On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

reconciliation to the Church is not, like baptism, incapable of repetition; for what is it more than a
prayer offered over a man?1305

Chapter 17.—22. "For as regards the fact that to preserve the figure of unity the Lord gave the
power to Peter that whatsoever he should loose on earth should be loosed,"1306 it is clear that that
unity is also described as one dove without fault.1307 Can it be said, then, that to this same dove
belong all those greedy ones, whose existence in the same Catholic Church Cyprian himself so
grievously bewailed? For birds of prey, I believe, cannot be called doves, but rather hawks. How
then did they baptize those who used to plunder estates by treacherous deceit, and increase their
profits by compound usury,1308 if baptism is only given by that indivisible and chaste and perfect
dove, that unity which can only be understood as existing among the good? Is it possible that, by
the prayers of the saints who are spiritual within the Church, as though by the frequent lamentations
of the dove, a great sacrament is dispensed, with a secret administration of the mercy of God, so
that their sins also are loosed who are baptized, not by the dove but by the hawk, if they come to
that sacrament in the peace of Catholic unity? But if this be so, why should it not also be the case
that, as each man comes from heresy or schism to the Catholic peace, his sins should be loosed
through their prayers? But the integrity of the sacrament is everywhere recognized, though it will
not avail for the irrevocable remission of sins outside the unity of the Church. Nor will the prayers
of the saints, or, in other words, the groanings of that one dove, be able to help one who is set in
heresy or schism; just as they are not able to help one who is placed within the Church, if by a
wicked life he himself retain the debts of his sins against himself, and that though he be baptized,
not by this hawk, but by the pious ministry of the dove herself.

Chapter 18—23. "As my Father hath sent me," says our Lord, "even so send I you. And what
He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose
soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are
retained."1309 Therefore, if they represented the Church, and this was said to them as to the Church
herself, it follows that the peace of the Church looses sins, and estrangement from the Church

1305

He refers to laying on of hands such as he mentions below, Book V. c. xxiii.: "If the laying on of hands were not applied
to one coming from heresy, he would be, as it were, judged to be wholly blameless."

1306

Matt. xvi. 19.

1307

Song of Sol. vi. 9.

1308

Cypr. de Lapsis c vi.

1309

John xx. 21-23.

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