Augustin - anti-pelagian 8
8 The Augustinian opposition was at first led by the vigorous controversialist, Prosper of Aquitaine, and, in the next century, by the wise, moderate, and good Caesarius of Arles, who brought the contest to a conclusion in the victory of a softened Augustinianism. Already in 431 a letter was obtained from Pope Coelestine, designed to close the controversy in favor of Augustinianism, and in 496 Pope Gelasius condemned the writings of Faustus in the first index of forbidden books; while, near the end of the first quarter of the sixth century, Pope Hormisdas was appealed to for a renewed condemnation. The end was now in sight. The famous second Synod of Orange met under the presidency of Caesarius at that ancient town on the 3d of July, 529, and drew up a series of moderate articles which received the ratification of Boniface II. in the following year. In these articles there is affirmed an anxiously guarded Augustinianism, a somewhat weakened Augustinianism, but yet a distinctive Augustinianism; and, so far as a formal condemnation could reach, semi-Pelagianism was suppressed by them in the whole Western Church. But councils and popes can only decree; and Cassian and Vincent and Faustus, despite Caesarius and Boniface and Gregory, retained an influence among their countrymen which never died away.
Both by nature and by grace, Augustin was formed to be the champion of truth in this controversy. Of a naturally philosophical temperament, he saw into the springs of life with a vividness of mental perception to which most men are strangers; and his own experiences in his long life of resistance to, and then of yielding to, the drawings of God’s grace, gave him a clear apprehension of the great evangelic principle that God seeks men, not men God, such as no sophistry could cloud. However much his philosophy or theology might undergo change in other particulars, there was one conviction too deeply imprinted upon his heart ever to fade or alter,—the conviction of the ineffableness of God’s grace. Grace,—man’s absolute dependence on God as the source of all good,—this was the common, nay, the formative element, in all stages of his doctrinal development, which was marked only by the ever growing consistency with which he built his theology around this central principle. Already in 397,—the year after he became bishop,—we find him enunciating with admirable clearness all the essential elements of his teaching, as he afterwards opposed them to Pelagius. It was inevitable, therefore, that although he was rejoiced when he heard, some years later, of the zealous labours of this pious monk in Rome towards stemming the tide of luxury and sin, and esteemed him for his devout life, and loved him for his Christian activity, he yet was deeply troubled when subsequent rumours reached him that he was “disputing against the grace of God.” He tells us over and over again, that this was a thing no pious heart could endure; and we perceive that, from this moment, Augustin was only biding his time, and awaiting a fitting opportunity to join issue with the denier of the Holy of holies of his whole, I will not say theology merely, but life. “Although I was grieved by this,” he says, “and it was told me by men whom I believed, I yet desired to have something of such sort from his own lips or in some book of his, so that, if I began to refute it, he would not be able to deny it.” Thus he actually excuses himself for not entering into the controversy earlier. When Pelagius came to Africa, then, it was almost as if he had deliberately sought his fate. But circumstances secured a lull before the storm. He visited Hippo; but Augustin was absent, although he did not fail to inform himself on his return that Pelagius while there had not been heard to say “anything at all of this kind.” The controversy against the Donatists was now occupying all the energies of the African Church, and Augustin himself was a ruling spirit in the great conference now holding at Carthage with them. While there, he was so immersed in this business, that, although he once or twice saw the face of Pelagius, he had no conversation with him; and although his ears were wounded by a casual remark which he heard, to the effect “that infants were not baptized for remission of sins, but for consecration to Christ,” he allowed himself to pass over the matter, “because there was no opportunity to contradict it, and those who said it were not such men as could cause him solicitude for their influence.”
It appears from these facts, given us by himself, that Augustin was not only ready for, but was looking for, the coming controversy. It can scarcely have been a surprise to him when Paulinus accused Coelestius (412); and, although he was not a member of the council which condemned him, it was inevitable that he should at once take the leading part in the consequent controversy. Coelestius and his friends did not silently submit to the judgment that had been passed upon their teaching: they could not openly propagate their heresy, but they were diligent in spreading their plaints privately and by subterraneous whispers among the people. This was met by the Catholics in public sermons and familiar colloquies held everywhere. But this wise rule was observed,—to contend against the erroneous teachings, but to keep silence as to the teachers, that so (as Augustin explains ) “the men might rather be brought to see and acknowledge their error through fear of ecclesiastical judgment than be punished by the actual judgment.” Augustin was abundant in these oral labours; and many of his sermons directed against Pelagian error have come down to us, although it is often impossible to be sure as to their date. For one of them (170) he took his text from Ph 3,6–16, “as touching the righteousness which is by the law blameless; howbeit what things were gain to me, those have I counted loss for Christ.” He begins by asking how the apostle could count his blameless conversation according to the righteousness which is from the law as dung and loss, and then proceeds to explain the purpose for which the law was given, our state by nature and under law, and the kind of blamelessness that the law could produce, ending by showing that man can have no righteousness except from God, and no perfect righteousness except in heaven. Three others (174, 175, 176) had as their text 1Tm 1,15, 16, and developed its teaching, that the universal sin of the world and its helplessness in sin constituted the necessity of the incarnation; and especially that the necessity of Christ’s grace for salvation was just as great for infants as for adults. Much is very forcibly said in these sermons which was afterwards incorporated in his treatises. “There was no reason,” he insists, “for the coming of Christ the Lord except to save sinners. Take away diseases, take away wounds, and there is no reason for medicine. If the great Physician came from heaven, a great sick man was lying ill through the whole world. That sick man is the human race” (175, 1). “He who says, ‘I am not a sinner,’ or ‘I was not,’ is ungrateful to the Saviour. No one of men in that mass of mortals which flows down from Adam, no one at all of men is not sick: no one is healed without the grace of Christ. Why do you ask whether infants are sick from Adam? For they, too, are brought to the church; and, if they cannot run thither on their own feet, they run on the feet of others that they may be healed. Mother Church accommodates others’ feet to them so that they may come, others’ heart so that they may believe, others’ tongue so that they may confess; and, since they are sick by another’s sin, so when they are healed they are saved by another’s confession in their behalf. Let, then, no one buzz strange doctrines to you). This the Church has always had, has always held; this she has received from the faith of the elders; this she will perseveringly guard until the end. Since the whole have no need of a physician, but only the sick, what need, then, has the infant of Christ, if he is not sick? If he is well, why does he seek the physician through those who love him? If, when infants are brought, they are said to have no sin of inheritance (peccatum propaginis) at all, and yet come to Christ, why is it not said in the church to those that bring them, ‘take these innocents hence; the physician is not needed by the well, but by the sick; Christ came not to call the just, but sinners’? It never has been said, and it never will be said. Let each one therefore, brethren, speak for him who cannot speak for himself. It is much the custom to intrust the inheritance of orphans to the bishops; how much more the grace of infants! The bishop protects the orphan lest he should be oppressed by strangers, his parents being dead. Let him cry out more for the infant who, he fears, will be slain by his parents. Who comes to Christ has something in him to be healed; and he who has not, has no reason for seeking the physician. Let parents choose one of two things: let them either confess that there is sin to be healed in their infants, or let them cease bringing them to the physician. This is nothing else than to wish to bring a well person to the physician. Why do you bring him? To be baptized. Whom? The infant. To whom do you bring him? To Christ. To Him, of course, who came into the world? Certainly, he says. Why did He come into the world? To save sinners. Then he whom you bring has in him that which needs saving?” So again: “He who says that the age of infancy does not need Jesus’ salvation, says nothing else than that the Lord Christ is not Jesus to faithful infants; i.e., to infants baptized in Christ. For what is Jesus? Jesus means saviour. He is not Jesus to those whom He does not save, who do not need to be saved. Now, if your hearts can bear that Christ is not Jesus to any of the baptized, I do not know how you can be acknowledged to have sound faith. They are infants, but they are made members of Him. They are infants, but they receive His sacraments. They are infants, but they become partakers of His table, so that they may have life.” The preveniency of grace is explicitly asserted in these sermons. In one he says, “Zaccheus was seen, and saw; but unless he had been seen, he would not have seen. For ‘whom He predestinated, them also He called.’ In order that we may see, we are seen; that we may love, we are loved. ‘My God, may His pity prevent me!’ ” And in another, at more length: “His calling has preceded you, so that you may have a good will. Cry out, ‘My God, let Thy mercy prevent me’ (Ps 58,11).. That you may be, that you may feel, that you may hear, that you may consent, His mercy prevents you. It prevents you in all things; and do you too prevent His judgment in something. In what, do you say? In what? In confessing that you have all these things from God, whatever you have of good; and from yourself whatever you have of evil” (176, 5). “We owe therefore to Him that we are, that we are alive, that we understand: that we are men, that we live well, that we understand aright, we owe to Him. Nothing is ours except the sin that we have. For what have we that we did not receive?” (1Co 9,7) (176, 6).
It was not long, however, before the controversy was driven out of the region of sermons into that of regular treatises. The occasion for Augustin’s first appearance in a written document bearing on the controversy, was given by certain questions which were sent to him for answer by “the tribune and notary” Marcellinus, with whom he had cemented his intimacy at Carthage, the previous year, when this notable official was presiding, by the emperor’s orders, over the great conference of the catholics and Donatists. The mere fact that Marcellinus, still at Carthage, where Coelestius had been brought to trial, wrote to Augustin at Hippo for written answers to important questions connected with the Pelagian heresy, speaks volumes for the prominent position he had already assumed in the controversy. The questions that were sent, concerned the connection of death with sin, the transmission of sin, the possibility of a sinless life, and especially infants’ need of baptism. Augustin was immersed in abundant labours when they reached him: but he could not resist this appeal, and that the less as the Pelagian controversy had already grown to a place of the first importance in his eyes. The result was his treatise, On the Merits and Remission of Sins and on the Baptism of Infants, consisting of two books, and written in 412. The first book of this work is an argument for original sin, drawn from the universal reign of death in the world (2–8), from the teaching of (9–20), and chiefly from the baptism of infants (21–70). It opens by exploding the Pelagian contention that death is of nature, and Adam would have died even had he not sinned, by showing that the penalty threatened to Adam included physical death (Gn 3,19), and that it is due to him that we all die (Rm 8,10, 11; 1Co 15,21) (2–8). Then the Pelagian assertion that we are injured in Adam’s sin only by its bad example, which we imitate, not by any propagation from it, is tested by an exposition of Rm 5,12 sq. (9–20). And then the main subject of the book is reached, and the writer sharply presses the Pelagians with the universal and primeval fact of the baptism of infants, as a proof of original sin (21–70). He tracks out all their subterfuges,—showing the absurdity of the assertions that infants are baptized for the remission of sins that they have themselves committed since birth (22), or in order to obtain a higher stage of salvation (23–28), or because of sin committed in some previous state of existence (31–33). Then turning to the positive side, he shows at length that the Scriptures teach that Christ came to save sinners, that baptism is for the remission of sins, and that all that partake of it are confessedly sinners (34 sq).; then he points out that Jn 2,7, 8, on which the Pelagians relied, cannot be held to distinguish between ordinary salvation and a higher form, under the name of “the kingdom of God” (58 sq).; and he closes by showing that the very manner in which baptism was administered, with its exorcism and exsufflation, implied the infant to be a sinner (63), and by suggesting that the peculiar helplessness of infancy, so different not only from the earliest age of Adam, but also from that of many young animals, may possibly be itself penal (64–69). The second book treats, with similar fulness, the question of the perfection of human righteousness in this life. After an exordium which speaks of the will and its limitations, and of the need of God’s assisting grace (1–6), the writer raises four questions. First, whether it may be said to be possible, by God’s grace, for a man to attain a condition of entire sinlessness in this life (7). This he answers in the affirmative. Secondly, he asks, whether any one has ever done this, or may ever be expected to do it, and answers in the negative on the testimony of Scripture (8–25). Thirdly, he asks why not, and replies briefly because men are unwilling, explaining at length what he means by this (26–33). Finally, he inquires whether any man has ever existed, exists now, or will ever exist, entirely without sin,—this question differing from the second inasmuch as that asked after the attainment in this life of a state in which sinning should cease, while this seeks a man who has never been guilty of sin, implying the absence of original as well as of actual sin. After answering this in the negative (34), Augustin discusses anew the question of original sin. Here after expounding from the positive side (35–38) the condition of man in paradise, the nature of his probation, and of the fall and its effects both on him and his posterity, and the kind of redemption that has been provided in the incarnation, he proceeds to answer certain cavils (39 sq)., such as, “Why should children of baptized people need baptism?”—“How can a sin be remitted to the father and held against the child?”—“If physical death comes from Adam, ought we not to be released from it on believing in Christ?”—and concludes with an exhortation to hold fast to the exact truth, turning neither to the right nor left,—neither saying that we have no sin, nor surrendering ourselves to our sin (57 sq)..
After these books were completed, Augustin came into possession of Pelagius’ Commentary on Paul’s Epistles, which was written while he was living in Rome (before 410), and found it to contain some arguments that he had not treated,—such arguments, he tells us, as he had not imagined could be held by any one. Unwilling to re-open his finished argument, he now began a long supplementary letter to Marcellinus, which he intended to serve as a third and concluding book to his work. He was some time in completing this letter. He had asked to have the former two books returned to him; and it is a curious indication of his overworked state of mind, that he forgot what he wanted with them: he visited Carthage while the letter was in hand, and saw Marcellinus personally; and even after his return to Hippo, it dragged along, amid many distractions, slowly towards completion. Meanwhile, a long letter was written to Honoratus, in which a section on the grace of the New Testament was incorporated. At length the promised supplement was completed. It was professedly a criticism of Pelagius’ Commentary, and therefore naturally mentioned his name; but Augustin even goes out of his way to speak as highly of his opponent as he can, —although it is apparent that his esteem is not very high for his strength of mind, and is even less high for the moral quality that led to his odd, oblique way of expressing his opinions. There is even a half sarcasm in the way he speaks of Pelagius’ care and circumspection, which was certainly justified by the event. The letter opens by stating and criticising in a very acute and telling dialectic, the new arguments of Pelagius, which were such as the following: “If Adam’s sin injured even those who do not sin, Christ’s righteousness ought likewise to profit even those who do not believe” (2–4); “No man can transmit what he has not; and hence, if baptism cleanses from sin, the children of baptized parents ought to be free from sin;” “God remits one’s own sins, and can scarcely, therefore, impute another’s to us; and if the soul is created, it would certainly be unjust to impute Adam’s alien sin to it” (5). The stress of the letter, however, is laid upon two contentions,—1. That whatever else may be ambiguous in the Scriptures, they are perfectly clear that no man can have eternal life except in Christ, who came to call sinners to repentance (7); and 2. That original sin in infants has always been, in the Church, one of the fixed facts, to be used as a basis of argument, in order to reach the truth in other matters, and has never itself been called in question before (10–14). At this point, the writer returns to the second and third of the new arguments of Pelagius mentioned above, and discusses them more fully (15–20), closing with a recapitulation of the three great points that had been raised; viz., that both death and sin are derived from Adam’s sin by all his posterity; that infants need salvation, and hence baptism; and that no man ever attains in this life such a state of holiness that he cannot truly pray, “Forgive us our trespasses.”
Augustin was now to learn that one service often entails another. Marcellinus wrote to say that he was puzzled by what had been said in the second book of this work, as to the possibility of man’s attaining to sinlessness in this life, while yet it was asserted that no man ever had attained, or ever would attain, it. How, he asked, can that be said to be possible which is, and which will remain, unexampled? In reply, Augustin wrote, during this same year (412), and sent to his noble friend, another work, which he calls On the Spirit and the Letter, from the prominence which he gives in it to the words of 2Co 3,6. He did not content himself with a simple, direct answer to Marcellinus’ question, but goes at length into a profound disquisition into the roots of the doctrine, and thus gives us, not a mere explanation of a former contention, but a new treatise on a new subject,—the absolute necessity of the grace of God for any good living. He begins by explaining to Marcellinus that he has affirmed the possibility while denying the actuality of a sinless life, on the ground that all things are possible to God,—even the passage of a camel through the eye of a needle, which nevertheless has never occurred (1, 2). For, in speaking of man’s perfection, we are speaking really of a work of God,—and one which is none the less His work because it is wrought through the instrumentality of man, and in the use of his free will. The Scriptures, indeed, teach that no man lives without sin, but this is only the proclamation of a matter of fact; and although it is thus contrary to fact and Scripture to assert that men may be found that live sinlessly, yet such an assertion would not be fatal heresy. What is unbearable, is that men should assert it to be possible for man, unaided by God, to attain this perfection. This is to speak against the grace of God: it is to put in man’s power what is only possible to the almighty grace of God (3, 4). No doubt, even these men do not, in so many words, exclude the aid of grace in perfecting human life,—they affirm God’s help; but they make it consist in His gift to man of a perfectly free will, and in His addition to this of commandments and teachings which make known to him what he is to seek and what to avoid, and so enable him to direct his free will to what is good. What, however, does such a “grace” amount to? (5). Man needs something more than to know the right way: he needs to love it, or he will not walk in it; and all mere teaching, which can do nothing more than bring us knowledge of what we ought to do, is but the letter that killeth. What we need is some inward, Spirit-given aid to the keeping of what by the law we know ought to be kept. Mere knowledge slays: while to lead a holy life is the gift of God,—not only because He has given us will, nor only because He has taught us the right way, but because by the Holy Spirit He sheds love abroad in the hearts of all those whom He has predestinated, and will call and justify and glorify (Rm 8,29, 30). To prove this, he states to be the object of the present treatise; and after investigating the meaning of 2Co 3,6, and showing that “the letter” there means the law as a system of precepts, which reveals sin rather than takes it away, points out the way rather than gives strength to walk in it, and therefore slays the soul by shutting it up under sin,—while “the Spirit” is God’s Holy Ghost who is shed abroad in our hearts to give us strength to walk aright,—he undertakes to prove this position from the teachings of the Epistle to the Romans at large. This contention, it will be seen, cut at the very roots of Pelagianism: if all mere teaching slays the soul, as Paul asserts, then all that what they called “grace” could, when alone, do, was to destroy; and the upshot of “helping” man by simply giving him free will, and pointing out the way to him, would be the loss of the whole race. Not that the law is sin: Augustin teaches that it is holy and good, and God’s instrument in salvation. Not that free will is done away: it is by free will that men are led into holiness. But the purpose of the law (he teaches) is to make men so feel their lost estate as to seek the help by which alone they may be saved; and will is only then liberated to do good when grace has made it free. “What the law of works enjoins by menace, that the law of faith secures by faith. What the law of works does is to say, ‘Do what I command thee;’ but by the law of faith we say to God, ‘Give me what thou commandest.’ ”(22). In the midst of this argument, Augustin is led to discuss the differentiating characteristics of the Old and New Testaments; and he expounds at length (33–42) the passage in Jer. xxxi. 31–34, showing that, in the prophet’s view, the difference between the two covenants is that in the Old, the law is an external thing written on stones; while in the New, it is written internally on the heart, so that men now wish to do what the law prescribes. This writing on the heart is nothing else, he explains, than the shedding abroad by the Holy Spirit of love in our hearts, so that we love God’s will, and therefore freely do it. Towards the end of the treatise (50–61), he treats in an absorbingly interesting way of the mutual relations of free will, faith, and grace, contending that all co-exist without the voiding of any. It is by free will that we believe; but it is only as grace moves us, that we are able to use our free will for believing; and it is only after we are thus led by grace to believe, that we obtain all other goods. In prosecuting this analysis, Augustin is led to distinguish very sharply between the faculty and use of free will (58), as well as between ability and volition (53). Faith is an act of the man himself; but only as he is given the power from on high to will to believe, will he believe (57, 60).
By this work, Augustin completed, in his treatment of Pelagianism, the circle of that triad of doctrines which he himself looked upon as most endangered by this heresy, — original sin, the imperfection of human righteousness, the necessity of grace. In his mind, the last was the kernel of the whole controversy; and this was a subject which he could never approach without some heightened fervour. This accounts for the great attractiveness of the present work,—through the whole fabric of which runs the golden thread of the praise of God’s ineffable grace. In Canon Bright’s opinion, it “perhaps, next to the ‘Confessions,’ tells us most of the thoughts of that ‘rich, profound, and affectionate mind’ on the soul’s relations to its God.”
After the publication of these treatises, the controversy certainly did not lull; but it relapsed for nearly three years again, into less public courses. Meanwhile, Augustin was busy, among other most distracting cares (Ep 145,1), still defending the grace of God, by letters and sermons. A fair illustration of his state of mind at this time, may be obtained from his letter to Anastasius (145), which assuredly must have been written soon after the treatise On the Spirit and the Letter. Throughout this letter, there are adumbrations of the same train of thought that filled this treatise; and there is one passage which may almost be taken as a summary of it. Augustin is so weary of the vexatious cares that filled his life, that he is ready to long for the everlasting rest, and yet bewails the weakness which allowed the sweetness of external things still to insinuate itself into his heart. Victory over, and emancipation from, this, he asserts, “cannot, without God’s grace, be achieved by the human will, which is by no means to be called free so long as it is subject to enslaving lusts.” Then he proceeds: “The law, therefore, by teaching and commanding what cannot be fulfilled without grace, demonstrates to man his weakness, in order that the weakness, thus proved, may resort to the Saviour, by whose healing the will may be able to do what it found impossible in its weakness. So, then, the law brings us to faith, faith obtains the Spirit in fuller measure, the Spirit sheds love abroad in us, and love fulfils the law. For this reason the law is called a schoolmaster, under whose threatening and severity ‘whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.’ But ‘how shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?’ Wherefore, that the letter without the Spirit may not kill, the life-giving Spirit is given to those that believe and call upon Him; but the love of God is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us, so that the words of the same apostle, ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law,’ may be realized. Thus the law is good to him that uses it lawfully; and he uses it lawfully, who, understanding wherefore it was given, betakes himself, under the pressure of its threatening, to liberating grace. Whoever ungratefully despises this grace by which the ungodly is justified, and trusts in his own strength for fulfilling the law, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish his own righteousness, is not submitting himself to the righteousness of God; and therefore the law is made to him not a help to pardon, but the bond of guilt; not because the law is evil, but because ‘sin,’ as it is written, ‘works death to such persons by that which is good.’ For by the commandment, he sins more grievously, who, by the commandment, knows how evil are the sins which he commits.” Although Augustin states clearly that this letter is written against those “who arrogate too much to the human will, imagining that, the law being given, the will is, of its own strength, sufficient to fulfil the law, though not assisted by any grace imparted by the Holy Ghost, in addition to instruction in the law,”—he refrains still from mentioning the names of the authors of this teaching, evidently out of a lingering tenderness in his treatment of them. This will help us to explain the courtesy of a note which he sent to Pelagius himself at about this time, in reply to a letter he had received some time before from him; of which Pelagius afterwards (at the Synod of Diospolis) made, to say the least of it, an ungenerous use. This note, Augustin tells us, was written with “tempered praises” (wherefrom we see his lessening respect for the man), and so as to admonish Pelagius to think rightly concerning grace,—so far as could be done without raising the dregs of the controversy in a formal note. This he accomplished by praying from the Lord for him, those good things by which he might be good forever, and might live eternally with Him who is eternal; and by asking his prayers in return, that he, too, might be made by the Lord such as he seemed to suppose he already was. How Augustin could really intend these prayers to be understood as an admonition to Pelagius to look to God for what he was seeking to work out for himself, is fully illustrated by the closing words of this almost contemporary letter to Anastasius: “Pray, therefore, for us,” he writes, “that we may be righteous,—an attainment wholly beyond a man’s reach, unless he know righteousness, and be willing to practise it, but one which is immediately realized when he is perfectly willing; but this cannot be in him unless he is healed by the grace of the Spirit, and aided to be able.” The point had already been made in the controversy, that, by the Pelagian doctrine, so much power was attributed to the human will, that no one ought to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
If he was anxious to avoid personal controversy with Pelagius himself in the hope that he might even yet be reclaimed, Augustin was equally anxious to teach the truth on all possible occasions. Pelagius had been intimate, when at Rome, with the pious Paulinus, bishop of Nola; and it was understood that there was some tendency at Nola to follow the new teachings. It was, perhaps, as late as 414, when Augustin made reply in a long letter, to a request of Paulinus’ for an exposition of certain difficult Scriptures, which had been sent him about 410. Among them was Rm 11,28; and, in explaining it, Augustin did not withhold a tolerably complete account of his doctrine of predestination, involving the essence of his whole teaching as to grace: “For when he had said, ‘according to the election they are beloved for their father’s sake,’ he added, ‘for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.’ You see that those are certainly meant who belong to the number of the predestinated.… ‘Many indeed are called, but few chosen;’ but those who are elect, these are called ‘according to His purpose;’ and it is beyond doubt that in them God’s foreknowledge cannot be deceived. These He foreknew and predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the first born among many brethren. But ‘whom He predestinated, them He also called.’ This calling is ‘according to His purpose,’ this calling is ‘without repentance,’ ”etc., quoting Rm 5,28–31. Then continuing, he says, “Those are not in this vocation, who do not persevere unto the end in the faith that worketh by love, although they walk in it a little while.… But the reason why some belong to it, and some do not, can easily be hidden, but cannot be unjust. For is there injustice with God? God forbid! For this belongs to those high judgments which, so to say, terrified the wondering apostle to look upon.”
Among the most remarkable of the controversial sermons that were preached about this time, especial mention is due to two that were delivered at Carthage, midsummer of 413. The former of these was preached on the festival of Jn the Baptist’s birth (June 24), and naturally took the forerunner for its subject. The nativity of Jn suggesting the nativity of Christ, the preacher spoke of the marvel of the incarnation. He who was in the beginning, and was the Word of God, and was Himself God, and who made all things, and in whom was life, even this one “came to us. To whom? To the worthy? Nay, but to the unworthy! For Christ died for the ungodly, and for the unworthy, though He was worthy. We indeed were unworthy whom He pitied; but He was worthy who pitied us, to whom we say, ‘For Thy pity’s sake, Lord, free us!’ Not for the sake of our preceding merits, but ‘for Thy pity’s sake, Lord, free us;’ and ‘for Thy name’s sake be propitious to our sins,’ not for our merit’s sake.… For the merit of sins is, of course, not reward, but punishment.” He then dwelt upon the necessity of the incarnation, and the necessity of a mediator between God and “the whole mass of the human race alienated from Him by Adam.” Then quoting 1Co 4,7, he asserts that it is not our varying merits, but God’s grace alone, that makes us differ, and that we are all alike, great and small, old and young, saved by one and the same Saviour. “What then, some one says,” he continues, “even the infant needs a liberator? Certainly he needs one. And the witness to it is the mother that faithfully runs to church with the child to be baptized. The witness is Mother Church herself, who receives the child for washing, and either for dismissing him [from this life] freed, or nurturing him in piety.… Last of all, the tears of his own misery are witness in the child himself.… Recognize the misery, extend the help. Let all put on bowels of mercy. By as much as they cannot speak for themselves, by so much more pityingly let us speak for the little ones,”—and then follows a passage calling on the Church to take the grace of infants in their charge as orphans committed to their care, which is in substance repeated from a former sermon. The speaker proceeded to quote Mt 1,21, and apply it. If Jesus came to save from sins, and infants are brought to Him, it is to confess that they, too, are sinners. Then, shall they be withheld from baptism? “Certainly, if the child could speak for himself, he would repel the voice of opposition, and cry out, ‘Give me Christ’s life! In Adam I died: give me Christ’s life; in whose sight I am not clean, even if I am an infant whose life has been but one day in the earth.’ ”“No way can be found,” adds the preacher, “of coming into the life of this world except by Adam; no way can be found of escaping punishment in the next world except by Christ. Why do you shut up the one door?” Even Jn the Baptist himself was born in sin; and absolutely no one can be found who was born apart from sin, until you find one who was born apart from Adam. “‘By one man sin entered into the world, and by sin, death; and so it passed through upon all men.’ If these were my words, could this sentiment be expressed more expressly, more clearly, more fully?”
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