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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 4

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 4.—5.  Nor would I therefore be understood to urge that ecclesiastical discipline should be set at naught, and that every one should be allowed to do exactly as he pleased, without any check, without a kind of healing chastisement, a lenity which should inspire fear, the severity of love.  For then what will become of the precept of the apostle, "Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men; see that none render evil for evil unto any man?" 2338   At any rate, when he added these last words, "See that none render evil for evil unto any man," he showed with sufficient clearness that there is no rendering of evil for evil when one chastises p. 599 those that are unruly, even though for the fault of unruliness be administered the punishment of chastising.  The punishment of chastising therefore is not an evil, though the fault be an evil.  For indeed it is the steel, not of an enemy inflicting a wound, but of a surgeon performing an operation.  Things like this are done within the Church, and that spirit of gentleness within its pale burns with zeal towards God, lest the chaste virgin which is espoused to one husband, even Christ, should in any of her members be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ, as Eve was beguiled by the subtilty of the serpent. 2339   Notwithstanding, far be it from the servants of the father of the family that they should be unmindful of the precept of their Lord, and be so inflamed with the fire of holy indignation against the multitude of the tares, that while they seek to gather them in bundles before the time, the wheat should be rooted up together with them.  And of this sin these men would be held to be guilty, even though they showed that those were true charges which they brought against the traditors whom they accused; because they separated themselves in a spirit of impious presumption, not only from the wicked, whose society they professed to be avoiding, but also from the good and faithful in all nations of the world, to whom they could not prove the truth of what they said they knew; and with themselves they drew away into the same destruction many others over whom they had some slight authority, and who were not wise enough to understand that the unity of the Church dispersed throughout the world was on no account to be forsaken for other men’s sins.  So that, even though they themselves knew that they were pressing true charges against certain of their neighbors, yet in this way a weak brother, for whom Christ died, was perishing through their knowledge; 2340 whilst, being offended at other men’s sins, he was destroying in himself the blessing of peace which he had with the good brethren, who partly had never heard such charges, partly had shrunk from giving hasty credence to what was neither discussed nor proved, partly, in the peaceful spirit of humility, had left these charges, whatsoever they might be, to the cognizance of the judges of the Church, to whom the whole matter had been referred, across the sea.


Footnotes

598:2338

1 Thess. 5:14, 15.

599:2339

2 Cor. 11:2, 3.

599:2340

1 Cor. viii. 11.


Next: Chapter 5

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