If you wish to be a catholic, refrain from believing, or saying, or teaching that “infants which are forestalled by death before they are baptized may yet attain to forgiveness of their original sins.” For the examples by which you are misled—that of the thief who confessed the Lord upon the cross, or that of Dinocrates the brother of St. Perpetua—contribute no help to you in defence of this erroneous opinion. As for the thief, although in Gods judgment he might be reckoned among those who are purified by the confession of martyrdom, yet you cannot tell whether he was not baptized. For, to say nothing of the opinion that he might have been sprinkled with the water which gushed at the same time with the blood out of the Lords side, 2445 as he hung on the cross next to Him, and thus have been washed with a baptism of the most sacred kind, what if he had been baptized in prison, as in after times some under persecution were enabled privately to obtain? or what if he had been baptized previous to his imprisonment? If, indeed, he had been, the remission of his sins which he would have received in that case from God would not have protected him from the sentence of public law, so far as appertained to the death of the body. What if, being already baptized, he had committed the crime and incurred the punishment of robbery and lawlessness, but yet received, by virtue of repentance added to his baptism, forgiveness of the sins which, though baptized, he had committed? For beyond doubt his faith and piety appeared to the Lord clearly in his heart, as they do to us in his words. If, indeed, we were to conclude that all those who have quitted life without a record of their baptism died unbaptized, we should calumniate the very apostles themselves; for we are ignorant when they were, any of them, baptized, except the Apostle Paul. 2446 If, however, we could regard as an evidence that they were really baptized the circumstance of the Lords saying to St. Peter, “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet,” 2447 what are we to think of the others, of whom we do not read even so much as this,—Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Silas, Philemon, the very evangelists Mark and Luke, and innumerable others, about whose baptism God forbid that we should entertain any doubt, although we read no record of it? As for Dinocrates, he was a child of seven years of age; and as children who are baptized so old as that can now recite the creed and answer for themselves in the usual examination, I know not why he may not be supposed after his baptism to have been recalled by his unbelieving father to the sacrilege and profanity of heathen worship, and for this reason to have been condemned to the pains from which he was liberated at his sisters intercession. For in the account of him you have never read, either that he was never a Christian, or died a catechumen. But for the matter of that, the account itself that we have of him does not occur in that canon of Holy Scripture whence in all questions of this kind our proofs ought always to be drawn.
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