Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 23.--Further References to Cyprian.
And in the epistle which he wrote with sixty-six of his joint-bishops to Bishop Fidus, when he was consulted by him in respect of the law of circumcision, whether an infant might be baptized before the eighth day, this matter is treated in such a way as if by a divine forethought the catholic Church would already confute the Pelagian heretics who would appear so long afterwards. For he who had consulted had no doubt on the subject whether children on birth inherited original sin, which they might wash away by being born again. For be it far from the Christian faith to have at any time doubted on this matter. But he was in doubt whether the washing of regeneration, by which he made no question but that original sin was put away, ought to be given before the eighth day. To which consultation the most blessed Cyprian in reply said: |But as regards the case of infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of the ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For to the course which you thought was to be taken no one agreed, but we all rather judged that the grace of a merciful God was not to be denied to any one born of men; for, as the Lord says in His gospel, the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.' As far as we can, we must strive that, if possible, no soul be lost.| And a little afterwards he says: |Nor ought any of us to shudder at what God hath condescended to make. For although the infant is still fresh from its birth, yet it is not such that any one should shudder at kissing it in giving grace and in making peace, since in the kiss of an infant every one of us ought for his very religion's sake to consider the still recent hands of God themselves, which in some sort we are kissing in the man just formed and newly born, when we are embracing that which God has made.| A little after, also, he says: |But if anything could hinder men from obtaining grace, their more heinous sins might rather hinder those who are mature and grown up and older. But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who have before sinned much against God, when they have subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted, and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace; how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at his earliest birth; who approaches more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins, in that to him are remitted not his own sins, but the sins of another!|