Aristides: Guiltless State of Infants and (Lack Of) Security for Sinful Christians

And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.

The Apology of Aristides, XV (120-130 AD)

This is just a small excerpt from a longer defense Aristides makes of Christians in an apology to Emperor Hadrian.

Compared to the Augustine’s later development of original sin, with the guilt from Adam’s sin seen being passed on to all his descendants, this earlier work shows a completely different view of infants and children. If a child should die, they have “passed through the world without sins.” No hint of being guilty there.

The last sentence runs contrary to the modern idea of eternal security even for the believer who persists in unrepentant sin. If they, the Christians, “see that any one of them dies in his sins” they grieve as for one “who goes to meet his doom.” The reference to “any one of them” would naturally apply to any other Christians. Therefore, this passage is saying that should a fellow Christian die “in his ungodliness or sins,” that believer was assumed to be punished in the after-life.


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