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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 17

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 17.—Disobedient Compassion and Compassionate Disobedience Reprobated. Martyrdom in Lieu of Baptism.

The new-fangled Pelagian heretics have been most justly condemned by the authority of catholic councils and of the Apostolic See, on the ground of their having dared to give to unbaptized infants a place of rest and salvation, even apart from the kingdom of heaven. This they would not have dared to do, if they did not deny their having original sin, and the need of its remission by the sacrament of baptism. This man, however, professes the catholic belief on this point, admitting that infants are tied in the bonds of original sin, and yet he releases them from these bonds without the laver of regeneration, and after death, in his compassion, he admits them into paradise; while, with a still ampler compassion, he introduces them after the resurrection even to the kingdom of heaven. Such compassion did Saul see fit to assume when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain; 2420 deservedly, however, was his disobedient compassion, or (if you prefer it) his compassionate disobedience, reprobated and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow-man, in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. Truth, by the mouth of Itself incarnate, proclaims as if in a voice of thunder: “Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” 2421 And in order to except martyrs from this sentence, to whose lot it has fallen to be slain for the name of Christ before being washed in the baptism of Christ, He says in another passage, “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.” 2422 And so far from promising the abolition of original sin to any one who has not been regenerated in the laver of Christian faith, the apostle exclaims, “By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” 2423 And as a counterbalance against this condemnation, the Lord exhibits the help of His salvation alone, saying, “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” 2424 Now the mystery of this believing in the case of infants is completely effected by the response of the sureties by whom they are taken to baptism; and unless this be effected, they all pass by the offence of one into condemnation. And yet, in opposition to such clear declarations uttered by the Truth, forth marches before all men a vanity which is more foolish than pitiful, and says: Not only do infants not pass into condemnation, though no laver of Christian faith absolves them from the chain of original sin, but they even after death have an intermediate enjoyment of the felicities of paradise, and after the resurrection they shall possess even the happiness of the kingdom of heaven. Now, would this man dare to say all this in opposition to the firmly-established catholic faith, if he had not presumptuously undertaken to solve a question which transcends his powers touching the origin of the soul?



1 Sam. xv. 9.


John iii. 5.


Matt. x. 39.


Rom. v. 18.


Mark xvi. 16.

Next: Chapter 18

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