The Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem,with a revised translation, introduction, notes, and indices,
by Edwin Hamilton Gifford, D.D.
Under the editorial supervision of Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Semimary, New York, and Henry Wace, D.D., Principal of King's College, London
Published in 1893 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.
On Repentance and Remission of Sins, and Concerning the Adversary.Ezekiel xviii. 20-23
The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins, &c.
1. A fearful thing is sin, and the sorest disease of the soul is transgression, secretly cutting its sinews, and becoming also the cause of eternal fire; an evil of a man's own choosing, an offspring of the will. For that we sin of our own free will the Prophet says plainly in a certain place: Yet I planted thee a fruitful vine, wholly true: how art thou turned to bitterness, (and become) the strange vine  ? The planting was good, the fruit coming from the will is evil; and therefore the planter is blameless, but the vine shall be burnt with fire since it was planted for good, and bore fruit unto evil of its own will. For God, according to the Preacher, made man upright, and they have themselves sought out many inventions  . For we are His workmanship, says the Apostle, created unto good works, which God afore prepared, that we should walk in them  . So then the Creator, being good, created for good works; but the creature turned of its own free will to wickedness. Sin then is, as we have said, a fearful evil, but not incurable; fearful for him who clings to it, but easy of cure for him who by repentance puts it from him. For suppose that a man is holding fire in his hand; as long as he holds fast the live coal he is sure to be burned, but should he put away the coal, he would have cast away the flame also with it. If however any one thinks that he is not being burned when sinning, to him the Scripture saith, Shall a man wrap up fire in his bosom, and not burn his clothes  ? For sin burns the sinews of the soul, [and breaks the spiritual bones of the mind, and darkens the light of the heart  ].
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3. Yet thou art not the sole author of the evil, but there is also another most wicked prompter, the devil. He indeed suggests, but does not get the mastery by force over those who do not consent. Therefore saith the Preacher, If the spirit of him that hath power rise up against thee, quit not thy place  . Shut thy door, and put him far from thee, and he shall not hurt thee. But if thou indifferently admit the thought of lust, it strikes root in thee by its suggestions, and enthrals thy mind, and drags thee down into a pit of evils.
But perhaps thou sayest, I am a believer, and lust does not gain the ascendant over me, even if I think upon it frequently. Knowest thou not that a root breaks even a rock by long persistence? Admit not the seed, since it will rend thy faith asunder: tear out the evil by the root before it blossom, lest from being careless at the beginning thou have afterwards to seek for axes and fire. When thine eyes begin to be diseased, get them cured in good time, lest thou become blind, and then have to seek the physician.
4. The devil then is the first author of sin, and the father of the wicked: and this is the Lord's saying, not mine, that the devil sinneth from the beginning  : none sinned before him. But he sinned, not as having received necessarily from nature the propensity to sin, since then the cause of sin is traced back again to Him that made him so; but having been created good, he has of his own free will become a devil, and received that name from his action. For being an Archangel  he was afterwards called a devil from his slandering: from being a good servant of God he has become rightly named Satan; for "Satan" is interpreted the adversary  . And this is not my teaching, but that of the inspired prophet Ezekiel: for he takes up a lamentation over him and says, Thou wast a seal of likeness, and a crown of beauty; in the Paradise of God wast thou born  : and soon after, Thou wast born blameless in thy days, from the day in which thou wast created, until thine iniquities were found in thee. Very rightly hath he said, were found in thee; for they were not brought in from without, but thou didst thyself beget the evil. The cause also he mentions forthwith: Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty: for the multitude of thy sins wast thou wounded, and I did cast thee to the ground. In agreement with this the Lord says again in the Gospels: I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven  . Thou seest the harmony of the Old Testament with the New. He when cast out drew many away with him. It is he that puts lusts into them that listen to him: from him come adultery, fornication, and every kind of evil. Through him our forefather Adam was cast out for disobedience, and exchanged a Paradise bringing forth wondrous fruits of its own accord for the ground which bringeth forth thorns.
5. What then? some one will say. We have been beguiled and are lost. Is there then no salvation left? We have fallen: Is it not possible to rise again? We have been blinded: May we not recover our sight? We have become crippled: Can we never walk upright? In a word, we are dead: May we not rise again? He that woke Lazarus who was four days dead and already stank, shall He not, O man, much more easily raise thee who art alive? He who shed His precious blood for us, shall Himself deliver us from sin. Let us not despair of ourselves, brethren; let us not abandon ourselves to a hopeless condition. For it is a fearful thing not to believe in a hope of repentance. For he that looks not for salvation spares not to add evil to evil: but to him that hopes for cure, it is henceforth easy to be careful over himself. The robber who looks not for pardon grows desperate; but, if he hopes for forgiveness, often comes to repentance. What then, does the serpent cast its slough  , and shall not we cast off our sin? Thorny ground also, if cultivated well, is turned into fruitful; and is salvation to us irrecoverable? Nay rather, our nature admits of salvation, but the will also is required.
6. God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure. For say not, I have committed fornication and adultery: I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often: will He forgive? Will He grant pardon? Hear what the Psalmist says: How great is the multitude of Thy goodness, O Lord  ! Thine accumulated offences surpass not the multitude of God's mercies: thy wounds surpass not the great Physician's skill. Only give thyself up in faith: tell the Physician thine ailment: say thou also, like David: I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord: and the same shall be done in thy case, which he says forthwith: And thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart  .
7. Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, O thou that art lately come to the catechising? Wouldest thou see the loving-kindness of God, and the abundance of His long-suffering? Hear about Adam. Adam, God's first-formed man, transgressed: could He not at once have brought death upon him? But see what the Lord does, in His great love towards man. He casts him out from Paradise, for because of sin he was unworthy to live there; but He puts him to dwell over against Paradise  : that seeing whence he had fallen, and from what and into what a state he was brought down, he might afterwards be saved by repentance. Cain the first-born man became his brother's murderer, the inventor of evils, the first author of murders, and the first envious man. Yet after slaying his brother to what is he condemned? Groaning and trembling shalt thou be upon the earth  . How great the offence, the sentence how light!
8. Even this then was truly loving-kindness in God, but little as yet in comparison with what follows. For consider what happened in the days of Noe. The giants sinned, and much wickedness was then spread over the earth, and because of this the flood was to come upon them: and in the five hundredth year God utters His threatening; but in the six hundredth He brought the flood upon the earth. Seest thou the breadth of God's loving-kindness extending to a hundred years? Could He not have done immediately what He did then after the hundred years? But He extended (the time) on purpose, granting a respite for repentance. Seest thou God's goodness? And if the men of that time had repented, they would not have missed the loving-kindness of God.
9. Come with me now to the other class, those who were saved by repentance. But perhaps even among women some one will say, I have committed fornication, and adultery, I have defiled my body by excesses of all kinds: is there salvation for me? Turn thine eyes, O woman, upon Rahab, and look thou also for salvation; for if she who had been openly and publicly a harlot was saved by repentance, is not she who on some one occasion before receiving grace committed fornication to be saved by repentance and fasting? For inquire how she was saved: this only she said: For your God is God in heaven and upon earth  . Your God; for her own she did not dare to say, because of her wanton life. And if you wish to receive Scriptural testimony of her having been saved, you have it written in the Psalms: I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon among them that know me  . O the greatness of God's loving-kindness, making mention even of harlots in the Scriptures: nay, not simply I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon, but with the addition, among them that know me. There is then in the case both of men and of women alike the salvation which is ushered in by repentance.
10. Nay more, if a whole people sin, this surpasses not the loving-kindness of God. The people made a calf, yet God ceased not from His loving-kindness. Men denied God, but God denied not Himself  . These be thy gods, O Israel  , they said: yet again, as He was wont, the God of Israel became their Saviour. And not only the people sinned, but also Aaron the High Priest. For it is Moses that says: And the anger of the Lord came upon Aaron: and I prayed for him, saith he, and God forgave him  . What then, did Moses praying for a High Priest that sinned prevail with God, and shall not Jesus, His Only-begotten, prevail with God when He prays for us? And if He did not hinder Aaron, because of his offence, from entering upon the High Priesthood, will He hinder thee, who art come out from the Gentiles, from entering into salvation? Only, O man, repent thou also in like manner, and grace is not forbidden thee. Render thy way of life henceforth unblameable; for God is truly loving unto man, nor can all time  worthily tell out His loving kindness; nay, not if all the tongues of men unite together will they be able even so to declare any considerable part of His loving-kindness. For we tell some part of what is written concerning His loving-kindness to men, but how much He forgave the Angels we know not: for them also He forgives, since One alone is without sin, even Jesus who purgeth our sins. And of them we have said enough.
11. But if concerning us men thou wilt have other examples also set before thee  , come on to the blessed David, and take him for an example of repentance. Great as he was, he fell: after his sleep, walking in the eventide on the housetop, he cast a careless look, and felt a human passion. His sin was completed, but there died not with it his candour concerning the confession of his fault. Nathan the Prophet came, a swift accuser, and a healer of the wound. The Lord is wroth, he says, and thou hast sinned  . So spake the subject to the reigning king. But David the king  was not indignant, for he regarded not the speaker, but God who had sent him. He was not puffed up  by the array of soldiers standing round: for he had seen in thought the angel-host of the Lord, and he trembled as seeing Him who is invisible  ; and to the messenger, or rather by him in answer to God who sent him, he said, I have sinned against the Lord  . Seest thou the humility of the king? Seest thou his confession? For had he been convicted by any one? Were many privy to the matter? The deed was quickly done, and straightway the Prophet appeared as accuser, and the offender confesses the fault. And because he candidly confessed, he received a most speedy cure. For Nathan the Prophet who had uttered the threat, said immediately, The Lord also hath put away thy sin. Thou seest the swift relenting of a merciful God. He says, however, Thou hast greatly provoked the enemies of the Lord. Though thou hadst many enemies because of thy righteousness, thy self-control protected thee; but now that thou hast surrendered thy strongest armour, thine enemies are risen up, and stand ready against thee.
12. Thus then did the Prophet comfort him, but the blessed David, for all he heard it said, The Lord hath put away thy sin, did not cease from repentance, king though he was, but put on sackcloth instead of purple, and instead of a golden throne, he sat, a king, in ashes on the ground; nay, not only sat in ashes, but also had ashes for his food, even as he saith himself, I have eaten ashes as it were bread  . His lustful eye he wasted away with tears saying, Every night will I wash my couch, and water my bed with my tears  . When his officers besought him to eat bread he would not listen. He prolonged his fast unto seven whole days. If a king thus made confession oughtest not thou, a private person, to confess? Again, after Absalom's insurrection, though there were many roads for him to escape, he chose to flee by the Mount of Olives, in thought, as it were, invoking the Redeemer who was to go up thence into the heavens  . And when Shimei cursed him bitterly, he said, Let him alone, for he knew that "to him that forgiveth it shall be forgiven  ."
13. Thou seest that it is good to make confession. Thou seest that there is salvation for them that repent. Solomon also fell but what saith he? Afterwards I repented  . Ahab, too, the King of Samaria, became a most wicked idolater, an outrageous man, the murderer of the Prophets  , a stranger to godliness, a coveter of other men's fields and vineyards. Yet when by Jezebel's means he had slain Naboth, and the Prophet Elias came and merely threatened him, he rent his garments, and put on sackcloth. And what saith the merciful God to Elias? Hast than seen how Ahab is pricked in the heart before Me  ? as if almost He would persuade the fiery zeal of the Prophet to condescend to the penitent. For He saith, I will not bring the evil in his days. And though after this forgiveness he was sure not to depart from his wickedness, nevertheless the forgiving God forgave him, not as being ignorant of the future, but as granting a forgiveness corresponding to his present season of repentance. For it is the part of a righteous judge to give sentence according to each case that has occurred.
14. Again, Jeroboam was standing at the altar sacrificing to the idols: his hand became withered, because he commanded the Prophet who reproved him to be seized: but having by experience learned the power of the man before him, he says, Entreat the face of the Lord thy God  ; and because of this saying his hand was restored again. If the Prophet healed Jeroboam, is Christ not able to heal and deliver thee from thy sins? Manasses also was utterly wicked, who sawed Isaiah asunder  , and was defiled with all kinds of idolatries, and filled Jerusalem with innocent blood  ; but having been led captive to Babylon he used his experience of misfortune for a healing course of repentance: for the Scripture saith that Manasses humbled himself before the Lord, and prayed, and the Lord heard him, and brought him back to his kingdom. If He who sawed the Prophet asunder was saved by repentance, shall not thou then, having done no such great wickedness, be saved?
15. Take heed lest without reason thou mistrust the power of repentance. Wouldst thou know what power repentance has? Wouldst thou know the strong weapon of salvation, and learn what the force of confession is? Hezekiah by means of confession routed a hundred and fourscore and five thousand of his enemies. A great thing verily was this, but still small in comparison with what remains to be told: the same king by repentance obtained the recall of a divine sentence which had already gone forth. For when he had fallen sick, Esaias said to him, Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live  . What expectation remained, what hope of recovery, when the Prophet said, for thou shalt die? Yet Hezekiah did not desist from repentance; but remembering what is written, When thou shalt turn and lament, then shalt thou be saved  , he turned to the wall, and from his bed lifting his mind to heaven (for thickness of walls is no hindrance to prayers sent up with devotion), he said, "Remember me, O Lord, for it is sufficient for my healing that Thou remember me. Thou art not subject to times, but art Thyself the giver of the law of life. For our life depends not on a nativity, nor on a conjunction of stars, as some idly talk; but both of life and its duration. Then art Thyself the Lawgiver according to Thy Will." And he, who could not hope to live because of the prophetic sentence, had fifteen years added to his life, and for the sign the sun ran backward in his course. Well then, for Ezekias' sake the sun turned back but for Christ the sun was eclipsed, not retracing his steps, but suffering eclipse  , and therefore shewing the difference between them, I mean between Ezekias and Jesus. The former prevailed to the cancelling of God's decree, and cannot Jesus grant remission of sins? Turn and bewail thyself, shut thy door, and pray to be forgiven, pray that He may remove from thee the burning flames. For confession has power to quench even fire, power to tame even lions  .
16. But if thou disbelieve, consider what befel Ananias and his companions. What streams did they pour out  ? How many vessels  of water could quench the flame that rose up forty-nine cubits high  ? Nay, but where the flame mounted up a little  too high, faith was there poured out as a river, and there spake they the spell against all ills  : Righteous art Thou, O Lord, in all the things that Thou hast done to us: for we have sinned, and transgressed Thy law  . And their repentance quelled the flames  . If thou believest not that repentance is able to quench the fire of hell, learn it from what happened in regard to Ananias  . But some keen hearer will say, Those men God rescued justly in that case: because they refused to commit idolatry, God gave them that power. And since this thought has occurred, I come next to a different example of penitence  .
17. What thinkest thou of Nabuchodonosor? Hast thou not heard out of the Scriptures that he was bloodthirsty, fierce  , lion-like in disposition? Hast thou not heard that he brought out the bones of the kings from their graves into the light  ? Hast thou not heard  that he carried the people away captive? Hast thou not heard that he put out the eyes of the king, after he had already seen his children slain  ? Hast thou not heard that he brake in pieces  the Cherubim? I do not mean the invisible  beings;--away with such a thought, O man  ,--but the sculptured images, and the mercy-seat, in the midst of which God spake with His voice  . The veil of the Sanctuary  he trampled under foot: the altar of incense he took and carried away to an idol-temple  : all the offerings he took away: the Temple he burned from the foundations  . How great punishments did he deserve, for slaying kings, for setting fire to the Sanctuary, for taking the people captive, for setting the sacred vessels in the house of idols? Did he not deserve ten thousand deaths?
18. Thou hast seen the greatness of his evil deeds: come now to God's loving-kindness. He was turned into a wild beast  , he abode in the wilderness, he was scourged, that he might be saved. He had claws as a lion  ; for he was a ravager of the Sanctuary. He had a lion's mane: for he was a ravening and a roaring lion. He ate grass like an ox: for a brute beast he was, not knowing Him who had given him the kingdom. His body was wet from the dew; because after seeing the fire quenched by the dew he believed not  . And what happened  ? After this, saith he, I, Nabuchodonosor, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and I blessed the Most High, and to Him that liveth for ever I gave praise and glory  . When, therefore, he recognised the Most High  , and sent up these words of thankfulness to God, and repented himself for what he had done, and recognised his own weakness, then God gave back to him the honour of the kingdom.
19. What then  ? When Nabuchodonosor, after having done such deeds, had made confession, did God give him pardon and the kingdom, and when thou repentest shall He not give thee the remission of sins, and the kingdom of heaven, if thou live a worthy life? The Lord is loving unto man, and swift to pardon, but slow to punish. Let no man therefore despair of his own salvation. Peter, the chiefest and foremost of the Apostles, denied the Lord thrice before a little maid: but he repented himself, and wept bitterly. Now weeping shews the repentance of the heart: and therefore he not only received forgiveness for his denial, but also held his Apostolic dignity unforfeited.
20. Having therefore, brethren, many examples of those who have sinned and repented and been saved, do ye also heartily make confession unto the Lord, that ye may both receive the forgiveness of your former sins, and be counted worthy of the heavenly gift, and inherit the heavenly kingdom with all the saints in Christ Jesus; to Whom is the glory for ever and ever. Amen  .
Or know ye not that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? were buried therefore with Him by our baptism into death, &c.
1. Rejoice, ye heavens, and let the earth be glad  , for those who are to be sprinkled with hyssop, and cleansed with the spiritual  hyssop, the power of Him to whom at His Passion drink was offered on hyssop and a reed  . And while the Heavenly Powers rejoice, let the souls that are to be united to the spiritual Bridegroom make themselves ready. For the voice is heard of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord  . For this is no light matter, no ordinary and indiscriminate union according to the flesh  , but the All-searching Spirit's election according to faith. For the inter-marriages and contracts of the world are not made altogether with judgment: but wherever there is wealth or beauty, there the bridegroom speedily approves: but here it is not beauty of person, but the soul's clear conscience; not the condemned Mammon, but the wealth of the soul in godliness.
2. Listen then, O ye children of righteousness, to John's exhortation when he says, Make straight the way of the Lord. Take away all obstacles and stumbling-blocks, that ye may walk straight onward to eternal life. Make ready the vessels  of the soul, cleansed by unfeigned faith, for reception of the Holy Ghost. Begin at once to wash your robes in repentance, that when called to the bride-chamber ye may be found clean. For the Bridegroom invites all without distinction, because His grace is bounteous; and the cry of loud-voiced heralds assembles them all: but the same Bridegroom afterwards separates those who have come in to the figurative marriage. O may none of those whose names have now been enrolled hear the words, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment  ? But may you all hear, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou wast faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord  .
For now meanwhile thou standest outside the door: but God grant that you all may say, The King hath brought me into His chamber  . Let my soul rejoice in the Lord: for He hath clothed me with a garment of salvation, and a robe of gladness: He hath crowned me with a garland as a bridegroom  , and decked me with ornaments as a bride: that the soul of every one of you may be found not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing  ; I do not mean before you have received the grace, for how could that be? since it is for remission of sins that ye have been called; but that, when the grace is to be given, your conscience being found uncondemned may concur with the grace.
3. This is in truth a serious matter, brethren, and you must approach it with good heed. Each one of you is about to be presented to God before tens of thousands of the Angelic Hosts: the Holy Ghost is about to seal  your souls: ye are to be enrolled in the army of the Great King. Therefore make you ready, and equip yourselves, by putting on I mean, not bright apparel  , but piety of soul with a good conscience. Regard not the Laver as simple water, but rather regard the spiritual grace that is given with the water. For just as the offerings brought to the heathen altars  , though simple in their nature, become defiled by the invocation of the idols  , so contrariwise the simple water having received the invocation of the Holy Ghost, and of Christ, and of the Father, acquires a new power of holiness.
4. For since man is of twofold nature, soul and body, the purification also is twofold, the one incorporeal for the incorporeal part, and the other bodily for the body: the water cleanses the body, and the Spirit seals the soul; that we may draw near unto God, having our heart sprinkled by the Spirit, and our body washed with pure water  . When going down, therefore, into the water, think not of the bare element, but look for salvation by the power of the Holy Ghost: for without both thou canst not possibly be made perfect  . It is not I that say this, but the Lord Jesus Christ, who has the power in this matter: for He saith, Except a man be born anew (and He adds the words) of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God  . Neither doth he that is baptized with water, but not found worthy of the Spirit, receive the grace in perfection; nor if a man be virtuous in his deeds, but receive not the seal by water, shall he enter into the kingdom of heaven. A bold saying, but not mine, for it is Jesus who hath declared it: and here is the proof of the statement from Holy Scripture. Cornelius was a just man, who was honoured with a vision of Angels, and had set up his prayers and alms-deeds as a good memorial  before God in heaven. Peter came, and the Spirit was poured out upon them that believed, and they spake with other tongues, and prophesied: and after the grace of the Spirit the Scripture saith that Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ  ; in order that, the soul having been born again by faith  , the body also might by the water partake of the grace.
5. But if any one wishes to know why the grace is given by water and not by a different element, let him take up the Divine Scriptures and he shall learn. For water is a grand thing, and the noblest of the four visible elements of the world. Heaven is the dwelling-place of Angels, but the heavens are from the waters  : the earth is the place of men, but the earth is from the waters: and before the whole six days' formation of the things that were made, the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the water  . The water was the beginning of the world, and Jordan the beginning of the Gospel tidings: for Israel deliverance from Pharaoh was through the sea, and for the world deliverance from sins by the washing of water with the word  of God. Where a covenant is made with any, there is water also. After the flood, a covenant was made with Noah: a covenant for Israel from Mount Sinai, but with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop  . Elias is taken up, but not apart from water: for first he crosses the Jordan, then in a chariot mounts the heaven. The high-priest is first washed, then offers incense; for Aaron first washed, then was made high-priest: for how could one who had not yet been purified by water pray for the rest? Also as a symbol of Baptism there was a laver set apart within the Tabernacle.
6. Baptism is the end of the Old Testament, and beginning of the New. For its author was John, than whom was none greater among them that are born of women. The end he was of the Prophets: for all the Prophets and the law were until John  : but of the Gospel history he was the first-fruit. For it saith, The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, &c.: John came baptising in the wilderness  . You may mention Elias the Tishbite who was taken up into heaven, yet he is not greater than John: Enoch was translated, but he is not greater than John: Moses was a very great lawgiver, and all the Prophets were admirable, but not greater than John. It is not I that dare to compare Prophets with Prophets: but their Master and ours, the Lord Jesus, declared it: Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John  : He saith not "among them that are born of virgins," but of women  . The comparison is between the great servant and his fellow-servants: but the pre-eminence and the grace of the Son is beyond comparison with servants. Seest thou how great a man God chose as the first minister of this grace?--a man possessing nothing, and a lover of the desert, yet no hater of mankind: who ate locusts, and winged his soul for heaven  : feeding upon honey, and speaking things both sweeter and more salutary than honey: clothed with a garment of camel's hair, and shewing in himself the pattern of the ascetic life; who also was sanctified by the Holy Ghost while yet he was carried in his mother's womb. Jeremiah was sanctified, but did not prophesy, in the womb  : John alone while carried in the womb leaped for joy  , and though he saw not with the eyes of flesh, knew his Master by the Spirit: for since the grace of Baptism was great, it required greatness in its founder also.
7. This man was baptizing in Jordan, and there went out unto him all Jerusalem  , to enjoy the first-fruits of baptisms: for in Jerusalem is the prerogative of all things good. But learn, O ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, how they that came out were baptized by him: confessing their sins, it is said  . First they shewed their wounds, then he applied the remedies, and to them that believed gave redemption from eternal fire. And if thou wilt be convinced of this very point, that the baptism of John is a redemption from the threat of the fire, hear how he says, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come  ? Be not then henceforth a viper, but as thou hast been formerly a viper's brood, put off, saith he, the slough  of thy former sinful life. For every serpent creeps into a hole and casts its old slough, and having rubbed off the old skin, grows young again in body. In like manner enter thou also through the strait and narrow gate  : rub off thy former self by fasting, and drive out that which is destroying thee. Put off the old man with his doings  , and quote that saying in the Canticles, I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on  ?
But there is perhaps among you some hypocrite, a man-pleaser, and one who makes a pretence of piety, but believes not from the heart; having the hypocrisy of Simon Magus; one who has come hither not in order to receive of the grace, but to spy out what is given: let him also learn from John: And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees, Every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire  . The Judge is inexorable; put away thine hypocrisy.
8. What then must you do? And what are the fruits of repentance? Let him that hath two coats give to him that hath none  : the teacher was worthy of credit, since he was also the first to practise what he taught: he was not ashamed to speak, for conscience hindered not his tongue: and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Wouldst thou enjoy the grace of the Holy Spirit, yet judgest the poor not worthy of bodily food? Seekest thou the great gifts, and impartest not of the small? Though thou be a publican, or a fornicator, have hope of salvation: the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you  . Paul also is witness, saying, Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor the rest, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified  . He said not, such are some of you, but such were some of you. Sin committed in the state of ignorance is pardoned, but persistent wickedness is condemned.
9. Thou hast as the glory of Baptism the Son Himself, the Only-begotten of God. For why should I speak any more of man? John was great, but what is he to the Lord? His was a loud-sounding voice, but what in comparison with the Word? Very noble was the herald, but what in comparison with the King? Noble was he that baptized with water, but what to Him that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost and with fire  ? The Saviour baptized the Apostles with the Holy Ghost and with fire, when suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire: and it sat upon each one of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost  .
10. If any man receive not Baptism, he hath not salvation; except only Martyrs, who even without the water receive the kingdom. For when the Saviour, in redeeming the world by His Cross, was pierced in the side, He shed forth blood and water; that men, living in times of peace, might be baptized in water, and, in times of persecution, in their own blood. For martyrdom also the Saviour is wont to call a baptism, saying, Can ye drink the cup which I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with  ? And the Martyrs confess, by being made a spectacle unto the world, and to Angels, and to men  ; and thou wilt soon confess:--but it is not yet the time for thee to hear of this.
11. Jesus sanctified Baptism by being Himself baptized. If the Son of God was baptized, what godly man is he that despiseth Baptism? But He was baptized not that He might receive remission of sins, for He was sinless; but being sinless, He was baptized, that He might give to them that are baptized a divine and excellent grace. For since the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same  , that having been made partakers of His presence in the flesh we might be made partakers also of His Divine grace: thus Jesus was baptized, that thereby we again by our participation might receive both salvation and honour. According to Job, there was in the waters the dragon that draweth up Jordan into his mouth  . Since, therefore, it was necessary to break the heads of the dragon in pieces  , He went down and bound the strong one in the waters, that we might receive power to tread upon serpents and scorpions  . The beast was great and terrible. No fishing-vessel was able to carry one scale of his tail  : destruction ran before him  , ravaging all that met him. The Life encountered him, that the mouth of Death might henceforth be stopped, and all we that are saved might say, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory  ? The sting of death is drawn by Baptism.
12. For thou goest down into the water, bearing thy sins, but the invocation of grace  , having sealed thy soul, suffereth thee not afterwards to be swallowed up by the terrible dragon. Having gone down dead in sins, thou comest up quickened in righteousness. For if thou hast been united with the likeness of the Saviour's death  , thou shalt also be deemed worthy of His Resurrection. For as Jesus took upon Him the sins of the world, and died, that by putting sin to death He might rise again in righteousness; so thou by going down into the water, and being in a manner buried in the waters, as He was in the rock, art raised again walking in newness of life  . 13. Moreover, when thou hast been deemed worthy of the grace, He then giveth thee strength to wrestle against the adverse powers. For as after His Baptism He was tempted forty days (not that He was unable to gain the victory before, but because He wished to do all things in due order and succession), so thou likewise, though not daring before thy baptism to wrestle with the adversaries, yet after thou hast received the grace and art henceforth confident in the armour of righteousness  , must then do battle, and preach the Gospel, if thou wilt.
14. Jesus Christ was the Son of God, yet He preached not the Gospel before His Baptism. If the Master Himself followed the right time in due order, ought we, His servants, to venture out of order? From that time Jesus began to preach  , when the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him in a bodily shape, like a dove  ; not that Jesus might see Him first, for He knew Him even before He came in a bodily shape, but that John, who was baptizing Him, might behold Him. For I, saith he, knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, He said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding on Him, that is He  . If thou too hast unfeigned piety, the Holy Ghost cometh down on thee also, and a Father's voice sounds over thee from on high--not, "This is My Son," but, "This has now been made My son;" for the "is" belongs to Him alone, because In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God  . To Him belongs the "is," since He is always the Son of God: but to thee "has now been made:" since thou hast not the sonship by nature, but receivest it by adoption. He eternally "is;" but thou receivest the grace by advancement.
15. Make ready then the vessel of thy soul, that thou mayest become a son of God, and an heir of God, and joint-heir with Christ  ; if, indeed, thou art preparing thyself that thou mayest receive; if thou art drawing nigh in faith that thou mayest be made faithful; if of set purpose thou art putting off the old man. For all things whatsoever thou hast done shall be forgiven thee, whether it be fornication, or adultery, or any other such form of licentiousness. What can be a greater sin than to crucify Christ? Yet even of this Baptism can purify. For so spake Peter to the three thousand who came to him, to those who had crucified the Lord, when they asked him, saying, Men and brethren, what shall we do  ? For the wound is great. Thou hast made us think of our fall, O Peter, by saying, Ye killed the Prince of Life  . What salve is there for so great a wound? What cleansing for such foulness? What is the salvation for such perdition? Repent, saith he, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost  . O unspeakable loving-kindness of God! They have no hope of being saved, and yet they are thought worthy of the Holy Ghost. Thou seest the power of Baptism! If any of you has crucified the Christ by blasphemous words; if any of you in ignorance has denied Him before men; if any by wicked works has caused the doctrine to be blasphemed; let him repent and be of good hope, for the same grace is present even now.
16. Be of good courage, O Jerusalem; the Lord will take away all thine iniquities  . The Lord will wash away the filth of His sons and of His daughters by the Spirit of judgment, and by the Spirit of burning  . He will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be cleansed from all your sin  . Angels shall dance around you, and say, Who is this that cometh up in white array, leaning upon her beloved  ? For the soul that was formerly a slave has now adopted her Master Himself as her kinsman: and He accepting the unfeigned purpose will answer: Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair: thy teeth are like flocks of sheep new shorn, (because of the confession of a good conscience: and further) which have all of them twins  ; because of the twofold grace, I mean that which is perfected of water and of the Spirit  , or that which is announced by the Old and by the New Testament. And God grant that all of you when you have finished the course of the fast, may remember what I say, and bringing forth fruit in good works, may stand blameless beside the Spiritual Bridegroom, and obtain the remission of your sins from God; to whom with the Son and Holy Spirit be the glory for ever. Amen.
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