On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

Lord Jesus Christ, who alone has the power both of setting us in the government of His Church,
and of judging of our acts therein.’"

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Chapter 3.—4. Now let the proud and swelling necks of the heretics raise themselves, if they
dare, against the holy humility of this address. Ye mad Donatists, whom we desire earnestly to
return to the peace and unity of the holy Church, that ye may receive health therein, what have ye
to say in answer to this? You are wont, indeed, to bring up against us the letters of Cyprian, his
opinion, his Council; why do ye claim the authority of Cyprian for your schism, and reject his
example when it makes for the peace of the Church? But who can fail to be aware that the sacred
canon of Scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, is confined within its own limits, and that
it stands so absolutely in a superior position to all later letters of the bishops, that about it we can
hold no manner of doubt or disputation whether what is confessedly contained in it is right and
true; but that all the letters of bishops which have been written, or are being written, since the
closing of the canon, are liable to be refuted if there be anything contained in them which strays
from the truth, either by the discourse of some one who happens to be wiser in the matter than
themselves, or by the weightier authority and more learned experience of other bishops, by the
authority of Councils; and further, that the Councils themselves, which are held in the several
districts and provinces, must yield, beyond all possibility of doubt, to the authority of plenary
Councils which are formed for the whole Christian world; and that even of the plenary Councils,
the earlier are often corrected by those which follow them, when, by some actual experiment, things
are brought to light which were before concealed, and that is known which previously lay hid, and
this without any whirlwind of sacrilegious pride, without any puffing of the neck through arrogance,
without any strife of envious hatred, simply with holy humility, catholic peace, and Christian
charity?

Chapter 4.—5. Wherefore the holy Cyprian, whose dignity is only increased by his humility,
who so loved the pattern set by Peter as to use the words, "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,"1219—he, I say, abundantly shows that he was most willing to correct his own opinion, if
any one should prove to him that it is as certain that the baptism of Christ can be given by those
who have strayed from the fold, as that it could not be lost when they strayed; on which subject we
have already said much. Nor should we ourselves venture to assert anything of the kind, were we
not supported by the unanimous authority of the whole Church, to which he himself would

1219

See above, c. i. 2.

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