On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

could not have lost in their separation. But if it can be retained outside, why may it not also be
given there? If you say, "It is not rightly given without the pale;" we answer, "As it is not rightly
retained, and yet is in some sense retained, so it is not indeed rightly given, but yet it is given."
But as, by reconciliation to unity, that begins to be profitably possessed which was possessed to
no profit in exclusion from unity, so, by the same reconciliation, that begins to be profitable which
without it was given to no profit. Yet it cannot be allowed that it should be said that that was not
given which was given, nor that any one should reproach a man with not having given this, while
confessing that he had given what he had himself received. For the sacrament of baptism is what
the person possesses who is baptized; and the sacrament of conferring baptism is what he possesses
who is ordained. And as the baptized person, if he depart from the unity of the Church, does not
thereby lose the sacrament of baptism, so also he who is ordained, if he depart from the unity of
the Church, does not lose the sacrament of conferring baptism. For neither sacrament may be
wronged. If a sacrament necessarily becomes void in the case of the wicked, both must become
void; if it remain valid with the wicked, this must be so with both. If, therefore, the baptism be
acknowledged which he could not lose who severed himself from the unity of the Church, that
baptism must also be acknowledged which was administered by one who by his secession had not
lost the sacrament of conferring baptism. For as those who return to the Church, if they had been
baptized before their secession, are not rebaptized, so those who return, having been ordained before
their secession, are certainly not ordained again; but either they again exercise their former ministry,
if the interests of the Church require it, or if they do not exercise it, at any rate they retain the
sacrament of their ordination; and hence it is, that when hands are laid on them,1149 to mark their
reconciliation, they are not ranked with the laity. For Felicianus,1150 when he separated himself
from them with Maximianus, was not held by the Donatists themselves to have lost either the
sacrament of baptism or the sacrament of conferring baptism. For now he is a recognized member
of their own body, in company with those very men whom he baptized while he was separated
from them in the schism of Maximianus. And so others could receive from them, whilst they still
had not joined our society, what they themselves had not lost by severance from our society. And
hence it is clear that they are guilty of impiety who endeavor to rebaptize those who are in Catholic
unity; and we act rightly who do not dare to repudiate God’s sacraments, even when administered
in schism. For in all points in which they think with us, they also are in communion with us, and
only are severed from us in those points in which they dissent from us. For contact and disunion
are not to be measured by different laws in the case of material or spiritual affinities. For as union


Comp. v. 23, and iii. 16, note.


Felicianus, bishop of Musti, headed the revolt against Primianus, the successor of Parmenianus in the Carthaginian See.
Listening to the complaint of the deacon Maximianus, who had been deposed by Primianus, a synod was convened in 393 at
Cabarsussis, which ordained Maximianus as bishop of Carthage. Hence the title Maximianistæ. Primianus, in 394, at the council
of Bagai, was recognized by 310 bishops. The larger fraction, according to the Catholics, was subsequently forced into reunion.
Prætextatus, bp. of Assuris, was also one of the leaders in this separation.