Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 26
Chapter 26.—31. But why do we make inquiry into these points? Why do we both suffer and cause unnecessary delay? Are we likely to find out by such a course as this what means we are to use for cleansing the conscience of the recipient, who does not know that the conscience of the giver is stained with guilt: whence the man is to receive faith who is unwittingly baptized by one that is faithless?—the question which Petilianus had proposed to himself to answer in my epistle, then going on to say anything else he pleased except what the matter in hand required. How often has he said, "If ignorant you were,"—as though I had said, what I never did say, that I was unacquainted with the conscience of him who baptized me. And he seemed to have no other object in all that his evil-speaking mouth poured forth, except that he should appear to prove that I had not been ignorant of the misdeeds of those among whom I was baptized, and with whom I was associated in communion, understanding fully, it would seem, that ignorance did not convict me of guilt. See then that if I were ignorant, as he has repeated so often, beyond all doubt I should be innocent of all these crimes. Whence therefore should I be cleansed, who am unacquainted with the conscience of him who gives but not in holiness, so that I may be least ensnared by his offenses? Whence then should I receive faith, seeing that I was baptized unwittingly by one that was faithless? For he has not repeated "If ignorant you were" so often without purpose, but simply to prevent my being reputed innocent, esteeming beyond all doubt that no mans innocence is violated if he unwittingly receives his faith from one that is faithless, p. 609 and is not acquainted with the stains on the conscience of him that gives, but not in holiness. Let him say, therefore, by what means such men are to be cleansed, whence they are to receive not guilt but faith. But let him not deceive you. Let him not, while uttering much, say nothing; or rather, let him not say much while saying nothing. Next, to urge a point which occurs to me, and must not be passed over,—if I am guilty because I have not been ignorant, to use his own phraseology, and I am proved not to have been ignorant, because I am an African, and already advanced in years, let him grant that the youths of other nations throughout the world are not guilty, who had no opportunity either from their race, or from that age you bring against me, of knowing the points that are laid to our charge, be they true, or be they false; and yet they, if they have fallen into your hands, are rebaptized without any considerations of such a kind.
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