On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)


Philip Schaff

in the kingdom of Christ and of God;’1362 and again, ‘Mortify therefore your members which are
upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness,
which is idolatry.’"1363 I ask, therefore, which sins more deeply,—he who ignorantly has fallen into
heresy, or he who wittingly has refused to abandon covetousness, that is idolatry? According to
that rule by which the sins of those who sin wittingly are placed before those of the ignorant, the
man who is covetous with knowledge takes the first place in sin. But as it is possible that the
greatness of the actual sin should produce the same effect in the case of heresy that the witting
commission of the sin produces in that of covetousness, let us suppose the ignorant heretic to be
on a par in guilt with the consciously covetous man, although the evidence which Cyprian himself
has advanced from the apostle does not seem to prove this. For what is it that we abominate in
heretics except their blasphemies? But when he wished to show that ignorance of the sin may
conduce to ease in obtaining pardon, he advanced a proof from the case of the apostle, when he
says, "Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; but I obtained mercy, because
I did it ignorantly."1364 But if possible, as I said before, let the sins of the two men—the blasphemy
of the unconscious, and the idolatry of the conscious sinner—be esteemed of equal weight; and let
them be judged by the same sentence,—he who, in seeking for Christ, falls into a truth-like setting
forth of what is false, and he who wittingly resists Christ speaking through His apostle, "seeing
that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, which is an idolater, hath any
inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God,"1365—and then I would ask why baptism and the
words of the gospel are held as naught in the former case, and accounted valid in the latter, when
each is alike found to be estranged from the members of the dove. Is it because the former is an
open combatant outside, that he should not be admitted, the latter a cunning assenter within the
fold, that he may not be expelled?

Chapter 6.—9. But as regards his saying, "Nor let any one affirm that what they have received
from the apostles, that they follow; for the apostles handed down only one Church and one baptism,
and that appointed only in the same Church:"1366 this does not so much move me to venture to
condemn the baptism of Christ when found amongst heretics (just as it is necessary to recognize
the gospel itself when I find it with them, though I abominate their error), as it warns me that there
were some even in the times of the holy Cyprian who traced to the authority of the apostles that
custom against which the African Councils were held, and in respect of which he himself said a

Eph. v. 5.


Col. iii. 5. Cypr. Ep. lv. 27.


1 Tim. i. 13.


Eph. v. 5.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 13.