Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Ethical/On Baptism/XVIII
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,” 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;” and, “Lay not hands easily on any; share not other men’s sins.” If Philip so “easily” baptized the chamberlain, let us reflect that a manifest and conspicuous evidence that the Lord deemed him worthy had been interposed. 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 readingfalls 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, his host, speedily recognized him to be “an appointed vessel of election.” God’s approbation sends sure premonitory tokens before it; every “petition” 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—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.” Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians 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 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.” 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 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.
- Luke vi. 30. [See note 4, p. 676.]
- Matt. vii. 6.
- 1 Tim. v. 22; μηδενὶ omitted, ταχέως rendered by “facile,” and μηδἔ by “ne.”
- “Exertam,” as in c. xii.: “probatio exerta,” “a conspicuous proof.”
- Comp. Acts viii. 26–40.
- Acts viii. 28, 30, 32, 33, and Isa. liii. 7, 8, especially in LXX. The quotation, as given in Acts, agrees nearly verbatim with the Cod. Alex. there.
- 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.]
- See note 24, [where Luke vi. 30 is shown to be abused].
- Tertullian has already allowed (in c. xvi) that baptism is not indispensably necessary to salvation.
- Matt. xix. 14; Mark x. 14; Luke xviii. 16.
- Or, “whither they are coming.”
- i.e. in baptism.
- See beginning of chapter, [where Luke vi. 30, is shown to be abused].
- 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.]