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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 26

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 26.—60.  Petilianus said:  "For if you mix what is false with what is true, falsehood often imitates the truth by treading in its steps.  Just in the same way a picture imitates the true man of nature, depicting with its colors the false resemblance of truth.  And in the same way, too, the brilliancy of a mirror catches the countenance, so as to represent the eyes of him who gazes on it.  In this way it presents to each comer his own countenance, so that the very features of the comer meet themselves in turn; and of such virtue is the falsehood of a clear mirror, that the very eyes which see themselves recognize themselves as though in some one else.  And even when a shadow stands before it, it doubles the reflection, dividing its unity in great part through a falsehood.  Must we then hold that anything is true, because a lying representation is given of it?  But it is one thing to paint a man, another to give birth to one.  For does any one represent fictitious children to a man who wishes for an heir? or would any one look for true heirs in the falsehood of a picture?  Truly it is a proof of madness to fall in love with a picture, letting go one’s hold of what is true."

61.  Augustin answered:  Are you then really not ashamed to call the baptism of Christ a lie, even when it is found in the most false of men?  Far be it from any one to suppose that the wheat of the Lord, which has been commanded to grow among the tares throughout the whole field, that is, throughout the whole of this world, until the harvest, that is, until the end of the world, 2056 can have perished in consequence of your evil words.  Nay, even among the very tares themselves, which are commanded not to be gathered, but to be tolerated even to the end, and among the very chaff, which shall only be separated from the wheat by the winnowing at the last day, 2057 does any one dare to say that any baptism is false which is given and received in p. 546 the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?  Would you say that those whom you depose from their office, whether as your colleagues or your fellow-priests, on the testimony of women whom they have seduced (since examples of this kind are not wanting anywhere), were false or true before their crime was proved against them?  You will certainly answer, False.  Why then were they able both to have and to give true baptism?  Why did not their falseness as men corrupt in them the truth of God?  Is it not most truly written, "For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee deceit?" 2058   Seeing then that the Holy Spirit fled from them, how came it that the truth of baptism was in them, except because what the Holy Spirit fled from was the falseness of man, not the truth of the sacrament?  Further, if even the deceitful have the true baptism, how do they have it who possess it in truthfulness?  Whence you ought to observe that it is rather your conversation which is colored with childish pigments; and accordingly, he who neglects the living Word to take pleasure in such coloring is himself loving the picture in the place of the reality.



Matt. 13:24, 36.


Matt. iii. 12.


Wisd. i. 5.

Next: Chapter 27

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