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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 19

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 19.—21.  What, then, does he mean by quoting in his letter the words with which our Lord addressed the Jews:  "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them shall ye scourge?" 1951   For if by the wise men and the scribes and the prophets they would have themselves be understood, while we were as it were the persecutors of the prophets and wise men, why are they unwilling to speak with us, seeing they are sent to us?  For, indeed, if the man who wrote that epistle which we are at this present moment answering, were to be pressed by us to acknowledge it as his own, stamping its authenticity with his signature, I question much whether he would do it, so thoroughly afraid are they of our possessing any words of theirs.  For when we were anxious by some means or other to procure the latter part of this same letter, because those from whom we obtained it were unable to describe the whole of it, no one who was asked for it was willing to give it to us, so soon as they knew that we were making a reply to the portion which we had.  Therefore, when they read how the Lord says to the prophet, "Cry aloud, spare not, and write their sins with my pen,"  1952 these men who are sent to us as prophets have no fears on this score, but take every precaution that their crying may not be heard by us:  which they certainly would not fear if what they spoke of us were true.  But their apprehension is not groundless, as it is written in the Psalm, "The mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped." 1953   For if the reason that they do not receive our baptism be that we are a generation of vipers—to use the expression in his epistle—why did they receive the baptism of the followers of Maximianus, of whom their Council speaks in the following terms:  "Because the enfolding of a poisoned womb has long concealed the baneful offspring of a viper’s seed, and the moist concretions of conceived iniquity have by slow heat flowed forth into the members of serpents"?  Is it not therefore of themselves also that it is said in the same Council, "The poison of asps is under their lips, their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and unhappiness is in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known"? 1954   And yet they now hold these men themselves in undiminished honor, and receive within their body those whom these men had baptized without.



Matt. xxiii. 34.


Isa. lviii. 1.


Ps. lxiii. 11.


Ps. xiv. 5-7, LXX. and Hieron., and probably N. Af. version.

Next: Chapter 20

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