On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

effectual for the refutation of the Donatists, and for shutting their mouths directly from upholding
their schism against the Catholic Church, as the letters and act of Cyprian.


Book I.
He proves that baptism can be conferred outside the Catholic communion by heretics or schismatics,
but that it ought not to be received from them; and that it is of no avail to any while in a state
of heresy or schism.


Chapter 1.—1. In the treatise which we wrote against the published epistle of Parmenianus1145
to Tichonius,1146 we promised that at some future time we would treat the question of baptism more
thoroughly;1147 and indeed, even if we had not made this promise, we are not unmindful that this is
a debt fairly due from us to the prayers of our brethren. Wherefore in this treatise we have
undertaken, with the help of God, not only to refute the objections which the Donatists have been
wont to urge against us in this matter, but also to advance what God may enable us to say in respect
of the authority of the blessed martyr Cyprian, which they endeavor to use as a prop, to prevent
their perversity from falling before the attacks of truth.1148 And this we propose to do, in order that
all whose judgment is not blinded by party spirit may understand that, so far from Cyprian’s authority
being in their favor, it tends directly to their refutation and discomfiture.
2. In the treatise above mentioned, it has already been said that the grace of baptism can be
conferred outside the Catholic communion, just as it can be also there retained. But no one of the
Donatists themselves denies that even apostates retain the grace of baptism; for when they return
within the pale of the Church, and are converted through repentance, it is never given to them a
second time, and so it is ruled that it never could have been lost. So those, too, who in the sacrilege
of schism depart from the communion of the Church, certainly retain the grace of baptism, which
they received before their departure, seeing that, in case of their return, it is not again conferred on
them whence it is proved, that what they had received while within the unity of the Church, they


Parmenianus was successor to Donatus the Great in the See of Carthage, circ. 350 A.D., and died circ. 392 A.D.


Tichonius, who flourished circ. 380, was the leader of a reformatory movement in Donatism, which Parmenianus opposed,
in the writing here alluded to. The reformer was excommunicated. He had the clearest ideas concerning the church and concerning
interpretation of any of the ancients.


Contra Epist. Parmen. ii. 14, also written circ. 400 A.D.


Cyprian, in his controversy with Pope Stephen of Rome, denied the validity of heretical or schismatical baptism. The
Donatists denied the validity of Catholic baptism. See Schaff, Church History, vol. ii. 262 sqq.