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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 103

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 103.—234.  Petilianus said:  "Imitate indeed the prophets, who feared to have their holy souls deceived with false baptism.  For Jeremiah says of old that among impious men water is as one that lies.  ‘Water,’ he says, ‘that lies has not faith.’"

235.  Augustin answered:  Any one that hears these words, without being acquainted with the Scriptures, and who does not believe that you are either so far astray as not to know what you are saying, or deceiving in such wise that he whom you have deceived should not know what he says, would believe that the prophet Jeremiah, wishing to be baptized, had taken precautions not to be baptized by impious men, and had used these words with this intent.  For what was your object in saying, previous to your quotation of this passage, "Imitate indeed the prophets, who feared to have their holy souls deceived with false baptism?"  Just as though, in the days of Jeremiah, any one were washed with the sacrament of baptism, except so far as the Pharisees almost every moment bathed themselves, and their couches and cups and platters, with the washings which the Lord condemned, as we read in the gospel. 2282   How then could Jeremiah have said this, as though he desired to be baptized, and sought to avoid being baptized by impious men?  He said it, then, when he was complaining of a faithless people, by the corruption of whose morals he was vexed, not wishing to associate with their deeds; and yet he did not separate himself bodily from their congregation, nor seek other sacraments than those which the people received as suitable to that time, according to the law of Moses.  To this people, therefore, in their evil mode of life, he gave the name of "a wound," with which the heart of the righteous man was grievously smitten, whether speaking thus of himself, or foreshadowing in himself what he foresaw would come to pass.  For he speaks as follows:  "O Lord, remember me, and visit me; make clear my innocence before those who persecute me in no spirit of long-suffering:  know that for Thy sake I have suffered rebuke from those that scorn Thy words.  Make their portion complete; and Thy word shall be unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart:  for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts.  I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, but was afraid of the presence of Thy hand; I sat alone, because I was filled with bitterness.  Why do those who make me sad prevail against me?  My wound is grievous; whence shall I be healed?  It is become unto me as lying water, that has no faith." 2283   In all this it is manifest what the prophet wished to be understood, but manifest only to those who do not wish to distort to their own perverse cause the meaning of what they read.  For Jeremiah says that his wound has become unto him as lying water, which cannot inspire faith; but he wished that by his wound those should be understood who made him sad by the evil conduct of their lives.  Whence also the apostle says, "Without were fightings, within were fears;"  2284 and again, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" 2285   And because he had no hopes that they could be reformed, therefore he said, "Whence shall I be healed?" as though his own pain must needs continue so long as those among whom he was compelled to live continued what they were.  But that a people is commonly understood under the appellation of water is shown in the Apocalypse, where we understand "many waters" to mean "many peoples," not by any conjecture of our own, but by an express explanation in the place itself.  2286   Abstain then from blaspheming the sacrament of baptism from any misunderstanding, or rather error, even when found in a man of most abandoned character; for not even in the lying Simon was the baptism which he received a lying water, 2287 nor do all the liars of your party administer a lying water when they p. 591 baptize in the name of the Trinity.  For neither do they begin to be liars only when they are betrayed and convicted, and so forced to acknowledge their misdeeds; but rather they were already liars, when, being adulterers and accursed, they pretended to be chaste and innocent.



Mark vii. 4.


Jer. xv. 15-18; cp. LXX.


2 Cor. vii. 5.


2 Cor. xi. 29.


Rev. xvii. 15.


Acts viii. 13.

Next: Chapter 104

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