Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 31
Chapter. 31.—36. "And where," he says, "is the word that I added, wittingly?so that I did not say, He that has received his faith from one that is faithless; but, He that has received his faith wittingly from one that is faithless, receives not faith but guilt." He therefore who received his faith unwittingly from one that was faithless, received not guilt but faith; and accordingly I ask from what source he has received it? And being thus placed in a strait, he answers, "He ought to have examined him." Granted that he ought to have done so; but, as a matter of fact, he did not, or he was not able: what is your verdict about him? Was he cleansed, or was he not? If he was cleansed, I ask from what source? For the polluted conscience of him that gave but not in holiness, with which he was unacquainted, could not cleanse him. But if he was not cleansed, command that he be so now. You give no such orders, therefore he was cleansed. Tell me by what means? Do you at any rate tell me what Petilianus has failed to tell. For I propose to you the very same words which he was unable to answer. "Behold the faithless man stands ready to baptize; but he who is to be baptized knows nothing of his faithlessness: what do you think that he will receive—faith, or guilt?" 2389 This is sufficient as a constant form of question: answer, or search diligently to find what he has answered. You will find abuse that has already been convicted. He finds fault with me, as though in derision, maintaining that I ought to suggest what is probable for consideration, since I cannot see the truth. For, repeating my words, and cutting my sentence in two, he says, "Behold, you say, the faithless man stands ready to baptize; but he who is to be baptized knows nothing of his faithlessness." Then he goes on to ask, "Who is the man, and from what corner has he started up, that you propose to us?" Just as though there were some one or two individuals, and such cases were not constantly occurring everywhere on either side! Why does he ask of me who the man in question is, and from what corner he has started up, instead of looking round, and seeing that the churches are few and far between, whether in cities or in country districts, which do not contain men detected in crimes, and degraded from the ministry? While their true character was concealed, while they wished to be thought good, though really bad, and to be reputed chaste, though really guilty of adultery, so long they were involved in deceit; and so the Holy Spirit, according to the Scripture, was fleeing from them. 2390 It is from the crowd, therefore, of these men who hitherto concealed their character that the faithless man whom I suggested started up. Why does he ask me whence he started up, shutting his eyes to all this crowd, from which sufficient noise arises to satisfy the blind, if we take into consideration none but those who might have been convicted and degraded from their office?
Book I. cc. 1, 2, 2, 3.611:2390
Wisd. i. 5.
Next: Chapter 32
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