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 pass over to the Catholic Church, I would fain ask why. What other answer can he give, but that
it is ill to belong to the party of Donatus, and not to the unity of the Catholic Church? Just so many
days, then, as you commit this ill, of so many days’ sin are you going to be guilty. And it may be
said that there is greater sin in more days’ commission of it, and less in fewer; but in no wise can
it be said that no sin is committed at all. But what is the need of allowing this accursed wrong for
a single day, or a single hour? For the man who wishes this license to be granted him, might as
well ask of the Church, or of God Himself, that for a single day he should be permitted to apostatize.
For there is no reason why he should fear to be an apostate for a day, if he does not shrink from
being for that time a schismatic or a heretic.

415

Chapter 5.—6. I prefer, he says, to receive Christ’s baptism where both parties agree that it
exists. But those whom you intend to join say that it cannot be received there rightly; and those
who say that it can be received there rightly are the party whom you mean to quit. What they say,
therefore, whom you yourself consider of inferior authority, in opposition to what those say whom
you yourself prefer, is, if not false, at any rate, to use a milder term, at least uncertain. I entreat
you, therefore, to prefer what is true to what is false, or what is certain to what is uncertain. For it
is not only those whom you are going to join, but you yourself who are going to join them, that
confess that what you want can be rightly received in that body which you mean to join when you
have received it elsewhere. For if you had any doubts whether it could be rightly received there,
you would also have doubts whether you ought to make the change. If, therefore, it is doubtful
whether it be not sin to receive baptism from the party of Donatus, who can doubt but that it is
certain sin not to prefer receiving it where it is certain that it is not sin? And those who are baptized
there through ignorance, thinking that it is the true Church of Christ, are guilty of less sin in
comparison than these, though even they are wounded by the impiety of schism; nor do they escape
a grievous hurt, because others suffer even more. For when it is said to certain men, "It shall be
more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you,"1156 it is not meant that
the men of Sodom shall escape torment, but only that the others shall be even more grievously
tormented.
7. And yet this point had once, perhaps, been involved in obscurity and doubt. But that which
is a source of health to those who give heed and receive correction, is but an aggravation of the sin
of those who, when they are no longer suffered to be ignorant, persist in their madness to their own
destruction. For the condemnation of the party of Maximianus, and their restoration after they had
been condemned, together with those whom they had sacrilegiously, to use the language of their
own Council,1157 baptized in schism, settles the whole question in dispute, and removes all

1156

Matt. xi. 24.

1157

The Council of 310 Donatist bishops, held at Bagai in Numidia, A.D. April 24, 394. Cp. Contra. Crescon. iii. 52, 56.

561