On Baptism, Against The Donatists

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

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NPNF (V1-04)

Philip Schaff

even though any in those times did rebaptize, yet without departing from the bond of unity, they
might still attain to pardon in virtue of that same love of peace, through which Cyprian bears witness
that those admitted even without baptism might obtain that they should not be separated from the
gifts of the Church. Further, if it is true that with heretics and schismatics the baptism of Christ
does not exist, how much less could the sins of others hurt those who were fixed in unity, if even
men’s own sins were forgiven when they came to it even without baptism! For if, according to
Cyprian, the bond of unity is of such efficacy, how could they be hurt by other men’s sins, who
were unwilling to separate themselves from unity, if even the unbaptized, who wished to come to
it from heresy, thereby escaped the destruction due to their own sins?

Chapter. 3.—3. But in what Cyprian adds, saying, "Nor yet because men once have erred must
there be always error, since it rather befits wise and God-fearing men gladly and unhesitatingly to
follow truth, when it is clearly laid before their eyes, than obstinately and persistently to fight for
heretics against their brethren and their fellow-priests,"1473 he is uttering the most perfect truth; and
the man who resists the manifest truth is opposing himself rather than his neighbors. But, so far
as I can judge, it is perfectly clear and certain, from the many arguments which I have already
adduced, that the baptism of Christ cannot be invalidated even by the perversity of heretics, when
it is given or received among them. But, granting that it is not yet certain, at any rate no one who
has considered what has been said, even from a hostile point of view, will assert that the question
has been decided the other way. Therefore we are not striving against manifest truth, but either,
as I think, we are striving in behalf of what is clearly true, or, at any rate, as those may hold who
think that the question has not yet been solved, we are seeking for the truth. And therefore, if the
truth be other than we think, yet we are receiving those baptized by heretics with the same honesty
of heart with which those received them whom, Cyprian supposed, in virtue of their cleaving to
the unity of the Church, to be capable of pardon. But if the baptism of Christ, as is indicated by
the many arguments used above, can retain its integrity amid any defect either of life or faith,
whether on the part of those who seem to be within, and yet do not belong to the members of the
one dove or on the part of those whose severance from her extends to being openly without, then
those who sought its repetition in those former days deserved the same pardon for their charity in
clinging to unity, which Cyprian thought that those deserved for charity of the same kind whom
he believed to have been admitted without baptism. They therefore who, without any cause (since,
as Cyprian himself shows, the bad cannot hurt the good in the unity of the Church), have cut
themselves off from the charity which is shown in this unity, have lost all place of pardon, and
whilst they would incur destruction by the very crime of schism, even though they did not rebaptize
those who had been baptized in the Catholic Church, of how bitter punishment are they deserving,


Cypr. Ep. lxxiii. 23.