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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 104

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 104.—236.  Petilianus said:  "David also said, ‘The oil of the sinner shall not anoint my head.’  Who is it, therefore, that he calls a sinner?  Is it I who suffer your violence, or you who persecute the innocent?"

237.  Augustin answered:  As representing the body of Christ, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth, dispersed throughout the world, on account of the gospel which was preached, according to the words of the apostle, "to every creature which is under heaven:" 2288   as representing the whole world, of which David, whose words you cannot understand, has said, "The world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved;" 2289 whereas you contend that it not only has been moved, but has been utterly destroyed:  as representing this, I answer, I do not persecute the innocent.  But David said, "The oil of the sinner," not of the traditor; not of him who offers incense, not of the persecutor, but "of the sinner."  What then will you make of your interpretation?  See first whether you are not yourself a sinner.  It is nothing to the point if you should say, I am not a traditor, I am not an offerer of incense, I am not a persecutor.  I myself, by the grace of God, am none of these, nor is the world, which cannot be moved.  But say, if you dare, I am not a sinner.  For David says, "The oil of the sinner."  For so long as any sin, however light, be found in you, what ground have you for maintaining that you are not concerned in the expression that is used, "The oil of the sinner"?  For I would ask whether you use the Lord’s prayer in your devotions?  For if you do not use that prayer, which our Lord taught His disciples for their use, where have you learned another, proportioned to your merits, as exceeding the merits of the apostles?  But if you pray, as our great Master deigned to teach us, how do you say, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us?"  For in this petition we are not referring to those sins which have already been forgiven us in baptism.  Therefore these words in the prayer either exclude you from being a petitioner to God, or else they make it manifest that you too are a sinner.  Let those then come and kiss your head who have been baptized by you, whose heads have perished through your oil.  But see to yourself, both what you are and what you think about yourself.  Is it really true that Optatus, whom pagans, Jews, Christians, men of our party, men of your party, all proclaim throughout the whole of Africa to have been a thief, a traitor, an oppressor, a contriver of schism; not a friend, not a client, but a tool of him 2290 whom one of your party declared to have been his count, companion, and god,—is it true that he was not a sinner in any conceivable interpretation of the term?  What then will they do whose heads were anointed by one guilty of a capital offense?  Do not those very men kiss your heads, on whose heads you pass so serious a judgment by this interpretation which you place upon the passage?  Truly I would bid you bring them forth, and admonish them to heal themselves.  Or is it rather your heads which should be healed, who run so grievously astray?  What then, you will ask, did David really say:  Why do you ask me:  rather ask himself.  He answers you in the verse above:  "The righteous shall smite me in kindness, and shall reprove me; but let not the oil of the sinner anoint my head." 2291   What could be plainer? what more manifest?  I had rather, he says, be healed by a rebuke administered in kindness, than be deceived and led astray by smooth flattery, coming on me as an ointment on my head.  The self-same sentiment is found elsewhere in Scripture under other words:  "Better are the wounds of a friend than the proffered kisses of an enemy." 2292



Col. i. 23.


Ps. xciii. 1.




Ps. cxli. 5; cp. LXX and Hieron.


Prov. xxvii. 6; cp. LXX. and Hieron.

Next: Chapter 105

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