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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 8

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 8.—17.  Petilianus said:  "We must consider, I say, and declare how far the treacherous traditor is to be accounted dead while yet in life.  Judas was an apostle when he betrayed Christ; and the same man was already dead, having spiritually lost the office of an apostle, being destined afterwards to die by hanging himself, as it is written:  ‘I have sinned,’ says he, ‘in that I have betrayed the innocent blood; and he departed, and went and hanged himself.’ 1983   The traitor perished by the rope:  he left the rope for others like himself, of whom the Lord Christ cried aloud to the Father, ‘Father, those that Thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled.’ 1984   For David of old p. 533 had passed this sentence on him who was to betray Christ to the unbelievers:  ‘Let another take his office.  Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.’ 1985   See how mighty is the spirit of the prophets, that it was able to see all future things as though they were present, so that a traitor who was to be born hereafter should be condemned many centuries before.  Finally, that the said sentence should be completed, the holy Matthias received the bishopric of that lost apostle.  Let no one be so dull, no one so faithless, as to dispute this:  Matthias won for himself a victory, not a wrong, in that he carried off the spoils of the traitor from the victory of the Lord Christ.  Why then, after this, do you claim to yourself a bishopric as the heir of a worse traitor?  Judas betrayed Christ in the flesh to the unbelievers; you in the spirit madly betrayed the holy gospel to the flames of sacrilege.  Judas betrayed the Lawgiver to the unbelievers; you, as it were, betraying all that he had left, gave up the law of God to be destroyed by men.  Whilst, had you loved the law, like the youthful Maccabees, you would have welcomed death for the sake of the laws of God (if indeed that can be said to be death to men which makes them immortal because they died for the Lord); for of those brethren we learn that one replied to the sacrilegious tyrant with these words of faith:  ‘Thou like a fury takest us out of this present life; but the King of the world (who reigns for ever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end) shall raise us up who have died for His laws, unto everlasting life.’  1986   If you were to burn with fire the testament of a dead man, would you not be punished as the falsifier of a will?  What therefore is likely to become of you who have burned the most holy law of our God and Judge?  Judas repented of his deed even in death; you not only do not repent, but stand forth as a persecutor and butcher of us who keep the law, whilst you are the most wicked of traditors."

18.  Augustin answered:  See what a difference there is between your calumnious words and our truthful assertions.  Listen for a little while.  See how you have exaggerated the sin of delivering up the sacred books, comparing us in most odious terms, like some sophistical inventor of charges, with the traitor Judas.  But when I shall have answered you on this point with the utmost brevity,—I did not do what you assert; I did not deliver up the sacred books; your charge is false; you will never be able to prove it,—will not all that smoke of mighty words presently vanish away?  Or will you perchance endeavor to prove the truth of what you say?  This, then, you should do first; and then you might rise against us, as against men who were already convicted, with whatever mass of invective you might choose.  Here is one absurdity:  behold again a second.

19.  You yourself, when speaking of the foretelling of the condemnation of Judas, used these expressions:  "See how mighty is the spirit of the prophets, that it was able to see all future things as though they were present, so that a traitor who was to be born hereafter should be condemned many centuries before;" and yet you did not see that in the same sure prophecy, and certain and unshaken truth, in which it was foretold that one of the disciples should hereafter betray the Christ; it was also foretold that the whole world should hereafter believe in Christ.  Why did you pay attention in the prophecy to the man who betrayed Christ, and in the same place give no heed to the world for which Christ was betrayed?  Who betrayed Christ?  Judas.  To whom did he betray Him?  To the Jews.  What did the Jews do to Him?  "They pierced my hands and my feet," says the Psalmist.  "I may tell all my bones:  they look and stare upon me.  They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." 1987   Of what importance, then, that is which is bought at such a price, I would have you read a little later in the psalm itself:  "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee.  For the kingdom is the Lord’s; and He is the governor among the nations." 1988   But who is able to suffice for the quotation of all the other innumerable prophetic passages which bear witness to the world that is destined to believe?  Yet you quote a prophecy because you see in it the man who sold Christ:  you do not see in it the possession which Christ bought by being sold.  Here is the second absurdity:  behold again the third.

20.  Among the many other expressions in your invective, you said:  "If you were to burn with fire the testament of a dead man, would you not be punished as the falsifier of a will?  What therefore is likely to become of you who have burned the most holy law of our God and Judge?"  In these words you have paid no attention to what certainly ought to have moved you, to the question of how it might be that we should burn the testament, and yet stand fast in the inheritance p. 534 which was described in that testament; but it is marvellous that you have preserved the testament and lost the inheritance.  Is it not written in that testament, "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession"? 1989   Take part in this inheritance, and you may bring what charges you will against me about the testament.  For what madness is it, that while you shrank from committing the testament to the flames, you should yet strive against the words of the testator!  We, on the other hand, though we hold in our hands the records of the Church and of the State, in which we read that those who ordained a rival bishop 1990 in opposition to Cæcilianus were rather the betrayers of the sacred books, yet do not on this account insult you, or pursue you with invectives, or mourn over the ashes of the sacred pages in your hands, or contrast the burning torments of the Maccabees with the sacrilege of your fear, saying, "You should deliver your own limbs to the flames rather than the utterances of God."  For we are unwilling to be so absurd as to excite an empty uproar against you on account of the deeds of others, which you either know nothing of, or else repudiate.  But in that we see you separated from the communion of the whole world (a sin both of the greatest magnitude, and manifest to all mankind, and common to you all), if I were desirous of exaggerating, I should find time failing me sooner than words.  And if you should seek to defend yourself on this charge, it could only be by bringing accusations against the whole world, of such a kind that, if they could be maintained, you would simply be furnishing matter for further accusation against yourself; if they could not be maintained, there is in them no defence for you.  Why therefore do you puff yourself up against me about the betrayal of the sacred books, which concerns neither you nor me if we abide by the agreement not to charge each other with the sins of other men:  and which, if that agreement does not stand, affects you rather than me?  And, yet, even without any violation of that agreement, I think I may say with perfect justice that he should be deemed a partner with him who delivered up Christ who has not delivered himself up to Christ in company with the whole world.  "Then," says the apostle, "then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." 1991   And again he says, "Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." 1992   And the same apostle shows that the seed of Abraham belongs to all nations from the promise which was given to Abraham, "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." 1993   Wherefore I consider that I am only making a fair demand in asking that we should for a moment consider the testament of God, which has already long been opened, and that we should consider every one to be himself an heir of the traitor whom we do not find to be a joint-heir with Him whom he betrayed; that every one should belong to him who sold Christ who denies that Christ has bought the whole world.  For when He showed Himself after His resurrection to His disciples, and gave His limbs to those who doubted, that they should handle them, He says this to them, "For thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day:  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." 1994   See from what an inheritance you estrange yourselves! see what an Heir you resist!  Can it really be that a man would spare Christ if He were walking here on earth who speaks against Him while He sits in heaven?  Do you not yet understand that whatever you allege against us you allege against His words?  A Christian world is promised and believed in:  the promise is fulfilled, and it is denied.  Consider, I entreat of you, what you ought to suffer for such impiety.  And yet, if I know not what you have suffered,—if I have not seen it, have not wrought it,—then do you to-day, who do not suffer the violence of my persecution, render to me an account of your separation.  But you are likely to say over and over again what, unless you prove it, can affect no one, and if you prove it, has no bearing upon me.



Matt. 27:4, 5.


John xvii. 12.


Ps. 9:8, 9.


2 Macc. vii. 9.  The words in brackets are not in the original Greek.


Ps. xxii. 16-18.


Ps. 22:27, 28.


Ps. ii. 8.


Majorinus, ordained by the Numidian bishops in 311 A.D.


Gal. iii. 29.


Rom. viii. 17.


Gen. xxii. 18.


Luke 24:46, 47.

Next: Chapter 9

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