Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 23 [XVIII.]--He Refutes Those Who Allege that Infants are Baptized Not for the Remission of Sins, But for the Obtaining of the Kingdom of Heaven.
But those persons raise a question, and appear to adduce an argument deserving of consideration and discussion, who say that new-born infants receive baptism not for the remission of sin, but that, since their procreation is not spiritual, they may be created in Christ, and become partakers of the kingdom of heaven, and by the same means children and heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. And yet, when you ask them, whether those that are not baptized, and are not made joint-heirs with Christ and partakers of the kingdom of heaven, have at any rate the blessing of eternal life in the resurrection of the dead, they are extremely perplexed, and find no way out of their difficulty. For what Christian is there who would allow it to be said, that any one could attain to eternal salvation without being born again in Christ, -- [a result] which He meant to be effected through baptism, at the very time when such a sacrament was purposely instituted for regenerating in the hope of eternal salvation? Whence the apostle says: |Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us by the laver of regeneration.| This salvation, however, he says, consists in hope, while we live here below, where he says, |For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope; for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.| Who then could be so bold as to affirm, that without the regeneration of which the apostle speaks, infants could attain to eternal salvation, as if Christ died not for them? For |Christ died for the ungodly.| As for them, however, who (as is manifest) never did an ungodly act in all their own life, if also they are not bound by any bond of sin in their original nature, how did He die for them, who died for the ungodly? If they were hurt by no malady of original sin, how is it they are carried to the Physician Christ, for the express purpose of receiving the sacrament of eternal salvation, by the pious anxiety of those who run to Him? Why rather is it not said to them in the Church: Take hence these innocents: |they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick;| -- Christ |came not to call the righteous, but sinners?| There never has been heard, there never is heard, there never will be heard in the Church, such a fiction concerning Christ.