Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part III: Of John's Baptism.
Chapter X.—Of Johns Baptism.
We have spoken, so far as our moderate ability permitted, of the generals which form the groundwork of the sanctity 8636 of baptism. I will now, equally to the best of my power, proceed to the rest of its character, touching certain minor questions.
The baptism announced by John formed the subject, even at that time, of a question, proposed by the Lord Himself indeed to the Pharisees, whether that baptism were heavenly, or truly earthly: 8637 about which they were unable to give a consistent 8638 answer, p. 674 inasmuch as they understood not, because they believed not. But we, with but as poor a measure of understanding as of faith, are able to determine that that baptism was divine indeed, (yet in respect of the command, not in respect of efficacy 8639 too, in that we read that John was sent by the Lord to perform this duty,) 8640 but human in its nature: for it conveyed nothing celestial, but it fore-ministered to things celestial; being, to wit, appointed over repentance, which is in mans power. 8641 In fact, the doctors of the law and the Pharisees, who were unwilling to “believe,” did not “repent” either. 8642 But if repentance is a thing human, its baptism must necessarily be of the same nature: else, if it had been celestial, it would have given both the Holy Spirit and remission of sins. But none either pardons sins or freely grants the Spirit save God only. 8643 Even the Lord Himself said that the Spirit would not descend on any other condition, but that He should first ascend to the Father. 8644 What the Lord was not yet conferring, of course the servant could not furnish. Accordingly, in the Acts of the Apostles, we find that men who had “Johns baptism” had not received the Holy Spirit, whom they knew not even by hearing. 8645 That, then, was no celestial thing which furnished no celestial (endowments): whereas the very thing which was celestial in John—the Spirit of prophecy—so completely failed, after the transfer of the whole Spirit to the Lord, that he presently sent to inquire whether He whom he had himself preached, 8646 whom he had pointed out when coming to him, were “HE.” 8647 And so “the baptism of repentance” 8648 was dealt with 8649 as if it were a candidate for the remission and sanctification shortly about to follow in Christ: for in that John used to preach “baptism for the remission of sins,” 8650 the declaration was made with reference to future remission; if it be true, (as it is,) that repentance is antecedent, remission subsequent; and this is “preparing the way.” 8651 But he who “prepares” does not himself “perfect,” but procures for another to perfect. John himself professes that the celestial things are not his, but Christs, by saying, “He who is from the earth speaketh concerning the earth; He who comes from the realms above is above all;” 8652 and again, by saying that he “baptized in repentance only, but that One would shortly come who would baptize in the Spirit and fire;” 8653 —of course because true and stable faith is baptized with water, unto salvation; pretended and weak faith is baptized with fire, unto judgment.
Matt. 21:25, Mark 11:30, Luke 20:4.673:8638
See John i. 33.674:8641
It is difficult to see how this statement is to be reconciled with Acts v. 31. [i.e. under the universal illumination, John i. 9.]674:8642
Matt. 3:7, Matt. 21:23, 31, 32.674:8643
Mark 2:8, 1 Thess. 4:8, 2 Cor. 1:21, 22, 2 Cor. 5:5.674:8644
John 16:6, 7.674:8645
Acts 19:1, John 7:39674:8646
Matt. 3:11, 12, John 1:6.674:8647
Matt. 11:2, Luke 7:18. [He repeats this view.]674:8648
Acts xix. 4.674:8649
Mark i. 4.674:8651
Luke i. 76.674:8652
John 3:30, 31, briefly quoted.674:8653
Matt. iii. 11, not quite exactly given.
Next: Answer to the Objection that “The Lord Did Not Baptize.”
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