On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)


Philip Schaff

give it to a heretic,"1509 because he says that he took away with him what he could not give lawfully,
but what would yet be according to law when given; or that he no longer has lawfully what yet is
in accordance with law in his possession. But the birthright rests only in a holy conversation and
good life, to which all belong of whom that bride consists as her members which has no spot or
wrinkle,1510 or that dove that groans amid the wickedness of the many crows,—unless it be that,
while Esau lost his birthright from his lust after a mess of pottage,1511 we are yet to hold that it is
retained by defrauders, robbers, usurers, envious persons, drunkards and the like, over whose
existence in the Church of his time Cyprian groaned in his epistles. Wherefore, either it is not the
same thing to retain the Church and to retain the birthright in divine things, or, if every one who
retains the Church also retains the birthright, then all those wicked ones do not retain the Church
who yet both seem and are allowed by every one of us to give baptism within the Church; for no
one, save the man who is wholly ignorant of sacred things, would say that they retain the birthright
in sacred things.

Chapter 17.—22. But, having considered and handled all these points, we have now come to
that peaceful utterance of Cyprian at the end of the epistle, with which I am never sated, though I
read and re-read it again and again,—so great is the pleasantness of brotherly love which breathes
forth from it, so great the sweetness of charity in which it abounds. "These things," he says, "we
have written unto you, dearest brother, shortly, according to our poor ability, prescribing to or
prejudging no one, lest each bishop should not do what he thinks right, in the free exercise of his
own will. We, so far as in us lies, do not contend on the subject of heretics with our colleagues
and fellow-bishops, with whom we maintain concord and peace in the Lord; especially as the apostle
also says, ‘If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of
God.’1512 We observe patiently and gently charity of spirit, the honor of our brotherhood, the bond
of faith, the harmony of the priesthood. For this reason also, to the best of our poor ability, by the
permission and the inspiration of God we have written this treatise on ‘The Good of Patience,’
which we have sent to you in consideration of our mutual love."1513
23. There are many things to be considered in these words, wherein the brightness of Christian
charity shines forth in this man, who "loved the beauty of the Lord’s house, and the place of the
tabernacle of His habitation."1514 First, that he did not conceal what he felt; then, that he set it forth


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 25.


Eph. v. 27. Cp. Aug. Retract. ii. 18, quoted above, I. 17, 26.


Gen. xxv. 29-34.


1 Cor. xi. 16.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 26.


Ps. xxvi. 8.