We now continue with our quotations from Anselm’s book, “Cur Deum Homo,” following the guidelines as set forth by Philip Schaff in his History of the Christian Church, vol. V, 604 ff.
Anselm taught that God cannot allow His original purpose to be thwarted. Sin must be forgiven, but how? Man owes subjection to God’s will. Sin is denying to God the honor due Him. Satisfaction must be rendered to justice before there can be forgiveness. Bare restitution, however, is not a sufficient satisfaction. For his “contumely,” man must give back more than he has taken. He must compensate God’s honor. Just as he who has inflicted a wound must not only heal the wound, but pay damages to satisfy the demands of violated honor.
In his “Cur Deum Homo” Anselm certainly teaches that it would not be proper for the Lord to put away sins by compassion alone, without payment of debt. This book was written in the form of a dialogue. We read on page 203:
Anselm. Let us return and consider whether it were proper for God to put away sins by compassion alone, without any payment of the honor taken from Him.
Boso. I do not see why it is not proper.
Anselm. To remit sin in this manner is nothing else than not to punish; and since it is not right to cancel sin without compensation or punishment; if it be not punished, then is it passed by undischarged.
Boso. What you say is reasonable.
Anselm. It is not fitting for God to pass over anything in His kingdom undischarged.
Boso. If I wish to oppose this, I fear to sin.
Anselm. It is, therefore, not proper for God thus to pass over sin unpunished.
From this quotation it surely is obvious that Anselm did not believe it proper for the Lord to put away sins by compassion alone. God does not pass over anything in His kingdom undischarged.
However, Anselm also taught that bare restitution is not sufficient satisfaction, Man must give more than he has taken. This he teaches in the following, pages 202-203:
This is the debt (that a rational creature must be subject to the will of God, H.V.) which man and angel owe to God, and no one who pays this debt commits sin; but every one who does not pay it sins. This is justice, or uprightness of will, which makes a being just or upright in heart, that is, in will; and this is the sole and complete debt of honor which we owe to God, and which God requires of us. For it is such a will only, when it can be exercised, that does works pleasing to God; and when this will cannot be exercised, it is pleasing of itself alone, since without it no work is acceptable. He who does not render this honor which is due to God, robs God of His own and dishonors Him; and this is sin. Moreover, so long as he does not restore what he has taken away, he remains. in fault; and it will not merely suffice to restore what has been taken away, but, considering the contempt offered, he ought to restore more than he took away. For as one who imperils another’s safety does not enough by merely restoring his safety, without making some compensation for the anguish incurred; so he who violates another’s honor does not enough by merely rendering honor again, but must, according to the extent of the injury done, make restoration in some way satisfactory to the person whom he has dishonored. We must also observe that when any one pays what he has unjustly taken away, he ought to give something which could not have been demanded of him, had he not stolen what belonged to another. So then, every one who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God; and this is the satisfaction which every sinner owes to God.
And Philip Schaff also remarks that, according to Anselm, he who has inflicted a wound must not only heal the wound, but pay damages to satisfy the demands of violated honor.
Moreover, according to this great schoolman, all sin must either receive punishment or be covered by satisfaction. Can man make this satisfaction? No. Were it possible for him to lead a perfectly holy life, from the moment he became conscious of his debt, he would be simply doing his duty for that period. The debt of the past would remain unsettled. But sin having struck at the roots of man’s being, he is not able to lead a perfect life. This truth Anselm sets forth in the following quotation from his book, “Cur Deum Homo:”
Anselm. Tell me, then what payment you make God for your sin?
Boso. Repentance, a broken and contrite heart, self-denial, various bodily sufferings, pity in giving and forgiving, and obedience.
Anselm. What do you give to God in all these?
Boso. Do I not honor God, when, for His love and fear, in heartfelt contrition I give up worldly joy, and despise, amid abstinence and toils, the delights and ease of this life, and submit obediently to Him, freely bestowing my possessions in giving to and releasing others?
Anselm. When you render anything to God which you owe him, irrespective of your past sin, you should not reckon this as the debt which you owe for sin. But you owe God every one of those things which you have mentioned. For, in this mortal state, there should be such love and such desire of attaining the true end of your being, which is the meaning of prayer, and such grief that you have not yet reached this object, and such fear lest you fail of it, that you should find joy in nothing which does not help you or give encouragement of your success. . . . But you ought to view the gifts which you bestow as a part of your debt, since you know that what you give comes not from yourself, but from him whose servant both you are and he also to whom you give. And nature herself teaches you to do to your fellow servant, man to man, as you would be done by; and that he who will not bestow what he has ought not to receive what he has not.
The reasoning here of Anselm is clear. When we give what we ought to give or do what we ought to do, we are simply doing our duty, and when we do what we ought to do this can never be meritorious. Simply doing one’s duty can never be accounted by God as the payment of sin. This is the same truth as set forth by our Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 17:10: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” If a person were to commit only one sin throughout his entire life, in his earliest infancy, and then live a perfectly holy life throughout all his days and years in this world, he could never pay for that one sin he committed, because, living a perfectly holy life, he would do nothing else than that which is required of him.
Anselm also emphasized that God’s justice man is not able to satisfy. Man ought, but cannot. God need not, but does. For, most foreign to God would it be to allow man, the most precious of His creatures, to perish. But as God Himself must make the satisfaction, and man ought to make it, the satisfaction must be made by one who is both God and man, that is, the God-man.
This truth Anselm sets forth in his book on pages 244-245:
Anselm. But this cannot be effected, except the price paid to God for the sin of man be something greater than all the universe besides God. (We must bear in mind that sin, committed against God, is greater than all the universe, inasmuch as God is greater than the universe, and therefore the price paid for sin must be greater than all the universe,—H.V.)
Boso. So it appears.
Anselm. Moreover, it is necessary that he who can give God anything of his own which is more valuable than all things in the possession of God, must be greater than all else but God Himself.
Boso. I cannot deny it.
Anselm. Therefore none but God can make this satisfaction.
Boso. So it appears.
Anselm. If it be necessary, therefore, as it appears, that the heavenly kingdom be made up of men, and this cannot be effected unless the aforesaid satisfaction be made, which none but God can make and none but man ought to make, it is necessary for the God-man to make it.
Boso. Now blessed be God! We have made a great discovery with regard to our question. Go on, therefore, as you have begun. For I hope that God will assist you.
Anselm. Now must we inquire how God can become man.
Finally, according to Anselm, to make satisfaction, the God-man must give back to God something he is not under obligation to render. A life of perfect obedience he owes. Death he does owe, for death is the wages of sin, and he had no sin. By submitting to death, he acquired merit. Because this merit is infinite in value, being connected with the person of the infinite Son of God, it covers the infinite guilt of the sinner and constitutes the satisfaction required.
On page 257 Anselm writes the following:
If we say that he will give himself to God by obedience, so as, by steadily maintaining holiness, to render himself subject to His will, this will not be giving a thing not demanded of him by God as his due. For every reasonable being owes his obedience to God.
And on page 258 he writes this:
Now, nothing can be more severe or difficult for man to do for God’s honor, than to suffer death voluntarily when not bound by obligation; and man cannot give himself to God in any way more truly than by surrendering himself to death for God’s honor. Therefore, he who wishes to make atonement for man’s sin should be one who can die if he chooses.