Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 13 [IX.]--Victor Teaches that God Thwarts His Own Predestination.
Let us now go on to plainer matters. For while he was confined within these great straits, as to how souls can be held bound by the chain of original sin, when they derive not their origin from the soul which first sinned, but the Creator breathes them afresh at every birth into sinful flesh, -- pure from all contagion and propagation of sin: -- in order that he might avoid the objection being brought against his argument, that thus God makes them guilty by such insufflation, he first of all had recourse to the theory drawn from God's prescience, that |He had provided redemption for them.| Infants are by the sacrament of this redemption baptized, so that the original sin which they contracted from the flesh is washed away, as if God were remedying His own acts for having made these souls polluted. But afterwards, when he comes to speak of those who receive no such assistance, but expire before they are baptized, he says: |In this place I do not offer myself as an authority, but I present you with an example by way of conjecture. We say, then, that some such method as this must be had recourse to in the case of infants, who, being predestinated for baptism, are yet, by the failing of this life, hurried away before they are born again in Christ. We read,| adds he, |it written of such, Speedily was he taken away, lest that wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul. Therefore He hasted to take him away from among the wicked, for his soul pleased the Lord; and, being made perfect in a short time, he fulfilled a long time.| Now who would disdain having such a teacher as this? Is it the case, then, with infants, whom people usually wish to have baptized, even hurriedly, before they die, that, if they should be detained ever so short a time in this life, that they might be baptized, and then at once die, wickedness would alter their understanding, and deceit beguile their soul; and to prevent this happening to them, a hasty death came to their rescue, so that they were suddenly taken away before they were baptized? By their very baptism, then, they were changed for the worse, and beguiled by deceit, if it was after baptism that they were snatched away. O excellent teaching, worthy to be admired and closely followed! But he presumed greatly on the prudence of all you who were present at his reading, and especially on yours, to whom he addressed this treatise and handed it after the reading, in supposing that you would believe that the scripture he quoted was intended for the case of unbaptized infants, although it was written of the immature ages of all those saints whom foolish men deem to be hardly dealt with, whenever they are suddenly removed from the present life and are not permitted to attain to the years which people covet for themselves as a great gift of God. What, however, is the meaning of these words of his: |Infants predestinated for baptism, who are yet, by the failing of this life, hurried away before they are born again in Christ,| as if some power of fortune, or fate, or anything else you please, did not permit God to fulfil what He had fore-ordained? And how is it that He hurries them Himself away, when they have pleased Him? Then, does He really predestinate them to be baptized, and then Himself hinder the accomplishment of the very thing which He has predestinated?