Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 16 [XII.]--Victor Promises to the Unbaptized Paradise After Their Death, and the Kingdom of Heaven After Their Resurrection, Although He Admits that This Opposes Christ's Statement.
But your friend, in comparison with what he has shown himself to be further on, thus far makes mistakes which one may somewhat tolerate. He apparently felt some disposition to relent; not, to be sure, at what he ought to have misgivings about, namely, for having ventured to assert that original sin is relaxed even in the case of the unbaptized, and that remission is given to them of all their sins, so that they are admitted into paradise, that is, to a place of great happiness, and possess a claim to the happy mansions in our Father's house; but he seems to have entertained some regret at having conceded to them abodes of lesser blessedness outside the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly he goes on to say, |Or if any one is perhaps reluctant to believe that paradise is bestowed as a temporary and provisional gift on the soul of the thief or of Dinocrates (for there remains for them still, in the resurrection, the reward of the kingdom of heaven), although that principal passage stands in the way, -- Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God.' -- he may yet hold my assent as ungrudgingly given to this point; only let him magnify both the aim and the effect of the divine compassion and fore-knowledge.| These words have I copied, as I read them in his second book. Well, now, could any one have shown on this erroneous point greater boldness, recklessness, or presumption? He actually quotes and calls attention to the Lord's weighty sentence, encloses it in a statement of his own, and then says, |Although the opinion is opposed to the principal passage,' Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God;'| he dares then to lift his haughty head in censure against the Prince's judgment: |He may yet hold my assent as ungrudgingly given to this point;| and he explains his point to be, that the souls of unbaptized persons have a claim to paradise as a temporary gift; and in this class he mentions the dying thief and Dinocrates, as if he were prescribing, or rather prejudging, their destination; moreover, in the resurrection, he will have them transferred to a better provision, even making them receive the reward of the kingdom of heaven. |Although,| says he, |this is opposed to the sentence of the Prince.| Now, do you, my brother, I pray you, seriously consider this question: What sentence of the Prince shall that man deserve to have passed upon him, who imposes on any person an assent of his own which runs counter to the authority of the Prince Himself?