On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

receives from being holy baptism, even though he be baptized with the same words of the gospel
by another man covetous like himself.

Chapter 5.—8. "Further," Cyprian goes on to say, "in vain do some, who are overcome by
reason, oppose to us custom, as though custom were superior to truth, or that were not to be followed
in spiritual things which has been revealed by the Holy Spirit, as the better way."1358 This is clearly
true, since reason and truth are to be preferred to custom. But when truth supports custom, nothing
should be more strongly maintained. Then he proceeds as follows: "For one may pardon a man
who merely errs, as the Apostle Paul says of himself, ‘Who was before a blasphemer, a persecutor,
and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly;’1359 but he who, after inspiration
and revelation given, perseveres advisedly and knowingly in his former error, sins without hope
of pardon on the ground of ignorance. For he rests on a kind of presumption and obstinacy, when
he is overcome by reason." This is most true, that his sin is much more grievous who has sinned
wittingly than his who has sinned through ignorance. And so in the case of the holy Cyprian, who
was not only learned, but also patient of instruction, which he so fully himself understood to be a
part of the praise of the bishop whom the apostle describes,1360 that he said, "This also should be
approved in a bishop, that he not only teach with knowledge, but also learn with patience."1361 I do
not doubt that if he had had the opportunity of discussing this question, which has been so long
and so much disputed in the Church, with the pious and learned men to whom we owe it that
subsequently that ancient custom was confirmed by the authority of a plenary Council, he would
have shown, without hesitation, not only how learned he was in those things which he had grasped
with all the security of truth, but also how ready he was to receive instruction in what he had failed
to perceive. And yet, since it is so clear that it is much more grievous to sin wittingly than in
ignorance, I should be glad if any one would tell me which is the worse,—the man who falls into
heresy, not knowing how great a sin it is, or the man who refuses to abandon his covetousness,
knowing its enormity? I might even put the question thus: If one man unwittingly fall into heresy,
and another knowingly refuse to depart from idolatry, since the apostle himself says, "The covetous
man, which is an idolater;" and Cyprian too understood the same passage in just the same way,
when he says, in his letter to Antonianus, "Nor let the new heretics flatter themselves in this, that
they say they do not communicate with idolaters, whereas there are amongst them both adulterers
and covetous persons, who are held guilty of the sin of idolatry; ‘for know this, and understand,
that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance

1358

Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 13.

1359

1 Tim. i. 13.

1360

2 Tim. ii. 24.

1361

Cypr. Ep. lxxiv. 10.

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