On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

so gently and peacefully, in that he maintained the peace of the Church with those who thought
otherwise, because he understood how great healthfulness was bound up in the bond of peace,
loving it so much, and maintaining it with sobriety, seeing and feeling that even men who think
differently may entertain their several sentiments with saving charity. For he would not say that
he could maintain divine concord or the peace of the Lord with evil men; for the good man can
observe peace towards wicked men, but he cannot be united with them in the peace which they
have not. Lastly, that prescribing to no one, and prejudging no one, lest each bishop should not do
what he thinks right in the free exercise of his own will, he has left for us also, whatsoever we may
be, a place for treating peacefully of those things with him. For he is present, not only in his letters,
but by that very charity which existed in so extraordinary a degree in him, and which can never
die. Longing, therefore, with the aid of his prayers, to cling to and be in union with him, if I be not
hindered by the unmeetness of my sins, I will learn if I can through his letters with how great peace
and comfort the Lord administered His Church through him; and, putting on the bowels of humility
through the moving influence of his discourse, if, in common with the Church at large, I entertain
any doctrine more true than his, I will not prefer my heart to his, even in the point in which he,
though holding different views, was yet not severed from the Church throughout the world. For
in that, when that question was yet undecided for want of full discussion, though his sentiments
differed from those of many of his colleagues, yet he observed so great moderation, that he would
not mutilate the sacred fellowship of the Church of God by any stain of schism, a greater strength
of excellence appeared in him than would have been shown if, without that virtue, he had held
views on every point not only true, but coinciding with their own. Nor should I be acting as he
would wish, if I were to pretend to prefer his talent and his fluency of discourse and copiousness
of learning to the holy Council of all nations, whereat he was assuredly present through the unity
of his spirit, especially as he is now placed in such full light of truth as to see with perfect certainty
what he was here seeking in the spirit of perfect peace. For out of that rich abundance he smiles
at all that here seems eloquence in us, as though it were the first essay of infancy; there he sees by
what rule of piety he acted here, that nothing should be dearer in the Church to him than unity.
There, too, with unspeakable delight he beholds with what prescient and most merciful providence
the Lord, that He might heal our swellings, "chose the foolish things of the world to confound the
wise," 1515 and, in the ordering of the members of His Church, placed all things in such a healthful
way, that men should not say that they were chosen to the help of the gospel for their own talent
or learning, of whose source they yet were ignorant, and so be puffed up with deadly pride. Oh,
how Cyprian rejoices! With how much more perfect calmness does he behold how greatly it
conduces to the health of the human race, that in the writings even of Christian and pious orators
there should be found what merits blame, and in the writings of the fishermen there should nothing
of the sort be found! And so I, being fully assured of this joy of that holy soul, neither in any way
venture to think or say that my writings are free from every kind of error, nor, in opposing that

1515

1 Cor. i. 27.

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