Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 14.--His Eighth Error. (See Above in Book II. 13 [IX.].)
Refuse, if you wish to be a catholic, to believe, or to say, or to teach that |it is of infants, who are forestalled by death before they are born again in Christ, that the Scripture says, Speedily was he taken away, lest that wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul. Therefore God hastened to take him away from among the wicked; for his soul pleased the Lord; and being made perfect in a short time he fulfilled long seasons.'| For this passage has nothing to do with those to whom you apply it, but rather belongs to those who, after they have been baptized and have progressed in pious living, are not permitted to tarry long on earth, -- having been made perfect, not with years, but with the grace of heavenly wisdom. This error however, of yours, by which you think that this scripture was spoken of infants who die unbaptized, does an intolerable wrong to the holy laver itself, if an infant, who could have been |hurried away| after baptism, has been |hurried away| before this, for this reason: -- |lest wickedness should alter his understanding, or deceit beguile his soul.| As if this |wickedness,| and this |deceit which beguiles the soul,| and changes it for the worse, if it be not before taken away, is to be believed to be in baptism itself! In a word, since his soul had pleased God, He hastened to remove him out of the midst of iniquity; and he tarried not for ever so little while, in order to fulfil in him what He had predestinated; but preferred to act in opposition to His predestined purpose, and actually hastened lest what had pleased Him so well in the unbaptized child should be exterminated by his baptism! As if the dying infant would perish in that, whither we ought to run with him in our arms in order to save him from perdition. Who, therefore, in respect of these words of the Book of Wisdom, could believe, or say, or write, or quote them as having been written concerning infants who die without baptism, if he only reflected upon them with proper consideration?