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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Soul and its Origin.: Chapter 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 21 [XV.]—Victor’s Perplexity and Failure.

For these reasons I fail thus far to discover what this instructor has taught you, and what grounds you have for the gratitude you have lavished upon him. For the question remains just as it was, which inquires about the origin of souls, whether God gives, forms, and makes them for men by propagating them from that one soul which He breathed into the first man, or whether it is by His own inbreathing that He does this in every case, as He did for the first man. For that God does form, and make, and bestow souls on men, the Christian faith does not hesitate to aver. Now, when this person endeavoured to solve the question without gauging his own resources, by denying the propagation of souls, and asserting that the Creator inbreathed them into men pure from all contagion of sin,—not out of nothing, but out of Himself,—He dishonoured the very nature of God by opprobriously attributing mutability to it, an imputation which was necessarily untenable. Then, desirous of avoiding all implication which might lead to God’s being deemed unrighteous, if He ties with the bond of original sin souls which are pure of all actual sin, although not redeemed by Christian regeneration, he has given utterance to words and sentiments which I only wish he had not taught you. For he has accorded to unbaptized infants such happiness and salvation as even the Pelagian heresy could not have ventured on doing. And yet for all this, when the question touches the many thousands of infants who are born of the ungodly, and die among the ungodly,—I do not mean those whom charitable persons are unable to assist by baptism, however desirous of doing so, but those of whose baptism nobody either has been able or shall be able to think, and for whom no one has offered or is likely to offer the sacrifice which, as this instructor of yours thought, ought to be offered even for those who have not been baptized, 2433 —he has discovered no means of solving it. If he were questioned concerning them, what their souls deserved that God should involve them in sinful flesh to incur eternal damnation, never to be washed in the laver of baptism, nor atoned for by the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood, he will then either feel himself at an utter loss, and so will regard our hesitation with a real, though tardy favour; or else will determine that Christ’s body must be offered for all those infants which all the world over die without Christian baptism (their names having been never heard of, since they are unknown in the Church of Christ), although not incorporated into the body of Christ.



[The editions give the manifestly false reading nobis for non, yielding the sense: “even for ourselves who have been baptized.”—W.]

Next: Chapter 22

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