Numidia was the name given by the Romans to that part of Northern Africa now known as Algiers. A large number of the pastors and churches of this region were Novatians, but came to be known as Numidians in the fourth century. A minority of the church at Carthage, near Numidia, called a council to investigate the validity of the election and ordination of Cecilianus, in 311, as bishop or pastor. Cecilianus had by management secured the majority vote, and hurried on his ordination by the hands of a minister who had turned traitor in a time of persecution, and had given up the sacred books to the pagan authorities. The council decided that the minority was the true church. The neighboring churches of Africa sustained this church against the dominant party and its pastor, Cecilianus. Majorius was elected pastor, but dying soon after, Donatus was chosen to fill his place. Such was the influence of this noted preacher, that the churches of northern Africa that stood together in opposition to the Catholic party soon came to be known as Donatists. It is said that by 330 A. D., the Donatist bishops of this region numbered 172. The Donatists, like the Novatianists, went upon the principle that the essence of the true church consisted in the purity and holiness of its membership. They excommunicated all lapsed and gross offenders, and held that the efficacy of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord's supper) depended upon the worthiness of the administrator. They protested against hereditary church membership, and proclaimed that none but those who were born from above had any right to the ordinances, or admission into the church. These spiritual-minded people of God were severely persecuted by the dominant Catholic party. When Constantine in 312 issued his first edict giving religious toleration, he especially excepted the Donatists, trying to force them into submission to the will of the Catholic church. In 411 a three days discussion was held at Carthage, between two hundred and eight-six Catholic bishops, and two hundred and seventy-nine Donatist bishops, in regard to allowing wicked persons to remain in the church. The learned Augustine was in this discussion, who maintained that unworthy members should be allowed to remain in the church, as tares amid the wheat, until judgment. But neither the eloquence of Augustine, nor the severities of Honorius were sufficient to bring these old Baptist churches into the unscriptural and abominable practices of the Catholic party.

Having now found that God's faithful witnesses, in the second, third, and fourth centuries, opposed the corruptions of that early age and contended earnestly for the faith that was once delivered to the saints, our hearts should glow with gratitude, that, in the evening of the nineteenth century, while similar corruptions still exist, the Lord has not yet left himself without a witness.

- Elder John R. Daily, Primitive Monitor, 1897, pages 278-281.

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