On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)


Philip Schaff

Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?"1291 These men had therefore the
sacrament of baptism; and yet, inasmuch as their wisdom was of the flesh, what could they believe
about God otherwise than according to the perception of their flesh, according to which "the natural
man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God?" To such he says: "I could not speak unto you
as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and
not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet
carnal."1292 For such are carried about with every wind of doctrine, of which kind he says, "That
we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine."1293 It is
then true that, if these men shall have advanced even to the spiritual age of the inner man, and in
the integrity of understanding shall have learned how far different from the requirements of the
truth has been the belief which they have been led by the fallacious character of their conceits to
entertain of God, they are therefore to be baptized again? For, on this principle, it would be possible
for a Catholic catechumen to light upon the writings of some heretic, and, not having the knowledge
requisite for discerning truth from error, he might entertain some belief contrary to the Catholic
faith, yet not condemned by the words of the creed, just as, under color of the same words,
innumerable heretical errors have sprung up. Supposing, then, that the catechumen was under the
impression that he was studying the work of some great and learned Catholic, and was baptized
with that belief in the Catholic Church, and by subsequent research should discover what he ought
to believe, so that, embracing the Catholic faith, he should reject his former error, ought he, on
confessing this, to be baptized again? Or supposing that, before learning and confessing this for
himself, he should be found to entertain such an opinion, and should be taught what he ought to
reject and what he should believe, and it were to become clear that he had held this false belief
when he was baptized, ought he therefore to be baptized again? Why should we maintain the
contrary? Because the sanctity of the sacrament, consecrated in the words of the gospel, remains
upon him in its integrity, just as he received it from the hands of the minister, although he, being
firmly rooted in the vanity of his carnal mind entertained a belief other than was right at the time
when he was baptized. Wherefore it is manifest that it is possible that, with defective faith, the
sacrament of baptism may yet remain without defect in any man; and therefore all that is said about
the diversity of the several heretics is beside the question. For in each person that is to be corrected
which is found to be amiss by the man who undertakes his correction. That is to be made whole
which is unsound; that is to be given which is wanting, and, above all, the peace of Christian charity,
without which the rest is profitless. Yet, as the rest is there, we must not administer it as though it
were wanting, only take care that its possession be to the profit, not the hurt of him who has it,
through the very bond of peace and excellence of charity.


1 Cor. i. 13.


1 Cor iii. 1-3.


Eph. iv. 14.