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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 11

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 11.—16.  For this reason, then, we hold them to be enemies, because we speak the truth, because we are afraid to be silent, p. 433 because we fear to shrink from pressing our point with all the force that lies within our power, because we obey the apostle when he says, "Preach the word; be instant in season out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort." 1253   But, as the gospel says, "They love the praise of men more than the praise of God;" 1254 and while they fear to incur blame for a time, they do not fear to incur damnation for ever.  They see, too, themselves what wrong they are doing; they see that they have no answer which they can make, but they overspread the inexperienced with mists, whilst they themselves are being swallowed up alive,—that is, are perishing knowingly and willfully.  They see that men are amazed, and look with abhorrence on the fact that they have divided themselves into many schisms, especially in Carthage, 1255 the capital and most noted city of all Africa; they have endeavored to patch up the disgrace of their rags.  Thinking that they could annihilate the followers of Maximianus, they pressed heavily on them through the agency of Optatus the Gildonian; 1256 they inflicted on them many wrongs amid the cruellest of persecutions.  Then they received back some, thinking that all could be converted under the influence of the same terror; but they were unwilling to do those whom they received the wrong of baptizing afresh those who had been baptized by them in their schism, or rather of causing them to be baptized again within their communion by the very same men by whom they had been baptized outside, and thus they at once made an exception to their own impious custom.  They feel how wickedly they are acting in assailing the baptism of the whole world, when they have received the baptism of the followers of Maximianus.  But they fear those whom they have themselves rebaptized, lest they should receive no mercy from them, when they have shown it to others; lest these should call them to account for their souls when they have ceased to destroy those of other men.


Footnotes

433:1253

2 Tim. iv. 2.

433:1254

John xii. 43.

433:1255

He is alluding to that chief schism among the Donatists, which occurred when Maximianus was consecrated bishop of Carthage, in opposition to Primianus, probably immediately after the Synod of Cabarsussum, 393.

433:1256

Optatus, a Donatist bishop of Thamogade in Numidia, was called Gildonianus from his adherence to Gildo, Count of Africa, and generalissimo of the province under the elder Theodosius.  On his death, in 395 A.D., Gildo usurped supreme authority, and by his aid Optatus was enabled to oppress the Catholics in the province, till, in 398 A.D., Gildo was defeated by his brother Mascezel, and destroyed himself, and Optatus was put in prison, where he died soon afterwards.  He is not to be confounded with Optatus, Bishop of Milevis, the strenuous opponent of the Donatists.


Next: Chapter 12

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