[Commonplace books: Thomas Farnaby, 17th-century]
The Roman Church has made baptism practically meaningless, by reckoning with the possibility of an obex, which can be opposed to baptismal grace, by the baptized person himself; by describing this grace as a thing which can be terribly easily and quickly lost through new sins beginning after baptism; and by placing behind baptism the much more easily handled sacrament of ppenance, for the putting right of such loss. And it is indeed noteworthy that the Roman Christian, although he is taught that baptism was absolutely necessary for him and that through it ex opere operato there has come to him forgiveness of sins and regeneration, up to the present day has from his baptism (inalienable and needing no completing) no more than the imparting of a Christian 'character,' indestructible but entirely empty of content, the prerequisite for the reception of the six remaining sacraments. Through the possession of this 'disposition' he can as well believe as not believe, as well be saved as lost. The mountain has brought forth a mouse... ...The whole argument of Paul in Romans 6, Galatians 3, and Colossians 2 would be sophistic rhetoric, if he had not reckoned that in all circumstances baptism has for the baptized a real significance, an absolute efficacy--that is, one in no way consisting of a shadowy 'character,' but an efficacy which because of its nature, its power and its meaning laughs at any obex. Good heavens, who dare boast over against the grace that is his in baptism of anything more than being the only and indeed formidable obex?
Posted by Wystan on 09.04.2009
Something must be said about an important consequence which follows from this. The power of Jesus Christ, which is the only power in baptism, is not dependent upon the carrying out of baptism. Baptism has the necessity of a command which cannot fail to be heard. It has not the necessity of an indispensable medium. The free word and work of Christ can make use of other means. That the Church is commanded to use this means cannot signify that Jesus Christ Himself is limited to it. The domain of the divine covenant of grace is larger than the domain of the Church, Christ's regnum is wider than his ecclesia. The rule for us is that outside the Church there is no salvation, but the Lord of the Church is not limited thereto. The remark about water and Spirit in John 3:5 has not this in view. Mark 16:16 to be sure says "he believeth and is baptizes shall be saved," but then simply "he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." The representatives of the view that baptism is an absolute necessity for salvation, therefore, in their dogmatic works, always taught with a certain hesitancy that this threat must cover the absence of baptism. At least for those unbaptized children of Christians, almost the whole church has held out at all times the prospect of either a friendly exception or a somewhat modified perdition (the so-called limbus infantium). Further, Roman dogmatic speaks of the martyrs' blood-baptism as sufficiently taking the place of water-baptism; while since the famous funeral sermon of Ambrose for the Emperor Valentinian II, who died while a catechumen, it has spoken also of a baptism of desire in cases of perfect love and repentance. In the middle ages, under certain conditions, even entry into a monastic order availed in place of baptism. But casuistry of this kind--which is both miserable and ambiguous--is surely superfluous for the solution of the problem before us. It was much more to the point when Luther in his early years, preaching in lively and happy fashion, declared "A man may believe even if he is not baptized; for baptism is no more than an outward sign that the divine promise ought to admonish us. If a man can have it, it is good, let him take it; for no one ought to despise it. But if a man cannot have it, or is refused it, he is not condemned, so long as he believes the Gospel. For where the Gospel is, there is baptism and all else that a Christian man need."
Posted by Wystan on 09.04.2009
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