On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)


Philip Schaff

If they say they were remitted, how then shall "the Holy Spirit of discipline flee deceit,"1184 if in
him who was full of deceit He worked remission of sins? If they say they were not remitted, I ask
whether, if he should afterwards confess his sin with contrition of heart and true sorrow, it would
be judged that he ought to be baptized again. And if it is mere madness to assert this, then let them
confess that a man can be baptized with the true baptism of Christ, and that yet his heart, persisting
in malice or sacrilege, may not allow remission of sins to be given; and so let them understand that
men may be baptized in communions severed from the Church, in which Christ’s baptism is given
and received in the said celebration of the sacrament, but that it will only then be of avail for the
remission of sins, when the recipient, being reconciled to the unity of the Church, is purged from
the sacrilege of deceit, by which his sins were retained, and their remission prevented. For, as in
the case of him who had approached the sacrament in deceit there is no second baptism, but he is
purged by faithful discipline and truthful confession, which he could not be without baptism, so
that what was given before becomes then powerful to work his salvation, when the former deceit
is done away by the truthful confession; so also in the case of the man who, while an enemy to the
peace and love of Christ, received in any heresy or schism the baptism of Christ, which the
schismatics in question had not lost from among them, though by his sacrilege his sins were not
remitted, yet, when he corrects his error, and comes over to the communion and unity of the Church,
he ought not to be again baptized: because by his very reconciliation to the peace of the Church
he receives this benefit, that the sacrament now begins in unity to be of avail for the remission of
his sins, which could not so avail him as received in schism.
19. But if they should say that in the man who has approached the sacrament in deceit, his sins
are indeed removed by the holy power of so great a sacrament at the moment when he received it,
but return immediately in consequence of his deceit: so that the Holy Spirit has both been present
with him at his baptism for the removal of his sins, and has also fled before his perseverance in
deceit so that they should return: so that both declarations prove true,—both, "As many of you as
have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ;" and also, "The holy spirit of discipline will flee
deceit;"—that is to say, that both the holiness of baptism clothes him with Christ, and the sinfulness
of deceit strips him of Christ; like the case of a man who passes from darkness through light into
darkness again, his eyes being always directed towards darkness, though the light cannot but
penetrate them as he passes;—if they should say this, let them understand that this is also the case
with those who are baptized without the pale of the Church, but yet with the baptism of the Church,
which is holy in itself, wherever it may be; and which therefore belongs not to those who separate
themselves, but to the body from which they are separated; while yet it avails even among them so
far, that they pass through its light back to their own darkness, their sins, which in that moment
had been dispelled by the holiness of baptism, returning immediately upon them, as though it were
the darkness returning which the light had dispelled while they were passing through it.


Wisd. i. 5.