Donatus

, bishop of Carthage, has likewise the credit of having given the name to the sect of Donatists, founded it is said, by the former, but which took its name from this Donatus, as being the more considerable man of the two. He maintained, that though the three persons in the trinity were of the same substance, yet the son was inferior to the father, and the holy ghost to the son. He began to be known about the year 329, and greatly confirmed his faction by his character and writings. He was a man of great parts and learning; but of greater pride. | He did not spare even the emperors themselves; for when Paulus and Macarius were sent by Constans with presents to the churches of Africa, and with alms to relieve the poor, he received them in the most reproachful manner, rejected their presents with scorn, and asked in a kind of fury, “What had the emperor to do with the church?” He was banished from Carthage about the year 356, according to Jerom, and died in exile: though authors are not agreed as to the precise time either of his banishment or of his death. The emperors were obliged to issue many severe edicts to restrain the fury and intemperance of this very factious sect. The Donatists had a great number of bishops and laity of their party; some of whom distinguished themselves by committing outrages upon those who differed from them. They had a maxim which they firmly maintained upon all occasions, “That the church was every where sunk and extinguished, excepting in the small remainder amongst themselves in Africa.” They also affirmed baptism in other churches to be null, and of no effect; while other churches allowed it to be valid in theirs; from which they inferred, that it was the safer to join that community where baptism was acknowledged by both parties to be valid, than that where it was allowed to be so only by one.

Notwithstanding the severities they suffered, it appears that they had a very considerable number of churches, towards the close of the fourth century; and could number among them no less than 400 bishops; but at this time they began to decline, on account of a schism among themselves, occasioned by the election of two bishops, in the room of Parmenian, the successor of Donatus; one party elected Primian, and were called Primianists, and another Maximian, and were called Maximianists. The decline was also precipitated by the zealous opposition of St. Augustin, and by the violent measures which were pursued against them by order of the emperor Honorius, at the solicitation of two councils held at Carthage; the one in the year 404, and the other in the year 411. Many of them were fined, their bishops were banisiied, and some put to death. This sect revived and multiplied under the protection of the Vandals, who invaded Africa in the year 427, and took possession of this province but it sunk again under new severities, when their empire was overturned in the year 534. Nevertheless, they remained | in a separate body till the close of the sixth century, when Gregory, the Roman pontiff, used various methods for suppressing them; and there are few traces to be found of the Donatists after this period. They were distinguished by other appellations; as Circumce/liones, Montenses, or mountaineers, Campites, Rupites, &c. They held three councils, or conciliabules; one at Cirta, in Numidia, and two at Carthage. 1

1

Dupin Mosheim. Milner’s Ch. Hist. vol. II. p. 47.