Chapter 24.—The Dilemma Proposed to the Pelagians.
What will be said to such things as these, by those who are not only the forsakers, but also the persecutors of Gods grace? What will they say to such things as these? On what ground is the “possession of Paradise” restored to us? How are we restored to Paradise if we have never been there? Or how have we been there, except because we were there in Adam? And how do we belong to that “judgment” which was spoken against the transgressor, if we do not inherit injury from the transgressor? Finally, he thinks that infants are to be baptized, even before the eighth day; lest “by the contagion of the ancient death, contracted in the first birth,” the souls of the infants should perish. How do they perish if they who are born even of believing men are not held by the devil until they are born again in Christ, and plucked out from the power of darkness, and transferred into His kingdom? And who says that the souls of those who are born will perish unless they are born again? No other than he who so praises the Creator and the creature, the workman and the work, as to restrain and correct the horror of human feeling with which men refuse to kiss infants fresh from the womb, by interposing the veneration of the Creator Himself, saying that in the kiss of infants of that age the recent hands of God were to be considered! Did he, then, in confessing original sin, condemn either nature or marriage? Did he, because he applied to the infant born guilty from Adam, the cleansing of regeneration, therefore deny God as the Creator of those that were born? Because, in his dread that souls of any age whatever should perish, he, with his council of colleagues, decided that even before the eighth day they were to be delivered by the sacrament of baptism, did he therefore accuse marriage, when, indeed, in the case of an infant,—whether born of marriage or of adultery, yet because it was born a man,—he declared that the recent hands of God were worthy even of the kiss of peace? If, then, the holy bishop and most glorious martyr Cyprian could think that original sin in infants must be healed by the medicine of Christ, without denying the praise of the creature, without denying the praise of marriage, why does a novel pestilence, although it does not dare to call such an one as him a Manichean, think that another persons fault is to be objected against catholics who maintain these things, in order to conceal its own? So the most lauded commentator on the divine declarations, before even the slightest taint of the Manichean plague had touched our lands, without any reproach of the divine work and of marriage, confesses original sin,—not saying that Christ was stained with any spot of sin, nor yet comparing with Him the flesh of sin in others that were born, to whom by means of the likeness of sinful flesh He might afford the aid of cleansing; neither is he deterred by the obscure question of the origin of souls, from confessing that those who are made free by the grace of Christ return into Paradise. Does he say that the condition of death passed upon men from Adam without the contagion of sin? For it is not on account of avoiding the death of the body, but on account of the sin which entered by one man into the world, 2851 that he says that help is to be afforded by baptism to infants, however fresh they may be from the womb.
Rom. v. 12.