On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

may have it; but as he has it to destruction, so he may confer it to destruction. But he on whom he
confers it may receive it to his soul’s health, if he, on his part, receive it not in separation; as it has
happened to many that, in a catholic spirit, and with heart not alienated from the unity of peace,
they have, under some pressure of impending death, turned hastily to some heretic and received
from him the baptism of Christ without any share in his perversity, so that, whether dying or restored
to life, they by no means remain in communion with those to whom they never passed in heart.
But if the recipient himself has received the baptism in separation, he receives it so much the more
to his destruction, in proportion to the greatness of the good which he has not received well; and
it tends the more to his destruction in his separation, as it would avail the more to the salvation of
one in unity. And so, if, reforming himself from his perverseness and turning from his separation,
he should come to the Catholic peace, his sins are remitted through the bond of peace and the same
baptism under which his sins were retained through the sacrilege of separation, because that is
always holy both in the just and the unjust, which is neither increased by the righteousness nor
diminished by the unrighteousness of any man.
8. This being the case, what bearing has it on so clear a truth, that many of his fellow-bishops
agreed with Cyprian in that opinion, and advanced their own several opinions on the same side,
except that his charity towards the unity of Christ might become more and more conspicuous? For
if he had been the only one to hold that opinion, with no one to agree with him, he might have been
thought, in remaining, to have shrunk from the sin of schism, because he found no companions in
his error; but when so many agreed with him, he showed, by remaining in unity with the rest who
thought differently from him, that he preserved the most sacred bond of universal catholicity, not
from any fear of isolation, but from the love of peace. Wherefore it might indeed seem now to be
superfluous to consider the several opinions of the other bishops also in that Council; but since
those who are slow in heart think that no answer has been made at all, if to any passage in any
discourse the answer which might be brought to bear on the spot be given not there but somewhere
else, it is better that by reading much they should be polished into sharpness, than that by
understanding little they should have room left for complaining that the argument has not been
fairly conducted.

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Chapter 6.—9. First, then, let us record for further consideration the case proposed for decision
by Cyprian himself, with which he initiates the proceedings of the Council, and by which he shows
a peaceful spirit, abounding in the fruitfulness of Christian charity. "Ye have read," he says, "most
beloved colleagues, what Jubaianus, our fellow-bishop, has written to me, consulting my poor
ability about the unlawful and profane baptism of heretics, and what I have written back to him,
expressing to him the same opinion that I have expressed once and again and often, that heretics
coming to the Church ought to be baptized, and sanctified with the baptism of the Church. Another
letter also of Jubaianus has been read to you, in which, agreeably to his sincere and religious

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