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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 33

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 33.—38.  See now how Petilianus, to avoid answering this question, or to avoid being proved to be incapable of answering it, wanders off vainly into irrelevant matter in abuse of us, accusing us and proving nothing; and when he chances to make an endeavor to resist, with something like a show of fighting for his cause, he is everywhere overcome with the greatest ease.  But yet he nowhere gives an answer of any kind to this one question which we ask:  If the conscience of one that gives in holiness is what we look for to cleanse the conscience of the recipient, by what means is he to be cleansed who received baptism while the conscience of the giver was polluted, without the knowledge of him who was to receive it? for in these words, which he quoted from my epistle, he set me forth as asking a question, while he showed himself as giving no answer.  For after saying what I have just now recited, and when, on being brought into a great strait on every side, he had been compelled to say that the baptizer ought to be examined by the candidate for baptism, and the candidate in turn by the baptizer; and when he had tried to fortify this statement by the example of John, in hopes that he might find auditors either of the greatest negligence or of the greatest ignorance, he then went on to advance other testimonies of Scripture wholly irrelevant to the matter in hand, as the saying of the eunuch to Philip, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" 2392 "inasmuch as he knew," says he, "that those of abandoned character were prevented;" arguing that the reason why Philip did not forbid him to be baptized was because he had proved, in his reading of the Scriptures, how far he believed in Christ,—as though he had prohibited Simon Magus.  And again, he urges that the prophets were afraid of being deceived by false baptism, and that therefore Isaiah said, "Lying water that has not faith," 2393 as though showing that water among faithless men is lying; whereas it is not Isaiah but Jeremiah that says this of lying men, calling the people in a figure water, as is most clearly shown in the Apocalypse. 2394   And again, he quotes as words of David, "Let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head," when David has been speaking of the flattery of the smooth speaker deceiving with false praise, so as to lead the head of the man praised to wax great with pride.  And this meaning is made manifest by the words immediately preceding in the same psalm.  For he says, "Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me:  but the oil of the sinner shall not break my head." 2395   What can be clearer than this sentence? what more manifest?  For he declares that he had rather be reproved in kindness with the sharp correction of the righteous, so that he may be healed, than anointed with the soft speaking of the flatterer, so as to be puffed up with pride.


Footnotes

612:2392

Acts viii. 36.

612:2393

Jer. xv. 18.  See Book II. c. 102, 234, 235.

612:2394

Rev. xvii. 15.

612:2395

Ps. cxli. 5.  See Book II. c. 103, 236, 237.


Next: Chapter 34

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