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 the sacrament of baptism, when we acknowledge that some catechumens are better and more
faithful than some baptized persons. For the centurion Cornelius, before baptism, was better than
Simon, who had been baptized. For Cornelius, even before his baptism, was filled with the Holy
Spirit;1455 Simon, even after baptism, was puffed up with an unclean spirit.1456 Cornelius, however,
would have been convicted of contempt for so holy a sacrament, if, even after he had received the
Holy Ghost, he had refused to be baptized. But when he was baptized, he received in no wise a
better sacrament than Simon; but the different merits of the men were made manifest under the
equal holiness of the same sacrament—so true is it that the good or ill deserving of the recipient
does not increase or diminish the holiness of baptism. But as baptism is wanting to a good
catechumen to his receiving the kingdom of heaven, so true conversion is wanting to a bad man
though baptized. For He who said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot
enter into the kingdom of God," said also Himself, "except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."1457
For that the righteousness of the catechumens might not feel secure, it is written, "Except a man
be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." And again,
that the unrighteousness of the baptized might not feel secure because they had received baptism,
it is written, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,
ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." The one were too little without the other;
the two make perfect the heir of that inheritance. As, then, we ought not to depreciate a man’s
righteousness, which begins to exist before he is joined to the Church, as the righteousness of
Cornelius began to exist before he was in the body of Christian men,—which righteousness was
not thought worthless, or the angel would not have said to him, "Thy prayers and thine alms are
come up as a memorial before God;" nor did it yet suffice for his obtaining the kingdom of heaven,
or he would not have been told to send to Peter,1458—so neither ought we to depreciate the sacrament
of baptism, even though it has been received outside the Church. But since it is of no avail for
salvation unless he who has baptism indeed in full perfection be incorporated into the Church,
correcting also his own depravity, let us therefore correct the error of the heretics, that we may
recognize what in them is not their own but Christ’s.

bodies are sustained, because it is a sacrament."—Cp. de Catech. Rudibus, c. 26 [Bened.]. It appears to have been only a taste
of salt, given them as the emblem of purity and incorruption. See Bingham, Orig. Eccles. Book x. c. ii. 16.
1455

Acts x. 44.

1456

Acts viii. 13, 18, 19.

1457

Matt. v. 20.

1458

Acts x. 4, 5.

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