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

The learning and candour of Seripando were conspicuous


The

discussion showed how deeply the division ran. Some theologians were prepared to accept the purely Lutheran view that Justification was by Faith alone. They were in a small minority, and were noisily interrupted. One of them, Thomas de San Felicio, Bishop of La Cava, and a Neapolitan, came to blows with a Greek Bishop. The debate then centred round the mediating view of the doctrine, which Contarini had advocated in his _Tractatus de Justificatione_, and which may be said to represent the position of the New Thomists. It seemed to commend itself to a majority of the delegates. The leader of the party was Girolamo Seripando (1493-1553), since 1539 the General of the Augustinian Eremites, the Order to which Luther had belonged.[712] He distinguished between an imputed and an inherent righteousness, a distinction corresponding to that between prevenient and co-operating grace, and to some extent not unlike that between Justification and Sanctification in later Protestant theology. In the former, the imputed righteousness of Christ, lay the only hope for man; inherent righteousness was based upon the imputed, and was useless without it. The learning and candour of Seripando were conspicuous; his pleading seemed about to carry the Council with him, when Lainez intervened to save the situation for the strictly papal party. The Jesuit theologian accepted the distinction made between imputed and inherent righteousness; he even admitted that the former was alone efficacious in Justification;
but he alleged that in practice at least the two kinds of righteousness touched each other, and that it would be dangerous to practical theology to consider them as wholly distinct. His clear plausible reasoning had great effect, and the ambiguities of his address are reflected in the looseness of the definitions in the decree.

The definition of the doctrine of Justification which was adopted by the Council is very lengthy. It contains sixteen chapters followed by thirty-three canons. It naturally divides into three divisions--chapters i.-ix. describing what Justification is; chapters x.-xiii. the increase of Justification; and chapters xiv.--xvi. the restoration of Justification when it is lost. Almost every chapter includes grave ambiguities.

The first section is the most important. It begins with statements which are in themselves evangelical. All men have come under the power of sin, and are unable to deliver themselves either by their strength of nature or by the aid of the letter of the law of Moses.[713] Our Heavenly Father sent His Son and set Him forth as the propitiator through faith in His blood for our sins.[714] It is then said that all do not accept the benefits of Christ's death, although He died for all, but only those to whom the merit of His passion is communicated; and this statement is followed by a rather confused sentence which suggests but commits no one to the Augustinian doctrine of election.[715] This is followed up by saying that Justification is the translation from that condition in which man is born into a condition of grace through Jesus Christ our Saviour; and it is added that this translation, in the Gospel dispensation, does not happen apart from Baptism or _the wish to be baptized_.[716] In spite of some ambiguities, these first four chapters have quite an Evangelical ring about them; but with the fifth a change begins. While some sentences seem to maintain the Evangelical ideas previously stated, room is distinctly made for Pelagian work-righteousness. It is said, for example, that Justification is wrought through the _gratia praeveniens_ or _vocatio_ in which adults are called apart from any merit of their own; but then it is added that the end of this calling is that sinners may be _disposed_, by God's inciting and aiding grace, to _convert themselves_ in order to their own justification by freely assenting to and co-operating with the grace of God.[717] This was the suggestion of Lainez. The good disposition into which sinners are to be brought is said to consist of several things, of which the first is faith--defined to be a belief that the contents of the divine revelation are true. In the two successive chapters faith is declared to be only the beginning of Justification; and Justification itself, in flat contradiction to what had been said previously, is no longer a translation from one state to another; it becomes the actual and gradual conversion of a sinner into a righteous man. It is scarcely necessary to pursue the definitions further. It is sufficient to say that the theologians of Trent do not seem to have the faintest idea of what the Reformers meant by faith, and never appear to see that there is such a thing as religious experience.


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