« AnteriorContinuar »
built up, the whole edifice will be in danger of falling to pieces. It is like a web, the last meshes of which are not well fastened ; if these are loosened, there is danger that all the rest will ravel out one after another.
In the first place, it is not asserted with full conviction and distinctness, that the communication of Christ in the sacrament has its cause not in an act of faith, but that it has its condition in a state of faith.
Secondly, it is not stated with sufficient conviction and distinctness, that it is not to the mens, but to the anima that Christ communicates himself.
Thirdly, it is not declared with full conviction and clearness, that the glorified body of Christ is throughout and entirely power.
We say that these three points were not expressed with full consciousness and distinctne88. Expressed they were, but more in an immediate conviction, or sense of truth, just as the church fathers were in the same way accustomed to express the true doctrine of the Lord's Supper, without pretending, however, to guard against misrepresentation. Thus Calvin and the Palatines were right in saying that faith is the receptive organ, but of the opposite of this, they were not conscious;
, and when Harchey made faith to be the efficient agent, no one seems to have seen clearly that this was another doctrine entirely. Thus Calvin and the Palatines said distinctly enough, that it was the soul, the substantial germ of the new man, that was fed with Christ; and just here it is that we are brought to the consciousness of the opposite opinion, that it is not to the intellectus that Christ imparts himself; although at the same time, we find whole rows of Reformed divines, who afterwards asserted that it was the mens, which was fed with Christ. Calvin indeed defines the body of Christ to be essentially an existing power. This, however, is the very idea that was first given up; and the Palatines themselves looked upon the glori
. fied body of Christ far too much as gross matter, made up of “flesh and bones," although as it regards this third point the Lutherans did the very same thing, and by insisting upon the "true" body and blood of Christ, provoked the Palatines to this grosser conception.
Do we now ask, to what it would lead, if positive errors crept into these poorly protected points ?
So soon, in the first place, as we regard the subjective faith as the efficient agent, we' change the holy supper from a sacrament into an occasion for the exercise of faith. It becomes nothing more, strange as it may sound. In what then do the sacraments consist? In a sign, with which the promise of a communication of Christ was bound up? In a certain sense this is true ; but what sort of a communication is this? The Christian elevates himself in his thoughts and feelings either to the glorified Christ, or to the suffering Christ on the cross. He embraces him in his heart, and realizes, not only the previous propitiatory act of Christ, but assuredly also the life union, once for all subsisting between himself and Christ; and still more this union actually strengthens itself just in proportion as the Christian strengthens his subjective faith. All this is so far good; a strengthening of this central union with Christ really takes place; but it is such a strengthening, as it is in the power of every believer to effect at any time, without the sacrament. The promise connected with this sign is the general promise and nothing more, that by an increase of faith, we will be more and more inwardly united to Christ. In this way the edifying side of the sacrament comes to its right, but the comforting is very much overlooked. Everything depends upon how far, in the momentary excitement of his faith, the communicant is able to press his work of faith. Here comes in the charge that was falsely made against Calvin, that the soul must first raise itself to heaven to bring down the Saviour. The lightning misses, the rod alone remains. But what is to become of those who are weak in faith? What of the penitent who would gladly believe, but cannot? Of those who feel themselves to be in a state of drought? To these the Lord—the representation is dishonoring to him-holds out the bread of life afar off, and says : Only come and take it for yourselves; and they are lame, and not able! No, the sacrament is a sacrament in this, that Christ comes to us, and when the certainty is wanting, that Christ gives and communicates himself to us wholly and entirely-without respect to the grade of our faith, which we first bring with us, or to the increase of our faith, which at the time we are able to effect—then the sacrament also entirely fails, and is of no avail. We could say that Christ bestows his Spirit upon us, that we may raise ourselves up to him; but then we would again be affirming that fundamentally false dualism, between the Holy Spirit without Christ, and Christ without the Holy Spirit. Both are inseparably connected. Christ communicates himself to us by the objective operation of his Spirit ; by which our weak faith is then strengthened. The first objective consciousness is that objective communication, which is made to all, who do not positively reject it ; the second is the confirmation of our faith, by means of that communication. It is not the subjective operation of the Spirit, together with the subjective effort of faith, which is the first, and then the communication of Christ, which is the second.
At the same time Berents was doubtful of this first point.* Ile could readily see that Calvin and the Palatines were positively right throughout; he would have done better, therefore, if he had clearly and distinctly presented the true question for discussion, and had insisted upon an avowal of their principles from his opponents, so that all misunderstanding might have been avoided. But the true precise point of enquiry—the difference between a believing act as a cause, and a believing state as a condition—was as obscure to him as it was to the others. In addition to this his doubts were increased upon another point.
The soul is here represented as that to which Christ communicates himself. But at that time, the Scriptural trichotomy was generally kept far in the rear of the scholastic and vulgar dichotomy of body and soul, according to which, the soul was regarded as nothing more than the thinking principle. As far as Calvin, and with him the Palatines, were from entertaining this notion, and clearly and distinctly as they taught that the inward substance of the soul was really fed and nourished with Christ, there was still, however, nothing done to obviate the spiritual misapprehension, that by the soul was meant the sphere of thought, and that Christ was called the food of the soul, in a figurative sense, as he of whom we know, that he in a juridical, theological sense, has acquired for us life, i. e., justification, the right to eternal life. This misapprehension was never obviated, until it was asserted in decided opposition, that by the soul was not to be understood the mens, but the psychical life-substance itself. The danger of misapprehension must, however, necessarily increase, when with the more general prevalence of scholasticism, the idea of a life communion was for the most part lost sight of, and the conception of a juridical imputation of the merits of Christ, by a forensic act was brought into view. This was the case from the first with the Lutheran divines. At a later period, a whole row of Reformed theologians understood the expression, that Christ nourished the soul to life, in that spiritualistic, figurative sense, and for anima substituted mens. But what was the consequence of such misapprehension ? Nothing less than this, that the whole real life communion was resolved into nothing, and the real communication of Christ was changed into a subjective thinking of the title to eternal life acquired for us by Christ. In this way, we are brought again to Megandrian Zwinglianism. We must not then judge too harshly of good Father Berents' doubts. That Calvin and the Palatines did not so understand the matter, he could have seen very well, and he would probably have so seen and acknowledged it, if it had not been that there was a third point to be considered.
* That he really wished and looked for what was right, appears in his letter to Duke Albert of Prussia, in 1563. (Hartman III, 560.) He admits that we also receive the body and blood of Christ without the sacrament; but without the sacrament a “ timid, faint-hearted, anxious believer, would by no means be satisfied. Such a conscience is not provided for and comforted, by receiving the body and blood of Christ apart from the Lord's Supper." He saw indistinctly, what I have endeavored to express clearly.
We are compelled to admit that the Reformed had full right in refusing to recognize such a communicatio idiomatum, as
required a communication of the attributes of the one nature of Christ, to the other. It was satisfactorily shown, that this communicatio idiomatum is nothing less than a falling down from a Nestorianizing ground-principle to a Eutychianizing conclusion. In the first place, they conceived the divinity and the humanity of Christ to be “two parts,” “two substances," and did not perceive that the divinity is that eternal essence before and beyond the sphere of time, that, in time form entered into humanity. They did not see that in the incarnate Son of God, the divinity continued in its eternally unchanged and unchangeable relation of unity to the Father, and the humanity in its temporal and diversified relations to mankind, to time and history. We fail to perceive the unity which already exists, and suppose that the two natures in Christ himself are not yet fully united. We think that the divinity is in status exinanitionis, not yet fully come to its right, and that it will only hereafter take place, at its ascension into heaven-and then at the expense of the true humanity. In this, there is covered up a still deeper fundamental error. The Lutheran divines consider the incarnation as such, the entrance of the Logos into the sphere of finiteness, as a humiliation of the divinity, and for this reason, the divinity must in some way be released from this sphere. The Reformed divines, more correctly regard the incarnation as such, to be the height of the glorification of God, in time, and of his trinitarian efficiency It is the marriage of the Creator with the creature ; and as such, the last and highest aim of the doings of God; and it is only in taking upon himself the forma servi, only in the Logos taking upon himself our humanity, subject to all the consequences of sin, that his humiliation consists. So also, in accordance with this view, they also regard the exaltation of Christ, not as a release from the limits of time and space; but solely as the deliverance, in Christ, as the first fruits of our humanity, from the consequences of sin—as the translation of our humanity in bondage to death, into that glorified, perfect humanity, answering even as to the body, to its true and proper idea.