On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)


Philip Schaff

much less of a long conversation, so that this hatred should be driven from his heart, even supposing
it to be known to the minister who baptizes him. Certainly cases of this sort are still found to occur
not only with us, but also with them. What shall we say then? Are this man’s sins forgiven or
not? Let them choose just which alternative they prefer. For if they are forgiven, they immediately
return: this is the teaching of the gospel, the authoritative announcement of truth. Whether,
therefore, they are forgiven or not, medicine is necessary afterwards; and yet if the man lives, and
learns that his fault stands in need of correction, and corrects it, he is not baptized anew, either with
them or with us. So in the points in which schismatics and heretics neither entertain different
opinions nor observe different practice from ourselves, we do not correct them when they join us,
but rather commend what we find in them. For where they do not differ from us, they are not
separated from us. But because these things do them no good so long as they are schismatics or
heretics, on account of other points in which they differ from us, not to mention the most grievous
sin that is involved in separation itself, therefore, whether their sins remain in them, or return again
immediately after remission, in either case we exhort them to come to the soundness of peace and
Christian charity, not only that they may obtain something which they had not before, but also that
what they had may begin to be of use to them.

Chapter 14.—22. It is to no purpose, then, that they say to us, "If you acknowledge our baptism,
what do we lack that should make you suppose that we ought to think seriously of joining your
communion?" For we reply, We do not acknowledge any baptism of yours; for it is not the baptism
of schismatics or heretics, but of God and of the Church, wheresoever it may be found, and
whithersoever it may be transferred. But it is in no sense yours, except because you entertain false
opinions, and do sacrilegious acts, and have impiously separated yourselves from the Church. For
if everything else in your practice and opinions were true, and still you were to persist in this same
separation, contrary to the bond of brotherly peace, contrary to the union of all the brethren, who
have been manifest, according to the promise, in all the world; the particulars of whose history,
and the secrets of whose hearts, you never could have known or considered in every case, so as to
have a right to condemn them; who, moreover, cannot be liable to condemnation for submitting
themselves to the judges of the Church rather than to one of the parties to the dispute,—in this one
thing, at least, in such a case, you are deficient, in which he is deficient who lacks charity. Why
should we go over our argument again? Look and see yourselves in the apostle, how much there
is that you lack. For what does it matter to him who lacks charity, whether he be carried away
outside the Church at once by some blast of temptation, or remain within the Lord’s harvest, so as
to be separated only at the final winnowing? And yet even such, if they have once been born in
baptism, need not be born again.