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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 22

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 22.—26.  Lastly, if these two or three words, What if, and Possibly, are so absolutely intolerable, that on their account we should have aroused from their long sleep the Academics, and Carneades, and Pilus, and Furius, and Diagoras, and black snow, and the falling of the sky, and everything else that is equally senseless and absurd, let them be removed from our argument.  For, as a matter of fact, it is by no means impossible to express what we desire to say without them.  There is quite sufficient for our purpose in what is found a little later, and has been introduced by himself from my letter:  "By what means then is he to be cleansed who receives baptism when the conscience of the p. 607 giver is polluted, and that without the knowledge of him who is to receive the sacrament?" 2380   Do you acknowledge that here there is no What if, no Possibly?  Well then, let an answer be given.  Give close heed, lest he be found to answer this in what follows.  "But," says he, "I bind you in your cavilling to the faith of believing, that you may not wander further from it.  Why do you turn away your life from errors by arguments of folly?  Why do you disturb the system of belief in respect of matters without reason?  By this one word I bind and convince you."  It was Petilianus that said this, not I.  These words are from the letter of Petilianus; but from that letter, to which I just now added the two words which he accuses me of having suppressed, showing that, notwithstanding their addition, the pertinency of my question, to which he makes no answer, remains with greater brevity and simplicity.  It is beyond dispute that these two words are, In holiness, and Wittingly:  so that it should not be, "The conscience of him who gives," but "The conscience of him who gives in holiness;" and that it should not be, "He who has received his faith from one that is faithless," but "He who has wittingly received his faith from one that is faithless."  And yet I had not really suppressed these words; but I had not found them in the copy which was placed in my hands.  It is possible enough that it was incorrect; nor indeed is it wholly beyond the possibility of belief that even by this suggestion Academic grudge should be roused against me, and that it should be asserted that, in declaring the copy to be incorrect, I had said much the same sort of thing as if I had declared that snow was black.  For why should I repay in kind his rash suggestion, and say that, though he pretends that I suppressed the words, he really added them afterwards himself, since the copy, which is not angry, can confirm that mark of incorrectness, without any abusive rashness on my part?



See Book I. c. 2, 3.

Next: Chapter 23

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