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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part III: Of the Persons to Whom, and the Time When, Baptism is to Be Administered.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XVIII.—Of the Persons to Whom, and the Time When, Baptism is to Be Administered.

But they whose office it is, know that baptism is not rashly to be administered. “Give to every one who beggeth thee,” 8722 has a reference of its own, appertaining especially to almsgiving. On the contrary, this precept is rather to be looked at carefully: “Give not the holy thing to the dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine;” 8723 and, “Lay not hands easily on any; share not other men’s sins.” 8724 If Philip so “easily” baptized the chamberlain, let us reflect that a manifest and conspicuous 8725 evidence that the Lord deemed him worthy p. 678 had been interposed. 8726 The Spirit had enjoined Philip to proceed to that road: the eunuch himself, too, was not found idle, nor as one who was suddenly seized with an eager desire to be baptized; but, after going up to the temple for prayer’s sake, being intently engaged on the divine Scripture, was thus suitably discovered—to whom God had, unasked, sent an apostle, which one, again, the Spirit bade adjoin himself to the chamberlain’s chariot. The Scripture which he was reading 8727 falls in opportunely with his faith: Philip, being requested, is taken to sit beside him; the Lord is pointed out; faith lingers not; water needs no waiting for; the work is completed, and the apostle snatched away.  “But Paul too was, in fact, ‘speedily’ baptized:” for Simon, 8728 his host, speedily recognized him to be “an appointed vessel of election.” God’s approbation sends sure premonitory tokens before it; every “petition” 8729 may both deceive and be deceived. And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children. For why is it necessary—if (baptism itself) is not so necessary 8730 —that the sponsors likewise should be thrust into danger? Who both themselves, by reason of mortality, may fail to fulfil their promises, and may be disappointed by the development of an evil disposition, in those for whom they stood? The Lord does indeed say, “Forbid them not to come unto me.” 8731 Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; 8732 let them become Christians 8733 when they have become able to know Christ.  Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the “remission of sins?” More caution will be exercised in worldly 8734 matters: so that one who is not trusted with earthly substance is trusted with divine! Let them know how to “ask” for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given “to him that asketh.” 8735 For no less cause must the unwedded also be deferred—in whom the ground of temptation is prepared, alike in such as never were wedded 8736 by means of their maturity, and in the widowed by means of their freedom—until they either marry, or else be more fully strengthened for continence. If any understand the weighty import of baptism, they will fear its reception more than its delay: sound faith is secure of salvation.


Footnotes

677:8722

Luke vi. 30. [See note 4, p. 676.]

677:8723

Matt. vii. 6.

677:8724

1 Tim. v. 22; μηδενὶ omitted, ταχέως rendered by “facile,” and μηδἔ by “ne.”

677:8725

“Exertam,” as in c. xii.: “probatio exerta,” “a conspicuous proof.”

678:8726

Comp. Acts viii. 26-40.

678:8727

Acts 8:28, 30, 32, 33, Isa. 53:7, 8, especially in LXX. The quotation, as given in Acts, agrees nearly verbatim with the Cod. Alex. there.

678:8728

Tertullian seems to have confused the “Judas” with whom Saul stayed (Acts ix. 11) with the “Simon” with whom St. Peter stayed (Acts ix. 43); and it was Ananias, not Judas, to whom he was pointed out as “an appointed vessel,” and by whom he was baptized. [So above, he seems to have confounded Philip, the deacon, with Philip the apostle.]

678:8729

See note 24, [where Luke vi. 30 is shown to be abused].

678:8730

Tertullian has already allowed (in c. xvi) that baptism is not indispensably necessary to salvation.

678:8731

Matt. 19:14, Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16.

678:8732

Or, “whither they are coming.”

678:8733

i.e. in baptism.

678:8734

Sæcularibus.

678:8735

See beginning of chapter, [where Luke vi. 30, is shown to be abused].

678:8736

Virginibus; but he is speaking about men as well as women. Comp. de Orat. c. xxii. [I need not point out the bearings of the above chapter, nor do I desire to interpose any comments. The Editor’s interpolations, where purely gratuitous, I have even stricken out, though I agree with them. See that work of genius, the Liberty of Prophesying, by Jer. Taylor, sect. xviii. and its candid admissions.]


Next: Of the Times Most Suitable for Baptism.

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