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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 74

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 74.—163.  Petilianus said:  "But these things do not alarm us Christians; for of the evil deeds which you are destined to commit we have before a warning given us by the Lord Christ.  ‘Behold,’ He says, ‘I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.’ 2175   You fill up the measure of the madness of wolves, who either lay or are preparing to lay snares against the Churches in precisely the same way in which wolves, with their mouths wide open against the fold, even with destructive eagerness, breathe forth panting anger from their jaws, suffused with blood."

164.  Augustin answered:  I should be glad to utter the same sentiment against you, but not in the words which you have used:  they are too inappropriate, or rather mad.  But what was required was, that you should show that we were wolves and that you were sheep, not by the emptiest of evil-speaking, but by some distinct proofs.  For when I too have said, We are sheep, and you are wolves, do you think that there is any difference caused by the fact that you express the idea in swelling words?  But listen whilst I prove what I assert.  For the Lord says in the gospel, as you know full well, whether you please it or not, "My sheep hear my voice, and follow me." 2176   There are many sayings of the Lord on different subjects; but supposing, for example, that any one were in doubt whether the same Lord had risen in the body, and His words were to be quoted where He says, "Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have;"—if even after this he should be unwilling to acquiesce in the belief that His body had risen from the dead, surely such a man could not be reckoned among the sheep of the Lord, because he would not hear His voice.  And so too now, when the question between us is, Where is the Church? whilst we quote the words that follow in the same passage of the gospel, where, after His resurrection, He gave His body even to be handled by those who were in doubt, in which He showed the future wide extent of the Church, saying, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name throughout all nations, beginning at Jerusalem;" 2177 whereas you will not communicate with all nations, in whom these words have been fulfilled, how are you the sheep of this Shepherd, whose words you not only do not obey when you have heard them, but even fight against them?  And so we show to you from this that you are not sheep.  But listen further whence we show you that, on the contrary, you are wolves.  For necessarily, when it is shown by His own words where the Church is to be found, it is also clear where we must look for the fold of Christ.  Whenever, therefore, any sheep separate themselves from this fold, which is expressly pointed out and shown to us by the unmistakeable declaration of the Lord,—and that, I will not say because of charges falsely brought, but on account of charges brought, as no one can deny, with great uncertainty against their fellow-men, and consequently slay those sheep which they have torn and alienated from the life of unity and Christian love—is it not evident that they are ravening wolves?  But it will be said that these very men themselves praise and preach the Lord Christ.  They are therefore those of whom He says p. 569 Himself, "They come unto you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  By their fruits ye shall know them." 2178   The sheep’s clothing is seen in the praises of Christ; the fruits of their wolfish nature in their slanderous teeth.



Matt. x. 16.


John x. 27.


Luke 24:39, 46, 47.


Matt. 7:15, 16.

Next: Chapter 75

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