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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 16

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 16 [XIII.]—Difficulty in the Opinion Which Maintains that Souls are Not by Propagation.

This means, then, of settling the point whereby the soul was sent into the flesh until what time it should be delivered from the flesh,—seeing that the soul of an infant, which has not grown old enough for the will to become free, is the case supposed,—makes no discovery of the reason why condemnation should overtake it without the reception of baptism, except the reason of original sin. Owing to this sin, we do not deny that the soul is righteously condemned, because for sin God’s righteous law has appointed punishment. But then we ask, why the soul has been made to undergo this sinful state, if it is not derived from that one primeval soul which sinned in the first father of the human race. Wherefore, if God does not condemn the innocent,—if He does not make guilty those whom He sees to be innocent,—and if nothing liberates souls from either original sins or personal ones but Christ’s baptism in Christ’s Church,—and if sins, before they are committed, and much more when they have never been committed, cannot be condemned by any righteous law: then this writer cannot adduce any of these four cases; he must, if he can, explain, in respect to the souls of infants, which, as they quit life without baptism, are sent into condemnation, by what desert of theirs it is that they, without having ever sinned, are consigned to a sinful flesh, there to find the sin which is to secure their just condemnation. Moreover, if he shrinks from these four cases which sound doctrine condemns,—that is to say, if he has not the courage to maintain that souls, when they are even without sin, are made sinful by God, or that they are freed from the original sin that is in them without p. 322 Christ’s sacrament, or that they committed sin in some other state before they were sent into the flesh, or that sins which they never committed are condemned in them,—if, I say, he has not the courage to tell us these things because they really do not deserve to be mentioned but should affirm that infants do not inherit original sin, and have no reason why they should be condemned should they depart hence without receiving the sacrament of regeneration, he will without doubt, to his own condemnation, run into the damnable heresy of Pelagius. To avoid this, how much better is it for him to share my hesitation about the soul’s origin, without daring to affirm that which he cannot comprehend by human reason nor defend by divine authority! So shall he not be obliged to utter foolishness, whilst he is afraid to confess his ignorance.

Next: Chapter 17

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