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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 18

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 18.—40.  Petilianus said:  "Nor is it, after all, so strange that you assume to yourself the name of bishop without authority.  This is the true custom of the devil, to choose in preference a mode of deceiving by which he usurps to himself a word of holy meaning, as the apostle declares to us:  ‘And no marvel,’ he says:  ‘for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.’ 2019   Nor is it therefore a marvel if you falsely call yourself a bishop.  For even those fallen angels, lovers of the maidens of the world, who were corrupted by the corruption of their flesh, though, from having stripped themselves of divine excellence, they have ceased p. 539 to be angels, yet retain the name of angels, and always esteem themselves as angels, though, being released from the service of God, they have passed from the likeness of their character into the army of the devil, as the great God declares, ‘My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh.’ 2020   To those guilty ones and to you the Lord Christ will say, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’ 2021   If there were no evil angels, the devil would have no angels; of whom the apostle says, that in the judgment of the resurrection they shall be condemned by the saints:  ‘Know ye not,’ says he, ‘that we shall judge angels?’ 2022   If they were true angels, men would not have authority to judge the angels of God.  So too those sixty apostles, who, when the twelve were left alone with the Lord Christ, departed in apostasy from the faith, are so far yet considered among wretched men to be apostles, that from them Manichæus and the rest entangle many souls in many devilish sects which they destroyed 2023 that they might take them in their snares.  For indeed the fallen Manichæus, if fallen he was, is not to be reckoned among those sixty, if it be that we can find his name as an apostle among the twelve, or if he was ordained by the voice of Christ when Matthias was elected into the place of the traitor Judas, or another thirteenth like Paul, who calls himself the last 2024 of the apostles, expressly that any one who was later than himself might not be held to be an apostle.  For these are his words:  ‘For I am the last of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.’ 2025   And do not flatter yourselves in this:  he was a Jew that had done this.  You too, as Gentiles, may work destruction upon us.  For you carry on war without license, against whom we may not fight in turn.  For you desire to live when you have murdered us; but our victory is either to escape or to be slain."

41.  Augustin answered:  See how you have quoted the testimony of holy Scripture, or how you have understood it, when it has no bearing at all upon the present point at issue.  For all that you have brought forward was simply said to prove that there are false bishops, just as there are false angels and false apostles.  Now we too know quite well that there are false angels and false apostles, and false bishops, and, as the true apostle says, false brethren also; 2026 but, seeing that charges such as yours may be brought by either side against the other, what is required is a certain degree of proof, and not mere empty words.  But if you would see to which of us the charge of falseness more truly applies, recall to mind what we have said before, and you will see it there set forth, that we may not become tedious to our readers by repeating the same thing over and over again.  And yet how is the Church dispersed throughout the world affected either by what you may have found to say about its chaff, which is mixed with it throughout the whole world; or by what you said of Manichæus and the other devilish sects?  For if the wheat is not affected by anything which is said even about the chaff which is still mingled with it, how much less are the members of Christ dispersed throughout the whole world affected by monstrosities 2027 which have been so long and so openly separated from it? 2028


Footnotes

538:2019

2 Cor. 11:14, 15.

539:2020

Gen. vi. 3.

539:2021

Matt. xxv. 41.

539:2022

1 Cor. vi. 3.

539:2023

"Perdiderunt," which the Benedictines think may be a confusion for "perierunt."

539:2024

Novissimus.

539:2025

1 Cor. xv. 9.

539:2026

2 Cor. xi. 26.

539:2027

Portenta.

539:2028

Down to this point Augustin had already answered Petilianus in the First Book, as he says himself below, III. 50, 61.


Next: Chapter 19

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