On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)


Philip Schaff

Chapter 3.—5. But I think that we have sufficiently shown, both from the canon of Scripture,
and from the letters of Cyprian himself, that bad men, while by no means converted to a better
mind, can have, and confer, and receive baptism, of whom it is most clear that they do not belong
to the holy Church of God, though they seem to be within it, inasmuch as they are covetous, robbers,
usurers, envious, evil thinkers, and the like; while she is one dove,1588 modest and chaste, a bride
without spot or wrinkle,1589 a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed, an orchard of pomegranates with
pleasant fruits,1590 with all similar properties which are attributed to her; and all this can only be
understood to be in the good, and holy, and just,—following, that is, not only the operations of the
gifts of God, which are common to good and bad alike, but also the inner bond of charity conspicuous
in those who have the Holy Spirit, to whom the Lord says, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are
remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." 1591

Chapter 4.—6. And so it is clear that no good ground is shown herein why the bad man, who
has baptism, may not also confer it; and as he has it to destruction, so he may also confer it to
destruction,—not because this is the character of the thing conferred, nor of the person conferring,
but because it is the character of him on whom it is conferred. For when a bad man confers it on
a good man, that is, on one in the bond of unity, converted with a true conversion, the wickedness
of him who confers it makes no severance between the good sacrament which is conferred, and the
good member of the Church on whom it is conferred. And when his sins are forgiven him on his
true conversion to God, they are forgiven by those to whom he is united by his true conversion.
For the same Spirit forgives them, which is given to all the saints that cling to one another in love,
whether they know one another in the body or not. Similarly when a man’s sins are retained, they
are assuredly retained by those from whom he, in whom they are retained, separates himself by
dissimilarity of life, and by the turning away of a corrupt heart, whether they know him in the body
or not.

Chapter 5.—7. Wherefore all bad men are separated in the spirit from the good; but if they are
separated in the body also by a manifest dissension, they are made yet worse. But, as it has been
said, it makes no difference to the holiness of baptism how much worse the man may be that has
it, or how much worse he that confers it: yet he that is separated may confer it, as he that is separated


Cant. vi. 8, 9.


Eph. v. 27; Cp. Aug. Retract. ii. 18.


Cant. iv. 12, 13.


John xx. 23.