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BAPTISM


265


BAPTISM


Pope Stephen, forbidding the rebaptism of converts, are in ac<?ordance vrith antiquity and ecclesiastical tradition, and are consecrated as an ancient, memo- rable, and solemn observance of all the saints and of all the faithful. St. Auguistine believes that the custom of not rebaptizing is an Apostolic tradition, and St. Vincent of Lerins declares tliat the Sj-nod of Carthage introduced rebaptism against the Divine law (canonem), against the rule of the universal Church, and against the customs and institutions of the ancients. By Pope Stephen's decision, he con- tinues, antiquity was retained and novelty was de- stroyed (retenta est antiquita^. eiplosa novitas). It is true that the so-called Apostolic Canons (xlv and xlvi) speak of the non-validity of baptism conferred by heretics, but DoUinger says that these canons are comparatively recent, and De Marca points out that St. Cyprian would have appealed to them had they been in existence before the controversy. Pope St. Stephen, therefore, upheld a doctrine already ancient in the third century when he declared against the rebaptism of heretics, and decided that the sacra- ment was not to be repeated because its first ad- ministration had been valid. This has been the law of the Church ever since. The whole controversj' on rebaptism is exhaustively treated by Hefele in the first volume of his history of church councils.

IX. Necessity of B.u»ti.sm. — Theologians dis- tinguish a twofold necessity, which they call a neces- sity of means (mrdii) and a necessity of- precept (prcEcepti). The first {medii) indicates a, thing to be so necessary that, if wanting (though inculpably), salvation cannot be attained. The second (prcecepti) is had when a thing is indeed so necessarj" that it may not be. omifted voluntarily without sin; yet, ignorance of the precept or inability to fulfil it, ex- cuses one from its observance. Baptism is held to be necessary both necessitate medii and prwcepti. This doctrine is founded on the words of Christ. In John, iii, He declares: "Unless a man be bom again of water and the Holy Ghost, he can not enter into the kingdom of God." Christ makes no exception to this law and it is therefbre general in its applica- tion, embracing both adults and infants. It is con- sequently not merely a necessity of precept but also a necessity of means. This is the sense in which it has always been understood by the Church, and the Council of Trent (Sess. IV, cap. vi) teaches that justi- fication cannot be obtained, since the promulgation of the Gospel, without the laver of regeneration or the desire thereof (in voto). In the seventh session, it declares (can. v) anathema upon anyone who says that baptism is not necessary for salvation. We have rendered votum bj' "desire" for want of a better word. The council does not mean by votum a simple desire of receiving baptism or even a resolution to do BO. It means by votum an act of perfect charity or contrition, including, at least implicitly, the will to do all things necessary for salvation and thus es- pecially to receive baptism. The absolute necessity of this sacrament is often insisted on by the Fathers of the Church, especially when they speak of infant baptism. Thus St. Irensus (II, xxii): "Christ came to save all who are reborn through Him to God, infants, children, and youths" (infantes ct parvulos et pueros). St. Augustine (III,De Anima) says: "If you wish to be a Catholic, do not believe, nor say, nor teach, that infants who die before baptism can obtain the remission of original sin. " A still stronger passage from the same doctor (Ep. x.xviii. Ad Hieron.) reads: "Whoever says tliat even infants are vivified in Christ when they depart this life without the participation of His Sacrament (Baptism), both op- poses the Apostolic preaching and condemns the whole Church which hastens to baptize infants, because it unhesitatingly believes that otherwise they can not possibly be vi\-ified in Christ." St.


-Ambrose (II De Abraham., c. xi) speaking of the ne- cessit}' of baptism, says: "Xo one is excepted, not the infant, not the one hindered by any necessity." In the Pelagian controversy we find similarly strong pronouncements on the part of the Councils of Carthage and ililevis, and of Pope Innocent I. It is owing to the Church's belief in this necessity of baptism as a means to salvation that, as was already noted by St. Augustine, she committed the power of baptism in certain contingencies even to lajTnen and women. When it is said that baptism is also neces- sary, by the nece.ssity of precept (prwcepti), it is of course understood that this applies only to such as are capable of receiviog a precept, viz. adults. The necessity in this case is shoT\Ti by the command of Christ to His .\postles (Matt., xxxdii): "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them", etc. Since the Apostles are commanded to baptize, the nations are com- manded to receive baptism.

The necessity of baptism has been called in ques- tion by some of the Reformers or their immediate forerunners. It was denied by Wyclif, Bucer, and Zwingli. According to Calvin it is necessary for adults as a precept but not as a means. Hence he contends that the infants of believing parents are sanctified in the womb and thus freed from original sin without baptism. The Socinians teach that baptism is merely an external profession of the Chris- tian faith and a rite which each one is free to receive or neglect. .\n argument against the absolute neces- sity of baptism has been sought in the text of Scrif)- ture: "Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink fiis blood, you shall not have life in you" (John, \-i). Here, they say, is a parallel to the text: "Unless a man be born a^ain of water". Yet every- one admits that the Eucharist is not necessary as a means but only as a precept. The reply to this is ob\-ious. In the first instance, Christ addresses His words in the second person to adults; in the second. He speaks in the third person and without any dis- tinction whatever. Another favourite text is that of St. Paul (I Cor., \-ii): "The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the belie\ing wife; and the unbelie^^ng wife is sanctified by the believing husband; otherwise your children should be unclean; but now they are holy." Unfortunate!}- for the strength of this argii- ment, the conte.xt shows that the Apostle in this passage is not treating of regenerating or sanctifying grace at all, but answering certain questions proposed to him by the Corinthians concerning the validity of marriages between heathens and believers. The validity of such marriages is proved from the fact that children born of them are legitimate, not spuri- ous. As far as the term "sanctified" is concerned, it can, at most, mean that the believing husband or vdie may convert the unbelieving party and thus become an occasion of their sanctification. A certain statement in the funeral oration of St. Ambrose over the Emperor Valentinian II has been brought forward as a proof that the Church offered sacrifices and praj-ers for catechumens who died before baptism. There is not a vestige of such a custom to be found anywhere. St. Ambrose may have done so for the soul of the catechumen Valentinian, but this would be a solitary instance, and it was done apparently because he believed that the emperor had had the baptism of desire. The practice of the Church is more correctly shown in the canon (xvii) of the Sec- ond Council of Braga: " Xeither the commemoration of Sacrifice [oblationis] nor the service of chanting [psaliendi] is to be employed for catechumens who have died without the redemption of baptism." The arguments for a contrary usage sought in the Second Council of Aries (c. xii) and the Fourth Coun- cil of Carthage (c. Ixxi.x) are not to the point, for these councils speak, not of catechumens, but of penitents who had died suddenly before their expiation was