Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 3
Chapter 3.—4. These comparisons of the gospel you doubtless recognize. Nor can we suppose them given for any other purpose, except that no one should make his boast in man, and that no one should be puffed up for one against another, or divided one against another, saying, "I am of Paul," when certainly Paul was not crucified for you, nor were you baptized in the name of Paul, much less in that of Cæcilianus, or of any one of us, 2335 that you may learn, that so long as the chaff is being bruised with the corn, so long as the bad fishes swim together with the good in the nets of the Lord, till the time of separation shall come, it is your duty rather to endure the admixture of the bad out of consideration for the good, than to violate the principle of brotherly love towards the good from any consideration of the bad. For this admixture is not for eternity, but for time alone; nor is it spiritual, but corporal. And in this the angels will not be liable to err, when they shall collect the bad from the midst of the good, and commit them to the burning fiery furnace. For the Lord knoweth those which are His. And if a man cannot depart bodily from those who practise iniquity so long as time shall last, at any rate, let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity itself. 2336 For in the meantime he may separate himself from the wicked in life, and in morals, and in heart and will, and in the same respects depart from his society; and separation such as this should always be maintained. But let the separation in the body be waited for till the end of time, faithfully, patiently, bravely. In consideration of which expectation it is said, "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, upon the Lord." 2337 For the greatest palm of toleration is won by those who, among false brethren that have crept in unawares, seeking their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ, yet show that they on their part seek not to disturb the love which is not their own, but Jesus Christs, by any turbulent or rash dissension, nor to break the unity of the Lords net, in which are gathered together fish of every kind; till it is drawn to the shore, that is, till the end of time, by any wicked strife fostered in the spirit of pride: whilst each might think himself to be something, being really nothing, and so might lead himself astray, and wish that sufficient reason might be found for the separation of Christian peoples in the judgment of himself or of his friends, who declare that they know beyond all question certain wicked men unworthy of communion in the sacraments of the Christian religion: though whatever it may be that they know of them, they cannot persuade the universal Church, which, as it was foretold, is spread abroad throughout all nations, to give credit to their tale. And when they refuse communion with these men, as men whose character they know, they desert the unity of the Church; whereas they ought rather, if there really were in them that charity which endureth all things, themselves to bear what they know in one nation, lest they should separate themselves from the good whom they were unable throughout all nations to fill with the teaching of evil alien to them. Whence even, without discussing the case, in which they are convicted by the weightiest proofs of having uttered calumnies against the innocent, they are believed with greater probability to have invented false charges of giving up the sacred books, when they are found to have themselves committed the far more heinous crime of wicked division in the Church. For even, if whatever imputations they have cast of giving up the sacred books were true, yet they in no wise ought to have abandoned the society of Christians, who are commended by holy Scripture even to the ends of the world, on considerations which they have been familiar with, while these men showed that they were not acquainted with them.
1 Cor. 1:12, 13.598:2336
2 Tim. ii. 19.598:2337
Ps. xxvii. 14.
Next: Chapter 4
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