Church and State as Seen in the Formation of Christendom
THE KINGDOM AS PROPHESIED AND AS FULFILLED
This volume, though entire in itself, is also the continuation of a former work, the “Formation of Christendom,” already written and published by me in three volumes. It is, in fact, the further unfolding of the subject under a particular aspect. In truth, the relation between Church and State leads perhaps more directly than any other to the heart of Christendom; for Christendom, both in word and idea, means not only one and the same Church subsisting in all civil governments, but also a community of Christian governments, having a common belief and common principles of action, grounded upon the Incarnation of the Son of God, and the Redemption wrought thereby. For this reason, the Formation of Christendom can hardly be described, unless the relation which ought by the institution of God to subsist between the two great Powers, the Spiritual and Civil, appointed to rule human society, is first clearly established.
In this volume, therefore, I treat first of the relation of these two Powers before the coming of Christ. Secondly, of their relation as it was affected by that coming, in order to show what position the Church of Christ originally took up in regard to the Civil Power, and what the behaviour of the Civil Power towards the Church was. And, thirdly, the question of principles being thus laid down, the remainder of the volume is occupied with the historical exhibition of the subject during the first three centuries; that is, from the Day of Pentecost to the Nicene Council. The supreme importance of that period will appear to all who reflect that the Church from the beginning, and in the first centuries of her existence, must be the same in principles with the Church of the nineteenth and every succeeding century. And this volume is, in fact, a prelude to the treatment of the same subject in the last three centuries, down to the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican.
The subject which I am treating is, then, strictly historical, being the action of a King in the establishment of a kingdom; the action of a Lawgiver in the legislation which He gave to that kingdom; the action of a Priest in founding a hierarchy, whereby that kingdom consists; but, moreover, which is something much more – the action of One who is Priest, Lawgiver, and King at once and always, and therefore whose work is at once one and triple, and indivisible in its unity and triplicity, and issuing in the forming of a people which is simply the creation of its King.
1. —The Kingdom as Prophesied
As an introduction to it, let me refer to the distinct and explicit prediction of such an event at a point of time six centuries before it took effect, as well as now distant from us almost 2500 years, under circumstances upon which it is most instructive to look back. For not only did the secular and the religious histories of mankind then meet together, as they had met before, but they began to stand in a certain relation to each other, which continues from that time to this. The intersection of two societies which work themselves out in the one human history became permanent. At that moment a revelation was given, which is perhaps the most definite detailed and absolute prophecy concerning the whole compass of human society, as viewed in its relation to God, which is to be found in the Old Testament. And the occasion upon which it was given makes it even more significant, for it was like a burst of sunlight suddenly scattering the darkness of a storm and bathing the whole landscape in radiance.
That darkness indeed was terrible, for the ancient people chosen by God to support His name among apostate nations no longer lived apart from those nations in their own land which God had provided for them, with an independence based upon the law especially given to them, but lay prostrate under the feet of a heathen invader, who had placed a vassal upon the diminished throne of Solomon, and the royal line of David seemed on the eve of expiring in a degenerate descendant. For the continued infidelities of four hundred years had worn out even the divine patience. In vain had the ten tribes of schismatic Israel been carried into captivity by Assyria. It needed that the remaining kingdom of Judah should be broken up and its chiefs deported to Babylon, whose monarch was now the heir of Assur’s great empire, the king of kings, the sceptred head of heathendom. Moreover, in a few years he was to punish the vassal, rebellious to himself, but yet more faithless to the God of Israel, whom he had placed on David’s seat, and to burn that glorious Temple which the wisest of kings had erected to the majesty of the one true God. And with that fall of Zedekiah the line of David would cease for ever to sit upon a temporal throne.
A darker moment in the history of the chosen people could not be found, nor a more hopeless prospect, to all seeming, for the carrying out the promises made to Abraham and his seed. What was a divine judgment on the breakers of a special covenant with the one true God appeared to be the triumph of a heathendom which had set up many false gods. Yet it was the moment chosen to send to that very king, who was the executor of the divine chastisements upon a faithless people, a revelation which contained the future lot not only of the people which he had humbled, but of the heathendom of which he was the crown. As he lay upon his bed, Nabuchodonosor had a dream, “and his spirit was terrified, and the dream went out of his mind.” He strove in vain to recover it, either by the efforts of his own memory or by the skill of the wise men and soothsayers of Babylon. But among the captives in the imperial city was a youth of David’s lineage, nourished at the king’s court, and a member of his household. And when Daniel heard the decree of the great king ordering the death of the wise men who failed to interpret a dream which the king could not disclose to them, Daniel turned himself and his three fellow-captives and companions to prayer and supplication, “to the end that they should ask mercy at the face of the God of heaven concerning this secret. Then was the mystery revealed to Daniel by a vision in the night: and Daniel blessed the God of heaven, and speaking he said: Blessed be the name of the Lord from eternity and for evermore: for wisdom and fortitude are His. And He changeth times and ages: taketh away kingdoms and establisheth them, giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that have understanding: He revealeth deep and hidden things, and knoweth what is in darkness, and light is with Him. To Thee, O God of our fathers, I give thanks, and I praise Thee; because Thou hast given me wisdom and strength: and now Thou hast shown me what we desired of Thee, for Thou hast made known to us the king’s discourse. After this Daniel went in to Arioch, to whom the king had given orders to destroy the wise men of Babylon, and he spoke thus to him: Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will tell the solution to the king. Then Arioch in haste brought in Daniel to the king, and said to him: I have found a man of the children of the captivity of Judah that will resolve the question to the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Baltassar: Thinkest thou indeed that thou canst tell me the dream that I saw, and the interpretation thereof? And Daniel made answer before the king and said: The secret that the king desireth to know, none of the wise men, or the philosophers, or the diviners, or the soothsayers can declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven that revealeth mysteries, who hath shown to thee, O king Nabuchodonosor, what is to come to pass in the latter times. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these: Thou, O king, didst begin to think in thy bed what should come to pass hereafter: and He that revealeth mysteries showed thee what shall come to pass. To me also this secret is revealed, not by any wisdom that I have more than all men alive, but that the interpretation might be made manifest to the king, and thou mightest know the thoughts of thy mind. Thou, O king, sawest, and behold there was as it were a great statue: this statue, which was great and high, tall of stature, stood before thee, and the look thereof was terrible. The head of this statue was of fine gold, but the breast and the arms of silver, and the belly and the thighs of brass: and the legs of iron, the feet part of iron and part of clay. Thus thou sawest, until a stone was cut out of a mountain without hands, and it struck the statue upon the feet thereof that were of iron and of clay, and broke them in pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of a summer’s threshing-floor, and they were carried away by the wind, and there was no place found for them: but the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. This is the dream: we will also tell the interpretation thereof before thee, O king. Thou art a king of kings: and the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, and strength, and power, and glory: and all places wherein the children of men and the beasts of the field do dwell: he hath also given the birds of the air into thy hand, and hath put all things under thy power: thou therefore art the head of gold. And after thee shall rise up another kingdom, inferior to thee, of silver: and another third kingdom of brass, which shall rule over all the world. And the fourth kingdom shall be as iron. As iron breaketh into pieces and subdueth all things, so shall that break and destroy all these. And whereas thou sawest the feet and the toes part of potter’s clay, and part of iron: the kingdom shall be divided, but yet it shall take its origin from the iron, according as thou sawest the iron mixed with the miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay, they shall be mingled indeed together with the seed of man, but they shall not stick fast one to another, as iron cannot be mixed with clay. But in the days of those kingdoms the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and His kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people, and it shall break in pieces and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand for ever. According as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and broke in pieces the clay, and the iron, and the brass, and the silver, and the gold, the great God hath shown the king what shall come to pass hereafter, and the dream is true, and the interpretation thereof is faithful.”
No one can study the vision and its interpretation without seeing that the fabric of a great temporal empire, whose ruler is called a king of kings, and whose seat is the city wherein Nimrod, “the great hunter before the Lord,” set up the first kingdom, to stand for ever at the head of human history a kingdom symbolical not of justice but of force, is therein contrasted with the fabric of a kingdom which the God of heaven should set up. And it is specially noted that He should set up this kingdom in the times of the empires denoted by the statue. And of the kingdom so to be set up four things are predicated in, as it were, an ascending scale. First, there is its divine institution: “the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom,” and that in a manner wholly unexampled, which is expressed by “a stone cut out of a mountain without hands.” Secondly, “the kingdom shall never be destroyed.” Thirdly, and further, “it shall not be delivered up to another people;” a process which, according to the interpretation of the vision, was to take place three times in the empires represented by the statue. Fourthly, “that it should break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, while itself should last for ever.”
Moreover, as the earthly kingdom was really a kingdom, so the force of the similitude running through the whole, and heightened by the effect of contrast, declares that the heavenly should be a kingdom. As the seat of the earthly kingdom was this world, so evidently the seat of the heavenly is this same world. As the earthly kingdom should be destroyed, so the heavenly should be exempt from destruction. As the earthly kingdom was to pass from one people to another, so the heavenly kingdom should not pass from one people to another. But then comes a culmination which no one could anticipate. For not only is there an antagonism between the earthly and the heavenly kingdom, but by force of it, and in consequence of it, the heavenly should consume and break in pieces the earthly. Whereby the hearer is given to understand that the earthly kingdom, terrible and grand and all-powerful as it seemed to be, was created for the sake of the heavenly, which in due time should be set up in it, but not of it nor from it.
It is no less implied through the whole tenor of the vision that the authority which constitutes the essence of a kingdom – that is, supreme and independent authority, which is expressed in legislation and administered in government – subsists as much in the heavenly as in the earthly kingdom, with this marked distinction, that it is transitory in the one case and permanent in the other.
And, finally, the power by which all this should be done was something beyond human power, and without parallel, very strange and astonishing, “a stone cut out of a mountain without hands,” which should not only strike the statue upon its feet, but itself grow, “until it became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”
Thus the filling of the whole earth with the stone which struck the statue and then became a great mountain terminates the vision. But it is no less its scope and object. The statue exists before that the stone may come after. The statue and the stone, as thus exhibited, indicate the respective value in the divine counsels of the powers which they represent; that is, the subordination of the human kingdom to the divine, both in the order of causality and in duration, is distinctly laid down. And the end of both accords with this. The great statue, when struck by the stone, became like the chaff of a summer’s threshing-floor; but the stone which struck it filled the whole earth. And the vision leaves it in possession.
The vision also reaches from end to end. It begins with the first empire, which is human, and runs back by the place in which it is seated to the commencement of actual things; and it ends with the last, which is divine, and which shall consume all the other kingdoms recorded, and itself last for ever. Thus the vision grasps the whole organism of society in the human race, as it lies unrolled before the providence of God.
2. —The Kingdom as Fulfilled
Such was the prophecy. Now let us pass over a thousand years, and take the first fulfilment of the vision as it presented itself to an ancient saint at the beginning of the fifth century. We will only note that in the interval Nabuchodonosor and Cyrus and Alexander and Cæsar had set up the four world-empires. They were four indeed, for they passed three times from one people to another – from Chaldean to Persian, from Persian to Grecian, from Grecian to Roman, as the variety of metals in the statue was interpreted to mean. Yet were they also one – a unity which, as that of a single person, the great statue so faithfully represented. For they were one with each other in the character and unbroken tradition of the same civilisation, and in the principle of their authority, which was conquest. They were filled with the same spirit of heathen domination, which was in truth the voice and the power of a false worship, as with the spirit of one man who rose in Babylon to set in Rome.[1 - “Dentro dal monte sta dritto un gran veglio,Che tiene volte le spalle inver Damiata,E Roma guarda sì, come suo speglio.”– Dante, Inferno, 14, 101.] Two Apostles, special friends and constant fellow-workers, had marked this identity by giving the mystical name of Babylon to heathen Rome – St. Peter[2 - 1 Pet. v. 13; Apocal. xvii. 18, xviii. 2, 20.] in the epistle which he dates from Babylon, St. John in his vision of the woman drunk with the blood of saints and martyrs, and seated upon the seven hills, whom he himself interprets to be “the great city which had kingdom over the kings of the earth.” These empires had run their appointed course, and the last and greatest of them, which was likewise the heir and successor of the three preceding in power and thought, as well as in the body of their territories and the soul which ruled therein, was ending in disgrace and dissolution. For at length the tribes of the North had broken through the long-guarded frontiers of Roman power. Alaric with his Goths had taken Rome, and a deep cry of distress arose through all the vast provinces of her empire. Every city in that wide domain trembled with the sense of insecurity for the present and fear for the future which the fall of Rome inspired. Just at this moment the great Western Father, whose voice sounded like the voice of the Church herself, wrote thus to a heathen inquirer: —
“Faith opens the door to intelligence, while unbelief closes it. Where is the man who would not be moved to belief, simply by so vast an order of events proceeding from the beginning; by the mere connection of various ages, which accredits the present by the past, while it confirms antiquity by what is recent? Out of the Chaldean nation a single man is chosen, remarkable for a most constant piety. Divine promises are disclosed to this man, which are to find their completion after a vast series of ages in the last times, and it is predicted that all nations are to receive a benediction in his seed. This man being a worshipper of the one true God, the Creator of the universe, begets in his old age a son, of a wife whom barrenness and age had long deprived of all hope of offspring. From him is propagated a most numerous people, which multiplies in Egypt, whither a divine disposition of things, redoubling its promises and effects, had carried that family from eastern parts. From their servitude in Egypt a strong people is led forth by terrible signs and miracles; impious nations are driven out before it; it is brought into the promised land, settled therein, and exalted into a kingdom. Then it falls more and more into sin; it perpetually offends the true God, who had conferred upon it so many favours, by violating His worship; it is scourged with various misfortunes; it is visited with consolations, and so carried on to the incarnation and manifestation of Christ. All the promises made to this nation, all its prophecies, its priesthoods, its sacrifices, its temple, in a word, all its sacred rites, had for their special object this Christ, the Word of God, the Son of God – God that was to come in the flesh, that was to die, to rise again, to ascend to heaven, that by the exceeding power of His name was to obtain in all nations a population dedicated to Himself; and in Him remission of sins and eternal salvation unto such as believed.
“Christ came. In His birth, His life, His words, His deeds, His sufferings, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, – all the predictions of the prophets are fulfilled. He sends forth the Holy Spirit; He fills the faithful who are assembled in one house, and who by their prayers and desires are expecting this very promise. They are filled with the Holy Spirit; they speak suddenly with the tongues of all nations; they confidently refute errors; they proclaim a most salutary truth; they exhort to penitence for the faults of past life; they promise pardon from the divine grace. Their proclamation of piety and true religion is followed by suitable signs and miracles. A savage unbelief is stirred up against them. They endure what had been foretold; hope in what had been promised; teach what had been commanded them. Few in number, they are scattered through the world. They convert populations with marvellous facility. In the midst of enemies they grow. They are multiplied by persecutions. In the straits of affliction they are spread abroad over vast regions. At first they are uninstructed, of very low condition, very few in number. Their ignorance passes into the brightest intelligence; their low ranks produce the most cultivated eloquence; their fewness becomes a multitude; they subjugate to Christ minds the most acute, learned, and accomplished, and convert them into preachers of piety and salvation. In the alternating intervals of adversity and prosperity, they exercise a watchful patience and temperance. As the world verges in a perpetual decline, and by exhaustion expresses the coming of its last age, since this also is what prophecy led them to expect, they with greater confidence await the eternal happiness of the heavenly city. And amid all this the unbelief of impious nations rages against the Church of Christ, which works out victory by patience, and by preserving unshaken faith against the cruelty of opponents. When the sacrifice unveiled by the truth, which had so long been covered under mystical promises, had at length succeeded, those sacrifices which prefigured this one were removed by the destruction of the Temple itself. This very Jewish people, rejected for its unbelief, was cast out of its own seat, and scattered everywhere throughout the world, to carry with it the sacred writings; so that the testimony of prophecy, by which Christ and the Church were foretold, may not be thought a fiction of ours for the occasion, but be produced by our very adversaries – a testimony in which it is also foretold that they should not believe. The temples and images of demons, and the sacrilegious rites of that worship, are gradually overthrown, as prophecy foretold. Heresies against the name of Christ, which yet veil themselves under that name, swarm, as was foretold, in order to call out the force of teaching in our holy religion. In all these things, as we read their prediction, so we discern their fulfilment, and from so vast a portion which is fulfilled we rest assured of what is still to come. Is there a single mind which yearns after eternity and feels the shortness of the present life, that can resist the light and the force of this divine authority?”[3 - St. Aug. Epist. 137, ad Volusianum, § 15-16. A.D. 412. It is remarkable that Volusian, who held the highest offices in the Roman Empire, and among the rest was Prefect of the City, was not converted either by the genius or the saintliness of Augustine. But more than twenty years after this letter, about A.D. 435, he was sent on an embassy from the Emperor of the West to the Emperor of the East at Constantinople. His niece, St. Melania the younger, left the seclusion of her monastery at Jerusalem, and travelled all the intervening distance to see him. When he met in the garb of humility and poverty the niece whom he remembered at Rome in all the splendour of youth, rank, and beauty at the head of the Roman nobility, he was so impressed by the force of Christian charity which had wrought such a change, that he was converted and baptized by the Patriarch Proclus, and died shortly afterwards. God did by the sight of the nun what he had not done by the learning of the theologian and the philosopher.]
St. Augustine wrote thus to his friend Volusian, the uncle of St. Melania, a Roman nobleman of high reputation, who was then, as he continued for many years to be, a heathen. But we must also take note that he wrote at a point of time scarcely less remarkable than that of the vision interpreted by Daniel. The old world with its sequence of world-empires was passing away. And so soon as it passed another travail of extraordinary severity was preparing for the Church, such a travail as even the eagle eye of the Bishop of Hippo could not discern as he stood before the beginning of its accomplishment. When he wrote there was a Catholic Church, the fulfilment of a long train of prophecies in that “connection of ages” which he has so wonderfully drawn out, but there was not yet a Christendom. Nor could he the least foresee what was to take place before that Christendom could be formed. Only, as he spoke, the iron of Roman discipline – the inflexible Romulean mind – which had held together the miry clay of so many various and divergent nationalities, European, Asiatic, African, so that “the kingdom took its origin from the iron,” was losing its tenacity. That vast structure of Roman power, the breaking up of which had been feared in the wars and insurrections arising upon the death of Nero, and extinction of the family of Augustus, was in truth dissolving.[4 - The words which Cerialis addressed to the Gauls, as recorded by Tacitus, Hist. 4, 74, apply in all their force to the times when the trans-migration of the northern tribes took effect, four hundred years after they were written. “Octingentorum annorum fortuna disciplinaque compages hæc coaluit, quæ convelli sine exitio convellentium non potest.” And every city of the Roman empire could testify to the truth of what he added: “Sed vobis maximum discrimen penes quos aurum et opes, præcipuæ bellorum causæ.”] The western and eastern limbs of the statue were parting away from each other, and the toes were crumbling. But though Augustine heard the sound of the advancing tide, he saw not yet the full flood of the deluge from the north; and still less could he foresee the counter desolation from the south; Teuton flood and Arab desolation which in their joint effect would blast utterly the Roman Peace, and break the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold in pieces together, until they became like the chaff of the summer’s threshing-floor.
As little could he anticipate another sight, the further fulfilment of the vision, when the provinces, those crumbling toes of the statue, which lay before him in an impending dissolution, were to be formed into great independent kingdoms, having for the common foundation of their power “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Then in that “connection of ages” which should be drawn out after the time of Augustine in even greater distinctness than before him, and with greater claim upon the believing mind, which “yearns after eternity,” a grander fulfilment of the vision would be disclosed. The royalties set up by barbarian chiefs of tribes among incoherent populations of victors and vanquished were to educate mature nations with individual character in the one Christian faith, and shine as distinct stars set in the crown of the Successor to Peter’s pastorship. For as the Word made flesh created Christian monarchies and Christian nations in their several being, so the charge of the Word to a disciple by the lake of Gennesareth, “Feed My Sheep,” created the great unity of Christendom which bound them together. In Constantine one empire had acknowledged the reign of Christ, and bent the neck of heathen domination to raise the cross upon a heathen crown. But then a group of nations should base the fabric of their laws, and the whole civilisation which redeemed them from barbarism, upon the truth that God assumed flesh for man’s sake, and should acknowledge in Peter’s Successor the Vicar of that God, who by and in that pastoral rule of Peter made them members of one Body, and in so making them “took the Gentiles for His inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for His possession.”
This was a second and further fulfilment of the vision, which as yet Augustine saw not, nor even anticipated; but after thus writing he set himself in the last years of his life to a great task, even that of comparing together from their origin to their end the course of the two societies, not national, but world-wide, which run out through human history, intermingled together, and claiming possession of the same man. First, the natural society of the human race played upon by all the passions and infirmities which are the effect of man’s original Fall; and secondly, that other society chosen by God from the beginning in view of His Son’s Incarnation, for the purpose of repairing and counterworking that Fall. It was the capture of Rome by Alaric, and the deep despondency which thence arose in the minds of many, both Christian and heathen, that moved him originally to this design, of which the first tracing is seen in the letter to Volusian just quoted. He sought to meet conclusions unfavourable to the Christian faith, which were drawn by weak, or narrow, or unbelieving minds from the fall of the imperial city. His plan accordingly led him to take a complete view of all human history; and the result has been that one of the last representatives of the old world, and certainly the greatest of all as thinker, philosopher, and theologian, the most universal genius of the patristic ages, whether among Greeks or Latins, has left us a Philosophy of History, the first in time, and as yet unequalled in ability; for it supplies a key to the acts of man and the providence of God in that masterly comparison between the City of God and the City of the devil in their origin, their course, and their end.
The leading thought of this great work gives me a final text bearing on the subject of this volume.
“Thus, then, two Cities have been created by two loves: the earthly, by that love of self which reaches even to the contempt of God; the heavenly, by the love of God which reaches even to the contempt of self. The first has its boast in self; the second in its Lord. For the first seeks its glory from men; whereas to the second, God, the witness of conscience, is the greatest glory. The first in that glory which it has made for itself exalts its own head; the second says to its God, ‘Thou art my glory and the lifter up of my head.’ In the first the lust of domination sways both its rulers and the nations which it subjugates. In the second a mutual service of charity is exercised by rulers who consult the good of subjects, and by subjects who practise obedience to rulers. The first loves in its own potentates its own excellence; the second says to the God of its choice, ‘I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.’ And thus in the first its own wise men, living after human fashion, pursue the goods of their body or their mind, or both at once, or they who might have known God, have not ‘glorified him as God nor given thanks, but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise,’ that is, extolling themselves in their own wisdom through the pride that mastered them, ‘they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the likeness of the image of a corruptible man, and of birds, and of four-footed beasts, and of creeping things;’ for they either led their peoples or followed them in the adoration of such-like images; and ‘worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.’ But in the second there is no wisdom of man save piety, by which the true God is rightly worshipped, awaiting its reward in the society of saints, not men only, but angels, that God may be all in all.”[5 - De Civ. Dei, xvi. 28.]
I put together these three facts of human history, the vision of the King of Babylon interpreted by Daniel six hundred years before Christ, the summary of its fulfilment down to his own age written by St Augustine four hundred years after the coming of Christ, and his delineation, a few years later, of the Two Cities, as set forth by him in a work on which the Christian mind has now been nurtured for fourteen hundred and fifty years. The simple juxtaposition of these shows how Babylon stretches to Rome, and Rome is heir of Babylon; and the heathen man thus formed illustrates “the Man who is born in Sion, the city of the great King.”[6 - Ps. lxxxvi. 5.] It is true that the two great Powers of Civil and Spiritual government, the relation between which forms the subject of this volume, are not exactly represented as concerns that relation in the vision of Daniel; but only the heathen growth of the Civil Power, and the miraculous rise, permanent rule, and progressive growth of the Spiritual Power in the midst of it; yet the mighty promise is recorded that in presence of the Civil Power the Spiritual shall never pass away; rather that it shall last unchanged, while the other is shifting and transitory; and also the cognate truth, that the great and terrible Power represented by the Statue is, in the counsels of God, subordinate in its scope to the Power represented by the Stone.
It is true, again, that the vivid contrast of the Two Cities as drawn by St. Augustine does not represent the legitimate relation of the Two Powers to each other, but only the perversion of the one Power from its true end and object, and the perfect antagonism of the other to that perversion.
But the kingdom set up by the God of heaven in the vision interpreted by Daniel, and the connection of ages dwelt upon by St. Augustine, which leads up to the Person of Christ, and then starts afresh from Him, and the Divine City delineated by St. Augustine, fit exactly into each other, and so they seem to me to form together an appropriate introduction to that most remarkable period of history with which the present volume is occupied, when the Stone cut out without hands struck the Statue, and became a great mountain, in preparation for that further growth when it would fill the whole earth.
The Statue presented in vision to the heathen king has indeed been swept away, but in every country a reduced likeness of it, “the look whereof is terrible,” stands over against “the Man born in Sion.” And the Two Cities everywhere run on in their predestined course until the end contemplated by Augustine takes effect. But as he did not discern the second fulfilment of the divine kingdom which followed upon the wandering of the nations, so neither can we discern the third and yet grander fulfilment when the divine kingdom shall become to the whole world what once it was in the Roman Empire. For, to repeat St. Augustine’s words, “In all these things as we read their prediction, so we discern their fulfilment, and from so vast a portion which is fulfilled we rest assured of what is still to come.” And “the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”
February 12, 1882.
RELATION BETWEEN THE CIVIL AND SPIRITUAL POWERS FROM ADAM TO CHRIST
1. —The Divine and Human Society founded in Adam, refounded in Noah
In one of the most ancient books of the world, which, in addition to its antiquity, all Christians venerate as containing the original tradition of man’s creation, guaranteed in purity and accuracy by divine assistance given to the writer, we read the following words: – “God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, and cattle, and everything that creepeth on the earth after its kind. And God saw that it was good. And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.” And further: “The Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth; and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul… And the Lord God took man and put him into the paradise of pleasure, to dress it and to keep it. And he commanded him, saying, Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat; but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death. And the Lord God said, It is not good for man to be alone; let us make him a help like unto himself. And the Lord God having formed out of the ground all the beasts of the earth, and all the fowls of the air, brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: for whatsoever Adam called any living creature, the same is its name. And Adam called all the beasts by their names, and all the fowls of the air, and all the cattle of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper like himself. Then the Lord God cast a deep sleep upon Adam: and when he was fast asleep he took one of his ribs and filled up flesh for it. And the Lord God built the rib which he took from Adam into a woman: and brought her to Adam. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man. Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh. And they were both naked, Adam and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
Such is the account of the origin of man, of woman, of marriage, as the root of human society, and of that society itself, beginning in the absolute unity of one who was father and head of his race, created in full possession of reason and language, and exercising both by an intuitive knowledge of the qualities of living creatures as they are brought before him by his Maker. This account stands at the head of human history, and has been venerated as truth by more than a hundred generations of men since it was written down by Moses, not to speak of those many generations among whom it had been a living tradition before he had written it down. Human language scarcely possesses elsewhere such an assemblage of important truths in so few words. Perhaps the only parallel to it is contained in the fourteen verses which stand at the opening of St. John’s Gospel, wherein are recorded the Godhead and Incarnation of the Divine Word. The first creation has its counterpart only in the second; and the restoration of man by the personal action of God alone surpasses, or, perhaps, more truly may be said to complete, the Idea of his original formation by the same personal action of the same Divine Word, who, great as He is in creating, is yet greater in redeeming, but is one in both, and in both carries out one Idea.
For the creation of man as one individual, who is likewise the head and bearer of a race, is the key to all the divine government of the world. The fact rules its destinies through all their evolution. The world, as it concerns the actions, the lot, and the reciprocal effect of men upon each other, would have been quite a different world if it had not sprung out of this unity. If, for instance, mankind had been a collection of human beings in all things like to what they now are, except in one point, that they were independent of each other and unconnected in their origin. This unity further makes the race capable of that divine restoration which from the beginning was intended, and with a view to which man was made a race: which in restoring man likewise unspeakably exalts him, for He who made Adam the father and head of the race, made him also “the figure of One that was to come.”
Let us briefly enumerate the parts of the divine plan as disclosed to us in the narration just given.
In the council held by the Blessed Trinity it is said, “Let us make man to our image and likeness;” not, Let us make men, but man: the singular number used of the whole work indicates that the creation to be made was not only an individual but a family. From the beginning the family is an essential part of the plan. This is no less indicated in the single creation of Adam first, not the simultaneous creation of the male and female, as in the case of all other creatures, but the creation by himself of the head alone, from whom first woman by herself, and then from the conjunction of the two his family is drawn. In Adam first, while as yet he is alone, the high gifts of reason, speech, and knowledge indicated in the twofold and also congenital possession of reason and language, are exhibited as residing as in a fountain-head, when all creatures of the earth and the air are brought before him by his Maker, and he with intuitive understanding of their several qualities and uses imposes on them the corresponding name. Thus Adam is created complete, a full-grown man, in whom the divine gift of thought finds expression in the equally divine gift of language, both exerted with unerring truth, for it is intimated that the names which he assigns to the creatures thus passed in review render accurately their several natures. It is not said that the Lord God intimated to Adam the names which he should give; but the knowledge by which he gave the names was part of his original endowment, like the gift of thought and language, which answer to each other and imply each other, and in a being composed of soul and body complete by their union and joint exercise the intellectual nature. “The Lord God brought all beasts and all fowls before Adam to see what he would call them; for whatsoever Adam called any living creature, the same is its name.”
This presentation of the creatures before Adam, and their naming by him, is the token of the dominion promised to him “over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth,” as the result of his being made to “the image and likeness” of the Triune God. Only when he has thus taken possession of his royalty is the creation of the family completed out of himself. For when “for Adam there was not found a helper like himself,” the Lord God took not again of the slime of the earth to mould a woman and bring her to man, but “He cast a deep sleep upon Adam, and built the rib which He took from Adam into a woman, and brought her to Adam.” And then He uttered the blessing which should fill the earth with the progeny of the woman who had been drawn from the man her head, saying, “Increase and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.”
What, then, is the image and likeness of the Triune God? The image consists in the soul, with its two powers of the understanding and the will, proceeding out of it, indivisible from it, yet distinct. May we not infer that the likeness is the obedience of the soul, with its powers, to the eternal law? This law, viewed in the Triune God, the prototype of man’s being, is the sanctity of the Divine Nature; but in man, thus created, the obedience to it was the gift of original justice superadded to his proper nature: the gift by which the soul, in the free exercise of the understanding and the will, was obedient to the law of God, its Creator.
This was an image and likeness which belonged to Adam in a double capacity, firstly, as an individual, secondly, as head of a family; for it was to descend to each individual of the family in virtue of natural procreation from Adam. The man created after the image and likeness of the Triune God was, according to the divine intention, to be repeated in every one of the race.
But what of the family or race which was to be evolved out of Adam alone? Not the individual only but the race also is in the divine plan. Is there a further image of the Triune God in the mode of the race’s formation?
To give an answer to this question, we must first consider what is the prototype of that singular unity according to which the first parents of the race are not formed together out of the earth, male and female, like the inferior creatures. For in most marked distinction from all these man is formed by himself, and alone; receives the command to eat of all trees in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, under penalty of death if he take of it; and then is shown exercising the grandeur of his knowledge and the fulness of his royalty in the naming of the subject creatures. But inasmuch as none of them could supply him with a companion, and as “it was not good for him to be alone,” a council of the Triune God is held again, and a help like to himself is taken out of himself. Is there not here, with that infinite distance which separates the created from the Increate, a yet striking image of the Divine Filiation?
Again, from the conjunction of the two, from Adam the head, and from Eve when she has been drawn out of him, proceeds, in virtue of the blessing of God, the human family. Is there not here, again, at that distance which separates divine from human things, an image of the procession of the Third Divine Person, the Lord, and the Giver of life, from whom all life proceeds?
May we not then say with reverence, that from the council of the Triune God, “Let us make man to our image and likeness,” proceeds forth the individual man, an earthly counterpart in his memory, understanding, and will to the divine Creator, and likewise man, the family, a created image of the primal mystery, the ineffable joy of the Godhead, the ever blessed Trinity in Unity? And since the origin of creation itself is the free act of God, it ought not to surprise us that the chief work of His hands in the visible universe should reflect in the proportion of a creature the secret life of the Divine Nature, the Unity and Trinity of the Godhead.
But next to this primal mystery, which is the source of all creation, stands that unspeakable condescension, that act of sovereign goodness, by which God has chosen to assume a created nature into personal unity with Himself, and to crown the creation which He has made. As to this the first Adam, in all his headship, with the privileges included in it, the transmission to his family of original justice, and of that wonderful gift of adoption superadded to it, is “the figure of Him who was to come.” But more also, St. Paul tells us, is indicated in the formation of Eve out of Adam during the sleep divinely cast upon him. This was the “great sacrament of Christ and of His Church” (Eph. v. 32), to which he pointed in reminding his hearers of the high institution of Christian marriage. And thus we learn that God, in the act of forming the natural race, supernaturally endowed, was pleased to foreshadow by the building of Eve, “the mother of all living,” out of the first Adam, the building of another Eve, the second and truer mother of a divine race, out of the wounded heart of the Redeemer of the world asleep upon the cross. As then in Adam’s headship we have the figure of the Headship of Christ, so in the issuing of Eve from him in his sleep we have the Passion of Christ and the issuing forth of His Bride from it, when His work of redemption was completed and His royalty proclaimed.
Thus the mysteries of the blessed Trinity, that is, of God the Creator, and of the Incarnation and Passion of Christ, that is, of God the Redeemer, lie folded up, as it were, in the Mosaic narrative of the mode in which Adam was created, and in the headship of the race conferred upon him.
Before we approach the sin of Adam and its consequences to human society, let us cast one glance back upon the beauty and splendour of the divine plan in the original creation as it is disclosed to us in the narrative of Moses. As the crown of the visible creation is placed a being who is at once an individual and the head of a family, representing in his personal nature the divine Unity and Trinity, and in the race of which he is to stand at the head the same divine Unity and Trinity in their aspect towards creation; representing the royalty of God in his dominion over the creatures, a dominion the condition of which is the obedience of his own compound nature to the law given to it by the Creator; representing again in the vast number to which his race shall extend the prolific energy of the Lord of Hosts; representing also in that secret and altogether wonderful mystery, out of which the multiplication of his race springs, the yet untold secret of the divine mercy, in virtue of which his fathership is the prelude to a higher fathership, the first man is the pattern of the Second, and the royalty of his creation but a rehearsal at the beginning of the world of the reparation which is to crown its end.
The whole work of creation as above described, depends in its result upon the exercise of man’s free-will. His value, before God, lies simply in the way in which he exerts this great prerogative of his reasonable nature. Without it he would be reduced from one who chooses his course, and in that choice becomes good or evil, to the condition of a machine devoid of any moral being. To test this free-will man was given a commandment. We know that he failed under the trial; that he broke the commandment. His disobedience to his Creator was punished by the disobedience of his own compound nature to himself. That divine grace, which we term the state of original justice, and in virtue of which his soul, with its understanding and will, illuminated and fortified, was subject to God, and the body with all its appetites was subject to the soul, was withdrawn. He became subject to death, the certain death of the body, with all that train of diseases and pains which precede it; and the final separation of the soul from its Creator, unless by the way which God indicated to him he should be restored. Becoming a sinner, his refuge was penitence; henceforth his life was to be the life of a penitent; he had lost the grace which was bestowed royally on the innocent; he was left the grace which was to support and lead on the penitent. From the garden of pleasure he is expelled, to go forth into a world which produces thorns and thistles, unless he water it with the sweat of his brow. To all this I only allude, since my proper subject is to trace the first formation of human society as it came forth from the fall. But the primal state of man could not be passed over, because the state in which he grew up, and the state in which he now stands, cannot be understood nor estimated rightly without a due conception of that original condition.