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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

That God is simply Dominium Absolutum


their mediaeval predecessors.

They had rejected altogether the authority of the Church, and they could not make use of the thought to warrant either the authority of Scripture or a correct interpretation of its contents. In the place of it they put what they called _reason_. "The use of right reason (_rectae rationis_) is great in things which pertain to salvation, since without it, it is impossible either to grasp with certainty the authority of Scripture, or to understand those things that are contained in it, or to deduce some things from other things, or, finally, to recall them to put them to use (_ad usum revocari_)." The _certitudo sacrarum litterarum_ is accordingly established, or attempted to be proved, by a series of external proofs which appeal to the ordinary reasoning faculties of man. The Reformation conception of the Witness of the Spirit, an essential part of its doctrine of Scripture, finds no place in Socinian theology. They try to establish the authority of Scripture without any appeal to faith; the Confessions of the Reformation do not recognise any infallibility or divine authority which is otherwise apprehended than by faith. The Reformation and the Socinian doctrines are miles apart; but the Socinian and the mediaeval approach each other closely. It is somewhat difficult to know what books the older Socinians recognise as their rule of faith. They did not accept the Canon of the mediaeval Church. They had no difficulty about the New Testament; but the references to the Old Testament
in the Racovian Catechism are very slight: its authority is guaranteed for them by the references to it in the New Testament.

When we turn to the Socinian statements about _God_, and to their assertions about the _nature and meaning of the Work of Christ_, we find the clearest proof of their mediaeval origin. The Scotist theology is simply reproduced, and cleared of its limitations.

A fundamental conception of God lay at the basis of the whole Scotist theology. God, it maintained, could best be defined as _Dominium Absolutum_; man as set over against God they described as an individual free will. If God be conceived as simply _Dominium Absolutum_, we can never affirm that God _must_ act in any given way; we may not even say that He is bound to act according to moral considerations. He is high above all considerations of any kind. He does not will to act in any way because it is right; and action is right because God wills to act in that way. There can be neither metaphysical nor moral necessity in any of God's actions or purposes. This Scotist idea, that God is the absolutely arbitrary one, is expressed in the strongest language in the Racovian Catechism. "It belongs to the nature of God that He has the right and supreme power to decree whatsoever He wills concerning all things and concerning us, even in those matters with which no other power has to do; for example, He can give laws, and appoint rewards and penalties according to His own judgment, to our thoughts, hidden as these may be in the innermost recesses of our hearts."

If this thought, that God is simply _Dominium Absolutum_, be applied to explain the nature and meaning of the work of Christ, of the Atonement, it follows at once that


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