On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

Chapter 8.—12. In short, we may see how great an evil in itself is envy, which cannot be other
than malicious. Let us not look for other testimony. Cyprian himself is sufficient for us, through
whose mouth the Lord poured forth so many thunders in most perfect truth, and uttered so many
useful precepts about envy and malignity. Let us therefore read the letter of Cyprian about envy
and malignity, and see how great an evil it is to envy those better than ourselves,—an evil whose
origin he shows in memorable words to have sprung from the devil himself. "To feel jealousy,"
he says, "of what you regard as good, and to envy those who are better than yourselves, to some,
dearest brethren, seems a light and minute offense."1372 And again a little later, when he was
inquiring into the source and origin of the evil, he says, "From this the devil, in the very beginning
of the world, perished first himself, and led others to destruction."1373 And further on in the same
chapter: "What an evil, dearest brethren, is that by which an angel fell! by which that exalted and
illustrious loftiness was able to be deceived and overthrown! by which he was deceived who was
the deceiver! From that time envy stalks upon the earth, when man, about to perish through
malignity, submits himself to the teacher of perdition,—when he who envies imitates the devil, as
it is written, ‘Through envy of the devil came death into the world, and they that do hold of his side
do find it.’"1374 How true, how forcible are these words of Cyprian, in an epistle known throughout
the world, we cannot fail to recognize. It was truly fitting for Cyprian to argue and warn most
forcibly about envy and malignity, from which most deadly evil he proved his own heart to be so
far removed by the abundance of his Christian love; by carefully guarding which he remained in
the unity of communion with his colleagues, who without ill-feeling entertained different views
about baptism, whilst he himself differed in opinion from them, not through any contention of ill
will, but through human infirmity, erring in a point which God, in His own good time, would reveal
to him by reason of his perseverance in love. For he says openly, "Judging no one, nor depriving
any of the right of communion if he differ from us. For no one of us setteth himself up as a bishop
of bishops, or by tyrannical terror forces his colleagues to a necessity of obeying." 1375 And in the
end of the epistle before us he says, "These things I have written to you briefly, dearest brother,
according to my poor ability, prescribing to or prejudging no one, so as to prevent each bishop from
doing what he thinks right in the free exercise of his own judgment. We, so far as in us lies, do not
strive on behalf of heretics with our colleges and fellow-bishops, with whom we hold the harmony
that God enjoins, and the peace of our Lord, especially as the apostle says, ‘If any man seem to be
contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.’1376 Christian love in our souls,
the honor of our fraternity, the bond of faith, the harmony of the priesthood, all these are maintained

1372

Cypr. de Zel. et Liv. c. 1.

1373

Ib. c. 4.

1374

Wisd. ii. 24, 25.

1375

Conc. Carth. sub in.

1376

1 Cor. xi. 16.

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