On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

unquestionably have yielded, if at that time the truth of this question had been placed beyond dispute
by the investigation and decree of a plenary Council. For if he quotes Peter as an example for his
allowing himself quietly and peacefully to be corrected by one junior colleague, how much more
readily would he himself, with the Council of his province, have yielded to the authority of the
whole world, when the truth had been thus brought to light? For, indeed, so holy and peaceful a
soul would have been most ready to assent to the arguments of any single person who could prove
to him the truth; and perhaps he even did so,1220 though we have no knowledge of the fact. For it
was neither possible that all the proceedings which took place between the bishops at that time
should have been committed to writing, nor are we acquainted with all that was so committed. For
how could a matter which was involved in such mists of disputation even have been brought to the
full illumination and authoritative decision of a plenary Council, had it not first been known to be
discussed for some considerable time in the various districts of the world, with many discussions
and comparisons of the views of the bishop on every side? But this is one effect of the soundness
of peace, that when any doubtful points are long under investigation, and when, on account of the
difficulty of arriving at the truth, they produce difference of opinion in the course of brotherly
disputation, till men at last arrive at the unalloyed truth; yet the bond of unity remains, lest in the
part that is cut away there should be found the incurable wound of deadly error.

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Chapter 5.—6. And so it is that often something is imperfectly revealed to the more learned,
that their patient and humble charity, from which proceeds the greater fruit, may be proved, either
in the way in which they preserve unity, when they hold different opinions on matters of comparative
obscurity, or in the temper with which they receive the truth, when they learn that it has been
declared to be contrary to what they thought. And of these two we have a manifestation in the
blessed Cyprian of the one, viz., of the way in which he preserved unity with those from whom he
differed in opinion. For he says, "Judging no one nor depriving any one of the right of communion
if he differ from us."1221 And the other, viz., in what temper he could receive the truth when found
to be different from what he thought it, though his letters are silent on the point, is yet proclaimed
by his merits. If there is no letter extant to prove it, it is witnessed by his crown of martyrdom; if
the Council of bishops declare it not, it is declared by the host of angels. For it is no small proof
of a most peaceful soul, that he won the crown of martyrdom in that unity from which he would
not separate, even though he differed from it. For we are but men; and it is therefore a temptation
incident to men that we should hold views at variance with the truth on any point. But to come
through too great love for our own opinion, or through jealousy of our betters, even to the sacrilege
of dividing the communion of the Church, and of founding heresy or schism, is a presumption

1220

Bede asserts that this was the case. Book VIII. qu. 5.

1221

See above, c. ii. 3.

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