Chapter 10 [IX.]—Another Error of Victors, that Infants Dying Unbaptized May Attain to the Kingdom of Heaven. Another, that the Sacrifice of the Body of Christ Must Be Offered for Infants Who Die Before They are Baptized.
But when he wished to answer with respect, however, to those infants who are prevented by death from being first baptized in Christ, he was so bold as to promise them not only paradise, but also the kingdom of heaven,—finding no way else of avoiding the necessity of saying that God condemns to eternal death innocent souls which, without any previous desert of sin, He introduces into sinful flesh. He saw, however, to some extent what evil he was giving utterance to, in implying that without any grace of Christ the souls of infants are redeemed to everlasting life and the kingdom of heaven, and that in their case original sin may be cancelled without Christs baptism, in which is effected the forgiveness of sins: observing all this, and into what a depth he had plunged in his sea of shipwreck, he says, “I am of opinion that for them, indeed, constant oblations and sacrifices must be continually offered up by holy priests.” You may here behold another danger, out of which he will never escape except by regret and a recall of his words. For who can offer up the body of Christ for any except for those who are members of Christ? Moreover, from the time when He said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven;” 2346 and again, “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it;” 2347 no one becomes a member of Christ except it be either by baptism in Christ, or death for Christ. 2348
John iii. 5.319:2347
Matt. x. 39.319:2348
[Augustin here confesses the validity of the “baptism of blood,” that is, martyrdom, which may take the place of baptism. See the next chapter, and also Book ii. 17.—W.]