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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 52

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 52.—64.  But if you wish to see that the object of Petilianus in his writings really was to prove "that the origin, and root, and head of him that is baptized is none other than he by whom he is baptized," and that this has not been asserted by me without meaning, or childishly, or foolishly, review the beginning of the epistle itself to which I made my reply, or rather pay careful attention to me as I quote it.  "The conscience," he says, "of one that gives in holiness is what we look for to cleanse the conscience of the recipient; for he who has received his faith from one that is faithless, receives not faith but guilt."  And as though some one had said to him, Whence do you derive your proof of this? he goes on to say, "For everything has its existence from a source and root; and if anything has not a head, it is nothing; nor does anything well confer a new birth, unless it be born again of good seed.  And this being so, brethren, what perversity must it be to maintain that he who is guilty by reason of his own offenses should make another free from guilt; whereas our Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘A good tree bringeth forth good fruit:  do men gather grapes of thorns?’  And again, ‘A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things.’  And again, ‘When a man is baptized by one that is dead, his washing profiteth him nothing.’"  You see to what end all these things tend, viz., that the conscience of him that gives in holiness (lest any one, by receiving his faith from one that is faithless, should receive not faith but guilt) should be itself the origin, and root, and head, and seed of him that is baptized.  For, wishing to prove that the conscience of one that gives in holiness is what we look for to cleanse the conscience of the recipient, and that he receives not faith but guilt, who wittingly receives his faith from one that is faithless, he has added immediately afterwards, "For everything has its existence from a source and root; and if anything has not a head, it is nothing; nor does anything well confer a new birth, unless it be born again of good seed."  And for fear that any one should be so dull as still not to understand that in each case he is speaking of the man by whom a person is baptized, he explains this afterwards, and says, "This being so, brethren, what perversity must it be to maintain that he who is guilty by reason of his own p. 624 offenses should make another free from guilt; whereas our Lord Jesus Christ says, ‘A good tree bringeth forth good fruit:  do men gather grapes of thorns?’"  And lest, by some incredible stupidity of understanding, the hearer or seer should be blind enough not to see that he is speaking of the man that baptizes, he adds another passage, where he actually specifies the man.  "And again," he says, "‘A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things;’ and again, ‘When a man is baptized by one that is dead, his washing profiteth him nothing,’"  Certainly it is now plain, certainly he needs no longer any interpreter, or disputant, or demonstrator, to show that the object of his party is to prove that the origin, and root, and head of him that is baptized is none other than he by whom he is baptized.  And yet, being overwhelmed by the force of truth, and as though forgetful of what he had said before, Petilianus acknowledges afterwards to me that Christ is the origin and root of them that are regenerate, and the Head of the Church, and not any one that may happen to be the dispenser and minister of baptism.  For having said that the apostles used to baptize in the name of Christ, and set forth Christ as the foundation of their faith, to make men Christians, and being fain to prove this, too, by passages and examples from holy Scripture, just as though we were denying it, he says, "Where is now that voice, from which issued the noise of those minute and constant petty questionings, wherein, in the spirit of envy and self-conceit, you uttered many involved sayings about Christ, and for Christ, and in Christ, in opposition to the rashness and haughtiness of men?  Lo, Christ is the origin, Christ is the head, Christ is the root of the Christian."  When, therefore, I heard this, what could I do but give thanks to Christ, who had compelled the man to make confession?  All those things, therefore, are false which he said in the beginning of his epistle, when he wished to persuade us that the conscience of one that gives in holiness must be looked for to cleanse the conscience of the recipient; and that when one has wittingly received his faith from one that is faithless he receives not faith but guilt.  For, wishing as it were to show clearly how much rested in the man that baptizes, he had added what he seems to think most weighty proofs, saying "For everything has its existence from a source and root; and if anything has not a head, it is nothing."  But afterwards, when he says what we also say, "Lo, Christ is the origin, Christ is the head, Christ is the root of the Christian," he wipes out what he had said before, "that the conscience of one that gives in holiness is the origin, and root, and head of the recipient."  The truth, therefore, has prevailed, so that the man who is desirous to receive the baptism of Christ should not rest his hope upon the man who administers the sacrament, but should approach in all security to Christ Himself, as to the source which is not changed, to the root which is not plucked up, to the head which is not cast down.


Next: Chapter 53

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