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Donatists to be of the church of Christ, because some who were bishops among them are convicted by ecclesiastical and civil processes of having burnt the sacred volumes-or because they did not carry their point in the trial by the bishops which they craved from the Emperoror because, on their appeal to himself, they reteived from him a sentence of condemnationor because there are among them leaders of the Circumcelliones or because the Circumcelliones commit such atrocious crimes-or because some of them throw themselves headlong over precipices ; or rush into the flames which they have kindled for themselves ; or, by terrifying threats, compel others to massacre them, and court so many spontaneous and furious deaths, that they may be revered as saints and martyrs—or because drunken herds of male and female vagrants flock to their sepulchres, and there, by day and by night, revel in wine and wickedness, and corrupt themselves by the most flagitious enormities. Let all that rabble pass for their chaff, nor be of any prejudice to their wheat, if themselves adhere to the church of God."*
* Nec ego dico ideo mihi essc eredendum, communionem Donati non esse ecclesiam Christi, quia quidam, qui apud eos episcopi fuerunt, divina instrumenta ignibus tradidisse, gestis ecclesiasticis et municipalibus et judicialibus conviącuntur aut quia in judicio episcoporum, quod ab Imperatore petiverunt, causam suam non obtinuerunt; aut quia provocantes ad ipsum Imperatorem, etiam ab ipso contrariam sibi sententiam meruerunt ; aut quia tales sunt apud eos Circumcellionum principes ; aut quia tanta mala committunt Circumcelliones ; aut quia sunt apud eos qui se per abrupta præcipitent; vel concremando ignibus inferant, quos ipsi sibimet accenderunt; aut trucidationem suam etiam invitis hominibus terrendo extorqueant, et tot spontaneas et furiosas mortes, ut colantur ab hominibus, appetant; aut quod ad eorum sepulchra ebriosi greges vagorum et vagarum permixta nequitia die noctuque se vino sepeliant, flagitiisque corrumpant. Sit ista omnis turba palea eorum, nec frumentis præjudicet si ipsi ecclesiam tenent.
He elsewhere addresses the Donatists in this animated style:
“ You maintain that, by the contagion of wicked Africans,” (i. e. by holding conimunion with the African churches, which the Donatists pronounced to be too impure for their fellowship) “by the contagion of wicked Africans, the church has perished from the face of the earth, excepting what remains in the party of Donatus, as in the wheat separated from "tares and chaff,' against the express declaration of Cyprian, who says, that neither do good men perish from the church on account of their commixture with the bad; nor can these same bad men be separated from their mixture with the good before the time of the divine Judgment. You are, therefore, according to your errour, or rather madness, compelled to embrace in your accusation, all the churches of which we read in the apostolic and canonical scriptures—the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians, Philippians—the church of Jerusalem, Antioch, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Pergamos, Philadelphia, Laodicea-So many other churches of Pontus, Cappadocia, Asia, Bithynia ; and all that range of country from Jerusalem unto Ilyricum, which Paul testifies he had filled with the gospel : not to mention other regions of wide extent, into which the church, planted by Apostolic labours, has spread herself, and where she has grown and is growing still. Certainly all the churches here enumerated from the holy scriptures, situated so far from Africa, you are obliged to accuse as having perished through the sins of their African brethren. But the more easily to refute your errour-even those Africans whose sin you dare falsely to charge upon other nationseven those very Africans, I say, we are under no necessity of defending. If they are innocent, they are sharers with those transmarine churches in the kingdom of God—If guilty, they share with them as tares with the wheat ; nor shall they be able to hurt, in Africa itself, those who, although KNOWING their character, will not, on their account, separate themselves from the unity of the church."*
De unitate ecclesiæ, Opp. T. VII. col. 545, 6.
Than this testimony nothing more ample and decisive can be desired. It establishes the great
* In the above oxtract the substantial facts have been regarded rather than a scrupulously literal translation. But lest any one should suppose that something more than brevity was intended, as the worthy Father, in speaking of the church at Jerusalem, asserts that the
Apostle James was her first bishop,” the reader is presented with the original passage entire.
Vos contagione malorum Aphrorum periisse dicitis de orbe terrarum, et in parte Donati ejus reliquias remansisse, tanquam in frumentis a zizaniis et paleâ separatis; contra Cyprianum apertissimè sentientes, qui dicit nec malorum permixtione bonos perire in ecclesia, nec eosdem malos posse ante tempus Judicii divini a bonorum permixtione separari. Vos itaque, secundum vestrum errorem vel potius furorem, accusare cogimini non solum Cæcilianum et ordinatores ejus, verum etiam illas ecclesias quas in scripturis apostolicis et canonicis pariter legimus ; non solùm Romanorum, quo ex Aphrica ordinare paucis vestris soletis episcopum, verùm etiam Corinthiorum, Galatarum, Ephesiorum, Thessalonicensium, Colossensium, Philippenssum, ad quas apertissime scribit apostolus Paulus; Herosolymitanam, quam primus apostolus Jacoa bus episcopatu suo rexit. Antiochensem, ubi primò appellati sunt discipuli Christiani : Smyrnensem, Thiatirensem, Sardensem, Perga, mensem, Philadelphiensem, Laodicensem, ad quas est apocalypsis apos: toli Joannis. Tot alias ecclesias Ponti, Cappadociæ, Asiæ, Bithyniæ, ad quas scribit apostolus Petrus; et quicquid aliàs se Paulus ab Hierusalein usque Illyricum evangelio replevisse testatur : ut taceam de aliis tam latis atque universis terrarum partibus, in quas, ex his apostolicis laboribus et plantationibus, porrecta crevit et crescit ecclesia. Istas certè ecclesias quas ex literis divinis atque canonicis nominavi, tam longe ab Aphrica constitutas, tanquam perierint ex peccatis Aphricorum, accusare cogimini; nec corrigitis errorem qui vos ad tantum scelus nefaria dissensione compellit. Nos auten, ut istum errorem vestrum
fact, that the principles and conduct of the Donatists with regard to communion, Christian and ministerial, were at war with the faith and practice of the whole church of God. Otherwise they could not have condemned that church as having perished through the corruption of her unworthy members, nor have been themselves condemned as having unjustifiably withdrawn from her communion.* And wherein their general principles and practice in this matter, and their reasonings in defence of both, differ from those of such churches as will hold no communion but with the members of their own sect, let those good and pure-intentioned men who defend the restriction, most solemnly consider. In one thing there is, indeed, a remarkable difference.
facilius convincamus, nec ipsos Aphros quorum falsò crimen in cæteras etiam gentes perfundere audetis, nec ipsos, inquam, defendere cogimur. Habent etiam cum illis transmarinis ecclesiis societatem regni si innocentes fuerint; si autem nocentes, tanquam zizania frumento: nec in Aphrica obesse potuerunt eis, qui se, propter illos ETIAM COGNITOS, ab unitate eccleise separare
Opp. Tom. VII. col. 244. * Should it be imagined that this reasoning will apply no less to the Protestant reformation thar to the schism of the Donatists; it will be sufficient to remark, that there was no difference in radical doctrines of faith between them and the orthodox, as there was between the Protestants and Papal Rome. She poisoned, by her corruptions, the waters of the sanctuary; and those who did not choose to drink death out of her cup were compelled to retire.