Old Doxoblogy

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tertullian Says...Baptism Is To Be Preceded By Repentance

Moreover, a presumptuous confidence in baptism introduces all kind of vicious delay and tergiversation with regard to repentance; for, feeling sure of undoubted pardon of their sins, men meanwhile steal the intervening time, and make it for themselves into a holiday-time for sinning, rather than a time for learning not to sin. Further, how inconsistent is it to expect pardon of sins (to be granted) to a repentance which they have not fulfilled! This is to hold out your hand for merchandise, but not produce the price. For repentance is the price at which the Lord has determined to award pardon: He proposes the redemption of release from penalty at this compensating exchange of repentance. If, then, sellers first examine the coin with which they make their bargains, to see whether it be cut, or scraped, or adulterated, we believe likewise that the Lord, when about to make us the grant of so costly merchandise, even of eternal life, first institutes a probation of our repentance.
"But meanwhile let us defer the reality of our repentance: it will then, I suppose, be clear that we are amended when we are absolved."
By no means; (but our amendment should be manifested) while, pardon being in abeyance, there is still a prospect of penalty; while the penitent does not yet merit-so far as merit we can-his liberation; while God is threatening, not while He is forgiving. For what slave, after his position has been changed by reception of freedom, charges himself with his (past) thefts and desertions? What soldier, after his discharge, makes satisfaction for his (former) brands? A sinner is bound to bemoan himself before receiving pardon, because the time of repentance is coincident with that of peril and of fear. Not that I deny that the divine benefit-the putting away of sins, I mean-is in every way sure to such as are on the point of entering the (baptismal) water; but what we have to labour for is, that it may be granted us to attain that blessing. For who will grant to you, a man of so faithless repentance, one single sprinkling of any water whatever?

Tertullian; On Repentance, Chapter VI


kec said...


Now that's a word.
And good points.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I'll probably use that word in my sermon this Sunday.