On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

talk of not only without horror, but with some degree of merriment, can it possibly exist alone in
any one in whom it is found? For what drunkard is not also contentious, and hot-tempered, and
jealous, and at variance with all soundness of counsel, and at grievous enmity with those who
rebuke him? Further, it is not easy for him to avoid being a fornicator and adulterer, though he
may be no heretic; just as a heretic may be no drunkard, nor adulterer, nor fornicator, nor lascivious,
nor a lover of money, or given to witchcraft, and cannot well be all these together. Nor indeed is
any one vice followed by all the rest. Supposing, therefore, two men,—one a Catholic with all
these vices, the other a heretic free from all from which a heretic can be free,—although they do
not both contend against the faith, and yet each lives contrary to the faith, and each is deceived by
a vain hope, and each is far removed from charity of spirit, and therefore each is severed from
connection with the body of the one dove; why do we recognise in one of them the sacrament of
Christ, and not in the other, as though it belonged to this or that man, whilst really it is the same in
both, and belongs to God alone, and is good even in the worst of men? And if of the men who have
it, one is worse than another, it does not follow that the sacrament which they have is worse in the
one than in the other, seeing that neither in the case of two bad Catholics, if one be worse than the
other, does he possess a worse baptism, nor, if one of them be good and another bad, is baptism
bad in the bad one and good in the good one; but it is good in both. Just as the light of the sun, or
even of a lamp, is certainly not less brilliant when displayed to bad eyes than when seen by better
ones; but it is the same in the case of both, although it either cheers or hurts them differently
according to the difference of their powers.

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Chapter 21.—29. With regard to the objection brought against Cyprian, that the catechumens
who were seized in martyrdom, and slain for Christ’s name’s sake, received a crown even without
baptism, I do not quite see what it has to do with the matter, unless, indeed, they urged that heretics
could much more be admitted with baptism to Christ’s kingdom, to which catechumens were
admitted without it, since He Himself has said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."1453 Now, in this matter I do not hesitate for a moment
to place the Catholic catechumen, who is burning with love for God, before the baptized heretic;
nor yet do we thereby do dishonor to the sacrament of baptism which the latter has already received,
the former not as yet; nor do we consider that the sacrament of the catechumen1454 is to be preferred
1453

John iii. 5.

1454

Another reading, of less authority, is, "Aut catechumeno sacramentum baptismi præferendum putamus." This does not
suit the sense of the passage, and probably sprung from want of knowledge of the meaning of the "catechumen’s sacrament."
It is mentioned in the Council of Carthage, A.D. 397, as "the sacrament of salt" (cap. 5). Augustin (de Peccat. Meritis, ii. c. 26),
says that "what the catechumens receive, though it be not the body of Christ, yet is holy, more holy than the food whereby our

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