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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 109

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 109.—246.  Petilianus said:  "Come therefore to the Church, all ye people, and flee the company of traditors, if you would not also perish with them.  For that you may the more readily know that, while they are themselves guilty, they yet entertain an excellent opinion of our faith, let me inform you that I baptize their polluted ones; they, though may God never grant them such an opportunity, receive those who are made mine by baptism,—which certainly they would not do if they recognized any defects in our baptism.  See therefore how holy that is which we give, when even our sacrilegious enemy fears to destroy it."

247.  Augustin answered:  Against this error I have said much already, both in this work and elsewhere.  But since you think that in this sentence you have so strong a p. 595 confirmation of your vain opinions, that you deemed it right to end your epistle with these words, that they might remain as it were the fresher in the minds of your readers, I think it well to make a short reply.  We recognize in heretics that baptism, which belongs not to the heretics but to Christ, in such sort as in fornicators, in unclean persons or effeminate, in idolaters, in poisoners, in those who retain enmity, in those who are fond of contention, in the credulous, in the proud, given to seditions, in the envious, in drunkards, in revellers; and in men like these we hold valid the baptism which is not theirs but Christ’s.  For of men like these, and among them are included heretics also, none, as the apostle says, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. 2313   Nor are they to be considered as being in the body of Christ, which is the Church, simply because they are materially partakers of the sacraments.  For the sacraments indeed are holy, even in such men as these, and shall be of force in them to greater condemnation, because they handle and partake of them unworthily.  But the men themselves are not within the constitution of the Church, which increases in the increase of God in its members through connection and contact with Christ.  For that Church is founded on a rock, as the Lord says, "Upon this rock I will build my Church." 2314   But they build on the sand, as the same Lord says, "Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand." 2315   But that you may not suppose that the Church which is upon a rock is in one part only of the earth, and does not extend even to its furthest boundaries, hear her voice groaning from the psalm, amid the evils of her pilgrimage.  For she says, "From the end of the earth have I cried unto Thee; when my heart was distressed Thou didst lift me up upon the rock; Thou hast led me, Thou, my hope, hast become a tower of courage from the face of the enemy."  2316   See how she cries from the end of the earth.  She is not therefore in Africa alone, nor only among the Africans, who send a bishop from Africa to Rome to a few Montenses, 2317 and into Spain to the house of one lady. 2318   See how she is exalted on a rock.  All, therefore, are not to be deemed to be in her which build upon the sand, that is, which hear the words of Christ and do them not, even though both among us and among you they have and transmit the sacrament of baptism.  See how her hope is in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,—not in Peter or in Paul, still less in Donatus or Petilianus.  What we fear, therefore, to destroy, is not yours, but Christ’s; and it is holy of itself, even in sacrilegious hands.  For we cannot receive those who come from you, unless we destroy in them whatsoever appertains to you.  For we destroy the treachery of the deserter, not the stamp of the sovereign.  Accordingly, do you yourself consider and annul what you said:  "I," say you, "baptize their polluted ones; they, though may God never grant them such an opportunity, receive those who are made mine by baptism."  For you do not baptize men who are infected, but you rebaptize them, so as to infect them with the fraud of your error.  But we do not receive men who are made yours by baptism; but we destroy that error of yours whereby they are made yours, and we receive the baptism of Christ, by which they are baptized.  Therefore it is not without significance that you introduce the words, "Though may God never grant them such an opportunity."  For you said, "They, though may God never grant them such an opportunity, receive those who are made mine by baptism."  For while you in your fear that we may receive your followers desire to be understood, "may God never give them the opportunity of receiving such as are mine," I suppose that, without knowing what it meant, you said, "May God never make them mine that you should receive them."  For we pray that those may not be really yours who come over at the present moment to the Catholic Church.  Nor do they come over so as to be ours by right of baptism, but by fellowship with us, and that with us they may belong to Christ, in virtue of their baptism.


Footnotes

595:2313

Gal. v. 19-21.

595:2314

Matt. xvi. 18.

595:2315

Matt. vii. 26.

595:2316

Ps. 61:2, 3.

595:2317

That the Donatists were called at Rome Montenses, is observed by Augustin, de Hæresibus, c. lxix., and Epist. liii. 2; and before him by Optatus, Book II. c. iv.  That they were also called Cutzupitani, or Cutzupitæ, we learn from the same epistle, and from his treatise de Unitate Ecclesiæ, c. iii. 6.

595:2318

Lucilla.


Next: Book III

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