Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 58
Chapter 58.—131. Petilianus said: "It is written, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. When you falsely declare to the kings of this world that we hold your opinions, do you not make up a falsehood?"
132. Augustin answered: If those are not our opinions which you hold, neither were they your opinions which you received from the followers of Maximianus. But if they were therefore yours, because they were guilty of a sacrilegious schism in not communicating with the party of Donatus, take heed what ground you occupy, and with whose inheritance you refuse communion, and consider what answer you can make, not to the kings of this world, but to Christ your King. Of Him it is said, "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." 2150 From what river does it mean, save that where He was baptized, and where the dove descended on Him, that mighty token of charity and unity? But you refuse communion with this unity, and occupy as yet the place of unity; and you bring us into disfavor with the kings of this world in making use of the edicts of the proconsul to expel your schismatics from the place of the party of Donatus. These are not mere words flying at random through the empty void: the men are still alive, the states bear witness to the fact, the archives of the proconsuls and of the several towns are quoted in evidence of it. Let then the voice of calumny be at length silent, which would bring up against the whole earth the kings of this world, through whose proconsuls you, yourselves a fragment, would not spare the fragment which was separated from you. When then we say that you hold our opinions, we are not shown to be bearing false witness, unless you can show that we are not in the Church of Christ, which indeed you never cease alleging, but never will be able to establish; nay, in real truth, when you say this, you are bringing a charge of false witness no longer against us, but against the Lord Himself. For we are in the Church which was foretold by His own testimony, and where He bore witness to His witnesses, saying, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and even in the whole earth." But you show yourselves to be false witnesses not only from this, that you resist this truth, but also in the very trial in which you joined issue with the schism of Maximianus. For if you were acting according to the law of Christ, how much more consistently do certain Christian emperors frame ordinances in accordance with it, if even pagan proconsuls can follow its behests in passing judgment? But if you thought that even the laws of an earthly empire were to be summoned to your aid, we do not blame you for this. It is what Paul did when he bore witness before his adversaries that he was a Roman citizen. 2151 But I would ask by what earthly laws it is ordained that the followers of Maximianus should be driven from their place? You will find no law whatever to this effect. But, in point of fact, you have chosen to expel them under laws which have been passed against heretics, and against yourselves among their number. You, as though by superior strength, have prevailed against the weak. Whence they, being wholly powerless, say that they are innocent, like the wolf in the power of the lion. Yet surely you could not use laws which were passed against yourselves as instruments against others, except by the aid of false witness. For if those laws are founded on truth, then do you come down from the position which you occupy; but if on falsehood, why did you use them to drive others from the Church? But how if they both are founded on truth, and could not be used by you for the expulsion of others except with the aid of falsehood? For that the judges might submit to their authority, they were willing to expel heretics from the Church, from which they ought first to have expelled yourselves; but you declared yourselves to be Catholics, that you might esp. 564 cape the severity of the laws which you employed to oppress others. It is for you to determine what you appear to yourselves among yourselves; at any rate, under those laws you are not Catholics. Why then have you either made them false, if they are true, by your false witness, or made use of them, if they are false, for the oppression of others?
Ps. lxxii. 8.563:2151
Acts xxii. 25.
Next: Chapter 59
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