On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)


Philip Schaff

their lives from that sacrament, which, while without the pale of the Church, they possessed in
12. Cease, then, to bring forward against us the authority of Cyprian in favor of repeating
baptism, but cling with us to the example of Cyprian for the preservation of unity. For this question
of baptism had not been as yet completely worked out, but yet the Church observed the most
wholesome custom of correcting what was wrong, not repeating what was already given, even in
the case of schismatics and heretics: she healed the wounded part, but did not meddle with what
was whole. And this custom, coming, I suppose, from apostolical tradition (like many other things
which are held to have been handed down under their actual sanction, because they are preserved
throughout the whole Church, though they are not found either in their letters, or in the Councils
of their successors),—this most wholesome custom, I say, according to the holy Cyprian, began to
be what is called amended by his predecessor Agrippinus.1238 But, according to the teaching which
springs from a more careful investigation into the truth, which, after great doubt and fluctuation,
was brought at last to the decision of a plenary Council, we ought to believe that it rather began to
be corrupted than to receive correction at the hands of Agrippinus. Accordingly, when so great a
question forced itself upon him, and it was difficult to decide the point, whether remission of sins
and man’s spiritual regeneration could take place among heretics or schismatics, and the authority
of Agrippinus was there to guide him, with that of some few men who shared in his misapprehension
of this question, having preferred attempting something new to maintaining a custom which they
did not understand how to defend; under these circumstances considerations of probability forced
themselves into the eyes of his soul, and barred the way to the thorough investigation of the truth.

Chapter 8.—13. Nor do I think that the blessed Cyprian had any other motive in the free
expression and earlier utterance of what he thought in opposition to the custom of the Church, save
that he should thankfully receive any one that could be found with a fuller revelation of the truth,
and that he should show forth a pattern for imitation, not only of diligence in teaching, but also of
modesty in learning; but that, if no one should be found to bring forward any argument by which
those considerations of probability should be refuted, then he should abide by his opinion, with the
full consciousness that he had neither concealed what he conceived to be the truth, nor violated the
unity which he loved. For so he understood the words of the apostle: "Let the prophets speak two
or three, and let the other judge. If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold
his peace." 1239 "In which passage he has taught and shown, that many things are revealed to

Agrippinus was probably the second (some place him still earlier) bishop before Cyprian. He convened the council of


70 (disputed date), who were the first to take action in favor of rebaptism. Cp. Cypr. Ep. lxxi. 4, bonæ memoriæ vir. Cp. lxxiii.

1 Cor. xiv. 29, 30.