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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 20

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 20.—44.  Petilianus said:  "The Lord Christ cries again from heaven to Paul, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?  It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’ 2035   He was then called Saul, that he might afterwards receive his true name in baptism.  But for you it is not hard so often to persecute Christ in the persons of His priests, though the Lord Himself cries out, ‘Touch not mine anointed.’ 2036   Reckon up all the deaths of the saints, and so often have you murdered Christ, who lives in each of them. 2037   Lastly, if you are not guilty of sacrilege, then a saint cannot be a murderer."

45.  Augustin answered:  Defend yourselves from the charge of the persecution which those men suffered at the hands of your party who separated themselves from you with the followers of Maximianus, and therein you will find our defence.  For if you say that you committed no such deeds, we simply read to you the records of the pro-consular province and the state.  If you say that you were right in persecuting them, why are you unwilling to suffer the like yourselves?  If you say, "But we caused no schism," then let this be inquired into, and, till it is decided whether it be so or not, let no one make accusation against persecutors.  If you say that even schismatics ought not to have suffered persecution, I ask whether it is also the case that they ought not to have been driven out of the basilicas, in which they lay snares for the leading astray of the weak, even though it were done by duly constituted authorities?  If you say that this also should not have been done, first restore the basilicas to the followers of Maximianus, and then discuss the point with us.  If you say that it was right, then see what they ought to suffer at the hands of duly constituted authority, who, in resisting it, "resist the ordinance of God."  Wherefore the apostle expressly says, "For he beareth not the sword in vain:  for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath on him that doeth evil."  2038   But even if this had been discovered after the truth had been searched out with all diligence, that not even after public trial ought schismatics to undergo any punishment, or be driven from the positions which they have occupied, for their treachery and deceit; and if you should say that you are vexed that the followers of Maximianus should have suffered such conduct at the hands of some of you,—why does not the wheat of the Lord cry out with the more freedom from the whole field of the Lord, that is, from the world, and say, Neither are we at all affected by what the tares and the chaff amongst us do, seeing that it is contrary to our wish?  If you confess that it is sufficient to clear you of responsip. 541 bility, that all the evil that is done by men of your party is done in opposition to your wishes, why then have you separated yourselves?  For if your reason for not separating from the unrighteous among the party of Donatus is that each man bears his own burden, why have you separated yourselves from those throughout the world whom you think, or profess to think, to be unrighteous?  Is it that you might all share equally in bearing the burden of schism?

46.  And when we ask of you which of your party you can prove to have been slain by us, I indeed can remember no law issued by the emperors to the effect that you should be put to death.  Those indeed whose deaths you quote most frequently to bring us into odium, Marculus and Donatus, present a great question,—whether they threw themselves down a precipice, as your teaching does not hesitate to encourage by examples of daily occurrence, or whether they were thrown down by the true command of some authority.  For if it is a thing incredible that the leaders of the Circumcelliones should have wrought upon themselves a death in accordance with their custom, how much more incredible it is that the Roman authorities should have been able to condemn them to a punishment at variance with custom!  Accordingly, in considering this matter, which you think excessive in its hatefulness, supposing what you say is true, what is there in it which bears upon the Lord’s wheat?  Let the chaff which flew away outside accuse the chaff which yet remained within for it is not possible that it should all be separated till the winnowing at the last day.  But if what you say is false, what wonder is it if, when the chaff is carried away as it were by a light blast of dissension, it even attacks the wheat of the Lord with false accusations?  Wherefore, on the consideration of all such odious accusations, the wheat of Christ, which is ordered to grow together with the tares throughout the field, that is, throughout the whole world, makes this answer to you with a free and fearless voice:  If you cannot prove what you say, it has no application to any one; and if you prove it, it yet does not apply to me.  The result of which is, that whosoever has separated himself from the unity of the wheat on account of the offenses chargeable against the tares, or against the chaff, is unable to defend himself from the charge of murder which is involved in the mere offense of dissension and schism, as the Scripture says, "Whoso hateth his brother is a murderer." 2039



Acts 9:4, 5.


Ps. cv. 15.


Vivacem Christum.


Rom. 13:2, 4.


1 John iii. 15.

Next: Chapter 21

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