The Scale of Perfection, Book 2, Part 1 – Chapter 4

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That through the Sacrament of Baptism (which is grounded in the Passion of Christ) this Image is reformed from Original Sin

This is chapter 6 of The Scale of Perfection – Book 2 in Middle English:
That thorugh the sacrament of baptym that is groundid in the passioun of Crist this image is reformed fro the original synne.

dohpeterchina's picture

Chapter 4 comments

Hello everyone,

This chapter opens with the familiar idea of sin preventing us from becoming the image of God. The sin is in two forms, these are Original, that is the first sin; the other is Actual, that is committed by our own will. These condemn a man to the pains of hell. There are however two remedies the Sacrament of Baptism against original sin, another is the Sacrament of Penance against actual sin.

In the light of this argument, it is interesting that Hilton believes that: A soul of a child that is born, as is not christened, by reason of original sin, hath no likeness of God; he is nought but an image of the fiend, and a brand of hell, but as soon as it is christened, it is reformed to the image of God, and through the virtue of the faith of holy Church is suddenly turned from the likeness of the fiend, and made like an Angel of Heaven.

All who are not christened are nought but bondslaves of hell. As soon as they realise their error and fall humbly to the truth in Christ, and receive the baptism of water in the Holy Ghost, surely without any further tarrying they are reformed to the likeness of God. The holy Church believes if they were to die after this they would fly up to Heaven without any more letting, though they had before in the time of their unbelief committed never so many or so great sins. They would not need to suffer the pains of hell or purgatory. This privilege should they have by the merit of Christ’s Passion.

It is very difficult for me to be in sympathy with this chapter. To say a baby that is born is a devil until baptised seems to be very extreme. The lines are firmly drawn, if you sin, you become a devil and you will go to hell. More extreme if you are not baptised, you are a devil and you go to hell. However, if you are baptised and do penance for your previous sin and you stop sinning, you will go to heaven. This chapter is challenging not only for its conclusions about unbaptised babies, but because of the implications for the unbaptised. I can now understand that the writings of Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists (let alone the Turk or the Jew) would merely be considered the work of the devil. It is here that the relentless logic of Augustine fails.

I ask myself, why is this so difficult? Perhaps it is the notion that the world is horrifically corrupted by original sin, and until baptism we may be considered devils. Even the newborn baby is not innocent. Or is it the simplistic legalistic application of the words of Christ. Or the idea that for a God that is Alpha and Omega, containing all time, that timing could be so fundamental.

Though I understand Hilton's arguments, I cannot subscribe to them.

Peter Smith
Co-Group Leader

Peter Smith
Co-Group Leader




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