On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

that certain of them had said something to the same effect,1757 which certainly would not be
condemned but recognized in them if they should come to Christ. And the holy Cyprian uses similar
evidence against the same heathens; for, speaking of the magi, he says, "The chief of them, however,
Hostanes, asserts both that the form of the true God cannot be seen, and also that true angels stand
beside His seat. In which Plato also agrees in like manner, and, maintaining the existence of one
God, he calls the others angels or demons. Hermes Trismegistus also speaks of one God, and
confesses that He is incomprehensible, and past our powers of estimation."1758 If, therefore, they
were to come to the perception of salvation in Christ, it surely would not be said to them, This that
ye have is bad, or false; but clearly it would deservedly be said, Though this in you is perfect and
true, yet it would profit nothing unless ye came to the grace of Christ. If, therefore, anything that
is holy can be found and rightly approved in the very heathens, although the salvation which is of
Christ is not yet to be granted to them, we ought not, even though heretics are worse than they, to
be moved to the desire of correcting what is bad in them belonging to themselves, without being
willing to acknowledge what is good in them of Christ. But we will set forth from a fresh preface
to consider the remaining judgments of this Council.

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Book VII.
In which the remaining judgments of the Council of Carthage are examined.
Chapter 1.—1. Let us not be considered troublesome to our readers, if we discuss the same
question often and from different points of view. For although the Holy Catholic Church throughout
all nations be fortified by the authority of primitive custom and of a plenary Council against those
arguments which throw some darkness over the question about baptism, whether it can be the same
among heretics and schismatics that it is in the Catholic Church, yet, since a different opinion has
at one time been entertained in the unity of the Church itself, by men who are in no wise to be
despised, and especially by Cyprian, whose authority men endeavor to use against us who are far
removed from his charity, we are therefore compelled to make use of the opportunity of examining
and considering all that we find on this subject in his Council and letters, in order, as it were, to
handle at some considerable length this same question, and to show how it has more truly been the
decision of the whole body of the Catholic Church, that heretics or schismatics, who have received
baptism already in the body from which they came, should be admitted with it into the communion
of the Catholic Church, being corrected in their error and rooted and grounded in the faith, that, so

1757

Acts xvii. 28.

1758

Cypr. de Idol. Vanitate, c. vi.

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