Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 58
Chapter 58.—70. For when he quoted a passage from the gospel as making against us, where our Lord says, "They will come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves; ye shall know them by their fruits," 2463 —I answered and said, "Then let us consider their fruits;" and then I at once went on to add the following words: "You bring up against them their delivery of the sacred books. This very charge we urge with greater probability, against their accusers themselves. And not to carry our search too far: in the same city of Constantina, your predecessors ordained Silvanus bishop at the very outset of his schism. He, while he was still a sub-deacon, was most unmistakably entered as a traditor in the archives of the city. If you, on your side, bring forward documents against our predecessors, all that we ask is equal terms, that we should either believe both to be true, or both to be false. If both are true, you are unquestionably guilty of schism, who have pretended that you avoid offenses in the communion of the whole world, though these were common among you in your own fragmentary sect. But again, if both are false, you are unquestionably guilty of schism, who, on account of the false charges of traditors, are staining yourselves with the heinous offense of severance from the Church. But if we have something to urge in accusation, while you have nothing, or if our charges are true, while yours are false, it is no longer matter of discussion how thoroughly your mouths are closed. What if the holy and true Church of Christ were to convince and overcome you, even if we held no documents in support of our cause, or only such as were false, while you had possession of some genuine proof of delivery of the sacred books, what would then remain for you, except that, if you would, you should show your love of peace, or otherwise should hold your tongues? For whatever in that case you might bring forward in evidence, I should be able to say with the greatest ease and with the most perfect truth, that then you are bound to prove as much to the full and Catholic unity of the Church, already spread abroad and established throughout so many nations, to the end that you should remain within, and that those whom you convict should be expelled. And if you have endeavored to do this, certainly you have not been able to make good your proof; and, being vanquished or enraged, you have separated yourselves, with all the heinous guilt of sacrilege, from the guiltless men who could not condemn on insufficient proof. But if you have not even endeavored to do this, then with most accursed and unnatural blindness you have cut yourselves off from the wheat of Christ, which grows throughout His whole fields, that is, throughout the whole world until the end, because you have taken offense at a few tares in Africa." 2464 To this, which I have quoted from my former epistle, Petilianus has made no answer whatsoever. And, at all events, you see that in these few words is comprised the whole question which is at issue between us. For what should he endeavor to say, when, whatever course he chose, he was sure to be debated?
71. For when documents are brought forward relating to the traditors, both by us against the men of your party, and by you against the men of our party, (if indeed any really are brought forward on your side, for to this very day we are left in total ignorance of them; nor indeed can we believe that Petilianus would have omitted to insert them in his letter, seeing that he has taken so much pain to secure the quotation and insertion of those portions of the Chronicles which bear on the matter in opposition to me),—but still, as I began to say, if such documents are brought forward both by us and by you, documents of whose existence we are wholly ignorant to this very day,—surely you must acknowledge that either both are true, or both false, or ours true and yours false, or yours true and ours false; for there is no further alternative that can be suggested.
Matt. 7:15, 16.627:2464
See Book I. cc. 21, 22, 23, 24.
Next: Chapter 59
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