On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

we maintained that men when cast out were of any profit for the salvation either of themselves or
of any one else. But those also who, though seeming to be within, are yet of such a kind, not only
are without spiritually, but will in the end be separated in the body also. For all such are for nothing.
But it does not therefore follow that the sacrament of baptism which is in them is nothing. For
even in the very men who are cast out, if they return to their senses and come back, the salvation
which had departed from them returns; but the baptism does not return, because it never had
departed. And in what the Lord says, "Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," He did not permit any to baptize except
the good, inasmuch as He did not say to the bad, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted
unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained."1633 How then do the wicked baptize
within, who cannot remit sins? How also is it that they baptize the wicked whose hearts are not
changed, whose sins are yet upon them, as John says, "He that hateth his brother is in darkness
even until now?"1634 But if the sins of these men are remitted when they join themselves in the
close bonds of love to the good and just, through whom sins are remitted in the Church, though
they have been baptized by the wicked, so the sins of those also are remitted who come from without
and join themselves by the inner bond of peace to the same framework of the body of Christ. Yet
the baptism of Christ should be acknowledged in both, and held invalid in none, whether before
they are converted, though then it profit them nothing, or after they are converted, that so it may
profit them, as he says, "Since they themselves, by withdrawing when they have lost their savor
from the Church, which is one, have become contrary to it, let that be done which is written, ‘The
houses of those that are opposed to the law must need be cleansed.’ And it therefore follows," he
goes on to say, "that those who have been polluted by being baptized by men opposed to Christ
should first be cleansed, and only then baptized." What then? Are thieves and murderers not
contrary to the law, which says, "Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal?"1635 "They must therefore
needs be cleansed." Who will deny it? And yet not only those who are baptized by such within
the Church, but also those who, being such themselves, are baptized without being changed in
heart, are nevertheless exempt from further baptism when they are so changed. So great is the force
of the sacrament of mere baptism, that though we allow that a man who has been baptized and
continues to lead an evil life requires to be cleansed, we yet forbid him to be any more baptized.


John xx. 23.


1 John ii. 9.


Ex. xx. 13, 15.