On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

is, from the body of Christians dispersed throughout the world, even on the admission of evil and
sacrilegious men, since he was unwilling even to remove from the right of communion those whom
he considered to have received sacrilegious men without baptism into the Catholic communion,
saying, "Judging no one, nor depriving any of the right of communion if he differ from us?"1264

437

Chapter 2.—2. Nevertheless, I see what may still be required of me, viz., that I should answer
those plausible arguments, by which, in even earlier times, Agrippinus, or Cyprian himself, or those
in Africa who agreed with them, or any others in far distant lands beyond the sea, were moved, not
indeed by the authority of any plenary or even regionary Council, but by a mere epistolary
correspondence, to think that they ought to adopt a custom which had no sanction from the ancient
custom of the Church, and which was expressly forbidden by the most unanimous resolution of the
Catholic world in order that an error which had begun to creep into the minds of some men, through
discussions of this kind, might be cured by the more powerful truth and universal healing power
of unity coming on the side of safety. And so they may see with what security I approach this
discourse. If I am unable to gain my point, and show how those arguments may be refuted which
they bring forward from the Council and the epistles of Cyprian, to the effect that Christ’s baptism
may not be given by the hands of heretics, I shall still remain safely in the Church, in whose
communion Cyprian himself remained with those who differed from him.
3. But if they say that the Catholic Church existed then, because there were a few, or, if they
prefer it, even a considerable number, who denied the validity of any baptism conferred in an
heretical body, and baptized all who came from thence, what then? Did the Church not exist at all
before Agrippinus, with whom that new kind of system began, at variance with all previous custom?
Or how, again after the time of Agrippinus, when, unless there had been a return to the primitive
custom, there would have been no need for Cyprian to set on foot another Council? Was there no
Church then, because such a custom as this prevailed everywhere, that the baptism of Christ should
be considered nothing but the baptism of Christ, even though it were proved to have been conferred
in a body of heretics or schismatics? But if the Church existed even then, and had not perished
through a breach of its continuity, but was, on the contrary, holding its ground, and receiving
increase in every nation, surely it is the safest plan to abide by this same custom, which then
embraced good and bad alike in unity. But if there was then no Church in existence, because
sacrilegious heretics were received without baptism, and this prevailed by universal custom, whence
has Donatus made his appearance? From what land did he spring? or from what sea did he emerge?
or from what sky did he fall? And so we, as I had begun to say, are safe in the communion of that
Church, throughout the whole extent of which the custom now prevails, which prevailed in like
manner through its whole extent before the time of Agrippinus, and in the interval between

1264

See above, II. ii. 3.

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