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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 24

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 24 [XIX.]—Infants Saved as Sinners.

And let no one suppose that infants ought to be brought to baptism, on the ground that, as they are not sinners, so they are not righteous; how then do some remind us that the Lord commends this tender age as meritorious; saying, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven?” 288 For if this [“of such”] is not said because of likeness in humility (since humility makes [us] children), but because of the laudable life of children, then of course infants must be righteous persons; otherwise, it could not be correctly said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven,” for heaven can only belong to the righteous. But perhaps, after all, it is not a right opinion of the meaning of the Lord’s words, to make Him commend the life of infants when He says, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven;” inasmuch as that may be their true sense, which makes Christ adduce the tender age of infancy as a likeness of humility. Even so, however, perhaps we must revert to the tenet which I mentioned just now, that infants ought to be baptized, because, although they are not sinners, they are yet not righteous. But when He had said: “I came not to call the righteous,” as if responding to this, Whom, then, didst Thou come to call? immediately He goes on to say: “—but sinners to repentance.” Therefore it follows, that, however righteous they may be, if also they are not sinners, He came not to call them, who said of Himself: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” They therefore seem, not vainly only, but even wickedly to rush to the baptism of Him who does not invite them,—an opinion which God forbid that we should entertain. He calls them, then, as a Physician who is not needed for those that are whole, but for those that are sick; and who came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Now, inasmuch as infants are not held bound by any sins of their own actual life, it is the guilt of original sin which is healed in them by the grace of Him who saves them by the laver of regeneration.



Matt. xix. 14.

Next: Chapter 25