We introduced our preceding article with the observation that great significance was attached to the sacrament of Baptism during this second period of the history of the Church of God in the New Dispensation. By it both original and actual sins (committed before baptism) were removed. That this power was ascribed to this sacrament appears from several quotations. We concluded our preceding article with the promise that we would quote Augustine in connection with his views on this subject. However, before we quote this learned Church Father, let us first of all quote from Philip Schaff who presents the views of Augustine as follows:
“In Augustine we already find all the germs of the scholastic and Catholic doctrine of baptism, though they hardly agree properly with his doctrine of predestination, the absolute sovereignty of divine grace and the perseverance of saints. According to his view, baptism is the sacrament of regeneration, which is, negatively, the means of the forgiveness of sin, that is, both of original sin and of actual sins committed before baptism (not after it), and positively, the foundation of the new spiritual life of faith through the impartation of the gratia operan andco-operans. The subjective condition of this effect is the worthy receiving, that is, penitent faith. Since in the child there is no actual sin, the effect of baptism in this case is limited to the remission of the guilt of original sin; and since the child cannot yet itself believe, the Christian church (represented by the parents and the sponsors) here appears in its behalf, as Augustine likewise supposed, and assumes the responsibility of the education of the baptized child to Christian majority.”
Reinhold Seeberg, in his book: The History of Doctrines, writes as follows, and we quote: “The opposition between the Donatistic and Catholic churches was based upon their different conceptions of the sacraments. From the time of the Council of Arles (A.D. 316—H.V.), the great point of discussion was whether baptism and ordination administered by an unworthy person retained their validity. Augustine’s views concerning the sacraments, by an inner necessity, determined his attitude upon this question. The sacraments are gifts of God and the moral condition of the administrator cannot detract from the value of the gift conveyed: “What he gives is, nevertheless, real (verum), if he gives not what is his own, but God’s” (c. litt. Pet. 2:30. 69; unit. cccl. 21. 58). Only thus is the result certain and salvation dependent upon God, not upon men. It is not the intercession of men, but that of Christ, which helps us (d. litt; Pet. 1:3 ,4; c. ep. Parm. 2. 8 .16). No reason is shown why he who cannot lose baptism itself can forfeit the right of administering it. For each is a sacrament; and each is given to man by the same consecration—the one when he is baptized, and the other when he is ordained: therefore, in the Catholic church (we again remark that this must not be confused with the Roman Catholic Church of today—H.V.) neither dare be repeated” (c: ep. Parm. 2. 12. 28). This is explained by the fact that these sacraments impart to the recipient a permanent character (I underscore—H.V.): “just as baptism, so ordination remains a whole in them” (ib). Baptism and ordination impress upon man a fixed “dominical character.” This military form of expression implies that, as there is a military brand (nota militaris) whose significance continues through the whole life, so also baptism and ordination have a perpetual and indelible (the term employed by the Middle Ages) force for the recipient Cc. ep. Parm. 2. 13. 29). There remains in him something sacred, a sanctum. The spirit is preserved to him, not in a moral sense, but in the sense of an official equipment . . . . . The peculiarities of the separate sacraments may be briefly stated. Baptism, as the sacramentum remissionis peccatorum (bapt. V. 21. 29) works the forgiveness of sins, primarily the forgiveness of the guilt of original concupiscence; in this consists its chief efficacy (cf. p. 314). Augustine frequently speaks of a blotting out of sins (e.g., by baptism . . . sins are destroyed). Discrimination is to be made between this forgiveness once granted and the recurring forgiveness of daily sins in response to the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Augustine, however, made the latter dependent upon the former: “by that which is given once it comes to pass that pardon of any sins whatsoever, not only before but also afterward, is granted to believers.” Prayer, alms, and good works would bring no forgiveness to the Christian if he were not baptized . . . . The first blessing is the forgiveness of sins, which man receives through baptism. With it begins renewal(renovation), which finds here its basis. Sin is, therefore, forgiven through baptism. Concupiscence, however, yet remains even in the baptized; but it is no longer sin, because God no longer so accounts it . . . Hence, Christ died as a sacrifice for sin, as our representative, and He arose as an evidence of the new life brought to us by Him. We have a reflection of this in baptism, as we die to sin and live through the washing of regeneration (42). All, therefore, have need of baptism. Children thereby die to original sin, and adults also to the further sins actually committed (43). The aim of baptism is the “remission of sins” (44 and 51; cf. supra, pp. 322, 349).” Finally, Seeberg quotes the decrees of Orange, which synod met in 530 or 531 to put an end to the Semipelagian controversy: “The leading, ideas of this doctrinal decision are as follows: Both Pelagianism and Semipeligianism are in conflict with the “rule of Catholic faith.” ‘By the sin of Adam, he himself and all his posterity were ruined in body and soul. Not only death but sin also, has through Adam come upon the whole human race (1, 2, 3). “No one has of himself anything except falsehood and sin” (22a). The free will has been inclined and weakened in such a way that man of himself can neither believe in God nor love Him (25b). If man even before the fall was unable without the help of his Creator to maintain his original integrity, “how shall he be able without the grace of God to recover what he has lost?’ (19). The grace of God works in us the impulse to call upon God and to strive after purification, as also faith. Grace is an “infusia et operatio” of the Spirit (4). That we believe, and that we will or are able to do these things as we ought, is wrought in us through the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit (7, cf. ib.: “in consenting to and believing the truth”). The faith thus inspired by God impels us to baptism (25 H., p. 152). It is baptism which renews our will: “the choice of the will, weakened in the first man, cannot be repaired except through the grace of baptism” (13).”—thus far the quotation from Seeberg.
In the writings of Augustine against the Donatists we quote the following (it is well to remember that Augustine, in these quotations, is contending with the Donatists who maintained that the sacrament of baptism as administered by heretics should not be recognized. Cyprian, too, maintained this position. Augustine, however, did not favor rebaptism. Nevertheless, in these quotations Augustine gives expression to his views on the sacrament of baptism—H.V.): “What if he approached baptism itself in deceit? were his sins remitted, or were they not? Let them choose which they will. Whichever they choose will answer our purpose. If they say they were remitted, how then shall ‘the Holy Spirit of discipline flee deceit,’ if in him who was full of deceit He worked remission of sins? If they say they were not remitted, I ask whether, if he should afterwards confess his sin with contrition of heart and true sorrow, it would be judged that he ought to be baptized again. And if it is mere madness to assert this, then let them confess that a man can be baptized with the true baptism of Christ, and that yet his heart, persisting in malice or sacrilege, may not allow remission of sins to be given; and so let them understand that men may be baptized in communions severed from the Church, in which Christ’s baptism is given and received in the said celebration of the sacrament, but that it will only then be of avail for the remission of sins, when the recipient, being reconciled to the unity of the Church, is purged from the sacrilege of deceit, by which his sins were retained, and their remission prevented. For, as in the case of him who had approached the sacrament in deceit there is no second baptism, but he is purged by faithful discipline and truthful confession, which he could not be without baptism, so that what was given before becomes then powerful to work his salvation, when the former deceit is done away by the truthful confession; so also in the case of the man who, while an enemy to the peace and love of Christ, received in any heresy or schism the baptism of Christ, which the schismatics in question had not lost from among them, though by his sacrilege his sins were not remitted, yet, when he corrects his error, and comes over to the communion and unity of the Church, he ought not to, be again baptized: because by his very reconciliation to the peace of the Church he receives this benefit, that the sacrament now begins in unity to be of avail for the remission of his sins, which could not so avail him as received in schism.
“But if they should say that in the man who has approached the sacrament in deceit, his sins are indeed removed by the holy power of so great a sacrament at the moment when he received it, but return immediately in consequence of his deceit: so that the Holy Spirit has both been present with him at his baptism for the removal of his sins, and has also fled before his perseverance in deceit so that they should return: so that both declarations prove true,—both, ‘As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ;’ and also, ‘The holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit;’—that is to say, that both the holiness of baptism . clothes him with Christ, and the sinfulness of deceit strips him of Christ: like the case of a man who passes from darkness through light into darkness again, his eyes being always directed towards darkness, though the light cannot but penetrate them as he passes;—if they should say this, let them understand that this is also the case with those who are baptized without the pale of the Church, but yet with the baptism of the Church, which is holy in itself, wherever it may be; and which therefore belongs not to those who separate themselves, but to the body from which they are separated; while yet it avails even among them so far, that they pass through its light, back to their own darkness, their sins, which in that moment had been dispelled by the holiness of baptism, returning immediately upon them, as though it were the darkness returning which the light had dispelled while they were passing through it?
We will continue with this quotation of the eminent Church Father in our following article. However, we should notice the following in this quotation, also in that part which we will quote, the Lord willing, in our following article. First, Augustine apparently teaches here that a person’s sins are removed at the time of baptism but that they return in consequence of his deceit and if be walks in ways of sin and evil. This certainly appears to be a strange doctrine to us. Augustine, however, expresses himself thus because of the power which he ascribes to the sacrament of baptism. Secondly, the benefit of baptism is only on the condition of repentance and faith. He does not ascribe magical power to the water as such of the sacrament.