Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Fathers of the Church

A Treatise on Re-Baptism By an Anonymous Writer


[Argument.—That they who have once been washed in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, ought not to be re-baptized.]


The history of the baptismal controversy (during which this work was composed) began with Tertullian, who had argued that baptism administered by heretics was invalid, because their view of God was so often tainted by their unorthodox beliefs regarding Christ. In a council at Carthage, the African church embraced this teaching. In 256, another Carthaginian council (under Cyprian) issued a letter to Pope Stephen explaining their decision to rebaptize heretics and claiming that this was a matter on which bishops could hold different opinions. Sixty-one bishops signed this letter. In response, Pope Stephen issued a decree, forbidding the African bishops to rebaptize any Novatian heretics, but ordering them instead to give absolution to them upon their return to the Church. Cyprian was deeply offended at the Pope's condemnation of him within this letter. He called an even larger council later in the same year (the Seventh Council of Carthage), in which each bishop cast his vote in agreement with Cyprian's stand on the matter without even mentioning Pope Stephen. Rome refused even to receive the emissaries of this council, whereupon Cyprian turned to the East for support. Nothing more is known of this controversy.

by Unknown in Middle of the third century. | translated by Unknown

1. I OBSERVE that it has been asked among the brethren what course ought specially to be adopted towards the persons of those who, although baptized in heresy, have yet been baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and subsequently departing from their heresy, and fleeing as supplicants to the Church of God, should repent with their whole hearts, and only now perceiving the condemnation of their error, implore from the Church the help of salvation. The point is whether, according to the most ancient custom and ecclesiastical tradition, it would suffice, after that baptism which they have received outside the Church indeed, but still in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, that only hands should be laid upon them by the bishop for their reception of the Holy Spirit, and this imposition of hands would afford them the renewed and perfected seal of faith; or whether, indeed, a repetition of baptism would be necessary for them, as if they should receive nothing if they had not obtained baptism afresh, just as if they were never baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. And therefore some things were talked about as having been written and replied on this new question, wherein both sides endeavoured with the greatest eagerness to demolish what had been written by their antagonists. In which kind of debate, as it appears to me, no controversy or discussion could have arisen at all if each one of us had been content with the venerable authority of all the churches, and with becoming humility had desired to innovate nothing, as observing no kind of room for contradiction. For everything which is both doubtful and ambiguous, and is established in opinions differing among those of prudent and faithful men, if it is judged to be against the ancient and memorable and most solemn observance of all those holy and faithful men who have deserved well, ought assuredly to be condemned; since in a matter once arranged and ordained, whatever that is which is brought forward against the quiet and peace of the Church, will result in nothing but discords, and strifes, and schisms. And in this no other fruit can be found but this alone; that one man, whoever he is, should be vain-gloriously declared among certain fickle men to be of great prudence and constancy: and, being gifted with the arrogance of heretics, whose only consolation in destruction is the not appearing to sin alone, should be renowned among those that are most similar and agreeable to himself, as having corrected the errors and vices of all the churches. For this is the desire and purpose of all heretics, to frame as many calumnies of this kind as possible against our most holy mother the Church, and to deem it a great glory to have discovered anything that can be imputed to her as a crime, or even as a folly. And since it becomes no faithful man of sound mind to dare to hold such a view, especially no one who is ordained in any clerical office at all, and much more in the episcopal order, it is like a prodigy for bishops themselves to devise such scandals, and not to fear to unfold too irreverently against the precept of the law and of all the Scriptures, with their own disgrace and risk, the disgrace of their mother the Church—if they think that there is any disgrace in this matter; although the Church has no disgrace in this instance, save in the error of such men as these themselves. Therefore it is the more grievous sin in men of this kind, if that which is blamed by them in the most ancient observance, as if it were not rightly done, is manifestly and forcibly shown as well to have been rightly observed by those who were before us, as to be rightly observed also by us; so that even if we should engage in the controversy with equal arguments on both sides, yet, since that which was innovated could not be established without dissension among the brethren and mischief to the Church, assuredly it ought not,—right or wrong, as they say, that is, contrary to what is good and proper—rashly to be flung like a stain upon our mother the Church; and the ignominy of this audacity and impiety ought with reason to be attached to those who should attempt this. But since it is not in our power, according to the apostle's precept, "to speak the same thing, that there be not schisms among us;" yet, as far as we can, we strive to demonstrate the true condition of this argument, and to persuade turbulent men, even now, to mind their own business, as we shall even attain a great deal if they will at length acquiesce in this sound advice. And therefore we shall, as is needful, collect into one mass whatever passages of the Holy Scriptures are pertinent to this subject. And we shall manifestly harmonize, as far as possible, those which seem to be differing or of various meaning; and we shall to the extent of our poor ability examine both the utility and advantage of each method, that we may recommend to all the brethren, that the most wholesome form and peaceful custom be adopted in the Church.

2. To such, then, as approach to a discussion of saving and modern, that is, of spiritual and evangelical baptism, there occurs first of all the announcement universally well known, made and begun by John the Baptist, who, somewhat departing from the law, that is, from the most ancient baptism of Moses, and preparing the way of the new and true grace, both preoccupied the ears of the Jews gradually by the baptism of water and of repentance which for the time he practised, and took possession of them with the announcement of a spiritual baptism that was to come, exhorting them, and saying, "He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire;" and for this reason we also ought to make a beginning of this discourse from this point. For in the Acts of the Apostles, the Lord after His resurrection, confirming this same word of John, "commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for that promise of the Father which, saith He, ye have heard from me; for John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." And Peter also related these same words of the Lord, when he gave an account of himself to the apostles, saying: "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell upon them as on us at the beginning; and I remembered the word of the Lord, how that He said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. If, therefore, He gave them a like gift as to us, who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand the Lord?" And again: "Men and brethren, ye know how from ancient days God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel, and believe. And God, who knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as He did unto us." And on this account we ought to consider what is the force and power of this saying. For the Lord says to them who would have to be subsequently baptized because they should believe, that they must be baptized not in like manner as by Him in water, unto repentance, but in the Holy Ghost. And of this announcement, as assuredly none of us can doubt it, it is plain on what principle men were baptized in the Holy Spirit. For it was peculiarly in the Holy Spirit Himself alone that they who believed were baptized. For John distinguished, and said that he indeed baptized in water, but that one should come who would baptize in the Holy Ghost, by the grace and power of God; and they are so by the Spirit's bestowal and operation of hidden results. Moreover, they are so no less in the baptism of the Spirit and of water. They are so, besides, also in the baptism of every one in his own proper blood Even as the Holy Scriptures declare to us, from which we shall adduce evident proofs throughout each individual instance of those things which we shall narrate.

3. And to these things thou perchance, who art bringing in some novelty, mayest immediately and impatiently reply, as thou art wont, that the Lord said in the Gospel: "Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." Whence it manifestly appears that that baptism alone is profitable wherein also the Holy Spirit can dwell; for that upon the Lord Himself, when He was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended, and that His deed and word are quite in harmony, and that such a mystery can consist with no other principle. To which reply none of us is found either so senseless or so stubborn as to dare, contrary to right or contrary to truth, to object, for instance, so to the doing of things in their integrity, and by all means in the Church, and the observation of them according to the order of discipline perpetually by us. But if, in the same New Testament, those things which in that matter we come upon as associated, be sometimes found in some sort divided, and separated, and arranged, and ordered just as if they were by themselves; let us see whether these solitary instances by themselves may not sometimes be such as are not imperfect, but, as it were, entire and complete. For when by imposition of the bishop's hands the Holy Spirit is given to every one that believes, as in the case of the Samaritans, after Philip's baptism, the apostles did to them by laying on of hands; in this manner also they conferred on them the Holy Spirit. And that this might be the case, they themselves prayed for them, for as yet the Holy Spirit had not descended upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Moreover, our Lord after His resurrection, when He had breathed upon His apostles, and had said to them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost," thus and thus only bestowed upon them the Spirit.

4. And this being found to be so, what thinkest thou, my brother? If a man be not baptized by a bishop, so as even at once to have the imposition of hands, and should yet die before having received the Holy Spirit, should you judge him to have received salvation or not? Because, indeed, both the apostles themselves and the disciples, who also baptized others, and were themselves baptized by the Lord, did not at once receive the Holy Spirit, for He had not as yet been given, because that Jesus had not as yet been glorified. And after His resurrection no small interval of time elapsed before that took place,—even as also the Samaritans, when they were baptized by Philip, did not receive the gift until the apostles invited from Jerusalem to Samaria went down to them to lay hands upon them, and conferred on them the Holy Spirit by the imposition of hands. Because in that interval of time any one of them who had not attained the Holy Spirit, might have been cut off by death, and die defrauded of the grace of the Holy Spirit. And it cannot be doubted also, that in the present day this sort of thing is usual, and happens frequently, that many after baptism depart from this life without imposition of the bishop's hands, and yet are esteemed perfected believers. Just as the Ethiopian eunuch, when he was returning from Jerusalem and reading the prophet Isaiah, and was in doubt, having at the Spirit's suggestion heard the truth from Philip the deacon, believed and was baptized; and when he had gone up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took away Philip, and the eunuch saw him no more. For he went on his way rejoicing, although, as thou observest, hands were not laid on him by the bishop, that he might receive the Holy Spirit. But if thou admittest this, and believest it to be saving, and dost not gainsay the opinion of all the faithful, thou must needs confess this, that even as this principle proceeds to be more largely discussed, that other also can be more broadly established; that is, that by the imposition of hands alone of the bishop—because baptism in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ has gone before it—may the Holy Spirit also be given to another man who repents and believes. Because the Holy Scripture has affirmed that they who should believe in Christ, must needs be baptized in the Spirit; so that these also may not seem to have anything less than those who are perfectly Christians; lest it should be needful to ask what sort of a thing was that baptism which they have attained in the name of Jesus Christ. Unless, perchance, in that former discussion also, about those who should only have been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, thou shouldst decide that they can be saved even without the Holy Spirit, or that the Holy Spirit is not accustomed to be bestowed in this manner only, but by the imposition of the bishop's hands; or even shouldst say that it is not the bishop alone who can bestow the Holy Spirit.

5. And if this be so, and the occurrence of any of these things cannot deprive a man who believes, of salvation, thou thyself also affirmest that the fact of the mystery of the faith being divided in a manner, and its not being, as thou contendest, consummated, where necessity intervenes, cannot take away salvation from a believing and penitent man. Or if thou sayest that a man of this kind cannot be saved, we deprive all bishops of salvation, whom thou thus engagest, under risks as assured as possible, to be bound themselves to afford help to all those who live under their care, and are in weak health, in their districts, scattered up and down, because other men of less degree among the clerics who venture cannot confer the same benefit; so that the blood of those who shall appear to have departed from this life without the benefit would have, of necessity, to be required at the hands of the bishops. And further, as you are not ignorant, the Holy Spirit is found to have been given to men who believe, by the Lord without baptism of water, as is contained in the Acts of the Apostles after this manner: "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all them who heard the word. And they who were of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit. For they heard them speak with their tongues, and they magnified God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." Even as Peter also subsequently most abundantly taught us about the same Gentiles, saying: "And He put no difference between us and them, their hearts being purified by faith." And there will be no doubt that men may be baptized with the Holy Ghost without water,—as thou observest that these were baptized before they were baptized with water; that the announcements of both John and of our Lord Himself were satisfied,—forasmuch as they received the grace of the promise both without the imposition of the apostle's hands and without the laver, which they attained afterwards. And their hearts being purified, God bestowed upon them at the same time, in virtue of their faith, remission of sins; so that the subsequent baptism conferred upon them this benefit alone, that they received also the invocation of the name of Jesus Christ, that nothing might appear to be wanting to the integrity of their service and faith.

6. And this also,—looking at it from the opposite side of this discussion,—those disciples of our Lord themselves attained, upon whom, being previously baptized, the Holy Spirit at length came down on the day of Pentecost, descending from heaven indeed by the will of God, not of His own accord, but effused for this very office, and moreover upon each one of them. Although these were already righteous, and, as we have said, had been baptized by the Lord's baptism even as the apostles themselves, who nevertheless are found on the night on which He was apprehended to have all deserted Him. And even Peter himself, who boasted that he would persevere in his faith, and most obstinately resisted the prediction of the Lord Himself, yet at last denied Him, that by this means it might be shown to us, that whatever sins they bad contracted in the meantime and in any manner, these same sins, by the faith in them subsequently attested as sincere, were without doubt put away by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Nor, as I think, was it for any other reason that the apostles had charged those whom they addressed in the Holy Spirit, that they should be baptized in the name of Christ Jesus, except that the power of the name of Jesus invoked upon any man by baptism might afford to him who should be baptized no slight advantage for the attainment of salvation, as Peter relates in the Acts of the Apostles, saying: "For there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." As also the Apostle Paul unfolds, showing that God hath exalted our Lord Jesus, and "given Him a name, that it may be above every name, that in the name of Jesus all should bow the knee, of things heavenly and earthly, and under the earth, and every. tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord in the glory of God the Father." And he on whom, when he should be baptized, invocation should be made in the name of Jesus, although he might obtain baptism under some error, still would not be hindered from knowing the truth at some time or another, and correcting his error, and coming to the Church and to the bishop, and sincerely confessing our Jesus before men; so that then, when hands were laid upon him by the bishop, he might also receive the Holy Spirit, and he would not lose that former invocation of the name of Jesus. Which none of us may disallow, although this invocation, if it be standing bare and by itself, could not suffice for affording salvation, lest on this principle we should believe that even Gentiles and heretics, who abuse the name of Jesus, could attain unto salvation without the true and entire thing. Yet it is extremely useful to believe that this invocation of the name of Jesus, together with the correction of error and the acknowledgment of the belief of the truth, and with the putting away of all stain of past conversation, if rightly performed with the mystery of God among men of this kind, obtains a place which it would not have had, and finally, in the true faith and for the maintenance of the integrity of the sign, is no hindrance, when its supplement which had been wanting is added; and that it is consistent with good reason, with the authority of so many years, and so many churches and apostles and bishops; even as it is the very greatest disadvantage and damage to our most holy mother Church, now for the first time suddenly and without reason to rebel against former decisions after so long a series of so many ages. For not for any other reason Peter—who had already been baptized and had been asked what he thought of the Lord by the Lord Himself, and the truth of the revelation of the Father in heaven being bestowed on him bad confessed that Christ was not only our Lord, but was the Son of the living God—was shown subsequently to have withstood the same Christ when He made announcement of His passion, and therefore was set forth as being called Satan. For no other reason except because it would come to pass that some, although varying in their own judgment, and somewhat halting in faith and doctrine, although they were baptized in the name of Jesus, yet, if they had been able to rescind their error in some interval of time, were not on that account cut off from salvation; but at any time that they had come to the right mind, obtained by repentance a sound hope of salvation, especially when they received the Holy Spirit, to be baptized by Whom is the duty of every man, they would have intended some such thing. Even as we do not apprehend that Peter in the Gospel suffered this alone, but all the disciples, to whom, though already baptized, the Lord afterwards says, that "all ye shall be offended in me," all of whom, as we observe, having amended their faith, were baptized after the Lord's resurrection with the Holy Spirit. So that not without reason we also in the present day may believe that men, amended from their former error, may be baptized in the Holy Spirit, who, although they were baptized with water in the name of the Lord, might have had a faith somewhat imperfect. Because it is of great importance whether a man is not baptized at all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, or indeed whether in some respect he halts when he is baptized with the baptism of water, which is of less account provided that afterwards a sincere faith in the truth is evident in the baptism of the Spirit, which undoubtedly is of greater account.

7. Neither must you esteem what our Lord said as being contrary to this treatment: "Go ye, teach the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Because, although this is true and right, and to be observed by all means in the Church, and moreover has been used to be observed, yet it behoves us to consider that invocation of the name of Jesus ought not to be thought futile by us on account of the veneration and power of that very name, in which name all kinds of power are accustomed to be exercised, and occasionally some even by men outside the Church. But to what effect are those words of Christ, who said that He would deny, and not know, those who should say to Him in the day of judgment," Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name cast out demons, and in Thy name done many wonderful works," when He answered them, even with emphasis, "I never knew you; depart from me, ye who work iniquity," unless that it should be shown to us, that even by those who work iniquity might these good works also be done, by the superfluous s energy of the name of Christ? Therefore ought this invocation of the name of Jesus to be received as a certain beginning of the mystery of the Lord common to us and to all others, which may afterwards be filled up with the remaining things. Otherwise such an invocation would not avail if it should remain alone, because after the death of a man in this position there cannot be added to him anything at all, nor supplemented, nor can, in anything, avail him in the day of judgment, when they shall begin to be reproached by our Lord with those things which we have above mentioned, none of whom notwithstanding in this present time may by any man be so hardly and cruelly prohibited from aiding themselves in those ways which we have above shown.

8. But these things thou wilt, as thou art wont. contradict, by objecting to us, that when they baptized, the disciples were baptized perfectly, and rightly, and not as these heretics; and this thou must needs assume from their condition, and His who baptized them. And therefore we reply to this proposition of thine, not as accusers of the Lord's disciples, but as we are constrained, because it is necessary that we should investigate by reasons where and when, and in what measure, salvation has been bestowed on each of us. For that our Lord was born, and that He was the Christ, appeared by many reasons to be believed, not unjustly, by His disciples, because He had been born of the tribe of Judah, of the family of David, and in the city of Bethlehem; and because He had been announced to the shepherds by the angels at the same moment that there was born to them a Saviour; because His star being seen in the east, He had been most anxiously sought for and adored by the Magi, and honoured with illustrious presents and distinguished offerings; because while still a youth, sitting in the temple with the doctors of the law, He wisely, and with the admiration of all, had disputed; because when He was baptized He had been glorified, as had happened to none others, by the descent of the Holy Spirit from the opened heavens, and by its abode upon Him; and moreover by the testimony of His Father, and also of John the Baptist; because, beyond the inferior capacity of man, He understood the hearts and thoughts of all men; because He cured and healed weaknesses, and vices, and diseases, with very great power; because He bestowed remissions of sins, with manifest attestation; because He expelled demons at His bidding; because He purified lepers with a word; because, by converting water into wine, He enlarged the nuptial festivity with marvellous joyfulness; because He restored or granted sight to the blind; because He maintained the doctrine of the Father with all confidence; because in a desert place He satisfied five thousand men with five loaves; because the remains and the fragments filled more than twelve baskets; because He everywhere raised up the dead, according to His mercy; because He commanded the winds and the sea to be still; because He walked with His feet upon the sea; because He absolutely performed all miracles.

9. By which things, and by many deeds of this kind tending to His glory, it appeared to follow as a consequence, that in whatever manner the Jews think about Christ, and although they do not believe concerning Jesus Christ our Lord, that even they themselves thought that such and so great a one would without any death endure to eternity, and would possess the kingdom of Israel, and of the whole world for ever; and that it should not be destroyed. Whence, moreover, the Jews dared to seize Him by force, and anoint Him for the kingdom, which indeed He was compelled to evade; and therefore His disciples thought that in no other way would He bestow upon them eternal life, except He Himself had first continued this temporal life into that eternal one in His own experience. In fine, when they were passing through Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and after three days He shall rise again." and they were greatly grieved, because, as we have said, they had formed a very different notion previously in their minds and hearts. And again, this also was the speech of the Jews, in contradiction against Him, when He taught them of Himself, and announced future things to them, and they said, "We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou that the Son of man must be lifted up?" And so there was this same presumption concerning Christ in the mind of the disciples, even as Peter himself, the leader and chief of the apostles, broke forth into that expression of his own incredulity. For when he, together with the others, had been asked by the Lord what he thought about Him, that is, whom he thought Him to be, and had first of all confessed the truth, saying that He was the Christ the Son of the living God, and therefore was judged blessed by Him because he had arrived at this truth, not after the flesh, but by the revelation of the heavenly Father; yet this same Peter, when Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders, and priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after the third day rise again from the dead; nevertheless that true confessor of Christ, after a few days, taking Him aside, began to rebuke Him, saying, "Be propitious to Thyself: this shall not be;" so that on that account he deserved to hear from the Lord, "Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me, because he savoured not the things which are of God, but those things which are of men." Which rebuke against Peter became more and more apparent when the Lord was apprehended, and, frightened by the damsel, he said, "I know not what thou sayest, neither know I thee;" and again when, using an oath, he said this same thing; and for the third time, cursing and swearing, he affirmed that he knew not the man, and not once, but frequently, denied Him. And this disposition, because it was to continue to him even to the Lord's passion, was long before made manifest by the Lord, that we also might not be ignorant of it. Again, after the Lord's resurrection, one of His disciples, Cleopas, when he was, according to the error of all his fellow- disciples, sorrowfully telling what had happened to the Lord Himself, as if to some unknown person, spoke thus, saying of Jesus the Nazarene, "who was a prophet mighty in deed and in word before God and all the people; how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and fastened Him to the cross. But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel." And in addition to these things, all the disciples also judged the declaration of the women who had seen the Lord after the resurrection to be idle tales; and some of themselves, when they had seen Him, believed not, but doubted; and they who were not then present believed not at all until they had been subsequently by the Lord Himself in all ways rebuked and reproached; because His death had so offended them that they thought that He had not risen again, who they had believed ought not to have died, because contrary to their belief He had died once. And thus, as far as concerns the disciples themselves, they are found to have had a faith neither sound nor perfect in such matters as we have referred to; and what is much more serious, they moreover baptized others, as it is written in the Gospel according to John.

10. Besides, what wilt thou say of those who are in many cases baptized by bishops of very bad character, who yet at length, when God so wills it, convicted of their crimes, are even deprived of their office itself, or absolutely of communion? Or what wilt thou decide of those who may have been baptized by bishops, whose opinions are unsound, or who are very ignorant—when they may not have spoken clearly and honestly, or even have spoken otherwise than is fit in the tradition of the sacrament, or at least may have asked anything, or asking, have heard from those who answered what ought by no means to be so asked or answered? And still this does not greatly injure that true faith of ours, although, moreover, these more simple men may deliver the mystery of the faith without the elegance and order that thou wouldst use. And thou wilt assuredly say, with that marvellous carefulness of thine, that these too should be baptized again, since this is especially the thing which is wanting to them, or hinders their being able to receive, uncorrupted, that divine and inviolable mystery of the faith. And yet, O excellent man, let us attribute and allow to the heavenly agencies their power, and let us concede to the condescension of the divine majesty its appropriate operations; and understanding how great is the advantage therein, let us gladly acquiesce in it. And thus, as our salvation is founded in the baptism of the Spirit, which for the most part is associated with the baptism of water, if indeed baptism shall be given by us, let it be conferred in its integrity and with solemnity, and with all those means which are written; and let it be administered without any disconnection of anything. Or if, by the necessity of the case, it should be administered by an inferior cleric, let us wait for the result, that it may either be supplied by us, or reserved to be supplied by the Lord. If, however, it should have been administered by strangers, let this matter be amended as it can and as it allows. Because outside the Church there is no Holy Spirit, sound faith moreover cannot exist, not alone among heretics, but even among those who are established in schism. And for that reason, they who repent and are amended by the doctrine of the truth, and by their own faith, which subsequently has been improved by the purification of their heart, ought to be aided only by spiritual baptism, that is, by the imposition of the bishop's hands, and by the ministration of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the perfect seal of faith has been rightly accustomed to be given in this manner and on this principle in the Church. So that the invocation of the name of Jesus, which cannot be done away, may not seem to be held in disesteem by us; which assuredly is not fitting; although such an invocation, if none of those things of which we have spoken should follow it, may fail and be deprived of the effect of salvation. For when the apostle said that there was "one baptism," it must needs have been by the continued effect of the invocation of the name of Jesus, because, once invoked, it cannot be taken away by any man, even although we might venture, against the decision of the apostles, to repeat it by giving too much, yea, by the desire of superadding baptism. If he who returns to the Church be unwilling again to be baptized, the result will be that we may defraud him of the baptism of the Spirit, whom we think we must not defraud of the baptism of water.

11. And what wilt thou determine against the person of him who hears the word, and haply taken up in the name of Christ, has at once confessed, and has been punished before it has been granted him to be baptized with water? Wilt thou declare him to have perished because he has not been baptized with water? Or, indeed, wilt thou think that there may be something from without that helps him to salvation, although he is not baptized with water? Thy thinking him to have perished will be opposed by the sentence of the Lord, who says, "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father which is in heaven; " because it is no matter whether he who confesses for the Lord is a hearer of the word or a believer, so long as he confesses that same Christ whom he ought to confess; because the Lord, by confessing him, in turn Himself graces His confessor before his Father with the glory of his martyrdom, as He promised. But this assuredly ought not to be taken too liberally, as if it could be stretched to such a point as that any heretic can confess the name of Christ who notwithstanding denies Christ Himself; that he believes on another Christ, when Christ avows that it cannot avail him at all; forasmuch as the Lord said that He must needs be brought to confession by us before men, which cannot be done without Him, and without veneration of His name. And therefore both ought to stand by the confessor, sound, and sincere, and uncontaminated, and inviolated, without any choice being made of the confessor himself, whether he is righteous or a sinner, and a perfect Christian or an imperfect one, who has not feared to confess the Lord at his own greatest peril. And this is not contrary to the former discussion, because there is left therein time for the correction of many things which are bad, and because certain things are conceded to the very name only of our Lord; while martyrdom cannot be consummated except in the Lord and by the Lord Himself, and therefore nobody can confess Christ without His name, nor can the name of Christ avail any one for confession without Christ Himself.

12. Wherefore the whole of this discussion must be considered, that it may be made clearer. For the invocation of the name of Jesus can only be an advantage if it shall be subsequently properly supplemented, because both prophets and apostles have so declared. For James says in the Acts of the Apostles: "Men and brethren, hearken: Simon hath declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will raise it up anew; that the residue of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called upon them, saith the Lord, who doeth these things." Therefore also the residue of men, that is, some of the Jews and all the Gentiles upon whom the name of the Lord is called, may and of necessity must seek the Lord, because that very invocation of the name affords them the opportunity, or even imposes on them the necessity, of seeking the Lord. And with these they prescribe the Holy Scriptures— whether all or only some of them—to discuss still more boldly concerning the truth than with the Gentiles upon whom the name of the Lord Jesus, the Son of the living God, has not been invoked, as it likewise has not upon the Jews who only receive the Old Testament Scriptures. And thus men of both of these kinds, that is, Jews and Gentiles, fully believing as they ought, are in like manner baptized. But heretics who are already baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ must only be baptized with the Holy Spirit; and in Jesus, which is "the only name given under heaven whereby we must be saved," death is reasonably despised, although, if they continue as they are, they cannot be saved, because they have not sought the Lord after the invocation of His name upon them,—even as those who, on account of false Christs, perchance have refused to believe, of whom the Lord says, "Take heed that no man lead you into error. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall lead many into error." And again He says: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo here is Christ, or lo there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, even the very elect shall be deceived." And these miracles, without doubt, they shall then do under the name of Christ; in which name some even now appear to do certain miracles, and to prophesy falsely. But it is certain that those, because they are themselves not of Christ, therefore do not belong to Christ, in like manner as if one should depart from Christ, abiding only in His name, he would not be much advantaged; nay, rather, he is even burdened by that name, although he may have been previously very faithful, or very righteous, or honoured with some clerical office, or endowed with the dignity of confession. For all those, by denying the true Christ, and by introducing or following another—although there is no other at all—leave themselves no hope or salvation; not otherwise than they who have denied Christ before men, who must needs be denied by Christ; no consideration for them being made from their previous conversation, or feeling, or dignity, equally as they themselves have dared to do away with Christ, that is, their own salvation, they are condemned by the short sentence of this kind, because it was manifestly said by the Lord, "Whosoever shall deny me before men, I also will deny him before my Father which is in heaven." As this word "whosoever," also in the sentence of confession, most fully shows us that no condition of the confessor himself can stand in the way, although he may have been before a denier, or a heretic, or a hearer, or one who is beginning to hear, who has not yet been baptized or converted from heresy to the truth of the faith, or one who has departed from the Church and has afterwards returned, and then when he returned, before the bishop's hands could be laid upon him, being apprehended, should be compelled to confess Christ before men; even as to one who again denies Christ, no special ancient dignity can be effectual to him for salvation.

13. For any one of us will hold it necessary, that whatever is the last thing to be found in a man in this respect, is that whereby he must be judged, all those things which he has previously done being wiped away and obliterated. And therefore, although in martyrdom there is so great a change of things in a moment of time, that in a very rapid case all things may be changed; let nobody flatter himself who has lost the occasion of a glorious salvation, if by chance he has excluded himself therefrom by his own fault; even as that wife of Lot, who in a similar manner in time of trouble only, contrary to the angel's command, looked behind her, and she became a pillar of salt. On which principle also, that heretic who, by confessing Christ's name, is put to death, can subsequently correct nothing, if he should have thought anything erroneously of God or of Christ, although by believing on another God or on another Christ he has deceived himself: he is not a confessor of Christ, but in the name only of Christ; since also the apostle goes on to say, "And if I shall give up my body so that I may be burnt up with fire, but have not love, I profit nothing." Because by this deed he profits nothing who has not the love of that God and Christ who is announced by the law and the prophets and in the Gospel in this manner: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy thought; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. For on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets ;"—even as John the evangelist said, "And every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God; for God is love;" even as God also says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that every one that believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,"—as it manifestly appears that he who has not in him this love, of loving us and of being loved by us, profits nothing by an empty confession and passion, except that thereby it appears and is plain that he is a heretic who believes on another God, or receives another Christ than Him whom the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament manifestly declare, which announce without any obscurity the Father omnipotent, Creator of all things, and His Son. For it shall happen to them as to one who expects salvation from another God. Then, finally, contrary to their notion, they are condemned to eternal punishment by Christ, the Son of God the Father omnipotent, the Creator whom they have blasphemed, when God shall begin to judge the hidden things of men according to the Gospel by Christ Jesus, because they did not believe in Him, although they were washed in His name.

14. And even to this point the whole of that heretical baptism may be amended, after the intervention of some space of time, if a man should survive and amend his faith, as our God, in the Gospel according to Luke, spoke to His disciples, saying, "But I have another baptism to be baptized with." Also according to Mark He said, with the same purpose, to the sons of Zebedee: "Are ye able to drink of the cup which I drink of, or to be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized?" Because He knew that those men had to be baptized not only with water, but also in their own blood; so that, as well baptized in this baptism only, they might attain the sound faith and the simple love of the laver, and, baptized in both ways, they might in like manner to the same extent attain the baptism of salvation and glory. For what was said by the Lord, "I have another baptism to be baptized with," signifies in this place not a second baptism, as if there were two baptisms, but demonstrates that there is moreover a baptism of another kind given to us, concurring to the same salvation. And it was fitting that both these kinds should first of all be initiated and sanctified by our Lord Himself, so that either one of the two or both kinds might afford to us this one twofold saving and glorifying baptism; and certain ways of the one baptism might so be laid open to us, that at times some one of them might be wanting without mischief, even as in the case of martyrs that hear the word, the baptism of water is wanting without evil; and yet we are certain that these, if they had any indulgence, would also be used to be baptized with water. And also to those who are made lawful believers, the baptism of their own blood is wanting without mischief, because, being baptized in the name of Christ, they have been redeemed with the most precious blood of the Lord; since both of these rivers of the baptism of the Lord proceed out of one and the same fountain, that every one who thirsts may come and drink, as says the Scripture, "From his belly flowed rivers of living water;" which rivers were manifested first of all in the Lord's passion, when from His side, pierced by the soldier's spear, flowed blood and water, so that the one side of the same person emitted two rivers of a different kind, that whosoever should believe and drink of both rivers might be filled with the Holy Spirit. For, speaking of these rivers, the Lord set this forth, signifying the Holy Spirit whom they should receive who should believe on Him: "But the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." And when He thus said how baptism might be produced, which the apostle declares to be one, it is assuredly manifest on that principle that there are different kinds of one and the same baptism that flow from one wound into water and blood; since there are there two baptisms of water of which we have spoken, that is, of one and the same kind, although the baptism of each kind ought to be one, as we have more fully spoken.

15. And since we seem to have divided all spiritual baptism in a threefold manner, let us come also to the proof of the statement proposed, that we may not appear to have done this of our own judgment, and with rashness. For John says of our Lord in his epistle, teaching us: "This is He who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood: and it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For three bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one;"—that we may gather from these words both that water is wont to confer the Spirit, and that men's own blood is wont to confer the Spirit, and that the Spirit Himself also is wont to confer the Spirit. For since water is poured forth even as blood, the Spirit also was poured out by the Lord upon all who believed. Assuredly both in water, and none the less in their own blood, and then especially in the Holy Spirit, men may be baptized. For Peter says: "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet; It shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and their sons and their daughters shall prophesy, and their young men shall see visions, and their old men shall dream dreams: and upon my servants, and upon my handmaidens, will I pour out of my Spirit; "—which Spirit we discover to have been communicated in the Old Testament, not indeed everywhere nor at large, but with other gifts; or, moreover, to have sprung of His own will into certain men, or to have invested them, or to have been upon them, even as we observe that it was said by the Lord to Moses, about the seventy elders, "And I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them." For which reason also, according to His promise, God put upon them from another of the Spirit which had been upon Moses, and they prophesied in the camp. And Moses, as a spiritual man, rejoiced that this had so happened, although he was unwillingly persuaded by Jesus the son of Nave to oppose this thing, and was not thereby induced. Further, also in the book of Judges, and in the books of Kings too, we observe that upon several, there either was the Spirit of the Lord, or that He came unto them, as upon Gothoniel, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Saul, David, and many others. Which comes to this result, that the Lord has taught us most plainly by them the liberty and power of the Holy Spirit, approaching of His own will, saying, "The Spirit breathes where He will; and thou hearest His voice, and knowest not whence He cometh or whither He goeth." So that the same Spirit is, moreover, sometimes found to be upon those who are unworthy of Him; not certainly in vain or without reason, but for the sake of some needful operation; as He was upon Saul, upon whom came the Spirit of God, and he prophesied. However, in later days, after the Spirit of the Lord departed from him, and after a malign spirit from the Lord vexed him, because then he had come, after the messengers whom he had previously sent before with care, with intent to kill David; and they therefore fell into the chorus of the prophets, and they prophesied, so that they neither were able nor willing to do what they had been bidden. And we believe that the Spirit which was upon them all effected this with an admirable wisdom, by the will of God. Which Spirit also filled John the Baptist even from his mother's womb; and it fell upon those who were with Cornelius the centurion before they were baptized with water. Thus, cleaving to the baptism of men, the Holy Spirit either goes before or follows it; or failing the baptism of water, it falls upon those who believe. We are counselled that either we ought duly to maintain the integrity of baptism, or if by chance baptism is given by any one in the name of Jesus Christ, we ought to supplement it, guarding the most holy invocation of the name of Jesus Christ, as we have most abundantly set forth; guarding, moreover, the custom and authority which so much claim our veneration for so long a time and for such great men.

16. But since the first part of this argument seems to be unfolded, we ought to touch on its subsequent part, on account of the heretics; because it is very necessary not to pass over that discussion which once falls into our hands, lest perchance some heretic should dare, of his subtlety, to assail those of our brethren who are more simple. For because John said that we must be baptized in the Holy Ghost and in fire, from the fact that he went on to say and fire, some desperate men have dared to such an extent to carry their depravity, and therefore very crafty men seek how they can thus corrupt and violate, and even neutralize the baptism of holiness. Who derive the origin of their notion from Simon Magus, practising it with manifold perversity through various errors; to whom Simon Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles, said, "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the grace of God could be possessed by money; thou hast neither part nor lot in this work; for thy heart is not right with God." And such men as these do all these things in the desire to deceive those who are more simple or more inquisitive. And some of them try to argue that they only administer a sound and perfect, not as we, a mutilated and curtailed baptism, which they are in such wise said to designate, that immediately they have descended into the water, fire at once appears upon the water. Which if it can be effected by any trick, as several tricks of this kind are affirmed to be—of Anaxilaus—whether it is anything natural, by means of which this may happen, or whether they think that they behold this, or whether the work and magical poison of some malignant being can force fire from the water; still they declare such a deceit and artifice to be a perfect baptism, which if faithful men have been forced to receive, there will assuredly be no doubt but that they have lost that which they had. Just as, if a soldier after taking an oath should desert his camp, and in the very different camp of the enemy should wish to take an oath of a far other kind, it is plain that in this way he is discharged from his old oath.

17. Moreover, if a man of this sort should again return to thee, thou wilt assuredly hesitate whether he may have baptism or no; and yet it will behove thee, in whatever way thou canst, to aid even this man if he repent. For of this adulterous, yea, murderous baptism, if there is any other author, it is then certainly a book devised by these same heretics on behalf of this same error, which is inscribed The Preaching of Paul; in which book, contrary to all Scriptures, thou wilt find both Christ confessing His own sin—although He alone did no sin at all—and almost compelled by His mother Mary unwillingly to receive John's baptism. Also, that when He was baptized, fire was seen to be upon the water, which is written in neither of the Gospels. And that after such long time, Peter and Paul, after the collation of the Gospel in Jerusalem, and the mutual consideration and altercation and arrangement of things to be done finally, were known to one another, as if then for the first time; and certain other things devised of this kind disgracefully and absurdly ;—all which things thou wilt find gathered together into that book. But they who are not ignorant of the nature of the Holy Spirit, understand that what is said of fire is said of the Spirit Himself. For in the Acts of the Apostles, according to that same promise of our Lord, on the very day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit had descended upon the disciples, that they might be baptized in Him, there were seen sitting upon each one tongues as if of fire, that it might be manifest that they were baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire—that is, with that Spirit which was, whether fire, or as fire, such as was the fire which burned in the bush, and did not consume the bush; and such as is that fire which is the Spirit of the Angel, as saith the Scripture, "Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a burning fire; " whom if thou shouldst resemble, or be a companion or sharer with, thou shalt be able to dread no fire, not even that which, going before the Lord in the day of judgment, shall burn up the whole world, save those who are baptized in the Holy Spirit and in fire.

18. And the Spirit, indeed, continues to this day invisible to men, as the Lord says, "The Spirit breathes where He will; and thou knowest not whence He cometh, or whither He goeth." But in the beginning of the mystery of the faith and of spiritual baptism, the same Spirit was manifestly seen to have sat upon the disciples as it had been fire. Moreover, the heavens being opened, to have descended upon the Lord like a dove; because many things, yea, almost all things which were to be, are manifest—which, however, were only invisible nevertheless,—now also are shown to the eyes and to the incredulity of men, either partially, or at times, or in figure, for the strengthening and confirming of our faith. But neither should I omit that which the Gospel well announces. For our Lord says to the paralytic man, "Be of good cheer, my son, thy sins are forgiven thee," that He might show that hearts were purified by faith for the forgiveness of sins that should follow. And this remission of sins that woman also which was a sinner in the city obtained, to whom the Lord said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." And when they who were reclining around began to say among themselves, "Who is this that forgiveth sins? "— because concerning the paralytic the scribes and Pharisees had murmured crossly—the Lord says to the woman, "Thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." From all which things it is shown that hearts are purified by faith, but that souls are washed by the Spirit; further, also, that bodies are washed by water, and moreover that by blood we may more readily attain at once to the rewards of salvation.

19. I think that we have fully followed out the announcement of John the Baptist, whence we began our discourse, when he said to the Jews, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He who cometh after me is greater than I, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Moreover, I think also that we have not unsuitably set in order the teaching of the Apostle John, who says that "three bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood; and these three are one." And, unless I am mistaken, we have also explained what our Lord says: "John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost."' Moreover, I think that we have given no weak reason as the cause of the custom. Let us have a care, although we do that in a subsequent place, that none may think that we are stirring up the present debate on a single article; although this custom even alone ought, among men who have the fear of God, and are lowly, to maintian a chief place.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland beginning in 1867. (ANF 5, Roberts and Donaldson). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.

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