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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 19

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 19.—42.  Petilianus said:  "The Lord Jesus Christ commands us, saying, ‘When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another; and if they persecute you in that, flee yet into a third; for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.’ 2029   If He gives us this warning in the case of Jews and pagans, you who call yourself a Christian ought not to imitate the dreadful deeds of the Gentiles.  Or do you serve God in such wise that we should be murdered at your hands?  You do err, you do err, if you are wretched enough to entertain such a belief as this.  For God does not have butchers for His priests."

43.  Augustin answered:  To flee from one state to another from the face of persecution has not been enjoined as precept or permission on heretics or schismatics, such as you are; but it was enjoined on the preachers of the gospel, whom you resist.  And this we may easily prove in this wise:  you are now in your own cities, and no man persecutes you.  You must therefore come forth, and give an account of your separation.  For it cannot be maintained that, as the weakness of the flesh is excused when it yields before the violence of persecution, so truth also ought to yield to falsehood.  Furthermore, if you are suffering persecution, why do you not retire from the cities in which you are, that you may fulfill the instructions which you quote out of the gospel?  But if you are not suffering persecution, why are you unwilling to reply to us?  Or if the fact be that you p. 540 are afraid lest, when you should have made reply, you then should suffer persecution, in that case how are you following the example of those preachers to whom it was said, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves?"  To whom it was also further said "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." 2030   And how do you escape the charge of acting contrary to the injunction of the Apostle Peter, who says, "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the faith and hope that is in you?" 2031   And, lastly, wherefore are you ever eager to annoy the Catholic Churches by the most violent disturbances, whenever it is in your power, as is proved by innumerable instances of simple fact?  But you say that you must defend your places, and that you resist with cudgels and massacres and with whatever else you can.  Wherefore in such a case did you not hearken to the voice of the Lord, when He says, "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil"?  2032   Or, allowing that it is possible that in some cases it should be right for violent men to be resisted by bodily force, and that it does not violate the precept which we receive from the Lord, "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil," why may it not also be that a pious man should eject an impious man, or a just man him that is unjust, in the exercise of duly and lawfully constituted authority, from seats which are unlawfully usurped, or retained to the despite of God?  For you would not say that the false prophets suffered persecution at the hands of Elijah, in the same sense that Elijah suffered persecution from the wickedest of kings? 2033   Or that because the Lord was scourged by His persecutors, therefore those whom He Himself drove out of the temple with scourges are to be put in comparison with His sufferings?  It remains, therefore, that we should acknowledge that there is no other question requiring solution, except whether you have been pious or impious in separating yourselves from the communion of the whole world.  For if it shall be found that you have acted impiously, you would not be surprised if there should be no lack of ministers of God by whom you might be scourged, seeing that you suffer persecution not from us, but as it is written, from their own abominations. 2034


Footnotes

539:2029

Matt. x. 23.

540:2030

Matt. 10:16, 28.

540:2031

1 Pet. iii. 15.

540:2032

Matt. v. 39.

540:2033

1 Kings xviii.

540:2034

Wisd. xii. 23.


Next: Chapter 20

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