Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 27
Chapter 27.—32. But this is not what we are now inquiring. Let him rather answer (what he wanders off into the most irrelevant matters in order to avoid answering) by what means the conscience of the recipient is cleansed who is unacquainted with the stain on the conscience of the giver, if the conscience of one that gives in holiness is what we look for to cleanse the conscience of the recipient? and from what source he receive faith who is unwittingly baptized by one that is faithless, if he that has wittingly received his faith from one that is faithless receives not faith but guilt? Omitting, therefore, his revilings, which he has cast at me without any sound consideration, let us still notice that he does not say what we demand in what follows. But I should like to look at the garrulous mode in which he has set this forth, as though he were sure to overwhelm us with confusion. "But let us return," he says, "to that argument of your fancy, whereby you seem to have represented to yourself in a form of words the persons you baptize. For since you do not see the truth, it would have been more seemly to have imagined what was probable." These words of his own, Petilianus put forth by way of preface, being about to state the words that I had used. Then he went on to quote: "Behold, you say, the faithless man stands ready to baptize, but he who is to be baptized knows nothing of his faithlessness." 2381 He has not quoted the whole of my proposition and question; and presently he begins to ask me in his turn, saying, "Who is the man, and from what corner has he started up, that you propose to us? Why do you seem to see a man who is the produce of your imagination, in order to avoid seeing one whom you are bound to see, and to examine and test most carefully? But since I see that you are unacquainted with the order of the sacrament, I tell you this as shortly as I can: you were bound both to examine your baptizer, and to be examined by him." What is it, then, that we were waiting for? That he should tell us by what means the conscience of the recipient is to be cleansed, who is unacquainted with the stain on the conscience of him that gives but not in holiness, and whence the man is to receive not guilt but faith, who has received baptism unwittingly from one that is faithless. All that we have heard is that the baptizer ought most diligently to be examined by him who wishes to receive not guilt but faith, that the latter may make himself acquainted with the conscience of him that gives in holiness, which is to cleanse the conscience of the recipient. For the man that has failed to make this examination, and has unwittingly received baptism from one that is faithless, from the very fact that he did not make the examination, and therefore did not know of the stain on the conscience of the giver, was incapacitated from receiving faith instead of guilt. Why therefore did he add what he made so much of adding,—the word wittingly, which he calumniously accused me of having suppressed? For in his unwillingness that the sentence should run, "He who has received his faith from one that is faithless, receives not faith but guilt," he seems to have left some hope to the man that acts unwittingly. But now, when he is asked whence that man is to receive faith who is baptized unwittingly by one that is faithless, he has answered that he ought to have examined his baptizer; so that, beyond all doubt, he refuses the wretched man permission even to be ignorant, by not finding out from what source he may receive faith, unless he has placed his trust in the man that is baptizing him.
See Book I. c. 2, 3.
Next: Chapter 28
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