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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 7

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 7.—14.  Petilianus said:  "And again, ‘He who is baptized by one that is dead, his washing profiteth him nothing.’ 1977   He did not mean that the baptizer was a corpse, a lifeless body, the remains of a man ready for burial, but one lacking the Spirit of God, who is compared to a dead body, as He declares to a disciple in another place, acp. 532 cording to the witness of the gospel.  For His disciple says, ‘Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.  But Jesus said unto him, Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.’ 1978   The father of the disciple was not baptized.  He declared him as a pagan to belong to the company of pagans; unless he said this of the unbelieving, The dead cannot bury the dead.  He was dead, therefore, not as smitten by some death, but as smitten even during life.  For he who so lives as to be doomed to eternal death is tortured by a death in life.  To be baptized, therefore, by the dead, is to have received not life but death.  We must therefore consider and declare how far the traditor is to be accounted dead while yet alive.  He is dead who has not deserved to be born again with a true baptism; he is likewise dead who, having been born again with a true baptism, has become involved with a traditor.  Both are wanting in the life of baptism,—both he who never had it at all, and he who had it and has lost it.  For the Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘There shall come to that man seven spirits more wicked than the former one, and the last state of that man shall be worse than the first.’" 1979

15.  Augustin answered:  Seek with greater care to know in what sense the words which you have quoted from Scripture in proof of your position were really uttered, and how they should be understood.  For that all unrighteous persons are wont to be called dead in a mystical sense is clear enough; but Christ, to whom true baptism belongs, which you say is false because of the faults of men, is alive, sitting at the right hand of the Father, and He will not die any more through any infirmity of the flesh:  death will no more have dominion over Him. 1980   And they who are baptized with His baptism are not baptized by one who is dead.  And if it so happen that certain ministers, being deceitful workers, seeking their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s, proclaiming the gospel not in purity, and preaching Christ of contention and envy, are to be called dead because of their unrighteousness, yet the sacrament of the living God does not die even in one that is dead.  For that Simon was dead who was baptized by Philip in Samaria, who wished to purchase the gift of God for money; but the baptism which he had lived in him still to work his punishment. 1981

16.  But how false the statement is which you make, that "both are wanting in the life of baptism, both he who never had it at all, and he who had it and has lost it," you may see from this, that in the case of those who apostatize after having been baptized, and who return through penitence, baptism is not restored to them, as it would be restored if it were lost.  In what manner, indeed, do your dead men baptize according to your interpretation?  Must we not reckon the drunken among the dead (to say nothing of the rest, and to mention only what is well known and of daily experience among all), seeing that the apostle says of the widow, "But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth?" 1982   In the next place, in that Council of yours, in which you condemned Maximianus with his advisers or his ministers, have you forgotten with what eloquence you said, "Even after the manner of the Egyptians, the shores are full of the bodies of the dying, on whom the weightier punishment falls in death itself, in that, after their life has been wrung from them by the avenging waters, they have not found so much as burial?"  And yet you yourselves may see whether or no one of them, Felicianus, has been brought to life again; yet he has with him within the communion of your body those whom he baptized outside.  As therefore he is baptized by One that is alive, who is clothed with the baptism of the living Christ, so he is baptized by the dead who is wrapped in the baptism of the dead Saturn, or any one like him; that we may set forth in the meanwhile, with what brevity we may, in what sense the words which you have quoted may be understood without any cavilling on the part of any one of us.  For, in the sense in which they are received by you, you make no effort to explain them, but only strive to entangle us together with yourselves.


Footnotes

531:1977

Ecclus. xxxiv. 25; see on I. 9, 10.

532:1978

Matt. 8:21, 22.

532:1979

Matt. xii. 45.

532:1980

Rom. vi. 9.

532:1981

Acts 8:13, 18, 19.

532:1982

1 Tim. v. 6.


Next: Chapter 8

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