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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 97

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 97.—220.  Petilianus said:  "Choose, in short, which of the two alternatives you prefer.  If innocence is on your side, why do you persecute us with the sword?  Or if you call us guilty, why do you, who are yourselves innocent, seek for our company?"

221.  Augustin answered:  O most ingenious dilemma, or rather most foolish verbosity!  Is it not usual for the choice of two alternatives to be offered to an antagonist, when it is impossible that he should adopt both?  For if you should offer me the choice of the two propositions, that I should say either that we were innocent, or that we were guilty; or, again, of the other pair of propositions, viz., those concerning you, I could not escape choosing either one or the other.  But as it is, you offer me the choice of these two, whether we are innocent or you are guilty, and wish me to say which of these two I choose for my reply.  But I refuse to make a choice; for I assert them both, that we are innocent, and that you are guilty.  I say that we are innocent of the false and calumnious accusations which you bring against us, so far as any of us, being in the Catholic Church, can say with a safe conscience that we have neither given up the sacred books, nor taken part in the worship of idols, nor murdered any man, nor been guilty of any of the other crimes which you allege against us; and that any who may have committed any such offenses, which, however, you have not proved in any case, have thereby shut the doors of p. 586 the kingdom of heaven, not against us, but against themselves; "for every man shall bear his own burden." 2262   Here you have your answer on the first head.  And I further say that you are all guilty and accursed,—not some of you owing to the sins of others, which are wrought among you by certain of your number, and are censured by certain others, but all of you by the sin of schism; from which most heinous sacrilege no one of you can say that he is free, so long as he refuses to hold communion with the unity of all nations, unless, indeed, he be compelled to say that Christ has told a lie concerning the Church which is spread abroad among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 2263   And so you have my second answer.  See how I have made you two replies, of which you were desirous that we should be reduced to choose the one.  At any rate, you should have taken notice that both assertions might be made by us; and certainly, if this was what you wished, you should have asked it as a favor of us that we should choose one or the other, when you saw that it was in our power to choose both.

222.  But "if innocence is on your side, why do you persecute us with the sword?"  Look back for a moment on your troops, which are not now armed after the ancient fashion of their fathers only with cudgels, but have further added to their equipment axes and lances and swords, and determine for yourselves to which of us the question best belongs, "Why do you persecute us with the sword?"  "Or if you call us guilty," say you, "why do you, who are yourselves innocent, seek for our company?"  Here I answer very briefly.  The reason why you, being guilty, are sought after by the innocent, is that you may cease to be guilty, and begin to be innocent.  Here then I have chosen both of the alternatives concerning us, and answered both of those concerning you, only do you in turn choose one of the two.  Are you innocent or guilty?  Here you cannot choose to make the two assertions, and yet choose both, if so it pleases you.  For at any rate you cannot be innocent in reference to the same circumstances in respect of which you are guilty.  If therefore you are innocent do not be surprised that you are invited to be at peace with your brethren; but if you are guilty, do not be surprised that you are sought for punishment by kings.  But since of these two alternatives you assume one for yourselves, and the other is alleged of you by us,—for you assume to yourselves innocence and it is alleged of you by us that you are living impiously,—hear again once more what I shall say on either head.  If you are innocent, why do you speak against the testimony of Christ?  But if you are guilty, why do you not fly for refuge to His mercy?  For His testimony, on the one hand, is to the unity of the world, and His mercy, on the other, is in brotherly love.


Footnotes

586:2262

Gal. vi. 5.

586:2263

Luke xxiv. 47.


Next: Chapter 98

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