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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 23

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 23.—31.  Cyprian writes also to Pompeius 1542 about this selfsame matter, and clearly shows in that letter that Stephen, who, as we learn, was then bishop of the p. 475 Roman Church, not only did not agree with him upon the points before us, but even wrote and taught the opposite views.  But Stephen certainly did not "communicate with heretics," 1543 merely because he did not dare to impugn the baptism of Christ, which he knew remained perfect in the midst of their perversity.  For if none have baptism who entertain false views about God, it has been proved sufficiently, in my opinion, that this may happen even within the Church.  "The apostles," indeed, "gave no injunctions on the point;" 1544 but the custom, which is opposed to Cyprian, may be supposed to have had its origin in apostolic tradition, just as there are many things which are observed by the whole Church, and therefore are fairly held to have been enjoined by the apostles, which yet are not mentioned in their writings.

32.  But it will be urged that it is written of heretics that "they are condemned of themselves." 1545   What then? are they not also condemned of themselves to whom it was said, "For wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself?" 1546   But to these the apostle says, "Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?" 1547 and so forth.  And such truly were they who, being bishops and established in Catholic unity with Cyprian himself, used to plunder estates by treacherous frauds, preaching all the time to the people the words of the apostle, who says, "Nor shall extortioners inherit the kingdom of God." 1548

33.  Wherefore I will do no more than run shortly through the other sentiments founded on the same rules, which are in the aforesaid letter written to Pompeius.  By what authority of holy Scripture is it shown that "it is against the commandment of God that persons coming from the society of heretics, if they have already there received the baptism of Christ, are not baptized again?" 1549   But it is clearly shown that many pretended Christians, though they are not joined in the same bond of charity with the saints, without which anything holy that they may have been able to possess is of no profit to them, yet have baptism in common with the saints, as has been already sufficiently proved with the greatest fullness.  He says "that the Church, and the Spirit, and baptism, are mutually incapable of separation from each other, and therefore" he wishes that "those who are separated from the Church and the Holy Spirit should be understood to be separated also from baptism." 1550   But if this is the case, then when any one has received baptism in the Catholic Church, it remains so long in him as he himself remains in the Church, which is not so.  For it is not restored to him when he returns, just because he did not lose it when he seceded.  But as the disaffected sons have not the Holy Spirit in the same manner as the beloved sons, and yet they have baptism; so heretics also have not the Church as Catholics have, and yet they have baptism.  "For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit," 1551 and yet baptism will not flee from it.  And so, as baptism can continue in one from whom the Holy Spirit withdraws Himself, so can baptism continue where the Church is not.  But if "the laying on of hands" were not "applied to one coming from heresy," 1552 he would be as it were judged to be wholly blameless; but for the uniting of love, which is the greatest gift of the Holy Spirit, without which any other holy thing that there may be in a man is profitless to his salvation, hands are laid on heretics when they are brought to a knowledge of the truth. 1553



Cypr. Ep. lxxiv., which is examined by Augustin in the remaining chapters of this book.


Cypr. Ep.lxxiv. 2.


Cypr. Ep.lxxiv. 2.


Tit. iii. 11.


Rom. ii. 1.


Rom. ii. 21.


1 Cor. vi. 10.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiv. 4.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiv. 4.


Wisd. i. 5.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiv. 5.


Cyprian, in the laying on of hands, appears to refer to confirmation, but Augustin interprets it of the restoration of penitents.  Cp. III. 16, 21.

Next: Chapter 24

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