On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

Chapter 22.—30. That the place of baptism is sometimes supplied by martyrdom is supported
by an argument by no means trivial, which the blessed Cyprian adduces1459 from the thief, to whom,
though he was not baptized, it was yet said, "To-day shall thou be with me in Paradise."1460 On
considering which, again and again, I find that not only martyrdom for the sake of Christ may
supply what was wanting of baptism, but also faith and conversion of heart, if recourse may not be
had to the celebration of the mystery of baptism for want of time.1461 For neither was that thief
crucified for the name of Christ, but as the reward of his own deeds; nor did he suffer because he
believed, but he believed while suffering. It was shown, therefore, in the case of that thief, how
great is the power, even without the visible sacrament of baptism, of what the apostle says, "With
the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto
salvation."1462 But the want is supplied invisibly only when the administration of baptism is
prevented, not by contempt for religion, but by the necessity of the moment. For much more in
the case of Cornelius and his friends, than in the case of that robber, might it seem superfluous that
they should also be baptized with water, seeing that in them the gift of the Holy Spirit, which,
according to the testimony of holy Scripture, was received by other men only after baptism, had
made itself manifest by every unmistakable sign appropriate to those times when they spoke with
tongues. Yet they were baptized, and for this action we have the authority of an apostle as the
warrant. So far ought all of us to be from being induced by any imperfection in the inner man, if
it so happen that before baptism a person has advanced, through the workings of a pious heart, to
spiritual understanding, to despise a sacrament which is applied to the body by the hands of the
minister, but which is God’s own means for working spiritually a man’s dedication to Himself.
Nor do I conceive that the function of baptizing was assigned to John, so that it should be called
John’s baptism, for any other reason except that the Lord Himself, who had appointed it, in not
disdaining to receive the baptism of His servant,1463 might consecrate the path of humility, and show
most plainly by such an action how high a value was to be placed on His own baptism, with which
He Himself was afterwards to baptize. For He saw, like an excellent physician of eternal salvation,
that overweening pride would be found in some, who, having made such progress in the
understanding of the truth and in uprightness of character that they would not hesitate to place
themselves, both in life and knowledge, above many that were baptized, would think it was
unnecessary for them to be baptized, since they felt that they had attained a frame of mind to which
many that were baptized were still only endeavoring to raise themselves.


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 22.


Luke xxiii. 43.


In Retract. ii. 18, Augustin expresses a doubt whether the thief may not have been baptized.


Rom. x. 10.


Matt. iii. 6, 13.