to the authority of the schools, gives his judgment that, “But what  supplications are designated in the Scriptures by the name of fire, no one has explained with sufficient success; and that it is sufficient to maintain that the punishment of hell is that which arises from the very condition of sinners, when they are far from the kingdom of heaven.” – Kenr. Theol. Dogm., Tr 10, ch. 3.

There seems to be no reason, then, why we should not re-examine and discuss everything which the scholastic theologians have said on the whole subject.  We have no wish to press any theory as positively certain.  We merely desire to insist that the whole question, except so far as the Church has given a formal definition, is strictly within the domain of theological science, and that a thorough discussion, which must eventually serve to a fuller intelligence of the Catholic doctrine, is desirable.  Many, no doubt, from pure and respectable motives, will deprecate such a discussion.  We would not wish to encourage it merely for the sake of curiosity.  Our motive is entirely different.  There is a growing repugnance to the popular doctrine on eternal punishment among the most intelligent of the catholic laity, and this same repugnance is the chief obstacle to the reception of the faith by a large class of non-Catholics.  True charity and zeal require us, therefore, to do our utmost to resolve the difficulties which trouble and endanger these souls. We do not believe it possible to smother up discussion, or to quell the intelligence of this thinking age by the weight of any human authority, however respectable.  Whatever theological opinions we may hold, we have no right to insist on anything except the dogma of faith, as necessary to Catholic communion and salvation; whether we are dealing with our spiritual brethren in the Church, or with the doubting and unsettled minds of those whom we seek to bring within her fold.  As Archbishop Kenrick asserts, with Petavius, Perrone, and other standard writers: “Regarding the types of executions with which the condemned are punished, the Church has not put forward any definition.”  It is for wise reasons that the Church, or rather the Holy Ghost has hitherto abstained from such a definition.  We must imitate this wisdom, and press nothing as absolutely necessary to be believed, beyond the indubitable, revealed fact, that there is a Hell or State of Eternal Damnation.  We must also seek to make this statement appear to be in conformity with the dictates of reason, and remove the difficulties which arise from a misconception of its meaning.

We have already endeavored to show from philosophical and theological principles derived from St. Augustine, that the radical idea of the Infernal World, the existence and endless duration of which is revealed by God, is that of a sphere below the plane of their destiny; that the eternal evil and destiny of this state are negative and positive evil and misery; consisting in the privation of the infinite and sovereign good which is God, as perfectly and immutably possessed in the state of glorification or Deification of the creature.  This outlying sphere of the Universe, the sphere of the inchoate, the potential, and the undeveloped, of the finite, the mutable, and the imperfect, admits of endless evolution and progress.  That there should be such a sphere, an ignis aeternus, or material world in the state of restless and endless fusion, flux and motion, under the impulse of active process directed by intelligent beings, cannot seem strange to Positivist and material philosophers of our day.  It is the endless continuation of that which they tell us has been going on for millions of years.  They expect it to continue forever.  The endless progression toward a state of perfect and absolute being which can never be reached, is their highest idea of heaven.  It is a very common idea of Protestants also.  The conception of Heaven as a state of supernatural beatitude belongs to the theology of the Catholic Church, and is not found out of it, except as derived from it.  What objection can be made, then, to the doctrine, that such a world as they conceive does exist, but that above it there exists a higher and more perfect sphere, of which they have never formed any conception?  What objection can be made to the doctrine, that angels and the human race have had the opportunity of rising to this higher sphere, and that a portion of these intelligent creatures having failed to do so, have been left perpetually in the lower one, instead of having been destined to no other, by the primal law of their being?  If the state of the lapsed, who remain forever in the condition of the inchoate existence in Christian Theology, is equal to the highest ideal of being known to Positivist philosophy, which presents the most honorable view of God and human nature?

We have not space left to specificate the foregoing remarks to meet the objections of the different classes of thinkers represented by the three writers placed at the head of our article, as carefully as we had intended.  We did not design at the outset to criticize the Introductory Essay to Mr. Buckle’s little volume, but merely to make use of it as containing in a concise and convenient form a certain view of the Augustinian Theology which we desired to say something about.  We had chiefly in view to discuss the objections to Catholic Theology found in the works of Miss Beecher and Dr. Holmes.  We trust that Miss Beecher will see that her objections against Catholic Theology are founded on a mistaken opinion that it is identical with the Calvinistic system, and that in every respect in which she can sustain an appeal to the Common Sense of the People, we can do it at least successfully.

Though we cannot pay our respects to Dr. Holmes as fully as we intended, we think that the principle from which a large class of misconceptions of Catholic doctrine scattered through his writings, spring, has been appreciated and discussed in the foregoing pages. We have read most of his work with care, with great interest, and to a certain extent with cordial sympathy.  Though they are flavored with the most delicious humor, and often sparkling with the brightest scintillations of wit, they are the production of a serious and thoughtful mind, chiefly intent on solving the deep religious problems with which the Brahminical caste in New England has always been occupied.  They are among the best of creations of that new school of literature which has recently sprung up in New England, and which is represented by the Atlantic Monthly.  We rate their importance, and their significance as indicating and to a great extent guiding the new religious movement of the most highly cultivated intellect of Ne England, as very high.  We think it of much more consequence to pay attention to all that is brought against the Catholic Church by this class of writers, than to spend all our time with controversies rapidly becoming obsolete.  It appears to us that the objections made against the Catholic Church by Dr. Holmes can be reduced to two principal heads.  One is that it smothers reason by exacting a servile submission to human authority.  This is we think satisfactorily answered in another article of the present number of this Review, as well as in previous articles bearing on the same subject.  The other is that the Catholic Church exaggerates the evil and sin of human nature and the human race; overlooks the good and the beautiful elements of this world and human life; enlarges too much the sphere of moral accountability; and darkens the light of God’s goodness and love to His creatures by too severe a doctrine of divine justice.  If we may characterize the spirit that breathes through the writings of Dr. Holmes by an expression borrowed from the scholastics, who did not always tell lies when they spoke Latin, we will call it, with Dr. Kittredge’s permission, the amor entis.  He does not see this amor entis in Catholic Theology.  While he recognizes the intellectual movement toward the catholic Church which is going on, as a fact, he draws a most unfavorable picture in the Rev. Mr. Fairweather, of the mental feebleness and morbid moral temper of converts to the Catholic faith.  We have endeavored to show that the amor entis, which is an essential attribute of God, is recognized as the first principle of Catholic Theology and Philosophy.  It is this which in reality attracts to the bosom of the Ancient and Universal Mother those who have been brought up under the chilling and gloomy influence of Puritanism.  Because they sought a religion which can satisfy the rational nature, and recognize all that is good in man and the earth; a religion joyous and cheerful, ministering to the heart and the imagination, as well as the head; emancipating the spirit from servility, gloom and formalism, and cultivating the supernatural without destroying the natural; therefore they have embraced the Catholic religion.  They have embraced it as the Religion of Divine and Human Love.  We may fail to convince others that it is so, through our inability to present it in its true light.  But if ever the Sage and Prophet shall be sent to do it, and to vindicate the ways of God to the men of the present and the coming time, he will be the St. John the Baptist of a new era, in which suffering and struggling humanity, so loved of God, and vaguely yearning for His Love, shall find the Object of its search.  He will accomplish for our age that work which the great Doctors of Antiquity, “upon whom rested an after-glow of the Holy Inspiration of the sacred writers” performed for their own epoch, viz., the reconciliation of all that is true in modern thought and philosophy with the  immutable, living, divine truths of Revelation.