On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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Philip Schaff

circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, the seal of this righteousness of faith was given first,
and afterwards, as he imitated the faith of his father, the righteousness itself followed as he grew
up, of which the seal had been given before when he was an infant; so in infants, who are baptized,
the sacrament of regeneration is given first, and if they maintain a Christian piety, conversion also
in the heart will follow, of which the mysterious sign had gone before in the outward body. And
as in the thief the gracious goodness of the Almighty supplied what had been wanting in the
sacrament of baptism, because it had been missing not from pride or contempt, but from want of
opportunity; so in infants who die baptized, we must believe that the same grace of the Almighty
supplies the want, that, not from perversity of will, but from insufficiency of age, they can neither
believe with the heart unto righteousness, nor make confession with the mouth unto salvation.
Therefore, when others take the vows for them, that the celebration of the sacrament may be complete
in their behalf, it is unquestionably of avail for their dedication to God, because they cannot answer
for themselves. But if another were to answer for one who could answer for himself, it would not
be of the same avail. In accordance with which rule, we find in the gospel what strikes every one
as natural when he reads it, "He is of age, he shall speak for himself."1467

Chapter 25.—33. By all these considerations it is proved that the sacrament of baptism is one
thing, the conversion of the heart another; but that man’s salvation is made complete through the
two together. Nor are we to suppose that, if one of these be wanting, it necessarily follows that the
other is wanting also; because the sacrament may exist in the infant without the conversion of the
heart; and this was found to be possible without the sacrament in the case of the thief, God in either
case filling up what was involuntarily wanting. But when either of these requisites is wanting
intentionally, then the man is responsible for the omission. And baptism may exist when the
conversion of the heart is wanting; but, with respect to such conversion, it may indeed be found
when baptism has not been received, but never when it has been despised. Nor can there be said
in any way to be a turning of the heart to God when the sacrament of God is treated with contempt.
Therefore we are right in censuring, anathematizing, abhorring, and abominating the perversity of
heart shown by heretics; yet it does not follow that they have not the sacrament of the gospel,
because they have not what makes it of avail. Wherefore, when they come to the true faith, and
by penitence seek remission of their sins, we are not flattering or deceiving them, when we instruct
them by heavenly discipline for the kingdom of heaven, correcting and reforming in them their
errors and perverseness, to the intent that we may by no means do violence to what is sound in
them, nor, because of man’s fault, declare that anything which he may have in him from God is
either valueless or faulty.

1467

John ix. 21.

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