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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise Against Two Letters of the...: Chapter 11

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Chapter 11 [VI.]—The Accusation of Fate is Thrown Back Upon the Adversaries.

But is it true, O children of pride, enemies of God’s grace, new Pelagian heretics, that whoever says that all man’s good deservings are preceded by God’s grace, and that God’s grace is not given to merits, lest it should not be grace if it is not given freely but be repaid as due to those who deserve it, seems to you to assert fate? p. 396 Do not you yourselves also say, whatever be your purpose, that baptism is necessary for all ages? Have you not written in this very letter of yours that opinion concerning baptism, and that concerning grace, side by side? Why did not baptism, which is given to infants, by that very juxtaposition admonish you what you ought to think concerning grace? For these are your words: “We confess that baptism is necessary for all ages, and that grace, moreover, assists the good purpose of everybody; but yet that it does not infuse the love of virtue into a reluctant one, because there is no acceptance of persons with God.” In all these words of yours, I for the meanwhile say nothing of what you have said concerning grace. But give a reason concerning baptism, why you should say that it is necessary for all ages; say why it is necessary for infants. Assuredly because it confers some good upon them; and that same something is neither small nor moderate, but of great account. For although you deny that they contract the original sin which is remitted in baptism, yet you do not deny that in that laver of regeneration they are adopted from the sons of men unto the sons of God; nay, you even preach this. Tell us, then, how the infants, whoever they are, that are baptized in Christ and have departed from the body, received so lofty a gift as this, and with what preceding merits. If you should say that they have deserved this by the piety of their parents, it will be replied to you, Why is this benefit sometimes denied to the children of pious people and given to the children of the wicked? For sometimes the offspring born from religious people, in tender age, and thus fresh from the womb, is forestalled by death before it can be washed in the laver of regeneration, and the infant born of Christ’s foes is baptized in Christ by the mercy of Christians,—the baptized mother bewails her own little one not baptized, and the chaste virgin gathers in to be baptized a foreign offspring, exposed by an unchaste mother. Here, certainly, the merits of parents are wanting, and even by your own confession the merits of the infants themselves are wanting also. For we know that you do not believe this of the human soul, that it has lived somewhere before it inhabited this earthly body, and has done something either of good or of evil for which it might deserve such difference in the flesh. What cause, then, has procured baptism for this infant, and has denied it to that? Do they have fate because they do not have merit? or is there in these things acceptance of persons with God? For you have said both,—first fate, afterwards acceptance of persons,—that, since both must be refuted, there may remain the merit which you wish to introduce against grace. Answer, then, concerning the merits of infants, why some should depart from their bodies baptized, others not baptized, and by the merits of their parents neither possess nor fail of so excellent a gift that they should become sons of God from sons of men, by no deserving of their parents, by no deservings of their own. You are silent, forsooth, and you find yourselves rather in the same position which you object to us. For if when there is no merit you say that consequently there is fate, and on this account wish the merit of man to be understood in the grace of God, lest you should be compelled to confess fate; see, you rather assert a fate in the baptism of infants, since you avow that in them there is no merit. But if, in the case of infants to be baptized, you deny that any merit at all precedes, and yet do not concede that there is a fate, why do you cry out,—when we say that the grace of God is therefore given freely, lest it should not be grace, and is not repaid as if it were due to preceding merits,—that we are assertors of fate?—not perceiving that in the justification of the wicked, as there are no merits because it is God’s grace, so that it is not fate because it is God’s grace, and so that it is not acceptance of persons because it is God’s grace.

Next: Chapter 12

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