On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

and therefore they seemed indeed to be within, but really were without, because they were not on
that rock by which the Church is signified.

491

Chapter 25.—46. Sedatus of Tuburbo1681 said: "Inasmuch as water, sanctified by the prayer of
the priest in the Church, washes away sins, just so much does it multiply sins when infected, as by
a cancer, with the words of heretics. Wherefore one must strive, with all such efforts as conduce
to peace, that no one who has been infected and tainted by heretical error should refuse to receive
the one true baptism, with which whosoever is not baptized shall not inherit the kingdom of
heaven."1682
47. To this we answer, that if the water is not sanctified, when through want of skill the priest
who prays utters some words of error, many, not only of the bad, but of the good brethren in the
Church itself, fail to sanctify the water. For the prayers of many are corrected every day on being
recited to men of greater learning, and many things are found in them contrary to the Catholic faith.
Supposing, then, that it were shown that some persons were baptized when these prayers had been
uttered over the water, will they be bidden to be baptized afresh? Why not? Because generally
the fault in the prayer is more than counterbalanced by the intent of him who offers it; and those
fixed words of the gospel, without which baptism cannot be consecrated, are of such efficacy, that,
by their virtue, anything faulty that is uttered in the prayer contrary to the rule of faith is made of
no effect, just as the devil is excluded by the name of Christ. For it is clear that if a heretic utters
a faulty prayer, he has no good intent of love whereby that want of skill may be compensated, and
therefore he is like any envious or spiteful person in the Catholic Church itself, such as Cyprian
proves to exist within the Church. Or one might offer some prayer, as not unfrequently happens,
in which he should speak against the rule of faith, since many rush into the use of prayers which
are composed not only by unskillful men who love to talk, but even by heretics, and in the simplicity
of ignorance, not being able to discern their true character, use them, thinking they are good; and
yet what is erroneous in them does not vitiate what is right, but rather it is rendered null thereby,
just as in the man of good hope and approved faith, who yet is but a man, if in anything he be
otherwise minded, what he holds aright is not thereby vitiated until God reveal to him also that in
which he is otherwise minded. 1683 But supposing that the man himself is wicked and perverse,
then, if he should offer an upright prayer, in no part contrary to the Catholic faith, it does not follow
that because the prayer is right the man himself is also right; and if over some he offer an erroneous
prayer, God is present to uphold the words of His gospel, without which the baptism of Christ

1681

Tuburbo (Thuburbo) was in the ecclesiastical province of Zeugitana. Sedatus is not unlikely the same as the one mentioned
in Cypr. Epp. iv., lxvii., lxx.

1682

Conc. Carth sec. 18.

1683

Phil. iii. 15.

686