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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 7

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 7.—Of the Death Which the Unbaptized 585 Suffer for the Confession of Christ.

For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism.  For He who said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” 586 made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where He no less absolutely said, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven;” 587 and in another place, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” 588   And this explains the verse, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” 589   For what is more precious than a death by which a man’s sins are all forgiven, and his merits increased an hundredfold?  For those who have been baptized when they could no longer escape death, and have departed this life with all their sins blotted out have not equal merit with those who did not defer death, though it was in their power to do so, but preferred to end their life by confessing Christ, rather than by denying Him to secure an opportunity of baptism.  And even had they denied Him under pressure of the fear of death, this too would have been forgiven them in that baptism, in which was remitted even the enormous wickedness of those who had slain Christ.  But how abundant in these men must have been the grace of the Spirit, who breathes where He listeth, seeing that they so dearly loved Christ as to be unable to deny Him even in so sore an emergency, and with so sure a hope of pardon!  Precious, therefore, is the death of the saints, to whom the grace of Christ has been applied with such gracious effects, that they do not hesitate to meet death themselves, if so be they might meet Him.  And precious is it, also, because it has proved that what was originally ordained for the punishment of the sinner, has been used for the production of a richer harvest of righteousness.  But not on this account should we look upon death as a good thing, for it is diverted to such useful purposes, not by any virtue of its own, but by the divine interference.  Death was originally proposed as an object of dread, that sin might not be committed; now it must be undergone that sin may not be committed, or, if committed, be remitted, and the award of righteousness bestowed on him whose victory has earned it.



Literally, unregenerate.


John 3.5.


Matt. 10.32.


Matt. 16.25.


Ps. 116.15.

Next: Chapter 8

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