On Baptism, Against The Donatists

The Seven Books of Augustin, Bishop of Hippo, On Baptism, Against the Donatists

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Philip Schaff

controversy. There is no point at issue between ourselves and those Donatists who hold communion
with Primianus, which could give rise to any doubt that the baptism of Christ may not only be
retained, but even conferred by those who are severed from the Church. For as they themselves
are obliged to confess that those whom Felicianus baptized in schism received true baptism, inasmuch
as they now acknowledge them as members of their own body, with no other baptism than that
which they received in schism; so we say that that is Christ’s baptism, even without the pale of
Catholic communion, which they confer who are cut off from that communion, inasmuch as they
had not lost it when they were cut off. And what they themselves think that they conferred on those
persons whom Felicianus baptized in schism, when they admitted them to reconcilation with
themselves, viz., not that they should receive that which they did not as yet possess, but that what
they had received to no advantage in schism, and were already in possession of, should be of profit
to them, this God really confers and bestows through the Catholic communion on those who come
from any heresy or schism in which they received the baptism of Christ; viz., not that they should
begin to receive the sacrament of baptism as not possessing it before, but that what they already
possessed should now begin to profit them.

Chapter 6.—8. Between us, then, and what we may call the genuine1158 Donatists, whose bishop
is Primianus at Carthage, there is now no controversy on this point. For God willed that it should
be ended by means of the followers of Maximianus, that they should be compelled by the precedent
of his case to acknowledge what they would not allow at the persuasion of Christian charity. But
this brings us to consider next, whether those men do not seem to have something to say for
themselves, who refuse communion with the party of Primianus, contending that in their body there
remains greater sincerity of Donatism, just in proportion to the paucity of their numbers. And even
if these were only the party of Maximianus, we should not be justified in despising their salvation.
How much more, then, are we bound to consider it, when we find that this same party of Donatus
is split up into many most minute fractions, all which small sections of the body blame the one
much larger portion which has Primianus for its head, because they receive the baptism of the
followers of Maximianus; while each endeavors to maintain that it is the sole receptacle of true
baptism, which exists nowhere else, neither in the whole of the world where the Catholic Church
extends itself, nor in that larger main body of the Donatists, nor even in the other minute sections,
but only in itself. Whereas, if all these fragments would listen not to the voice of man, but to the
most unmistakable manifestation of the truth, and would be willing to curb the fiery temper of their
own perversity, they would return from their own barrenness, not indeed to the main body of
Donatus, a mere fragment of which they are a smaller fragment, but to the never-failing fruitfulness

1158

Quodam modo cardinales Donatistas.

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