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Chapter XV.

Reply to the suggested objection that we are baptized “into water.”  Also concerning baptism.

34.  What more?  Verily, our opponents are well equipped with arguments.  We are baptized, they urge, into water, and of course we shall not honour the water above all creation, or give it a share of the honour of the Father and of the Son.  The arguments of these men are such as might be expected from angry disputants, leaving no means untried in their attack on him who has offended them, because their reason is clouded over by their feelings.  We will not, however, shrink from the discussion even of these points.  If we do not teach the ignorant, at least we shall not turn away before evil doers.  But let us for a moment retrace our steps.

35.  The dispensation of our God and Saviour concerning man is a recall from the fall and a return from the alienation caused by disobedience to close communion with God.  This is the reason for the sojourn of Christ in the flesh, the pattern life described in the Gospels, the sufferings, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection; so that the man who is being saved through imitation of Christ receives that old adoption.  For perfection of life the imitation of Christ is necessary, not only in the example of gentleness,10041004    ἀοργησία in Arist. Eth. iv. 5, 5, is the defect where meekness (πραότης) is the mean.  In Plutarch, who wrote a short treatise on it, it is a virtue.  In Mark iii. 5, Jesus looked round on them “with anger,” μετ᾽ ὀργῆς, but in Matt. xi. 29, He calls Himself πρᾷος. lowliness, and long suffering set us in His life, but also of His actual death.  So Paul, the imitator of Christ,10051005    cf. 1 Cor. xi. 1. says, “being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.”10061006    Phil. iii. 10, 11.  How then are we made in the likeness of His death?10071007    Rom. vi. 4, 5.  In that we were buried10081008    A.V., “are buried.”  Grk. and R.V., “were buried.” with Him by baptism.  What then is the manner of the burial?  And what is the advantage resulting from the imitation?  First of all, it is necessary that the continuity of the old life be cut.  And this is impossible unless a man be born again, according to the Lord’s word;10091009    John iii. 3. for the regeneration, as indeed the name shews, is a beginning of a second life.  So before beginning the second, it is necessary to put an end to the first.  For just as in the case of runners who turn and take the second course,10101010    In the double course (δίαυλος) the runner turned (κάμπτω) the post at the end of the stadium.  So “κάμψαι διαύλον θάτερον κῶλον πάλιν” in Æsch. Ag. 335, for retracing one’s steps another way. a kind of halt and pause intervenes between the movements in the opposite direction, so also in making a change in lives it seemed necessary for death to come as mediator between the two, ending all that goes before, and beginning all that comes after.  How then do we achieve the descent into hell?  By imitating, through baptism, the burial of Christ.  For the bodies of the baptized are, as it were, buried in the water.  Baptism then symbolically signifies the putting off of the works of the flesh; as the apostle says, ye were “circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism.”10111011    Col. ii. 11, 12.  22And there is, as it were, a cleansing of the soul from the filth10121012    cf. 1 Pet. iii. 21. that has grown on it from the carnal mind,10131013    τὸ σαρκικὸν φρόνημαcf. the φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός of Rom. viii. 6cf. Article ix. as it is written, “Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”10141014    Ps. li. 9.  On this account we do not, as is the fashion of the Jews, wash ourselves at each defilement, but own the baptism of salvation10151015    cf. 1 Pet. iii. 21. to be one.10161016    cf. Eph. iv. 5.  For there the death on behalf of the world is one, and one the resurrection of the dead, whereof baptism is a type.  For this cause the Lord, who is the Dispenser of our life, gave us the covenant of baptism, containing a type of life and death, for the water fulfils the image of death, and the Spirit gives us the earnest of life.  Hence it follows that the answer to our question why the water was associated with the Spirit10171017    cf. John iii. 5. is clear:  the reason is because in baptism two ends were proposed; on the one hand, the destroying of the body of sin,10181018    cf. Rom. vi. 6. that it may never bear fruit unto death;10191019    cf. Rom. vii. 5. on the other hand, our living unto the Spirit,10201020    cf. Gal. v. 25. and having our fruit in holiness;10211021    cf. Rom. vi. 22. the water receiving the body as in a tomb figures death, while the Spirit pours in the quickening power, renewing our souls from the deadness of sin unto their original life.  This then is what it is to be born again of water and of the Spirit, the being made dead being effected in the water, while our life is wrought in us through the Spirit.  In three immersions,10221022    Trine immersion was the universal rule of the Catholic Church.  cf. Greg. Nyss. The Great Catechism, p. 502 of this edition.  So Tertull. de Cor. Mil. c iii., Aquam adituri, ibidem, sed et aliquanto prius in ecclesia, sub antistitis manu contestamur, nos renuntiare diabolo et pompæ et angelis ejus.  Dehinc ter mergitamur.  Sozomen (vi. 26) says that Eunomius was alleged to be the first to maintain that baptism ought to be performed in one immersion and to corrupt in this manner the tradition of the apostles, and Theodoret (Hæret. fab. iv. 3) describes Eunomius as abandoning the trine immersion, and also the invocation of the Trinity as baptizing into the death of Christ.  Jeremy Taylor (Ductor dubitantium, iii. 4, Sect. 13) says, “In England we have a custom of sprinkling, and that but once.…As to the number, though the Church of England hath made no law, and therefore the custom of doing it once is the more indifferent and at liberty, yet if the trine immersion be agreeable to the analogy of the mystery, and the other be not, the custom ought not to prevail, and is not to be complied with, if the case be evident or declared.” then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the tradition of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened.  It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit.  For baptism is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God.”10231023    1 Pet. iii. 21.  So in training us for the life that follows on the resurrection the Lord sets out all the manner of life required by the Gospel, laying down for us the law of gentleness, of endurance of wrong, of freedom from the defilement that comes of the love of pleasure, and from covetousness, to the end that we may of set purpose win beforehand and achieve all that the life to come of its inherent nature possesses.  If therefore any one in attempting a definition were to describe the gospel as a forecast of the life that follows on the resurrection, he would not seem to me to go beyond what is meet and right.  Let us now return to our main topic.

36.  Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all “fulness of blessing,”10241024    Rom. xv. 29. both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment.  If such is the earnest, what the perfection?  If such the first fruits, what the complete fulfilment?  Furthermore, from this too may be apprehended the difference between the grace that comes from the Spirit and the baptism by water:  in that John indeed baptized with water, but our Lord Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.  “I indeed,” he says, “baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear:  he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”10251025    Matt. iii. 11.  Here He calls the trial at the judgment the baptism of fire, as the apostle says, “The fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.”10261026    1 Cor. iii. 13.  And again, “The day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire.”10271027   id.  And ere now there have been some who in their championship of true religion have undergone the death for Christ’s sake, not in mere similitude, but in actual fact, and so have needed none of the outward signs of water for their salvation, because they were baptized in their own blood.10281028    On the martyrs’ baptism of blood, cf. Eus. vi. 4, on the martyrdom of the Catechumen Herais.  So St. Cyril, of Jerusalem (Cat. Lect. iii. 10), “If a man receive not baptism, he has not salvation; excepting only the martyrs, even who without the water receive the kingdom.  For when the Saviour was ransoming the world through the cross, and was pierced in the side, He gave forth blood and water, that some in times of peace should be baptized in water; others in time of persecution, in their own blood.”  So Tertullian (In Valentin. ii.) of the Holy Innocents, “baptized in blood for Jesus’ sake” (Keble), “testimonium Christi sanguine litavere.”  Thus I write 23not to disparage the baptism by water, but to overthrow the arguments10291029    Τοὺς λογισμοὺς καθαιρῶνcf. 2 Cor. x. 4. of those who exalt themselves against the Spirit; who confound things that are distinct from one another, and compare those which admit of no comparison.

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