On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

little above, "In vain do those who are beaten by reason oppose to us the authority of custom." Nor
do I find the reason why the same Cyprian found this very custom, which after his time was
confirmed by nothing less than a plenary Council of the whole world, already so strong before his
time, that when with all his learning he sought an authority worth following for changing it, he
found nothing but a Council of Agrippinus held in Africa a very few years before his own time.
And seeing that this was not enough for him, as against the custom of the whole world, he laid hold
on these reasons which we just now, considering them with great care, and being confirmed by the
antiquity of the custom itself, and by the subsequent authority of a plenary Council, found to be
truth-like rather than true; which, however, seemed to him true, as he toiled in a question of the
greatest obscurity, and was in doubt about the remission of sins,—whether it could fail to be given
in the baptism of Christ, and whether it could be given among heretics. In which matter, if an
imperfect revelation of the truth was given to Cyprian, that the greatness of his love in not deserting
the unity of the Church might be made manifest, there is yet not any reason why any one should
venture to claim superiority over the strong defenses and excellence of his virtues, and the abundance
of graces which were found in him, merely because, with the instruction derived from the strength
of a general Council, he sees something which Cyprian did not see, because the Church had not
yet held a plenary Council on the matter. Just as no one is so insane as to set himself up as surpassing
the merits of the Apostle Peter, because, taught by the epistles of the Apostle Paul, and confirmed
by the custom of the Church herself, he does not compel the Gentiles to judaize, as Peter once had
10. We do not then "find that any one, after being baptized among heretics, was afterwards
admitted by the apostles with the same baptism, and communicated;"1368 but neither do we find this,
that any one coming from the society of heretics, who had been baptized among them, was baptized
anew by the apostles. But this custom, which even then those who looked back to past ages could
not find to have been invented by men of a later time, is rightly believed to have been handed down
from the apostles. And there are many other things of the same kind, which it would be tedious to
recount. Wherefore, if they had something to say for themselves to whom Cyprian, wishing to
persuade them of the truth of his own view, says, "Let no one say, What we have received from
the apostles, that we follow," with how much more force we now say, What the custom of the
Church has always held, what this argument has failed to prove false, and what a plenary Council
has confirmed, this we follow! To this we may add that it may also be said, after a careful inquiry
into the reasoning on both sides of the discussion, and into the evidence of Scripture, What truth
has declared, that we follow.


Gal. ii. 14.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 13.