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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 21.—29.  But as to what he says, that "he who comes to the Church is to be baptized and renewed, that within he may be hallowed through the holy," 1529 what will he do, if within also he meets with those who are not holy?  Or can it be that the murderer is holy?  And if the reason for his being baptized in the Church is that "he should put off this very thing also that he, being a man that sought to come to God, fell, through the deceit of error, on one profane," 1530 where is he afterwards to put off this, that he may chance, while seeking a man of God within the Church itself, to have fallen, through the deceit of error, on a murderer?  If "there cannot be in a man something that is void p. 474 and something that is valid," 1531 why is it possible that in a murderer the sacrament should be holy and his heart unholy?  If "whosoever cannot give the Holy Spirit cannot baptize," 1532 why does the murderer baptize within the Church?  Or how has the murderer the Holy Spirit, when every one that has the Holy Spirit is filled with light, but "he who hates his brother is still in darkness?" 1533   If because "there is one baptism, and one Spirit," 1534 therefore they cannot have the one baptism who have not the one Spirit, why do the innocent man and the murderer within the Church have the one baptism and not have the one Spirit?  So therefore the heretic and the Catholic may have the one baptism, and yet not have the one Church, as in the Catholic Church the innocent man and the murderer may have the one baptism, though they have not the one Spirit; for as there is one baptism, so there is one Spirit and one Church.  And so the result is, that in each person we must acknowledge what he already has, and to each person we must give what he has not.  If "nothing can be confirmed and ratified with God which has been done by those whom God calls His enemies and foes," 1535 why is the baptism confirmed which is given by murderers?  Are we not to call murderers the enemies and foes of the Lord?  But "he that hateth his brother is a murderer."  How then did they baptize who hated Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ, and thereby hated Jesus Himself, since He Himself said to Saul, "Why persecutest thou me?" 1536 when he was persecuting His servants, and since at the last He Himself shall say, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these that are mine, ye did it not to me?" 1537   Wherefore all who go out from us are not of us, but not all who are with us are of us; just as when men thresh, all that flies from the threshing-floor is shown not to be corn, but not all that remains there is therefore corn.  And so John too says, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." 1538   Wherefore God gives the sacrament of grace even through the hands of wicked men, but the grace itself only by Himself or through His saints.  And therefore He gives remission of sins either of Himself, or through the members of that dove to whom He says, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." 1539   But since no one can doubt that baptism, which is the sacrament of the remission of sins, is possessed even by murderers, who are yet in darkness because the hatred of their brethren is not excluded from their hearts, therefore either no remission of sins is given to them if their baptism is accompanied by no change of heart for the better, or if the sins are remitted, they at once return on them again.  And we learn that the baptism is holy in itself, because it is of God; and whether it be given or whether it be received by men of such like character, it cannot be polluted by any perversity of theirs, either within, or yet outside the Church.



Cypr. Ep. lxx. 2.


Cypr. Ep. lxx. 2.


Cypr. Ep. lxx. 3.


Cypr. Ep. lxx. 3.


1 John ii. 9.


Cypr. Ep. lxx. 3.


Cypr. Ep. lxx. 3.


Acts ix. 4.


Matt. xxv. 45.


1 John ii. 19.


John xx. 23.

Next: Chapter 22

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