On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

brother is a murderer;"1523 and why, therefore, do they baptize those within the Church whom
Cyprian himself declares to be in the envy of malice?1524

Chapter 20.—How does a murderer cleanse and sanctify the water?1525 How can darkness bless
the oil? But if God is present in His sacraments to confirm His words by whomsoever the sacraments
may be administered, then both the sacraments of God are everywhere valid, and evil men whom
they profit not are everywhere perverse.
28. But what kind of argument is this, that "a heretic must be considered not to have baptism,
because he has not the Church?" And it must be acknowledged that "when he is baptized, he is
questioned about the Church."1526 Just as though the same question about the Church were not put
in baptism to him who within the Church renounces the world in word and not in deed. As therefore
his false answer does not prevent what he receives from being baptism, so also the false reply of
the other about the holy Church does not prevent what he receives from being baptism; and as the
former, if he afterwards fulfill with truth what he promised in falsehood, does not receive a second
baptism, but only an amended life, so also in the case of the latter, if he come afterwards to the
Church about which he gave a false answer to the question put to him, thinking that he had it when
he had it not, the Church herself which he did not possess is given him, but what he had received
is not repeated. But I cannot tell why it should be, that while God can "sanctify the oil" in answer
to the words which proceed out of the mouth of a murderer, "He yet cannot sanctify it on the altar
reared by a heretic," unless it be that He who is not hindered by the false conversion of the heart
of man within the Church is hindered by the false erection of some wood without from deigning
to be present in His sacraments, though no falseness on the part of men can hinder Him. If, therefore,
what is said in the gospel, that "God heareth not sinners,"1527 extends so far that the sacraments
cannot be celebrated by a sinner, how then does He hear a murderer praying, either over the water
of baptism, or over the oil, or over the eucharist, or over the heads of those on whom his hand is
laid? All which things are nevertheless done, and are valid, even at the hands of murderers, that
is, at the hands of those who hate their brethren, even within, in the Church itself. Since "no one
can give what he does not possess himself," 1528 how does a murderer give the Holy Spirit? And


1 John iii. 15.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 14.


In this and the next two chapters Augustin is examining the seventieth epistle of Cyprian, from himself and thirty other
bishops (text of Hartel), to Januarius, Saturninus, Maximus, and fifteen others.


In the question, "Dost thou believe in eternal life and remission of sins through the holy Church?" Cyp. l.c. 2.


John ix. 31.


Cypr. Ep. lxx. 2.