On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

in exorcism, secondly by regeneration in baptism, they may come to the promises of Christ; but
my judgment is that in no other way should this be done."1751
86. By what rule he asserts that heretics are worse than heathens I do not know, seeing that the
Lord says, "If he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a
publican."1752 Is a heretic worse even than such? I do not gainsay it. I do not, however, allow that
because the man himself is worse than a heathen, that is, than a Gentile and pagan, therefore whatever
the sacrament contains that is Christ’s is mingled with his vices and character, and perishes through
the corruption of such admixture. For if even those who depart from the Church, and become not
the followers but the founders of heresies, have been baptized before their secession, they continue
to have baptism, although, according to the above rule, they are worse than heathens; for if on
correction they return, they do not receive it, as they certainly would do if they had lost it. It is
therefore possible that a man may be worse than a heathen, and yet that the sacrament of Christ
may not only be in him, but be not a whit inferior to what it is in a holy and righteous man. For
although to the extent of his powers he has not preserved the sacrament, but done it violence in
heart and will, yet so far as the sacrament’s own nature is concerned, it has remained unhurt in its
integrity even in the man who despised and rejected it. Were not the people of Sodom heathens,
that is to say, Gentiles? The Jews therefore were worse, to whom the Lord says, "It shall be more
tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee;"1753 and to whom the prophet
says, "Thou hast justified Sodom,"1754 that is to say, in comparison with thee Sodom is righteous.
Shall we, however, maintain that on this account the holy sacraments which existed among the
Jews partook of the nature of the Jews themselves,—those sacraments which the Lord Himself also
accepted, and sent the lepers whom He had cleansed to fulfill them,1755 of which when Zacharias
was administering them, the angel stood by him, and declared that his prayer had been heard while
he was sacrificing in the temple?1756 These same sacraments were both in the good men of that
time, and in those bad men who were worse than are the heathens, seeing that they were ranked
before the Sodomites for wickedness, and yet those sacraments were perfect and holy in both.
87. For even if the Gentiles themselves could have anything holy and right in their doctrines,
our saints did not condemn it, however much the Gentiles themselves were to be detested for their
superstitions and idolatry and pride, and the rest of their corruptions, and to be punished with
judgment from heaven unless they submitted to correction. For when Paul the apostle also was
saying something concerning God before the Athenians, he adduced as a proof of what he said,


Conc. Carth. sec. 37.


Matt. xviii. 17.


Matt. xi. 24.


Ezek. xvi. 51.


Luke xvii. 14.


Luke i. 11, 13.