History of the christian church



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CHAPTER XIV.
THE SACRAMENTAL SYSTEM.
§ 112. Literature on the Sacraments.
Literature:—General Works: The Writings of Abaelard, Hugo of St. Victor, Peter Lombard, Alb. Magnus, Th. Aquinas, Bonaventura, Duns Scotus, and other Schoolmen.—G. L. Hahn: Lehre von d. Sakramenten, Breslau, 1864.—*J. Schwane: Dogmengesch. der mittleren Zeit, 787–1517, Frei b. 1882, pp. 579–693.—J. H. Oswald: D. dogmatische Lehre von d. hl. Sakramenten d. kathol. Kirche, 5th ed., Munich, 1894. The Histories of Christ. Doctr. of Fisher, pp. 254–263; Harnack, II. 462–562; Loofs, pp. 298–304; Seeberg, II. 107 sqq.—Hergenröther-Kirsch: Kirchengesch., II. 682–701. The works on Canon Law of Hinschius; P. Hergenröther (Rom. Cath.), pp. 667–684; Friedberg, pp. 374–495.—Hefele-Knöpfler, V. VI.—The art. Sakrament in Wetzer-Welte and Herzog.—D. S. Schaff: The Sacramental Theory of the Med. Ch. in "Princeton Rev.," 1906, pp. 206–236.

On the Eucharist, §§ 115, 116: Dalgairns: The Holy Communion, its Philos., Theol., and Practice, Dublin, 1861.—F. S. Renz: D. Gesch. d. Messopfer-Begriffs, etc., 1st vol., Alterthum und Mittelalter, Munich, 1901.—J. Smend: Kelchversagung und Kelchspendung in d. abendländ. Kirche, Götting., 1898.—A. Franz: D. Messe im deutschen Mittelalter, Freib., 1902.—Artt. Communion, Messe, Transubstantiation in Wetzer-Welte and Abendmahl and Kindercommunion in Herzog.

On Penance and Indulgences, §§ 117, 118: Joan Morinus: Comment. hist. de disciplina in administratione sacr. poenitentiae, Paris, 1651.—F. Beringer, S. J., transl. fr. the French by J. Schneider: D. Ablässe, ihr Wesen und Gebrauch, 12th ed., Paderb., 1900.—*K. Müller: D. Umschwung in der Lehre von d. Busse während d. 12ten Jahrhunderts, Freib., 1892.—H. C. Lea: A Formulary of the Papal Penitentiary in the 13th Century, Phil., 1892; *A Hist. of Auricular Confession and Indulgences, 3 vols. Phil., 1896.—* TH. Brieger: D. Wesen des Ablasses am Ausgange des Mittelalters, Leipzig., 1897.—A. Kurtz: D. kathol. Lehre vom Ablass vor und nach dem Auftreten Luthers, Paderb., 1900.—C. M. Roberts: Hist. of Confession until it developed into Auric. Conf. a.d. 1215, London, 1901.—* W. Köhler: Dokumente zum Ablassstreit vom 1517, Tübing., 1902. Very convenient, containing thirty-two of the most important documents on the subject and including Jacob von Juterbocks, Tract. de indulgentiis, c. 1451, and excerpts from the Coelifodina, 1502.—* A. Gottlob: Kreuzablass u. Almosenablass, Stuttg., 1906.—A. M. Koeninger: D. Beicht nach Caesarius von Heisterbach, Mun., 1906.—Artt. Ablass, *Bussdisciplin by Funk, II. 1562–1590. and Busse, II. 1590–1614, in Wetzer-Welte and *Indulgenzen by Th. Brieger in Herzog, IX. 76–94. For other Lit. see Brieger’s art. in Herzog

On Extreme Unction, etc., § 119: See artt. Oelung and Ordo in Wetzer-Welte, IX. 716 sqq., 1027 sqq., and Oelung by Kattenbusch and Priesterweihe in Herzog, XIV. 304 sqq., XVI. 47 sqq. For marriage, the works on Christian Ethics.—Von Eicken: Gesch. u. System der mittelalterl. Weltanschauung, pp. 437–487, Stuttg., 1887.—The artt. Ehe in Herzog, V. 182 sqq. and Wetzer-Welte, IV. 142–231 (including a number of subjects pertaining to marriage).

On Grace and the Future State, §§ 120, 121: Anselm: De conceptu virginali et originale peccato, Migne, 168. 431–467.—P. Lombardus: Sent., II. 31, etc.—H. Of St. Victor: De sacramentis, I. 7, Migne, 176. 287–306. —Alb. Magnus: In Sent., II. 31 sqq., etc., Borgnet’s ed., XXVII.—Bonaventura: In Sent., II., etc.; Peltier’s ed., III.—Th. Aquinas: Summa, II. 71–90, III. 52 sqq.; Supplem., LXIX. sqq., Migne, IV. 1215–1459—Duns Scotus: Reportata. XXIV.-XXVI., etc. The Histories of Doctrine of Schwane, pp. 393–493, Harnack, Loofs, Seeberg. Sheldon.
§ 113. The Seven Sacraments.
As the doctrines of the Trinity and the person of Christ were wrought out in the Nicene and post-Nicene periods, so the Schoolmen of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries wrought out the Catholic doctrine of the sacraments. At no point were the mediaeval theologians more industrious or did they put forth keener speculative force. For the Roman Catholic communion, the results of this speculation continue to be of binding authority. The theologians most prominent in developing the sacramental system were Hugo of St. Victor, Peter the Lombard, Alexander of Hales, and Thomas Aquinas. Hugo wrote the first treatise on the sacraments, De sacramentis. Thomas Aquinas did little more than to reformulate in clear statement the views propounded by Hugo, Peter the Lombard, and especially by Alexander of Hales, and with him the development comes to an end. 1610 The substance of his statement was adopted by the councils of Ferrara, 1439, and Trent, 1560.

Through the influence of Peter the Lombard and Thomas Aquinas, the number of the sacraments was fixed at seven,—baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, extreme unction, ordination, marriage. 1611 Bernard had spoken of many sacraments and enumerated ten, including footwashing and the investiture of bishops and abbots. Abaelard had named five, —baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, marriage, and extreme unction. Hugo de St. Victor in his Summa also seems to recognize only five, —baptism, confirmation, eucharist, penance, and extreme unction, 1612but in his work on the Sacraments, in which he brought together all he had said on the subjects in other writings, he enumerated thirty. Here, evidently, the word is taken in a wide meaning and is almost synonymous with a religious rite. Hugo divided the sacraments into three classes,—sacraments which are necessary to salvation, baptism and the eucharist, those which have a sanctifying effect such as holy water and the use of ashes on Ash Wednesday, and a third class which prepares for the other sacraments. He called the sprinkling with water a sacrament. 1613 Thomas Aquinas also ascribed a quasi-sacramental character to such rites, quaedam sacramentalia. 1614

The uncertainty concerning the number of the sacraments was a heritage from the Fathers. Augustine defined any sacred rite a sacrament. The Third Lateran, 1179, used the term in a wide sense and included the investiture of bishops and burial among the sacraments. The Catholic Church today makes a distinction between certain sacred rites, called sacramentalia, and the seven sacraments.5 Thomas gave as the reason for this number seven—that three is the number of the Deity, four of creation, and seven represents the union of God and man. 1616

Ingenious and elaborate attempts were made to correlate the seven sacraments to all of man’s spiritual maladies and to show their "congruity" or adaptation to meet all the requirements of fallen and redeemed human nature.7 Baptism corresponds to the defect of spiritual life, confirmation to mental weakness found in those recently born, the eucharist to the temptation to fall into sin,—labilitas animi ad peccandum,—penance to sins committed after baptism, extreme unction to the remainders of sin not cleared away by penance, ordination to the lost condition of mankind, matrimony to concupiscence, and the liability of mankind to become extinct by natural death.

The number seven also corresponds to the seven virtues,—baptism, extreme unction, and the eucharist to faith, hope, and love, ordination to enlightenment, penance to righteousness, marriage to continence, and confirmation to endurance. Bonaventura elaborates at length a stimulating comparison to a military career. The sacraments furnish grace for the spiritual struggle and strengthen the warrior on the various stages of his conflict. Baptism equips him on entering the conflict, confirmation encourages him in its progress, extreme unction helps him at the finish, the eucharist and penance renew his strength, orders introduce new recruits into the ranks, and marriage prepares men to be recruits. Augustine had compared the sacraments to the badges and rank conferred upon the soldier, a comparison Thomas Aquinas took up. 1618

The sacraments were not needed in man’s estate of innocence. Marriage which was then instituted was a "function of nature" and nothing more. There were sacraments under the old covenant as well as under the new. The Schoolmen follow Augustine in declaring that the former prefigure the grace to come and the sacraments of the New Testament confer grace.9 With Albertus Magnus and other Schoolmen it was a favorite question why woman was not circumcised. 1620

In defining what a sacrament is—quid est sacramentum — the Schoolmen started with Augustine’s definition that a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible grace,1but went beyond him in the degree of efficiency they ascribe to it. Beginning with Hugo, they assert in unmistakable language that the sacraments, or outward symbols, contain and confer grace,—continere et conferre gratiam, —the language afterwards used by the council of Trent. They have a virtue inherent in themselves. The favorite figure for describing their operation is medicine. Hugo 1622said, God is the physician, man is the invalid, the priest is the minister or messenger, grace is the antidote, the sacrament is the vase. The physician gives, the minister dispenses, the vase contains, the spiritual medicine which cures the invalid. If, therefore, the sacraments are the vases of spiritual grace, they do not cure of themselves. Not the bottle, but the medicine, cures the sick. Bonaventura entitled his chapters on the sacraments "Sacramental Medicine." 1623

The sacraments are remedies which the great Samaritan brought for the wounds of original and actual sin. They are more than visible signs and channels of grace. They do more than signify. They sanctify. They are the efficient cause of gracious operations in the recipient. The interior effects, Thomas Aquinas says, are due to Christ,4or, as he says in another place, to the blessing of Christ and the administration of the priest conjoined. The mode of this efficacy is ex opere operato. This expression, used by William of Auxerre and Alexander of Hales, Thomas adopted and says again and again that the sacraments make righteous and confer grace, ex opere operato, that is by a virtue inherent in themselves. 1625

By this, Thomas Aquinas does not mean that the religious condition of the recipient is a matter of indifference, but that the sacrament imparts its virtue, if need be, without the operation of an active faith. The tendency of Protestant writers has been to represent the Schoolmen as ascribing a magical virtue to the visible sacramental symbol, if not irrespective of the divine appointment, then certainly irrespective of the attitude of the recipient. Such is not the view of the Schoolmen. Thomas Aquinas distinguishes between the original cause of grace, which is God, and the instrumental cause, which is the sacrament. The virtue of the latter depends upon God’s appointment and operation.6 The benefits of Christ’s atonement pass over to the faithful through faith and the sacraments. 1627 The Church, said Bonaventura, received the sacraments from Christ and dispenses them to the salvation of the faithful. 1628 The sacraments are efficacious only to those who are of a religious disposition.

Duns Scotus, whose opinions were set aside at the council of Ferrara for those of Thomas Aquinas, insisted that God can confer grace apart from the sacraments, and their efficacy is dependent upon an action of the will. They act indirectly, not directly. Duns controverted Thomas’ view that the sacrament is a visible sign containing supernatural virtue in itself absolutely. 1629 The sacraments involve a psychological process in the soul. As symbols, they remind the soul of God’s grace and attract it. A good state of the heart, however, is not a meritorious cause of their efficacy. For their reception, it is sufficient if there be no moral impediment, obex, that is, no impeding indisposition. 1630 It is the excellency of the sacraments of the new law, Duns says, that the very reception of them is a sufficient disposition to grace. 1631

The relation the priest sustains to the sacraments is a vital one, and except in extraordinary cases his ministration is essential. Their efficacy does not depend upon the priest’s personal character, provided only he administer according to the rite of the Church.2 An immoral priest may confer sacramental grace. To use the mediaeval illustration, pure water may be conveyed through a leaden pipe as truly as through a silver pipe. Even if the intention of conferring grace is absent from the mind of the officiating priest, the efficacy of the sacrament is not destroyed. The priest acts in the name of the Church, and in uttering the words of sacramental appointment he gives voice to the intention of the Church. This intention is sufficient for the perfection of the sacrament in any given case. Ultimately, it is Christ who works the effect of the sacrament and not the priest through any virtue of his own. 1633 Here, too, Thomas followed Augustine.

On this point also, Duns differed from the great Dominican by declaring that "a virtual intention" on the part of the celebrant is essential to the efficacy of the sacrament. He illustrates his position by a pilgrim on the way to the shrine of St. James. The pilgrim may not think of St. James during the whole progress of his journey, but he starts out with "a virtual intention" to go to his shrine and keeps on the way. So a priest, during the progress of the sacramental celebration, may allow his mind to wander and forget what he is doing, but he has the virtual intention of performing the rite. 1634

The sacraments may be "useful," said Bonaventura, if performed outside of the Church, provided the recipient afterwards enter "holy mother Church." This he illustrates by Augustine’s comparison of the sacraments to the four rivers of paradise. The rivers flowed into different lands. But neither to Mesopotamia nor Egypt did they carry the felicity of life, though they were useful.5 So it is with the sacraments when administered outside of the pale of the true Church.

The sacraments are not all of equal necessity. Baptism alone is indispensable to eternal life. Baptism and the eucharist are the mightiest, but of all the most mighty—potissimum is the eucharist, and for three reasons: 1. It contains Christ himself after a substantial manner. 2. The other sacraments are preparatory to it. 3. All the faithful partake of it—adults who are baptized, as well as those who are in orders. Three sacraments have an indelible character,—baptism, ordination, and confirmation. Their mark cannot be effaced nor may they be repeated. They are related to salvation as food is related to life. The other four sacraments are necessary to salvation only in the way a horse is necessary to a journey. 1636

The Schoolmen were not fully agreed as to the author of some of the sacraments. Peter the Lombard expressly said that extreme unction was instituted by the Apostles. Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas held they were all instituted by Christ.7

Hugo of St. Victor said, God might have saved man without the sacraments but no man can be saved who rejects them.8 They were to the mediaeval mind the essential food of the religious life, and, in building up the sacramental system, the mediaeval theologian felt he was fortifying the very fabric of the Church. In the authority to administer them lay the power of the priesthood to open and shut the kingdom of heaven, to pass the judgment of bliss or woe for this life and for the life to come. This sacramental theory, based now upon a false now upon a one-sided interpretation of Scripture, and compactly knit by argumentation, substituted the mechanical efficiency of sacramental grace for the Saviour into whose immediate presence the soul has a right to approach through penitence of heart and prayer. The sacramental system became the Church’s Babylonish captivity, as Luther called it in his famous tract, in which the rights and liberty of the Christian believer are fettered by the traditions of men.


§ 114. Baptism and Confirmation.
Baptism is the door to the other sacraments and to the kingdom of heaven. 1639 It is essential to salvation, except for persons who desire to be baptized and have not the opportunity to receive the rite. The desire on their part to be regenerated by water and the Holy Spirit is certain evidence that the heart is already regenerated. For the necessity of baptism, Thomas Aquinas and the other Schoolmen rely upon John 3:3, "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Of all the sacraments the most necessary, baptism effects regeneration, nay, it is regeneration itself. 1640 It removes the guilt and the punishment due original sin and all sins actually committed. 1641 The ablution of water signifies the ablution from guilt, and the freezing of water, to use the strange figure of Thomas Aquinas, the subtraction of all punishment. Baptism also has the positive effect of conferring grace, an effect which is symbolized by the clearness of water.

The validity of the sacrament requires the full use of the threefold name of the Trinity. Hugo of St. Victor differs from the later Schoolmen on this point, although in doubt whether the use of the name of Christ alone or the name of God alone be not sufficient. Bernard had allowed the use of the formula "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the true and holy cross." These men wrote before the Fourth Lateran Council. Bonaventura and Thomas acknowledged that, in early times, the Church had often been satisfied with baptism into the name of Christ, the Trinity being, in such cases, understood. But since the deliverance of the Fourth Lateran, the omission of a single syllable from the trine formula invalidated baptism. 1642 Exorcism, unction with oil, and the giving of salt were prescribed to be used in the solemnization of the rite. Exorcism expelled demons and prevented them from impeding the recipient’s salvation. Salt, put into the ears, signified the reception of the new doctrine, into the nostrils, its approbation, and into the mouth, confession. Oil signified the fitting of the recipient to fight demons.

The proper administrator of baptism is the priest, but, in cases of necessity, laymen may baptize, male or female, and parents may baptize their own children. 1643 For in the kingdom of heaven there is neither male nor female. But a woman must administer the rite privately, even as she is not allowed to speak in public. Yea, Thomas Aquinas went so far as to say that an unbaptized man may, in case of necessity, lawfully administer baptism, for Christ is free to use the agent he pleases, and it is he who baptizes inwardly, John 1:33. The main reason for allowing such baptism is to extend the limits of salvation as far as possible. 1644

Children are proper subjects of baptism because they are under the curse of Adam. As the mother nourishes her offspring in the womb before it can nourish itself, so in the bosom of mother Church infants are nourished, and they receive salvation through the act of the Church.5 A child cannot be baptized before it is born; it is of the essence of baptism that water be applied to the body. 1646 It was the view of Thomas Aquinas and most of the Schoolmen that it is unlawful to baptize the children of Jews and pagans without the consent of the parents. Duns Scotus was an exception and permitted the forcible baptism of the children of Jews, yea of adult Jews. 1647

The definition of baptism excludes all unbaptized children, dying in infancy, from heaven. The question is discussed by that mystic and lovable divine, Hugo of St. Victor, whether the children of Christian parents may be saved who happen to be put to death in a city besieged by pagans and die unbaptized. He leaves it unanswered, remarking that there is "no authority for saying what will become of them."8 Duns Scotus makes it plain that children yet unborn are under the law of sin, not because they are connected with the bodies of their mothers, but because of their own bodies. He mercifully excepts from the law of perdition unborn infants whose mothers suffer martyrdom or blood baptism. 1649 The Reformers, Zwingli excepted, shared the views of the mediaeval theology that unbaptized children dying in infancy are lost. At a later date, about 1740, Isaac Watts and other Protestant theologians, as a relief from the agonizing thought that the children of non-Christian parents dying in infancy are lost and suffer conscious torment, elaborated the view that they are annihilated. It remained for a still later Protestant period to pronounce in favor of the salvation of all such children in view of the superabounding fullness of the atonement and our Lord’s words, "for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Water is essential to baptism. The Schoolmen agreed that wine, oil, or other liquid will not do. Duns Scotus said in regard to baptism in beer that its validity would depend upon a scientific test whether the beer continued to be a species of water or not. 1650 The Lombard declared without qualification for immersion as the proper mode. Thomas Aquinas refers to it as the more general practice of his day and prefers it as the safer mode, as did also Bonaventura and Duns Scotus. 1651 At any rate, the water must be applied to the head, for this is the most important part of man, standing as it does for the immortal agent. Both trine immersion, the custom of the Greek Church, and single immersion are valid. Trine immersion symbolizes the three persons of the Trinity and the three days of the Lord’s burial; single immersion the unity of the Deity and the uniqueness of Christ’s death. Synods, as late as the synod of Tarragona, 1391, spoke of the submersion of children in baptism.

The sacrament of confirmation corresponds to the adult period as baptism does to the child period (1 Cor. 13:11). It completes, as it were, the earlier ordinance and confers the graces of strength and hardihood. The baptized thus become full Christians. 1652 The Schoolmen differed as to whether the sacrament was instituted immediately by Christ or by the Apostles or by the councils of the Church. Thomas Aquinas took the view that it was founded by Christ, being implied in the promise of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7).

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