On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

to do with the question now at issue who is later or slower in being converted from his especial
waywardness to the straight path of faith, or hope, or charity. For although the bad within the fold
are more easily made good yet it will sometimes happen that certain of the number of those outside
will outstrip in their conversion certain of those within; and while these remain in barrenness, the
former, being restored to unity and communion, will bear fruit with patience, thirty-fold, or sixty-fold,
or a hundred-fold.1388 Or if those only are to be called tares who remain in perverse error to the
end, there are many ears of corn outside, and many tares within.
16. But it will be urged that the bad outside are worse than those within. It is indeed a weighty
question, whether Nicolaus, being already severed from the Church,1389 or Simon, who was still
within it,1390 was the worse,—the one being a heretic, the other a sorcerer. But if the mere fact of
division, as being the clearest token of violated charity, is held to be the worse evil, I grant that it
is so. Yet many, though they have lost all feelings of charity, yet do not secede from considerations
of worldly profit; and as they seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s,1391 what they
are unwilling to secede from is not the unity of Christ, but their own temporal advantage. Whence
it is said in praise of charity, that she "seeketh not her own."1392
17. Now, therefore, the question is, how could men of the party of the devil belong to the
Church, which has no spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing,1393 of which also it is said, "My dove is
one?"1394 But if they cannot, it is clear that she groans among those who are not of her, some
treacherously laying wait within, some barking at her gate without. Such men, however, even
within, both receive baptism, and possess it, and transmit it holy in itself; nor is it in any way defiled
by their wickedness, in which they persevere even to the end. Wherefore the same blessed Cyprian
teaches us that baptism is to be considered as consecrated in itself by the words of the gospel, as
the Church has received, without joining to it or mingling with it any consideration of waywardness
and wickedness on the part of either minister or recipients; since he himself points out to us both
truths,—both that there have been some within the Church who did not cherish kindly Christian
love, but practised envy and unkind dissension, of whom the Apostle Paul spoke; and also that the
envious belong to the devil’s party, as he testifies in the most open way in the epistle which he
wrote about envy and malignity. Wherefore, since it is clearly possible that in those who belong
to the devil’s party, Christ’s sacrament may yet be holy,—not, indeed, to their salvation, but to
their condemnation, and that not only if they are led astray after they have been baptized, but even


Matt. xiii. 23; Luke viii. 15.


Rev. ii. 6.


Acts viii. 9-24.


Phil. ii. 21.


1 Cor. xiii. 5.


Eph. v. 27; Retract. ii. 18.


Song of Sol. vi. 9.