On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

among the Donatists, when he finds this asserted by those whose opinion he is convinced should
be preferred to theirs; and, preferring certainty to uncertainty, let him be baptized here, where he
has good grounds for being assured that it is rightly done, in the fact that when he thought of doing
it elsewhere, he had still determined that he ought afterwards to come over to this side.

Chapter 4.—5. Further, if any one fails to understand how it can be that we assert that the
sacrament is not rightly conferred among the Donatists, while we confess that it exists among them,
let him observe that we also deny that it exists rightly among them, just as they deny that it exists
rightly among those who quit their communion. Let him also consider the analogy of the military
mark, which, though it can both be retained, as by deserters, and, also be received by those who
are not in the army, yet ought not to be either received or retained outside its ranks; and, at the same
time, it is not changed or renewed when a man is enlisted or brought back to his service. However,
we must distinguish between the case of those who unwittingly join the ranks of these heretics,
under the impression that they are entering the true Church of Christ, and those who know that
there is no other Catholic Church save that which, according to the promise, is spread abroad
throughout the whole world, and extends even to the utmost limits of the earth; which, rising amid
tares, and seeking rest in the future from the weariness of offenses, says in the Book of Psalms,
"From the end of the earth I cried unto Thee, while my heart was in weariness: Thou didst exalt
me on a rock."1151 But the rock was Christ, in whom the apostle says that we are now raised up,
and set together in heavenly places, though not yet actually, but only in hope.1152 And so the psalm
goes on to say, "Thou wast my guide, because Thou art become my hope, a tower of strength from
the face of the enemy."1153 By means of His promises, which are like spears and javelins stored up
in a strongly fortified place, the enemy is not only guarded against, but overthrown, as he clothes
his wolves in sheep’s clothing,1154 that they may say, "Lo, here is Christ, or there;"1155 and that they
may separate many from the Catholic city which is built upon a hill, and bring them down to the
isolation of their own snares, so as utterly to destroy them. And these men, knowing this, choose
to receive the baptism of Christ without the limits of the communion of the unity of Christ’s body,
though they intend afterwards, with the sacrament which they have received elsewhere, to pass into
that very communion. For they propose to receive Christ’s baptism in antagonism to the Church
of Christ, well knowing that it is so even on the very day on which they receive it. And if this is a
sin, who is the man that will say, Grant that for a single day I may commit sin? For if he proposes

1151

Ps. lxi. 2, 3. Cp. Hieron, and LXX.

1152

Eph. ii. 6.

1153

Ps. lxi. 2, 3. Cp. Hieron, and LXX.

1154

Matt. vii. 15.

1155

Matt. xxiv. 23.

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