On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

least of these that are mine, ye did it not to me?"1537 Wherefore all who go out from us are not of
us, but not all who are with us are of us; just as when men thresh, all that flies from the
threshing-floor is shown not to be corn, but not all that remains there is therefore corn. And so
John too says, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they
would no doubt have continued with us."1538 Wherefore God gives the sacrament of grace even
through the hands of wicked men, but the grace itself only by Himself or through His saints. And
therefore He gives remission of sins either of Himself, or through the members of that dove to
whom He says, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins
ye retain, they are retained."1539 But since no one can doubt that baptism, which is the sacrament
of the remission of sins, is possessed even by murderers, who are yet in darkness because the hatred
of their brethren is not excluded from their hearts, therefore either no remission of sins is given to
them if their baptism is accompanied by no change of heart for the better, or if the sins are remitted,
they at once return on them again. And we learn that the baptism is holy in itself, because it is of
God; and whether it be given or whether it be received by men of such like character, it cannot be
polluted by any perversity of theirs, either within, or yet outside the Church.

Chapter 22.—30. Accordingly we agree with Cyprian that "heretics cannot give remission of
sins;"1540 but we maintain that they can give baptism,—which indeed in them, both when they give
and when they receive it, is profitable only to their destruction, as misusing so great a gift of God;
just as also the malicious and envious, whom Cyprian himself acknowledges to be within the
Church, cannot give remission of sins, while we all confess that they can give baptism. For if it
was said of those who have sinned against us, "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will
your Father forgive your trespasses,"1541 how much more impossible is it that their sins should be
forgiven who hate the brethren by whom they are loved, and are baptized in that very hatred; and
yet when they are brought to the right way, baptism is not given them anew, but that very pardon
which they did not then deserve is granted them in their true conversion? And so even what Cyprian
wrote to Quintus, and what, in conjunction with his colleagues Liberalis, Caldonius, Junius, and
the rest, he wrote to Saturninus, Maximus, and others, is all found, on due consideration, to be in
no wise meet to be preferred as against the agreement of the whole Catholic Church, of which they
rejoiced that they were members, and from which they neither cut themselves away nor allowed
others to be cut away who held a contrary opinion, until at length, by the will of the Lord, it was

Matt. xxv. 45.


1 John ii. 19.


John xx. 23.


Cypr. Ep. lxx. 3.


Matt. vi. 15.