Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 102
Chapter 102.—231. Petilianus said: "You, therefore, who prefer rather to be washed with the most false of baptisms than to be regenerate, not only do not lay aside your sins, but also load your souls with the offenses of criminals. For as the water of the guilty has been abandoned by the Holy Spirit, so it is clearly filled full of the offenses of the traditors. To any wretched man, then, who is baptized by one of this sort, we would say, If you have wished to be free from falsehood, you are really drenched with falsity. If you desired to shut out the sins of the flesh, you will, as the conscience of the guilty comes upon you, be partakers likewise of their guilt. If you wished to extinguish the flames of avarice, you are drenched with deceit, you are drenched with wickedness, you are drenched also with madness. Lastly, if you believe that faith is identical in the giver and the receiver, you are drenched with the blood of a brother by him who slays a man. And so it comes to pass that you, who had come to baptism free from sin, return from baptism guilty of the sin of murder."
232. Augustin answered: I should like to come to argument with those who shouted assent when they either heard or read those words of yours. For such men have not ears in their hearts, but their heart in their ears. Yet let them read again and again, and consider, and find out for themselves, not what the sound of those words is, but what they mean. First of all, to sift the meaning of the last clause, "So it comes to pass," you say, "that you who had come to baptism free from sin, return from baptism guilty of the sin of murder:" tell me, to begin with, who there is that comes to baptism free from sin, with the single exception of Him who came to be baptized, not that His iniquity should be purged away, but that an example of humility might be given us? For what shall be forgiven to one free from sin? Or are you indeed endowed with such an eloquence, that you can show to us some innocence which yet committeth sin? Do you not hear the words of Scripture saying, "No one is clean from sin in Thy sight, not even the infant whose life is but of a single day upon the earth?" 2278 For whence else is it that one hastens even with infants to seek remission of their sins? Do you not hear the words of another Scripture, "In sin did my mother conceive me?" 2279 In the next place, if a man returns a murderer, who had come without the guilt of murder, merely because he receives baptism at a murderers hands, then all they who returned from receiving baptism at the hands of Optatus were made partakers with Optatus. Go now, and see with what face you cast in our teeth that we excite the wrath of kings against you. Are you not afraid that as many satellites of Gildo will be sought for among you, as there are men who may have been baptized by Optatus? Do you see at length how that sentence of yours, like an empty bladder, has rattled not only with a meaningless sound, but on your own head?
233. To go on to the other earlier arguments which you have set before us to be refuted, they are of such a nature that we must needs allow that every one returns from baptism endued with the character of him by whom he is baptized; but God forbid that those whom you baptize should return from you infected with the same madness as possesses you when you make such a statement! And what a dainty sound there was in your words, "You are drenched with deceit, you are drenched with wickedness, you are drenched also with madness!" Surely you would never pour forth words like this unless you were, not drenched, but filled even to repletion with madness. Is it then true, to say nothing of the rest, that all who come untainted with covetousness to receive baptism at the hands of your covetous colleagues, or the priests of your party, return guilty of covetousness, and that those who run in p. 590 soberness to the whirlpool of intoxication to be baptized return in drunkenness? If you entertain and teach such views as this, you will have the effrontery even to quote, as making against us, the passage which you advanced some little time ago: "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes." 2280 What is the meaning of your teaching, I would ask, save only this, that we should put our confidence not in the Lord, but in man, when you say that the baptized person is made to resemble him who has baptized him? And since you assume this as the fundamental principle of your baptism, are men to place their trust in you? and are those to place their trust in princes who were disposed to place it in the Lord? Truly I would bid them hearken not to you, but rather to those proofs which you have urged against ourselves, ay, and to words more awful yet; for not only is it written, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man," but also, "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man." 2281
Job 14:4, 5; cp. LXX.589:2279
Ps. li. 5.590:2280
Ps. 18:8, 9.590:2281
Jer. xvii. 5.
Next: Chapter 103
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