On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

intention of him who gives in truth can be to him who receives deceitfully. But let us consider, in
the case of some one also giving it in deceit, when both the given and the recipient are acting
deceitfully in the unity of the Catholic Church itself, whether this should rather be acknowledged
as baptism, or that which is given in a play, if any one should be found who received it faithfully
from a sudden impulse of religion: or whether it be not true that, so far as the men themselves are
concerned, there is a very great difference between the believing recipient in a play, and the mocking
recipient in the Church; but that in regard to the genuineness of the sacrament there is no difference.
For if it makes no difference in respect to the genuineness of the sacrament within the Catholic
Church itself, whether certain persons celebrate it in truth or in deceit, so long as both still celebrate
the same thing, I cannot see why it should make a difference outside, seeing that he who receives
it is not cloaked by his deceit, but he is changed by his religious impulse. Or have those truthful
persons among whom it is celebrated more power for the confirmation of the sacrament, than those
deceitful men by whom and in whom it is celebrated can exert for its invalidation? And yet, if the
deceit be subsequently brought to light, no one seeks a repetition of the sacrament; but the fraud is
either punished by excommunication or set right by penitence.
102. But the safe course for us is, not to advance with any rashness of judgment in setting forth
a view which has neither been started in any regionary Council of the Catholic Church nor established
in a plenary one; but to assert, with all the confidence of a voice that cannot be gainsaid, what has
been confirmed by the consent of the universal Church, under the direction of our Lord God and
Saviour Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, if any one were to press me—supposing I were duly seated in
a Council in which a question were raised on points like these—to declare what my own opinion
was, without reference to the previously expressed views of others, whose judgment I would rather
follow, if I were under the influence of the same feelings as led me to assert what I have said before,
I should have no hesitation in saying that all men possess baptism who have received it in any
place, from any sort of men, provided that it were consecrated in the words of the gospel, and
received without deceit on their part with some degree of faith; although it would be of no profit
to them for the salvation of their souls if they were without charity, by which they might be grafted
into the Catholic Church. For "though I have faith," says the apostle, "so that I could remove
mountains, but have not charity, I am nothing."1916 Just as already, from the established decrees of
our predecessors, I have no hesitation in saying that all those have baptism who, though they receive
it deceitfully, yet receive it in the Church, or where the Church is thought to be by those in whose
society it is received, of whom it was said, "They went out from us."1917 But when there was no
society of those who so believed, and when the man who received it did not himself hold such
belief, but the whole thing was done as a farce, or a comedy, or a jest,—if I were asked whether
the baptism which was thus conferred should be approved, I should declare my opinion that we
ought to pray for the declaration of God’s judgment through the medium of some revelation seeking

1 Cor. xiii. 2.


1 John ii. 19.