Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Ethical/On Baptism/XX
Chapter XX.—Of Preparation For, and Conduct After, the Reception of Baptism.
They who are about to enter baptism ought to pray with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all by- gone sins, that they may express the meaning even of the baptism of John: “They were baptized,” saith (the Scripture), “confessing their own sins.” To us it is matter for thankfulness if we do now publicly confess our iniquities or our turpitudes: for we do at the same time both make satisfaction for our former sins, by mortification of our flesh and spirit, and lay beforehand the foundation of defences against the temptations which will closely follow. “Watch and pray,” saith (the Lord), “lest ye fall into temptation.” And the reason, I believe, why they were tempted was, that they fell asleep; so that they deserted the Lord when apprehended, and he who continued to stand by Him, and used the sword, even denied Him thrice: for withal the word had gone before, that “no one untempted should attain the celestial kingdoms.” The Lord Himself forthwith after baptism temptations surrounded, when in forty days He had kept fast. “Then,” some one will say, “it becomes us, too, rather to fast after baptism.” Well, and who forbids you, unless it be the necessity for joy, and the thanksgiving for salvation? But so far as I, with my poor powers, understand, the Lord figuratively retorted upon Israel the reproach they had cast on the Lord. For the people, after crossing the sea, and being carried about in the desert during forty years, although they were there nourished with divine supplies, nevertheless were more mindful of their belly and their gullet than of God. Thereupon the Lord, driven apart into desert places after baptism, showed, by maintaining a fast of forty days, that the man of God lives “not by bread alone,” but “by the word of God;” and that temptations incident to fulness or immoderation of appetite are shattered by abstinence. Therefore, blessed ones, whom the grace of God awaits, when you ascend from that most sacred font of your new birth, and spread your hands for the first time in the house of your mother, together with your brethren, ask from the Father, ask from the Lord, that His own specialties of grace and distributions of gifts may be supplied you. “Ask,” saith He, “and ye shall receive.” Well, you have asked, and have received; you have knocked, and it has been opened to you. Only, I pray that, when you are asking, you be mindful likewise of Tertullian the sinner.
- Matt. iii. 6. [See the collection of Dr. Bunsen for the whole primitive discipline to which Tertullian has reference, Hippol. Vol. III. pp. 5–23, and 29.]
- Perhaps Tertullian is referring to Prov. xxviii. 13. If we confess now, we shall be forgiven, and not put to shame at the judgment day.
- See de Orat. c. xxiii. ad fin., and the note there.
- Matt. xxvi. 41.
- What passage is referred to is doubtful. The editors point us to Luke xxii. 28, 29; but the reference is unsatisfactory.
- Lavacro. Compare the beginning of the chapter.
- Viz. by their murmuring for bread (see Ex. xvi. 3, 7); and again—nearly forty years after—in another place. See Num. xxi. 5.
- Aquam: just as St. Paul says the Israelites had been “baptized” (or “baptized themselves”) “into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” 1 Cor. x. 2.
- Matt. iv. 1–4.
- In prayer: comp. de Orat. c. xiv.
- i.e. the Church: comp. de Orat. c. 2.
- 1 Cor. xii. 4–12.
- Matt. vii. 7; Luke xi. 9; αἰτεῖτε, καὶ δοθήσεται, ὑμῖν in both places.
- [The translator, though so learned and helpful, too often encumbers the text with superfluous interpolations. As many of these, while making the reading difficult, add nothing to the sense yet destroy the terse, crabbed force of the original, I have occasionally restored the spirit of a sentence, by removing them.]