On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

decreed in a Council,1210 with many of his fellow-bishops contributing their several opinions, that
all heretics and schismatics, that is, all who are severed from the communion of the one Church,
are without baptism; and therefore, whosoever has joined the communion of the Church after being
baptized by them must be baptized in the Church." The authority of Cyprian does not alarm me,
because I am reassured by his humility. We know, indeed, the great merit of the bishop and martyr
Cyprian; but is it in any way greater than that of the apostle and martyr Peter, of whom the said
Cyprian speaks as follows in his epistle to Quintus? "For neither did Peter, whom the Lord chose
first, and on whom He built His Church,1211 when Paul afterwards disputed with him about
circumcision, claim or assume anything insolently and arrogantly to himself, so as to say that he
held the primacy, and should rather be obeyed of those who were late and newly come. Nor did
he despise Paul because he had before been a persecutor of the Church, but he admitted the counsel
of truth, and readily assented to the legitimate grounds which Paul maintained; giving us thereby
a pattern of concord and patience, that we should not pertinaciously love our own opinions, but
should rather account as our own any true and rightful suggestions of our brethren and colleagues
for the common health and weal."1212 Here is a passage in which Cyprian records what we also
learn in holy Scripture, that the Apostle Peter, in whom the primacy of the apostles shines with
such exceeding grace, was corrected by the later Apostle Paul, when he adopted a custom in the
matter of circumcision at variance with the demands of truth. If it was therefore possible for Peter
in some point to walk not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, so as to compel the Gentiles
to judaize, as Paul writes in that epistle in which he calls God to witness that he does not lie; for
he says, "Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not;"1213 and, after this
sacred and awful calling of God to witness, he told the whole tale, saying in the course of it, "But
when I saw that they walked not uprightly, according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter
before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews,
why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"1214—if Peter, I say, could compel the
Gentiles to live after the manner of the Jews, contrary to the rule of truth which the Church afterwards
held, why might not Cyprian, in opposition to the rule of faith which the whole Church afterwards
held, compel heretics and schismatics to be baptized afresh? I suppose that there is no slight to
Cyprian in comparing him with Peter in respect to his crown of martyrdom; rather I ought to be
afraid lest I am showing disrespect towards Peter. For who can be ignorant that the primacy of his
apostleship is to be preferred to any episcopate whatever? But, granting the difference in the dignity
of their sees, yet they have the same glory in their martyrdom. And whether it may be the case that
1210

The Council of Carthage, A.D. 256, in which eighty-seven African bishops declared in favor of rebaptizing heretics.
The opinions of the bishops are quoted and answered by Augustin, one by one, in Books vi and vii.

1211

Matt. xvi. 18.

1212

Cypr. Ep. lxxi.

1213

Gal. i. 20.

1214

Gal. ii. 14.

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