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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 89

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 89.—194.  Petilianus said:  "Here you have the fullest possible proof that a Christian may take no part in the destruction of another.  But the first establishing of this principle was in the case of Peter, as it is written, ‘Simon Peter having a sword, drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear.  Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath.  For all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.’" 2214

195.  Augustin answered:  Why then do you not restrain the weapons of the Circumcelliones with such words as these?  Should you think that you were going beyond the words of the gospel if you should say, All they that take the cudgel shall perish with the cudgel?  Withhold not then your pardon, if our ancestors were unable to restrain the men by whom you complain that Marculus was thrown down a precipice; for neither is it written in the gospel, He that useth to throw men down a precipice shall be cast therefrom.  And would that, as your charges are either false or out of date, so the cudgels of those friends of yours would cease!  And yet, perhaps, you take it ill that, if not by force of law, at any rate in words, we take away their armor from your legions in saying that they manifest their rage with sticks alone.  For that was the ancient fashion of their wickedness, but now they have advanced too far.  For amid their drunken revellings, and amid the free license of assembling together, wandering in the streets, jesting, drinking, passing the whole night in company with women who have no husbands, they have learned not only to brandish cudgels, but to wield swords and whirl slings.  But why should I not say to them (God knows with what feelings I say it and with what feelings they receive it!), Madmen, the sword of Peter, though drawn from motives not yet free from fleshly impurity, was yet drawn in defence of the body of Christ against the body of His persecutor, but your arms are portioned out against the cause of Christ; but the body of which He is the head, that is, His Church, extends throughout all nations.  He Himself has said this, and has ascended into heaven, whither the fury of the Jews could not follow Him; and it is your fury which attacks His members in the body, which on His ascension He commended to our care.  In defense of those members all men rage against you, all men resist you, as many as being in the Catholic Church, and possessing as yet but little faith, are influenced by the same motives as Peter was when he drew his sword in the name of Christ.  But there is a great difference between your persecution and theirs.  You are like the servant of the Jews’ high priest; for in the service of your princes you arm yourselves against the Catholic Church, that is, against the body of Christ.  But they are such as Peter then was, fighting even with the strength of their bodies for the body of Christ, that is, the Church.  But if they are bidden to be still, as Peter then was bidden, how much more should you be warned that, laying aside the madness of heresy, you should join the unity of those members for which they so fight?  But, being wounded by such men as these, you hate us also; and, as though you had lost your right ears, you do not hear the voice of Christ as He sits at the right hand of the Father.  But to whom shall I address myself, or how shall I address myself to them, seeing that in them I find no time wherein to speak? for even early in the morning they are reeking with wine, drunk, it may be already in the day, it may be still from overnight.  Moreover, they utter threats, and not they only, but their own bishops utter threats concerning them, being ready to deny that what they have done has any bearing on them.  May the Lord grant to us a song of degrees, in which we may say, "When I am with those who hate peace, I am peaceful.  When I would speak with them, they are wont to fight me without cause." 2215   For thus says the body of Christ, which throughout the whole world is assailed by heretics, by some here, by others there, and by all alike wherever they may be. 2216



John 18:10, 11, Matt. 26:52.


Ps. 20:6, 7, cp. Hieron.


See Contr. Cresc. l. III. c. 67, l. IV. cc. 60, 61.

Next: Chapter 90

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