On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

corresponding to their error; but in them both the perfection of the sacrament is honored and the
delusion of their mind is corrected, even though it had become inveterate through long confirmation,
or been, perhaps, maintained in many controversies. Wherefore even the heretic, who is manifestly
without, if he has there received baptism as ordained in the gospel, has certainly not received
baptism of a kind corresponding to the error which blinds him. And therefore, in returning into
the way of wisdom he perceives that he ought to relinquish what he has held amiss, he must not at
the same time give up the good which he had received; nor because his error is to be condemned,
is the baptism of Christ in him to be therefore extinguished. For it is already sufficiently clear,
from the case of those who happen to be baptized within the Church with false views about God,
that the truth of the sacrament is to be distinguished from the error of him who believes amiss,
although both may be found in the same man. And therefore, when any one grounded in any error,
even outside the Church, has yet been baptized with the true sacrament, when he is restored to the
unity of the Church, a true baptism cannot take the place of a true baptism, as a true faith takes the
place of a false one, because a thing cannot take the place of itself, since neither can it give place.
Heretics therefore join the Catholic Church to this end, that what they have evil of themselves may
be corrected, not that what they have good of God should be repeated.

Chapter 16.—24. Some one says, Does it then make no difference, if two men, rooted in like
error and wickedness, be baptized without change of life or heart, one without, the other within the
Church? I acknowledge that there is a difference. For he is worse who is baptized without, in
addition to his other sin,—not because of his baptism, however, but because he is without; for the
evil of division is in itself far from insignificant or trivial. Yet the difference exists only if he who
is baptized within has desired to be within not for the sake of any earthly or temporal advantage,
but because he has preferred the unity of the Church spread throughout the world to the divisions
of schism; otherwise he too must be considered among those who are without. Let us therefore
put the two cases in this way. Let us suppose that the one, for the sake of argument, held the same
opinions as Photinus 1439 about Christ, and was baptized in his heresy outside the communion of
the Catholic Church; and that another held the same opinion but was baptized in the Catholic
Church, believing that his view was really the Catholic faith. I consider him as not yet a heretic,
unless, when the doctrine of the Catholic faith is made clear to him, he chooses to resist it, and
prefers that which he already holds; and till this is the case, it is clear that he who was baptized
outside is the worse. And so in the one case erroneous opinion alone, in the other the sin of schism
also, requires correction; but in neither of them is the truth of the sacrament to be repeated. But if
any one holds the same view as the first, and knows that it is only in heresy severed from the Church


Various Synods from 345 on anathematized Photinus, the bishop of Sirmium. The two of Sirmium, 351 and 357, accused
him of constituting two Gods.