Anti-pelagian Writings by St. Augustine
Chapter 15 [XI.]--Victor |Decides| That Oblations Should Be Offered Up for Those Who Die Unbaptized.
Still he chafes with indecision, and is well-nigh suffocated in the terrible straits of his theory; for very likely he descries with a more sensitive eye than you, the amount of evil which he enunciates, to the effect that original sin in infants is effaced without Christ's sacrament of baptism. It is, indeed, for the purpose of finding an escape to some extent, and tardily, in the Church's sacraments that he says: |In their behalf I most certainly decide that constant oblations and incessant sacrifices must be offered up on the part of the holy priests.| Well, then, you may take him if you like for your arbiter, if it were not enough to have him as your instructor. Let him decide that you must offer up the sacrifice of Christ's body even for those who have not been incorporated into Christ. Now this is quite a novel idea, and foreign to the Church's discipline and the rule of truth: and yet, when daring to propound it in his books, he does not modestly say, I rather think; he does not say, I suppose; he does not say, I am of opinion; nor does he say, I at least would suggest, or mention; -- but he says, I give it as my decision; so that, should we be (as might be likely) offended by the novelty or the perverseness of his opinion, we might be overawed by the authority of his judicial determination. It is your own concern, my brother, how to be able to bear him as your instructor in these views. Catholic priests, however, of right feeling (and among them you ought to take your place) could never keep quiet -- God forbid it -- and hear this man pronounce his decisions, when they would wish him rather to recover his senses, and be sorry both for having entertained such opinions, and for having gone so far as to commit them to writing, and chastise himself with the most wholesome discipline of repentance. |Now it is,| says he; |on this example of the Maccabees who fell in battle that I ground the necessity of doing this. When they offered stealthily some interdicted sacrifices, and after they had fallen in the battle, we find,| says he, |that this remedial measure was at once resorted to by the priests, -- sacrifices were offered up to liberate their souls, which had been bound by the guilt of their forbidden conduct.| But he says all this, as if (according to his reading of the story) those atoning sacrifices were offered up for uncircumcised persons, as he has decided that these sacrifices of ours must be offered up for unbaptized persons. For circumcision was the sacrament of that period, which prefigured the baptism of our day.