Chapter 11.—Martyrdom for Christ Supplies the Place of Baptism. The Faith of the Thief Who Was Crucified Along with Christ Taken as Martyrdom and Hence for Baptism.
Accordingly, the thief, who was no follower of the Lord previous to the cross, but His confessor upon the cross, from whose case a presumption is sometimes taken, or attempted, against the sacrament of baptism, is reckoned by St. Cyprian 2349 among the martyrs who are baptized in their own blood, as happens to many unbaptized persons in times of hot persecution. For to the fact that he confessed the crucified Lord so much weight is attributed and so much availing value assigned by Him who knows how to weigh and value such evidence, as if he had been crucified for the Lord. Then, indeed, his faith on the cross flourished when that of the disciples failed, and that without recovery if it had not bloomed again by the resurrection of Him before the terror of whose death it had drooped. They despaired of Him when dying,—he hoped when joined with Him in dying; they fled from the author of life,—he prayed to his companion in punishment; they grieved as for the death of a man,—he believed that after death He was to be a king; they forsook the sponsor of their salvation,—he honoured the companion of His cross. There was discovered in him the full measure of a martyr, who then believed in Christ when they fell away who were destined to be martyrs. All this, indeed, was manifest to the eyes of the Lord, who at once bestowed so great felicity on one who, though not baptized, was yet washed clean in the blood, as it were, of martyrdom. But even of ourselves, who cannot reflect with how much faith, how much hope, how much charity he might have undergone death for Christ when living, who begged life of Him when dying? Besides all this, there is the circumstance, which is not incredibly reported, that the thief who then believed as he hung by the side of the crucified Lord was sprinkled, as in a most sacred baptism, with the water which issued from the wound of the Saviours side. I say nothing of the fact that nobody can prove, since none of us knows that he had not been baptized previous to his condemnation. However, let every man take this in the sense he may prefer; only let no rule about baptism affecting the Saviours own precept be taken from this example of the thief; and let no one promise for the case of unbaptized infants, between damnation and the kingdom of heaven, some middle place of rest and happiness, such as he pleases and where he pleases. For this is what the heresy of Pelagius promised them: he neither fears damnation for infants, whom he does not regard as having any original sin, nor does he give them the hope of the kingdom of heaven, since they do not approach to the sacrament of baptism. As for this man, however, although he acknowledges that infants are involved in original sin, he yet boldly promises them, even without baptism, the kingdom of heaven. This even the Pelagians had not the boldness to do, though asserting infants to be absolutely without sin. See, then, what a network of presumptuous opinion he entangles, unless he regret having committed such views to writing.
Cyprians Letter to Jubianus. See likewise Augustins work Against the Donatists, iv. 29; also On Leviticus, question 84; also his Retractations, ii. 18, 55.