Monday, July 29, 2013

Luther and Augustine on Original Sin and the sacrament of Holy Baptism

I post those few quotes from our elders to see if what is preached today sounds like the faith of our fathers. If it is a different sound, perhaps it is a different faith. But Scripture says there is one faith.

In the second place, since we know now what Baptism is, and how it is to be regarded, we must also learn why and for what purpose it is instituted; that is, what it profits, gives and works. And this also we cannot discern better than from the words of Christ above quoted: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Therefore state it most simply thus, that the power, work, profit, fruit, and end of Baptism is this, namely, to save. For no one is baptized in order that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare, that he be saved. But to be saved. we know. is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and to enter into the kingdom of Christ, and to live with Him forever.

Here you see again how highly and precious we should esteem Baptism, because in it we obtain such an unspeakable treasure, which also indicates sufficiently that it cannot be ordinary mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing, but the Word does it, and (as said above) the fact that the name of God is comprehended therein. But where the name of God is, there must be also life and salvation, that it may indeed be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water; for by the Word such power is imparted to Baptism that it is a laver of regeneration, as St. Paul also calls it, Titus 3, 5.

But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure?
Now, they are so mad as to separate faith and that to which faith clings and is bound though it be something external. Yea, it shall and must be something external, that it may be apprehended by the senses, and understood and thereby be brought into the heart, as indeed the entire Gospel is an external, verbal preaching. In short, what God does and works in us He proposes to work through such external ordinances. Wherever, therefore, He speaks, yea, in whichever direction or by whatever means He speaks, thither faith must look, and to that it must hold. Now here we have the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. To what else do they refer than to Baptism, that is, to the water comprehended in God's ordinance? Hence it follows that whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us thither and binds us to Baptism.
Martin Luther, Large Catechism

But now, can that part of the human race to whom God hath promised deliverance and a place in the eternal Kingdom be restored through the merits of their own works? Of course not! For what good works could a lost soul do except as he had been rescued from his lostness? Could he do this by the determination of his free will? Of course not! For it was in the evil use of his free will that man destroyed himself and his will at the same time. For as a man who kills himself is still alive when he kills himself, but having killed himself is then no longer alive and cannot resuscitate himself after he has destroyed his own life - so also sin which arises from the action of the free will turns out to be victor over the will and the free will is destroyed. "By whom a man is overcome, to this one he then is bound as slave" This is clearly the judgment of the apostle Peter. And since it is true, I ask you what kind of liberty can one have who is bound as a slave except the liberty that loves to sin?
St. Augustine, Enchiridion

"Unto this end the Son of God was manifested." Ah, my brethren, all sinners are born of the devil, inasmuch as they are sinners. Adam was made by God: but when he consented to the devil, he was born of the devil; and all that he has begotten are as he was. With concupiscence itself we were born, and our birth comes of that  condemnation, before we add to it debts of our own. If we are born with no sin, there is no reason for hastening with our infant children to baptism for their absolution. There are two births for your understanding, by brothers, of Adam and of Christ: two men, but of them one man is man, the other man is God. Through the man that is man we are sinners: through the Man that is God we are justified. One birth has cast us down to death; the other has raised us up to live. One draws sin along with it, the other delivers from sin. For to this end came Christ as man, that he might do away with the sins of man. "To this end the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil."
St. Augustine, Homilies on 1 John

Think for a moment of those brothers of ours whom we call "infants": but now, in the name of Christ whom they have confessed, all their sins have been washed away by his blood. They came, old, into the Baptistery and went out new - came in aged and went out infants. Their old life was somnolent age: their new life is the infancy of regeneration. But remember that past sins have been forgiven not only to them but to us. 
St. Augustine, Homilies on 1 John

"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his rewardings" - not awardings but rewardings, becasuse he rewards evil with good. "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities": that is done in  the sacrament of baptism.
St. Augustine, The Spirit and the Letter

This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us. All who attain to this grace die thereby to sin - as he himself is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh, that is, "in the likeness of sin" - and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body. 
For whether it be a newborn infant or a decrepit old man - since no one should be barred from baptism - just so, there is no one who does not die to sin in baptism. Infants die to original sin only; adults, to all those sins which they have added, through their evil living, to the burden they brought with them at birth.
St. Augustine, Enchiridion 

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