Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 58 [XXX.]--In What Respect the Pelagians Regarded Baptism as Necessary for Infants.
Let us now examine more carefully, so far as the Lord enables us, that very chapter of the Gospel where He says, |Except a man be born again, -- of water and the Spirit, -- he shall not enter into the kingdom of God.| If it were not for the authority which this sentence has with them, they would not be of opinion that infants ought to be baptized at all. This is their comment on the passage: |Because He does not say, Except a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he shall not have salvation or eternal life,' but He merely said, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God,' therefore infants are to be baptized, in order that they may be with Christ in the kingdom of God, where they will not be unless they are baptized. Should infants die, however, even without baptism, they will have salvation and eternal life, seeing that they are bound with no fetter of sin.| Now in such a statement as this, the first thing that strikes one is, that they never explain where the justice is of separating from the kingdom of God that |image of God| which has no sin. Next, we ought to see whether the Lord Jesus, the one only good Teacher, has not in this very passage of the Gospel intimated, and indeed shown us, that it only comes to pass through the remission of their sins that baptized persons reach the kingdom of God; although to persons of a right understanding, the words, as they stand in the passage, ought to be sufficiently explicit: |Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;| and: |Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.| For why should he be born again, unless to be renewed? From what is he to be renewed, if not from some old condition? From what old condition, but that in which |our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed?| Or whence comes it to pass that |the image of God| enters not into the kingdom of God, unless it be that the impediment of sin prevents it? However, let us (as we said before) see, as earnestly and diligently as we are able, what is the entire context of this passage of the Gospel, on the point in question.