On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

Christ, when He declared Himself to be the vine, and His disciples, as it were, the branches in the
vine, gave command that those which bare no fruit should be cut off, and removed from the vine
as useless branches.1202 But what is really fruit, save that new offspring, of which He further says,
"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another?"1203 This is that very charity,
without which the rest profiteth nothing. The apostle also says: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love,
joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;"1204 which all begin
with charity, and with the rest of the combination forms one unity in a kind of wondrous cluster.1205
Nor is it again in vain that our Lord added, "And every branch that beareth fruit, my Father purgeth
it, that it may bring forth more fruit,"1206 but because those who are strong in the fruit of charity
may yet have something which requires purging, which the Husbandman will not leave untended.
Whilst then, that holy man entertained on the subject of baptism an opinion at variance with the
true view, which was afterwards thoroughly examined and confirmed after most diligent
consideration, his error was compensated by his remaining in catholic unity, and by the abundance
of his charity; and finally it was cleared away by the pruning-hook of martyrdom.

Chapter 19.—29. But that I may not seem to be uttering these praises of the blessed martyr
(which, indeed, are not his, but rather those of Him by whose grace he showed himself what he
was), in order to escape the burden of proof, let us now bring forward from his letters the testimony
by which the mouths of the Donatists may most of all be stopped. For they advance his authority
before the unlearned, to show that in a manner they do well when they baptize afresh the faithful
who come to them. Too wretched are they—and, unless they correct themselves, even by themselves
are they utterly condemned—who choose in the example set them by so great a man to imitate just
that fault, which only did not injure him, because he walked with constant steps even to the end in
that from which they have strayed who "have not known the way of peace."1207 It is true that Christ’s
baptism is holy; and although it may exist among heretics or schismatics, yet it does not belong to
the heresy or schism; and therefore even those who come from thence to the Catholic Church herself
ought not to be baptized afresh. Yet to err on this point is one thing; it is another thing that those
who are straying from the peace of the Church, and have fallen headlong into the pit of schism,
should go on to decide that any who join them ought to be baptized again. For the former is a speck

1202

John xv. 1, 2.

1203

John xiii. 34.

1204

Gal. v. 22, 23.

1205

Botrum.

1206

John xv. 2.

1207

Rom. iii. 17; from which it has been introduced into the Alexandrine Ms. of the Septuagint at Ps. xiv. 3, cf. Hieron.; it
is also found in the English Prayer-book version of the Psalms.

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