Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 34.--The Mistakes Which Must Be Avoided by Those Who Say that Men's Souls are Not Derived from Their Parents, But are Afresh Inbreathed by God in Every Instance.
All, therefore, who wish to maintain that new souls are rightly said to be breathed into persons at their birth, and not derived from their parents, must by all means be cautious on each of the four points which I have already mentioned. That is to say, do not let them affirm that souls become sinful by another's original sin; do not let them affirm that infants who died unbaptized can possibly reach eternal life and the kingdom of heaven by the remission of original sin in any other way whatever; do not let them affirm that souls had sinned in some other place previous to their incarnation, and that on this account they were forcibly introduced into sinful flesh; nor let them affirm that the sins which were not actually found in them were, because they were foreknown, deservedly punished, although they were never permitted to reach that life where they could be committed. Provided that they affirm none of these points, because each of them is simply false and impious, they may, if they can, produce any conclusive testimonies of the Holy Scriptures on this question; and they may maintain their own opinion, not only without any prohibition from me, but even with my approbation and best thanks. If, however, they fail to discover any very decided authority on the point in the divine oracles, and are obliged to propound any one of the four opinions by reason of their failure, let them restrain their imagination, lest they should be driven in their difficulty to enunciate the now damnable and very recently condemned heresy of Pelagius, to the effect that the souls of infants have not original sin. It is, indeed, better for a man to confess his ignorance of what he knows nothing about, than either to run into heresy which has been already condemned, or to found some new heresy, while recklessly daring to defend over and over again opinions which only display his ignorance. This man has made some other absurd mistakes, indeed many, in which he has wandered out of the beaten track of truth, without going, however, to dangerous lengths; and I would like, if the Lord be willing, to write even to himself something on the subject of his books; and probably I shall point them all out to him, or a good many of them if I should be unable to notice all.