On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

of Christ is not polluted by any such communion, even with known offenders. And, after this
confession, they will be unable to discover any reason which will justify them in maintaining that
they were bound to separate from the churches of the whole world, which, as we read, were equally
founded by the apostles, seeing that, while the others could not have perished from any admixture
of offenders, of whatsoever kind, they, though they would not have perished if they had remained
in unity with them, brought destruction on themselves in schism, by separating themselves from
their brethren, and breaking the bond of peace. For the sacrilege of schism is most clearly evident
in them, if they had no sufficient cause for separation. And it is clear that there was no sufficient
cause for separation, if even the presence of notorious offenders cannot pollute the good while they
abide in unity. But that the good, abiding in unity, are not polluted even by notorious offenders,
we teach on the testimony of Cyprian, who says that "men in past times, coming to the Church
from heresy, were admitted without baptism;" and yet, if the wickedness of their sacrilege, which
was still upon them, seeing it had not been purged away by baptism, could not pollute and destroy
the holiness of the Church, it cannot perish by any infection from wicked men. Wherefore, if they
allow that Cyprian spoke the truth, they are convicted of schism on his testimony; if they maintain
that he does not speak truth, let them not use his testimony on the question of baptism.


Chapter 2.—2. But now that we have begun a disputation with a man of peace like Cyprian,
let us go on. For when he had brought an objection against himself, which he knew was urged by
his brethren, "What then will become of those who in times past, coming to the Church from heresy,
were admitted without baptism? The Lord," he answers, "is able of His mercy to grant indulgence,
and not to separate from the gifts of His Church those who, being admitted in all honesty to His
Church, have fallen asleep within the Church."1471 Well indeed has he assumed that charity can
cover the multitude of sins. But if they really had baptism, and this were not rightly perceived by
those who thought that they should be baptized again, that error was covered by the charity of unity
so long as it contained, not the discord and spirit of the devil, but merely human infirmity, until,
as the apostle says, "if they were otherwise minded, the Lord should reveal it to them."1472 But woe
unto those who, being torn asunder from unity by a sacrilegious rupture, either rebaptize, if baptism
exists with both us and them, or do not baptize at all, if baptism exist in the Catholic Church only.
Whether, therefore, they rebaptize, or fail to baptize, they are not in the bond of peace; wherefore
let them apply a remedy to which they please of these two wounds. But if we admit to the Church
without baptism, we are of the number of those who, as Cyprian has assumed, may receive pardon
because they preserved unity. But if (as is, I think, already clear from what has been said in the
earlier books) Christian baptism can preserve its integrity even amid the perversity of heretics, then


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 23.


Phil. iii. 15.