The GOSPEL TRUTH
AN HISTORICAL PRESENTATION OF
AUGUSTINISM AND PELAGIANISM
G. F. WIGGERS, D. D.
CHAPTER IV: The Pelagian doctrine on baptism, and particularly on infant baptism; and Augustine's doctrine on the same.
The doctrine of infant baptism was, therefore, as we have seen, either the first on which the controversy began, or at least one of the first. We shall begin with this.
That the doctrine of the Pelagians on infant baptism, differed from the Augustinian theory in an essential point, is certain. But it is really difficult to show definitely in what the Pelagian view consisted; for according to existing accounts, the Pelagians expressed themselves diversely as to the object of baptism. From the passage already adduced (De Peccat. Mer. III. 6,) it appears that some Pelagians, (whether Pelagius and Caelestius themselves, is not certain,) had maintained, that children were not baptized for the forgiveness of sins, but as an act of Christian consecration. In the same piece, (I. 17, 34,) Augustine speaks of those whom he plainly enough distinguishes from Pelagius and Caelestius and the other Pelagians, who conceded that the pardon of sin is the object of infant baptism, but who came, by a singular conceit, to ascribe actual sins to newly born infants which were to be remitted through baptism. That there were people, in the time of Augustine, who thought so unphilosophically as even to ascribe sins as well as merits of their own to small children, is seen from a letter written by Alypius and Augustine to Paulinus in the year 417. Ep. 186. c. 4. It may be, that these people called themselves Pelagians and were inclined to favor Pelagianism in other points, as this might be inferred from the same epistle; but this doctrine of theirs must not be called Pelagian, since Pelagius no more acknowledged it than did Caelestius and Julian. Augustine himself says of Pelagius (De Pec. Orig. 21,) that he saw that small children, dying without baptism, had committed nothing wrong, and hence he did not dare to say they had gone to eternal death. Caelestius granted to the synod at Carthage, that redemption is needful for children, and that baptism is therefore indispensable for them; but the forgiveness of sins, as Augustine adds, he would not any more clearly declare. De Pec. Mer. I. 34, 36. Julian finally even spoke against that doctrine (Op. Imp. 1. 54), since he acknowledged no "merit of acts" in children, nor either "praise" or "crime of will."
They made a familiar distinction, (which Augustine mentions in his first work against the Pelagians, just quoted, and to which he frequently refers,) between salvation or eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven. The former with them was salvation in general; the latter, the salvation of Christians. The first could be gained by the unbaptized; the last, only by the baptized: and the object of baptism was to make men partakers of the kingdom of heaven, the salvation of Christians. In this way, after the example of several of the fathers, they believed they had found a point of reconciliation between the orthodox idea which attributed such importance to infant baptism, and the shocking idea which lies in the damnation of the unbaptized children of Christians, and of all who are not Christians, even those most esteemed for their virtues. The great value of baptism thus remained secure, and yet the entrance to salvation was not closed against such as were not Christian. "But they object," (it is said I. 18,) "and believe they have presented something worthy of attention and examination, when they assert, that infants receive baptism, not for the forgiveness of their sin, but that they who have not the spiritual sonship, may be created in Christ and become partakers of the kingdom of heaven." And in the same work (20), "they are startled at the declaration of the Lord, that no one who is not born again can see the kingdom of God. When he explains this, he says, if one is not born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. And hence they venture to attribute salvation and eternal life to unbaptized infants as a reward of innocence; but, as they are not baptized, they are excluded from the kingdom of heaven. A new and singular supposition, just as though there could be salvation and eternal life out of the heritage of Christ, out of the kingdom of heaven!" Here we see, then, what brought them to the admission of this famous distinction. The Pelagians could not admit the damnation of unbaptized children. It was contrary to all moral feeling. Actual transgressions they could not have committed; and original sin, the Pelagians denied. Again, they had doubts about promising the kingdom of heaven to the unbaptized, for Christ had said, Whoever is not born again of water and the Spirit, shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. It was from this dilemma, as will afterwards be shown, that the very untenable distinction between eternal life and the kingdom of heaven, was to free them. Comp. Sermo 294. Pelagius, indeed, at the synod of Diospolis, 415, would not own the proposition as his, that "infants, though not baptized, have eternal life." Pelagius may not have expressed himself in exactly this definite way, as he was not generally fond of stating his doctrines in direct contradiction to the assertions of his opponent, (De Pec. Orig. 18); still the proposition in the sense intended, is altogether Pelagian, since the Pelagians, as we shall soon see, by no means admitted the damnation of unbaptized infants; nor could they, since they did not admit Augustine's doctrine of original sin.
But subsequently the Pelagians, compelled by the objections of their opponent, Jerome, who reproached them with a departure from the commonly received symbol of faith, conceded the object of infant baptism to be the remission of sins, only they denied that original sin was thereby forgiven them. Hence they referred the remission of sins, not to sins already committed, but to such as would afterwards be committed by the children baptized. In the remarkable confession of faith which Caelestius presented for his justification to the Romish bishop Zosimus, 417, it is said "We profess, that according to the rule of the catholic church and by the import of the gospel, children ought to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, because the Lord has decided that the kingdom of heaven can be given only to the baptized. Since the powers of nature are not adequate to this, it must be conferred by the free gift of grace. But the baptism of children for the forgiveness of sins, does not allow me, on that account, to maintain any transmission of sin by generation, (peccatum ex traduce). That confession is necessary, that we may not seem to adopt different sorts of baptism." De Pec. Orig. 5, 6. Also in the confession of Pelagius, it is said "We adopt one baptism, which, as we say, ought to be administered in the same words to children as to adults." Still more plainly did he declare himself in a conference with Melania and others, which Augustine mentions (De Gratia Christi, 32), viz., that children receive baptism for the forgiveness of sins; but in which he entered no further into the nature of those sins. But in his letter to Innocent, with which he accompanied that confession, he complains of being calumniated, as though he denied baptism as a sacrament for children, and promised the kingdom of heaven to some without the redemption of Christ. He had, however, heard of one heretic so wicked as not to maintain this. Ib. 30. De Pec. Orig. 18. "They say," writes Augustine to Sixtus, 418, (Ep. 194. c. 10,) "that the children indeed answer truly by the mouth of those who hold them, that they believe in a forgiveness of sins, but not because they are to be forgiven them, but because they believe that in the church sins are to be forgiven in baptism to those in whom they are found, and not to those who have none. And therefore they did not mean that they were so baptized for the forgiveness of sins as if there were occasion for redemption to those who, according to their opinion, have no sin, but because they, although without sin, are baptized with a baptism by which the forgiveness of sin is imparted to every sinner." Ep. 193. c. 2.
With the distinction which the Pelagians admitted between salvation in general and the salvation of Christians, they were consistent in presenting "the adoption of children among the sons of God," as the object of baptism. Contra Duas Epp. Pelagg. II. 6, it is said: "Although you deny that they have original sin which is forgiven in baptism; yet you by no means deny that by that bath of regeneration, the adoption of the sons of men to sons of God, follows, nay, you expressly approve it." Compare the same work, IV. 2, where the opinion is quoted from the second letter of the Pelagians, "that baptism is necessary for every age, whereby every creature may be adopted among the children of God, not because they derive anything from their parents which must be expiated (sit expiandum) by the bath of regeneration." In reference to this, they could say, "that by baptism men are perfectly regenerated," as was customary. Ib. IV. 7.
But the manner is very remarkable in which Julian speaks (according to Op. Imp. 1. 53, 54) concerning the baptism both of adults and children. According to this main passage, the Pelagians held baptism to be salutary for every age, and heaped everlasting curses on those who were not of this opinion. In that passage Julian says: "We therefore so strongly hold the grace of baptism to be useful to all ages, that we would smite with an eternal anathema all who do not think it necessary even for small children (ut cunctos qui illam non necessariam etiam parvulis putant, eterno feriamus anathemate). But we believe this grace "(he here calls baptism a grace)" rich in spiritual gifts, which grace, abounding in benefits and venerable for its powers, effects a cure, according to the kinds of infirmity and the diversities of human condition, by a single virtue comprising both remedies and positive benefits. When applied, it is not to be changed according to the circumstances, for it now dispenses its benefits according to the capacity of the recipients. For as all the arts, instead of being increased or diminished according to the diversity of the materials on which they are exercised, remain always the same, so also, according to the apostle, there is one faith, one baptism but the operations are various. This grace, which washes away the spots of wickedness, does not conflict with justice. It produces no sins, but it purifies from sins. It forgives the guilty, but it makes not the innocent guilty. For Christ, who is the redeemer of his work, by continual manifestations of grace increases the benefits towards his image; and those whom he had made good by creation, he makes better by renovation and adoption. Whoever therefore thinks that this grace "(baptism)," by which the guilty obtains pardon, by which we are spiritually enlightened, are adopted as children of God, made citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, sanctified, placed among the number of Christ's members, and made partakers of the kingdom of heaven, is to be denied to any one, deserves the malediction of all the righteous. Thus have I, in this confession, reproved on the one hand those who suppose baptism not needful for children, and on the other you who dare to assign it an import that stains the righteousness of God. I protest that I hold no otherwise than that this mystery, baptism, should be administered at every age in the same words in which it was instituted, without being changed by the variety of circumstances; that by it, a sinner from a wicked becomes a perfectly good man; but an innocent person who has no evil of his own will, becomes from a good a better person, that is, a best (optimum). Both indeed become members of Christ by baptism; only the one had before led a wicked life, the other was of an uncorrupted nature." With this may be compared another development of Julian's, in which he exhibits the differences of the Pelagian and the Augustinian views from each other. "That we must all be regenerated by baptism, we testify by word and deed. But we do not baptize for the purpose of freeing from the claim (jure) of the devil; but that those who are the work of God, may become his children (pignora); that those who are born inferior (viliter), but not punishable (noxie), may be regenerated preciously (pretiose) and not blasphemously (calumniose); that those who have come forth from God's plastic tuition, may be still further advanced by his mysteries; and that those who bear the work of nature, may attain to the gifts of grace, and that their Lord who has made them good by creation, may make them better by renovation and adoption." Op. imp. V. 9.
Here we may introduce what Augustine, in his book on heresies, points out as heretical in the Pelagian doctrine on infant baptism. In the 88th heresy, he says: "The Pelagians maintain, that infants are so born without any shackles whatever of original sin, that there is nothing at all to be forgiven them through the second birth, but that they are baptized for the purpose of admission into the kingdom of God, through regeneration to the filial state; and therefore they are changed from good to better, but are not by that renovation freed from any evil at all of the old imputation. For they promise them, even if unbaptized, an eternal and blessed life, though out of the kingdom of God."
The passages now quoted, which might easily be increased by those of like import, will place the reader in a condition to judge for himself how manifold is the importance which the Pelagians attributed to baptism in general and to infant baptism in particular; and with what propriety they could say, that God, by a treasure of ineffable benefits, anticipates the will of the child; and how limited are the representations which are commonly made of the Pelagian theory in this respect. From these passages, it follows,
1. That the Pelagians, in respect to adults whom they cannot easily acquit of actual sin, concede that they obtain the pardon of sin through baptism. The author of the Hypomnesticon, (commonly, Hypognosticon,) V. 8, admits that the Pelagians expressly maintain, that "adults are baptized for the pardon of sins, because they can sin by the use of freewill." Hence Julian also could say, in a letter ascribed to him: "We condemn those who say that baptism does not remove all sins, for we know that a perfect purification is conferred by the mysteries." C. Duas Epp. Pel. I. 23. Op. Imp. III. 108.
2. The object of infant baptism, (which they granted was attained by adults through baptism, in connection with pardon,) they placed in this, that the baptized were thus consecrated to Christianity. "In addition to its natural good," says Julian, "comes also the blessing of sanctification." C. Jul. VI. 17. But this consecration to christianity must not be referred, as is often done, merely to a reception to the church, as if the Pelagians had regarded infant baptism as only a ceremony of initiation into Christianity. They regarded it, even from the first, as a sacrament, by which those who receive it obtain a higher blessing, the salvation of Christians. For in that first piece of Augustine against them, in which he says that they regard "sanctification in Christ" as the object of infant baptism, it is also mentioned, that they consider children as becoming partakers of the kingdom of heaven by baptism. The "sanctification in Christ," was therefore with them the communication of the benefits which christianity imparted, and to which "spiritual illumination" also belongs, and is perfectly synonymous with participation in the kingdom of heaven, "adoption among the sons of God, renovation," and the attainment of a better condition. But,
3. In process of time, the Pelagians, as well Pelagius and Caelestius as Julian, (that they might not destroy the unity of baptism, nor use one form of baptism for adults and another for infants,) expressly admitted, that children too are baptized for the remission of sins. This they could always do in accordance with their theory of baptism. For as they held to but one form of the sacrament, by which all who received it became partakers of the benefits of Christianity, the pardon of sins could not be excluded. But as they did not and could not rationally admit actual sin in infants, they referred this pardon, not to sins which the children had committed, but to such as they would at some time commit after baptism. The author of the Hypomnesticon (l. c.) makes the Pelagians say, that "children are baptized only for the purpose of their adoption as children of God. For grace finds in them something to adopt; but the fountain finds nothing to wash away. They are immersed for the pardon of sins, merely in respect to the formula of the symbol, that the received custom may be observed."
4. The Pelagians always denied the necessity of baptism, as well for children as adults, in the sense that original sin would thereby be pardoned, and that the unbaptized would be eternally punished for original sin from which they were not freed by baptism. "Since Jesus did not declare, say they [the Pelagians], If one is not born of water and the spirit, he shall not have eternal life; but only, He shall not enter the kingdom of heaven, therefore children must be baptized, that they may be with Christ in the kingdom of God, where they will not be if not baptized; although, if dying without baptism, they will have eternal life, because they are shackled with no fetters of sin. De Pec. Mer. 1. 30. This is also set forth by Augustine as the exact point of strife between him and the Pelagians in this view. "The Pelagians do not deny the sacrament of baptism to infants and they do not promise the kingdom of heaven to any without the redemption of Christ. But it is objected to them, that they will not own that unbaptized children are subject to the condemnation of the first man, and that original sin passes over to them, from which they must be cleansed by regeneration" (baptism); "while they maintain that they are to be baptized only for the attainment of the kingdom of heaven, just as if, out of the kingdom of heaven, those could have anything but eternal death who cannot have eternal life without partaking of the body and blood of the Lord. This is objected to them in respect to the baptism of children. That children cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without baptism, they have indeed never denied. But the question does not respect this; but the question is respecting purification from original sin in the baptized." De Pec. Orig. 17, 18, 19. Comp. C. Duas Epp. Pel. 1. 23.
This is the Pelagian doctrine on baptism. The Augustinian doctrine is quite different, and may easily be presented, as Augustine discloses it with great clearness. It may be reduced to the following points.
1. On baptism in general, Augustine thus explained himself. He ascribed to it such an efficacy as to free the baptized from the imputation of all sin, as well original sin (by which, according to the Augustinian theory, man in his natural state is subject to the devil), as from actual sins here committed, whether wilful or not, and whether of thought, word, or deed. The baptized triumphs over the allurements and temptations of sensual passions, and his prayer for the pardon of sins is heard. He obtains salvation. Nay, at a future day, by a resurrection from all evil and therefore from all base passions and the infirmity which here always cleaves to him, he shall become completely free, so that he can never more sin. For the body, also, baptism has a sanctifying effect, so that, through the pardon of sins, not only is it no longer subjected to the burden of all its past sins, but not even to the sensual lust that is in it, although its corruption, which burdens even the soul, will not here be removed. Thus fully did Augustine declare himself on baptism. C. Duas Epp. Pel. I. 14. III. 3. c. Jul. II. 5. VI. 13, 14, 18. De Pec. Orig. 40. The guilt (reatus) of concupiscence is forgiven through baptism by which the pardon of all sins is obtained, so that it will not be reckoned as sin, although for this life it remains in its effect. De Nupt. et Conc. I. 26. Not only all sins, but absolutely all evil to the man, were to be removed by the laver of holy baptism, by which Christ purifies his church that he may present it to himself without spot or wrinkle, though not indeed in this world, but in the future. At the resurrection was to ensue a perfect deliverance from sensual concupiscence. The sins of believers were to be pardoned through baptism, as well those committed before the rite as those committed afterwards from weakness or ignorance. Without baptism, neither would sorrow, nor the daily prayer for the pardon of sins, nor rich alms and benefactions avail anything. I. 33, 34. Baptism is an impartation (dispensatio) of the grace of Christ, which all require who need deliverance from the power of the devil, redemption, pardon, salvation, illumination. De Pec. Mer. I. 26. According to Augustine, baptism has therefore a very comprehensive advantage. By this only can a man enjoy the fruits of Christ's redemption; or, (as he well expressed himself, from the immediate connection in which the supper stood with baptism, in his time, at least in the west, ) by it he participates in the flesh and blood of Christ. C. Duas Epp. Pel. I. 22. By it, his death proves a blessing to him. "Though Christ has died but once, yet he nevertheless dies for every one, when the individual, of whatever age he may be, is baptized into his death; that is, the person is then profited by the death of him who was without sin, when himself, being baptized into his death, is dead unto sin, whereas he was before dead in sin." In Augustine's view, baptism was the means, not only of obtaining the pardon of all sin, but of being freed from all evil.
2. The object of infant baptism in particular, was in his view to free from the imputation of original sin and from the power of the devil, into which man came by Adam's sin. According to the church formulary, children were baptized "for the remission of sins." Actual sin (peccatum proprium), new born children could not commit. It is therefore original sin which they are forgiven, through baptism, and by which the devil is expelled from them. They are therefore blown upon and exorcised, and likewise renounce him. The grace of God is imparted to them in baptism in a mysterious manner. The exhibition of his doctrine on infant baptism, is one chief object of Augustine's first piece against the Pelagians. "As children," says he (De Pec. Mer. I. 19), "are subject to no sins of their own life, the hereditary disease in them is heated by his grace who makes them well by the laver of regeneration. But who does not know, that what the infant obtained through baptism, profits him nothing in riper years, provided he does not believe, nor keep himself free from forbidden passions? But if he dies after baptism, the imputation to which he was subjected by original sin, is forgiven, and he will be perfected in that light of truth which illuminates the righteous in the presence of the Creator." "Children born of parents ever so holy and righteous, are not free from the imputation of original sin, if not baptized in Christ." III. 12. "Whoever is carnally born of this disobedience of the flesh, this law of sin and death, must be spiritually born again, that he may not only be introduced into the kingdom of God, but also be freed from the condemnation of sin. They are therefore as truly born in the flesh subject to the sin and death of the first man, as they are regenerated in baptism to a connection with the righteousness and eternal life of the other man." I. 16. "By baptism, the chain of guilt (reatus) is broken, by which the devil held the soul; and the partition is broken down by which he separated man from his maker." I. 39. "As the necessity of infant baptism is admitted by them, who cannot rise up against the authority of the whole church, which has doubtless come through Christ and the Apostles; so must they likewise admit that children need the benefits of the Mediator that, being cleansed by the sacrament and the charity of believers, and thus incorporated with the body of Christ, which is the church, they may be reconciled with God, may become alive in him, well, free, redeemed, enlightened. From what else arc they redeemed but the death, the vice, the imputation, the subjection, the darkness of sin? Now, since of their age, they have committed no sin in their own life, there remains only original sin." I. 26. "Christ infuses the most hidden grace of his spirit in a secret manner into the children." I. 9. Hence Augustine makes the change of man's nature to commence in baptism (II. 27); and hence he says (Ep. 187), that the Holy Ghost dwells in baptized children, though they are not conscious of it.
In other works, Augustine frequently recurs to his theory of the object of infant baptism. But it is only his doctrine of the power of the devil as dispelled by baptism, that is more fully developed and presented in them. He speaks thus, De Nupt. et Conc. I. 20: "The power of the devil is really exorcised from infants, and they also renounce it by the heart and mouth of those who carry them to baptism, since they cannot by their own, by which they, delivered from the power of darkness, may be transferred into the kingdom of their Lord. Now what is it in them by which they are held in the devil's power until delivered by Christ's baptism? what, but sin? For the devil finds nothing else by which he can subject human nature to his sway, which the good Author had instituted right. But infants have committed no sin of their own in their life. Hence there remains original sin, by which they are captive under the power of the devil, if they are not delivered by the laver of regeneration and the blood of Christ, and pass into the kingdom of their redeemer, the power of their jailer being frustrated and ability being given them of becoming the children of God, who were the children of this world." In the same work (II. 18) he says: "From this true and well grounded apostolic and catholic faith, Julian has departed with the Pelagians, since he does not think that those who are born are under the power of the devil; so that infants are not to be brought to Christ that they may be delivered from the power of darkness and brought into his kingdom. And so he impeaches the church, spread throughout the whole world, in which everywhere all infants, who are to be baptized, are blown upon simply that the prince of this world may be cast out, by whom the vessels of wrath are necessarily possessed as born from Adam, if they are not born again in Christ and transferred into his kingdom as made vessels of mercy through grace." Com. De Pec. Orig. 40, Op. Imp. 11. 224, and countless other passages. Augustine also indeed expresses himself thus: in baptism "they renounce this world," which with him must be synonymous with the renunciation of the devil, since he considered the devil as the prince of this world. "The reprobate inheritance which comes from Adam, is renounced through the grace of Christ, when the world is renounced, where the children of Adam are necessarily subjected to a grievous yoke, and not indeed unrighteously, from the day they come forth from their mother to the day of burial in the mother of all. Hence the holy mysteries show clearly enough what is done when the infants renounce." Op. Imp. 111. 42.
Thus Augustine explained himself as to the object of infant baptism. It has therefore a necessary effect to purify from sin, and every child that dies after baptism and before the use of reason, and so before pollution by wilful sins, must inherit salvation. "Children who can neither will nor refuse either good or evil, are nevertheless compelled to be holy and righteous when, struggling and crying with tears against it, they are regenerated by holy baptism. For doubtless, dying before the use of reason, they will be holy and righteous in the kingdom of God through grace, to which they come, not by their ability (sua possibilitate), but by necessity." Op. Imp. V. 64. Grace once attained can be lost again only by special wickedness in advancing years. Ep. 93. 2.
3. But if baptism is the absolute condition of pardon and salvation, it follows that the unbaptized cannot be saved, nor escape the punishment of the future world. Hence, all Christian children, dying before baptism, as well as all the heathen, even those most highly valued for their virtues, must be eternally doomed.
This inference is of such a kind that every other part of his whole system, ought to have been given up, simply to avoid a consequence so strikingly severe and so injurious to the justice of God. But Augustine was, on the one hand, far too obstinate to renounce his position of the absolute necessity of baptism to salvation, and on the other, far too consistent to deny any conclusion which necessarily flowed from that position. And if this consequence was not adduced by the Pelagians against the soundness of his view of the object of infant baptism, he himself recognized it. For a while, it may have pained him to admit the damnation of all Christian children, as he shows in several passages of his writings. For example, he says (De Pec. Mer. I. 16), we may justly conclude that infants dying without baptism, will be in the mildest punishment (in mitissima damnatione); and (Ep. 186. c. 8), they will be punished more lightly (tolerabilius) than those who have committed sins of their own. Still he says (De Pec. Mer. I. 28), in opposition to the eternal life of the Pelagians, "there is no middle place, so that he who is not with Christ, must be with the devil." He says (III. 4), "as nothing else is done for children in baptism but their being incorporated into the church, that is, connected with the body and members of Christ, it follows, that when this is not done for them, they belong to perdition;" and according to the above passage from Ep. 186, they will be punished with eternal death. He maintains (De Anima IV. II) that those condemned to eternal death, are condemned not merely for known sin, but, if they as children have not committed such sin, for original sin. According to Augustine, therefore, Christian children, dying unbaptized, do not escape the positive punishment of Adam's sin in the eternal life. He says (C. Jul. VI. 3) that unbaptized children, according to Mark 16:16, are condemned because they believe not. Comp. Ep. 217. c. 5. Faith with him was the condition of salvation; and unbelief makes children of the devil. C. Duas Ep. Pelagg. III. 3. But in baptism, according to Augustine's theory, (which need not here be regarded as further differing from the other, as there was no contest between him and the Pelagians on this point), the church believed for the children; or the children themselves believed "by the hearts and mouths of those who presented them," whom he considered as the representatives of the church, as he says in the above cited passage (C. Jul. VI. 3), and also as in other places, and appeals to the consent of the Pelagians on the point. Comp. Epist. 193. c. 2. 194. c. 10. In like manner he also ascribes to the children the penitence which precedes faith and is alluded to in "the renunciation,"--"if this child," he further says (Op. Imp. III. 199), "is not delivered from the power of the devil but remains under it, why dost thou wonder, O Julian, that he, who is not allowed to enter the kingdom of God, should be with the devil in eternal fire?" etc. With this is also to be compared Ep. 215, where he shows, that unbaptized children, who have as little of sins as of merits of their own, are condemned for original sin; but adults, who use their freewill and add their own to the original sin, will be punished, not only for original sin, but also for their actual transgressions.
The doom of the heathen is very summarily conceded by this Christian bishop. Those who never heard anything of Christ, and whose ignorance was not culpable, he nevertheless admits must burn forever in hell. "That ignorance also which does not pertain to those who are unwilling to know, but to those who are as it were honestly ignorant, excuses no one so far that he is not to burn in eternal fire (sempiterno igne non ardeat), although he has not believed because he has not heard at all what to believe; but perhaps he will burn the more gently (mitius). For it is not said without cause, Pour out thy wrath on the nations that know thee not; and that which the apostle says, when he shall come in a flame of fire to execute vengeance on them that know not God." De Gratia et Lib. Arb. 3.
This view of Augustine's, however, is somewhat mitigated, at least at first sight, since, as we shall afterwards see, he allowed no real virtues in the heathen, just because they did not believe. Hence God would be unrighteous, said he, were He to admit any to his kingdom but the truly righteous. Still the heathen, who by nature had lived conformably to the law, would be punished more tolerably; Fabricius more tolerably than Cataline, etc. C. Jul. IV. 3. Nor did he allow the heathen who lived righteously, to go unrewarded; but he limited the reward to this life; a "temporal reward." See Vos. sius (Hist. Pel. p. 678), where some pertinent passages are collected from Augustine's writings. Compare also Augustine's fifth book De Civitate Dei, where he speaks of the temporal reward granted by God to the Romans for their good morals.
4. From the condemnation that would befall the unbaptized, Augustine excepts however, the believer among the worshippers of the true God before the time of Christ, and likewise the unbaptized martyrs.
Augustine allows the believers before Christ to have been saved by the faith by which we must be saved. "That faith has saved the righteous of old, which also saves us; i.e., faith in the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, faith in his blood, his cross, his death, and his resurrection." De Nat. et Gr. 44. "The righteous of old lived according to the same faith as we do, since they believed that the incarnation, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus, would take place, which we believe have taken place." C. Duas Epp. Pel. III. 4. Augustine must therefore have excepted these unbaptized persons from condemnation. The unbaptized martyrs also received the bloody baptism by their death, which was the belief of the church before Augustine. This was regarded as a substitute for water baptism. Augustine explains himself on this point, in his work on the soul and its origin, I. 9. "Since it is said by Christ, If one is not born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; and in another place, Whoever has lost his life for my sake, shall find it again, no man becomes a member of Christ except by baptism into Christ or by death for Christ."
Earlier, however, in his controversial writings against the Donatists, Augustine had conceded that faith and conversion of heart, supply the place of baptism in Christians, if, through distress of the times, recourse cannot be had to the rite itself: only there must be no contempt of the ordinance. De Baptismo contra Donatistas, IV. 22. A conclusion which doubtless Augustine would not subsequently have ventured to make, during the Pelagian controversy.
[NOTE. Strongly as some of the preceding citations may seem to militate against such a "conclusion," it still appears to me by no means certain that Augustine would not have continued to the end to make it; and that too in perfect consistency with his hold and groundless assumption that no unbaptized child and no adult heathen can be saved. For however great the stress he lays on baptism as a means of regeneration, "a sacrament of remission," etc., he probably nowhere intends to confound it with regeneration or spiritual renovation. In the case of infants he seems all along to suppose, what so many others have since believed, that at the time of baptism or very soon after, God's Spirit works the inward change on the heart which is indicated as needful by the outward rite. This is apparent, for instance, even from one of the passages cited in part by our author from a work written against the Pelagians, and therefore "during the controversy." After asserting that "Christ's grace internally produces our illumination and justification, by the operation of which the same apostle says, Neither is he that planteth anything nor he that watereth, but God who giveth the increase," Augustine immediately adds: "For by this grace [the inward working of his spirit], Christ also incorporates baptized children with his own body, who as yet certainly cannot imitate any one. As therefore he in whom all are made alive, besides affording an example of righteousness for their imitation, gives also to believers the most occult grace of his spirit, which he latently infuses also into the children, so he in whom all die, besides being an example to all who voluntarily transgress the Lord's commandment, has infected in himself with the occult disease of his carnal concupiscence, all descending from his stock." De. Pec. Mer. I. 9. From such passages as this, it seems evident that Augustine still held to the distinction he had before made between the effect of mere baptism as an external rite, and the inward work of divine grace. This distinction he made as clearly perhaps as anywhere, in his work on baptism, written against the Donatists about the year 400. There and in other works, he prefers to call baptism "the sacrament of grace," "the sacrament of the remission of sins," and "the sacrament of regeneration," instead of calling it directly grace and remission and regeneration--thus leaving the way open for him to deny, as he does most expressly deny, the actual conferment of saving grace on those who do not worthily receive the ordinance. See De Bap. V. 21.
But his views on the important subject of baptismal regeneration and also on the possibility of being saved without baptism, are very clearly displayed in the following remarkable passage from the same work. I need only premise, that he considered both faith and baptism requisite to salvation in cases where they are practicable, but that either is sufficient where the individual cannot have both. Speaking of the thief on the cross, he says: "As the thief who by necessity went without baptism, was saved because by his piety he had it spiritually, so where the person is baptized, though by necessity destitute of that [faith] which the thief had, he is saved. This the whole body of the church holds as delivered to them, in as much as small infants are baptized who certainly cannot believe with the heart unto righteousness and confess with the mouth to salvation, as the thief could. As in Abraham the righteousness of faith preceded, and circumcision, the seal of the righteousness of faith followed, so in Cornelius the spiritual sanctification by the gift of the Holy Spirit, preceded, and the sacrament of regeneration by the laver of baptism, followed. As in Isaac, who was circumcised the eighth day, the seal of the righteousness of faith preceded, and as he was the follower of his father's faith, the righteousness itself, the seal of which had preceded in his infancy, came after, so in baptized infants, the sacrament of regeneration precedes, and if they practise Christian piety, conversion of heart, the mystery of which preceded in their body, will follow. And as in the case of the thief, the mercy of the Almighty made up what was lacking of the sacrament of baptism, because it was lacking, not through pride or contempt, but necessity, so in infants dying after baptism, the same grace of the Almighty should be believed to make up for their not being able, from the want of age and not from a wicked will, to believe with the heart unto righteousness and to confess with the mouth unto salvation. From all this it appears that the sacrament of baptism is one thing, and the conversion of the heart another; but the salvation of a person is completed by both of them. And if one of these be wanting, we are not to think it follows that the other is wanting, since one may be without the other in an infant and the other was with the first in the thief, God Almighty making up in each case what was not wilfully wanting." De Bap. IV. 23, 24.
From this and other passages that might be adduced, there is probably more reason to suppose that Augustine wavered in respect to the time when the spirit changes the hearts of baptized children, than on either of the other points here brought to view. In respect to the salvation of even the best of the heathen, we may readily see where Augustine's principles would lead him, as they could have neither baptism nor faith in Christ of whom they had not heard; and so of unbaptized infants. TR.]
The contest which arose between the bishop of Hippo and the Pelagians in respect to baptism, (a matter in which Augustine had already so directly controverted himself, during the vehement Donatist disputes,) concerned therefore more especially infant baptism and the chief point in which their theories differed, was this, that Augustine maintained that baptism is administered to infants for the forgiveness of original sin, by which they are under the power of the devil; and that if this is not forgiven through baptism, they will be eternally condemned; whereas the Pelagians rejected both these positions, and assumed as the object of infant baptism, a higher degree of felicity, the salvation of Christians.
On this point, many things were now put forth on both sides. The Pelagians represented it as abominable, and prejudicial to the justice of God, that infants, who had never sinned, should be eternally damned for another's sin. Julian expressed himself very strongly on the point. "The children, you say" (Augustine), "do not bear the blame of their own but of another's sins. What sort of sin can that be? What an unfeeling wretch, cruel, forgetful of God and of righteousness, an inhuman barbarian, is he who would make such innocent creatures as little children bear the consequences of transgressions which they never committed, and never could commit? God--you answer. What God? for there are gods many and lords many, but we worship but one God, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. What God dost thou make the malefactor? Here, most holy priest and most learned orator, thou fabricatest something more mournful and frightful than the brimstone in the valley of Amsanctus, or the pit of Avernus. God himself, say you, who commendeth his love towards us, who even spared not his own son, but hath given him up for us all, he so determines; he is himself the persecutor of those that are born; he himself consigns to eternal fire, for an evil will, the children who, as he knows, can have had neither a good nor an evil will," etc. Op. Imp. I. 48. To an objection of this kind, Augustine could answer nothing further than by appealing to his theory of original sin, according to which all men have sinned in Adam, and therefore belong to a condemned mass--to passages of scripture which he interpreted in his own way--to the unsearchableness of God's decrees--and to the opinions of earlier fathers in the church. But why some children die without baptism, and others not, Augustine declared to be indeed inexplicable. Yet it can be nothing unrighteous, he added, for there can be no unrighteousness with God. Here he took refuge in Paul's declaration--O, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. De Pec. Mer. I. 21.
Again, Augustine replied to the Pelagians, What is that "eternal life" which you allow to children who die before baptism, if they do not go to heaven? De Pec. Mer. I. 20, 28. To this Pelagius answered: "Where they do not go, I know, but where they do go, I know not." De Pec. Orig. 21. "If one asks them whether the unbaptized, (who therefore are not fellow heirs with Christ and will not inherit the kingdom of heaven,) obtain at least the benefit of eternal felicity by the resurrection, they are sorely in difficulty and find no escape." De Pec. Mer. I. 18. Hence Augustine playfully calls the "eternal life" of the Pelagians, locum aliquem secundae felicitatis. Op. Imp. I. 130.
And as his opponents found something unrighteous in one child's dying without baptism while another does not, if baptism is an indispensable condition of salvation, Augustine sought to put them into difficulty by the question, How is it right, then, that one child gains by baptism the salvation of Christians, and another, who has not received baptism, is excluded from the kingdom of God? De Pec. Mer. I. 21, 30. Op. Imp. VI. 20. What merit have those infants who are received by baptism as children of God, acquired for themselves above such as die without obtaining this favor C. Jul. IV. 8. Why, (as Augustine more definitely expresses himself, C. Duas Epp. Pel., in order to foreclose all escape to the Pelagians,) why is one twin brother accepted by baptism as a child of God, and the other not? The unbaptized twin brother comes to you, and inquires softly, why he is separated from his brother's good fortune? Why he is punished with this bad lot, that, while the other is to be received as a child of God, he does not receive the sacrament which is needful to every age? This objection was in fact of no small weight, and showed the untenableness of the distinction which the Pelagians made between "eternal life" and "the kingdom of heaven." Hence he could not be satisfactorily answered by them, since they admitted no unconditional predestination, and no irrespective grace of God, and so I find no attempt made to answer him. For it was justly mentioned here, and in his work on predestination (13), that they could not reply that, in the case of him who died before baptism, God had regard to acts which he would have committed if he had lived, since this sin cannot be considered as having taken place, and of course cannot be punished. And as he remarks expressly, in the next passage, that the Pelagians could not make this answer, and had not made it, therefore the assertion (in Ep. 194. c. 9, written about the year 418), which he adduces as Pelagian, viz., that "God foresees in those he takes away, how each one would have lived, if he had lived, and hence suffers him to die without baptism who, he knows, would have lived badly; while he does not, in this way, punish in him the bad deeds he had done, but which he would have done," is probably to be regarded as only a possible answer of the Pelagians, which Augustine notices beforehand; or, as Augustine asserts (c. 10), that he heard this expression from Pelagians, it may be considered as only a conceit of some Pelagians, minorum gentium (of inferior order), and not of Pelagius himself, of Caelestius, and of Julian, the representatives of Pelagianism. For if they could bring themselves to this hypothesis, they might just as well allow infants, dying before baptism, to be eternally damned; as with this hypothesis, they might then, in like manner, defend the justice of God. But that, on the question why this child dies before baptism, but that does not, and this is therefore saved but that is not, it must by no means be answered, that God therein regards the life which it would have lived in riper years, says Augustine in another work not directed against Pelagianism. For if God has regard to the good life any one would lead if he remained in life, so must he also have had regard to the bad life any one would have led, and must have damned him for it. And yet it was said (Sap. 4:11) of the early death of many a righteous person, "he was removed, lest wickedness should change his mind." De Gen. ad Lit. X. 16. Comp. Ep. 217. c. 5. De Anima et ejus Origine, l. 12. III. 10. Augustine also remarked, that we elsewhere meet with appearances which we know not how to reconcile with our ideas of God's justice, and where we must take refuge in the incomprehensibility of God. How, for instance, can we call it right, that the one, according to the above quoted declaration of the Book of Wisdom, is taken away, so that wickedness may not change his mind, but the other lives and becomes godly! Would they not both go to heaven, if they were taken away? etc. De Pec. Mer. I. 21. Ep. 194.
Against Julian, who represented renovation (innovation) and adoption as the object of infant baptism, but would yet allow of no original sin, Augustine made this objection: How does Christ renew those whom he finds but just born, if they bring no old sin with them? Op. Imp. III. 151. This could prove at most, that the expression innovation was not fitly chosen.
Still more insignificant is that which Augustine suggested against Caelestius, who had granted, at the Carthaginian synod, that, as children should be baptized, redemption is also necessary for them. Although he would not declare himself expressly in regard to original sin, yet he conceded a redemption for children, and cramped himself not a little by the term redemptio. "For from what should children be redeemed, if not from the power of the devil, in which they could not be if they were not held by original sin?" etc. Ep. 157. 22. From the term redemption, there followed not necessarily the freeing from the power of the devil, in which mankind might be by original sin. Also, in the Pelagian sense, a redemption could always find place, since baptism was to confer the benefits of christianity, and by the same to effect a deliverance from a less happy condition.
The Pelagians, moreover, found a difficulty in its being necessary for the children of baptized parents to be baptized for the forgiveness of original sin, and therefore that the original sin, which ought to be removed by baptism, should be propagated by baptized parents. "If a sinner," say they, "begets a sinner, so that the guilt of original sin must be remitted to the child, by the reception of baptism, so must also a righteous person beget a righteous." De Pec. Mer. II. 9. "If even his own sins do not injure the parent, after his conversion, how much less can they injure his child." II. 27. "If the body of a baptized person is a temple of God, how can a human being be formed within it who is under the dominion of the devil?" C. Jul. VI. 14. Upon this, Augustine knew of much to reply, on his theory of concupiscence remaining in the baptized after baptism, the guilt of which is indeed removed, but itself still remains active. The righteous begets, not as righteous, but as impelled by sensual lust, which is never wholly removed. The body of the mother is a temple of God through grace, but not by nature. He also sought, by examples from the visible world, to render intelligible the possibility that original sin should be propagated by the baptized. The foreskin, which is removed by circumcision, remains in those who are begotten by the circumcised. The chaff, which is separated with so much care, remains in the product that arises from the purified wheat. Augustine also pressed the Pelagians with the like difficulty on their own supposition, according to which Christian children must be born of Christian parents, and therefore baptism is superfluous to them; for how could they still admit, that the sons of the baptized must be baptized in order thereby to become Christians? LI. cc., De Pec. Mer. III. 8, 9. Comp. serm. 294, which was preached at Carthage not long after the composition of the first controversial piece by Augustine.
In this and similar ways, was the contest carried on by both sides, respecting the object of infant baptism. Yet this question always remained as only a secondary point. The main thing with Augustine, was original sin, for which he believed a weighty argument to be found in infant baptism. "Baptism, which is granted for the remission of sins, has a false object, with those who have no sin." De Praedest. Sanct. 13. He ever used infant baptism only as an argument to prove his main point, and therefore touched upon it only so far as it stood in connection with the doctrine of original sin. This doctrine we may consider as peculiarly the central point of the whole Augustinian system. As Augustine would not relinquish this, he could not acknowledge any other theory of infant baptism but the one he held. But again, if the Pelagians would remain true to their view of the uncorruptedness of man, with which Augustine's original sin stood in such contrast, they could allow every other object of infant baptism to be valid except the Augustinian. But they always had to regard baptism as a sacrament, and to assign it a higher object than that of consecration to Christianity; and they dared not deny the necessity of infant baptism, if they would not become offensive to their age.
With what interest, now, the doctrine of original sin was assailed and defended, by the one side and the other, and objections were received and encountered in defence, we may anticipate beforehand.
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