On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)


Philip Schaff

prefer the authority, supported by many more bishops, of the whole Church spread throughout the
whole world, of which Cyprian himself rejoiced that he was an inseparable member.
15. Nor is the water "profane and adulterous"1282 over which the name of God is invoked, even
though it be invoked by profane and adulterous persons; because neither the creature itself of water,
nor the name invoked, is adulterous. But the baptism of Christ, consecrated by the words of the
gospel, is necessarily holy, however polluted and unclean its ministers may be; because its inherent
sanctity cannot be polluted, and the divine excellence abides in its sacrament, whether to the salvation
of those who use it aright, or to the destruction of those who use it wrong. Would you indeed
maintain that, while the light of the sun or of a candle, diffused through unclean places, contracts
no foulness in itself therefrom, yet the baptism of Christ can be defiled by the sins of any man,
whatsoever he may be? For if we turn our thoughts to the visible materials themselves, which are
to us the medium of the sacraments, every one must know that they admit of corruption. But if we
think on that which they convey to us, who can fail to see that it is incorruptible, however much
the men through whose ministry it is conveyed are either being rewarded or punished for the
character of their lives?

Chapter 11.—16. But Cyprian was right in not being moved by what Jubaianus wrote, that
"the followers of Novatian1283 rebaptize those who come to them from the Catholic Church."1284
For, in the first place, it does not follow that whatever heretics have done in a perverse spirit of
mimicry, Catholics are therefore to abstain from doing, because the heretics do the same. And
again, the reasons are different for which heretics and the Catholic Church ought respectively to
abstain from rebaptizing. For it would not be right for heretics to do so, even if it were fitting in
the Catholic Church; because their argument is, that among the Catholics is wanting that which
they themselves received whilst still within the pale, and took away with them when they departed.
Whereas the reason why the Catholic Church should not administer again the baptism which was
given among heretics, is that it may not seem to decide that a power which is Christ’s alone belongs
to its members, or to pronounce that to be wanting in the heretics which they have received within
her pale, and certainly could not lose by straying outside. For thus much Cyprian himself, with all
the rest, established, that if any should return from heresy to the Church, they should be received
back, not by baptism, but by the discipline of penitence; whence it is clear that they cannot be held
to lose by their secession what is not restored to them when they return. Nor ought it for a moment
to be said that, as their heresy is their own, as their error is their own, as the sacrilege of disunion
is their own, so also the baptism is their own, which is really Christ’s. Accordingly, while the evils


Ctpr. Ep. lxxiii. 1.


The Novatian bishop, Acesius, was invited by Constantine to attend the Council of Nicaea. Soc., H.E.I. 10.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 2.