Augustin on John 3
4 (Jn 1,19-33.
You have very often heard, holy brethren, and you know well, that Jn the Baptist, in proportion as he was greater than those born of women, and was more humble in his acknowledgment of the Lord, obtained the grace of being the friend of the Bridegroom; zealous for the Bridegroom, not for himself; not seeking his own honor, but that of his Judge, whom as a herald he preceded. Therefore, to the prophets who went before, it was granted to predict concerning Christ; but to this man, to point Him out with the finger. For as Christ was unknown by those who did not believe the prophets before He came, He remained unknown to them even when present. For He had come humbly and concealed from the first; the more concealed in proportion as He was more humble: but the people, despising in their pride the humility of God, crucified their Saviour, and made Him their condemner.
2. But will not He who at first came concealed, because humble, come again manifested, because exalted? You have just listened to the Psalm: “God shall come manifestly, and our God shall not keep silence.”1 He was silent that He might be judged, He will not be silent when He begins to judge. It would not have been said, “He will come manifestly,” unless at first He had come concealed; nor would it have been said, “He shall not keep silence,” unless He had first kept silence. How was He silent? Interrogate Isaiah: “He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer was dumb, so He opened not His mouth.’ “But He shall come manifestly, and shall not keep silence.”2 In what manner “manifestly”? “A fire shall go before Him, and round about Him a strong tempest.”3 That tempest has to carry away all the chaff from the floor, which is now being threshed; and the fire has to burn what the tempest carries away. But now He is silent; silent in judgment, but not silent in precept. For if Christ is silent, what is the purpose of these Gospels? what the purpose of the voices of the apostles, what of the canticles of the Psalms, what of the declarations of the prophets? In all these Christ is not silent. But now He is silent in not taking vengeance: He is not silent in not giving warning. But He will come in glory to take vengeance, and will manifest Himself even to all who do not believe on Him. But now, because when present He was concealed, it behoved that He should be despised. For unless He had been despised, He would not have been crucified; if He had not been crucified, He would not have shed His blood-the price by which He redeemed us. But that He might give a price for us, He was crucified; that He might be crucified, He was despised; that He might be despised, He appeared in humility.
3. Yet because He appeared as it were in the night, in a mortal body, He lighted for Himself a lamp by which He might be seen. That lamp was John,4 concerning whom you lately heard many things: and the present passage of the evangelist contains the words of John; in the first place, and it is the chief point, his confession that he was not the Christ. But so great was the excellence of John, that men might have believed him to be the Christ: and in this he gave a proof of his humility, that he said he was not when he might have been believed to have been the Christ; therefore, “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to him from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?” But they would not have sent unless they had been moved by the excellence of his authority who ventured to baptize. “And he confessed, and denied not.” What did he confess? “And he confessed, I am not the Christ.”
4. “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?” For they knew that Elias was to precede Christ. For to no Jew was the name of Christ unknown. They did not think that he was the Christ; but they did not think that Christ would not come at all. When they were hoping that He would come, they were offended at Him when He was present, and stumbled at Him as on a low stone. For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as saith Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands.But what follows? “And that stone,” saith he “grew and became a great mountain and filled the whole face of the earth.”5 Mc then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth. Because then it had not yet increased, they stumbled at Him as at a stone: and that happened in them which is written, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever that stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder.”6 At first they fell upon Him lowly: as the lofty One He shall come upon them; but that He may grind them to powder when He comes in His exaltation, He first broke them in His lowliness. They stumbled at Him, and were broken; they were not ground, but broken: He will come exalted and will grind them. But the Jews were to be pardoned because they stumbled at a stone which had not yet increased. What sort of persons are those who stumble at the mountain itself? Already you know who they are of whom I speak. Those who deny the Church diffused through the whole world, do not stumble at the lowly stone, but at the mountain itself: because this the stone became as it grew. The blind Jews did not see the lowly stone: but how great blindness not to see the mountain!
5. They saw Him then lowly, and did not know Him. He was pointed out to them by a lamp. For in the first place he, than whom no greater had arisen of those born of women, said, “I am not the Christ.” It was said to him, “Art thou Elias? He answered, I am not.” For Christ sends Elias before Him: and he said, “I am not,” and occasioned a question for us. For it is to be feared test. men, insufficiently understanding, think that Jn contradicted what Christ said. For in a certain place, when the Lord Jesus Christ said certain things in the Gospel regarding Himself, His disciples answered Him: “How then say the scribes,” that is, those skilled in the law, “that Elias must first come?” And the Lord said, “Elias is already come, and they have done unto him what they listed;” and, if you wish to know, Jn the Baptist is he.7 The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Elias is already come, and Jn the Baptist” is he; but John, being interrogated, confessed that he was not Elias, in the same manner that he confessed that he was not Christ. And as his confession that he was not Christ was true, so was his confession that he was not Elias. How then shall we compare the words of the herald with the words of the Judge? Away with the thought that the herald speaks falsehood; for that which he speaks he hears from the Judge. Wherefore then did he say, “I am not Elias;” and the Lord, “He is Elias”? Because the Lord Jesus Christ wished in him to prefigure His own advent, and to say that Jn was in the spirit of Elias. And what Jn was to the first advent, that will Elias be to the second advent. As there are two advents of the Judge, so are there two heralds. The Judge indeed was the same, but the heralds two,but not two judges. It was needful that in the first instance the Judge should come tobe judged. He sent before Him His first herald; He called him Elias, because Elias will be in the second advent what Jn was in the first.
6. For mark, beloved brethren, how true it is what I say. When John was conceived, or rather when he was born, the Holy Spirit prophesied that this would be fulfilled in him: “And he shall be,” he said, “the forerunner of the Highest, in the spirit and power of Elias.”8 What signifieth “in the spirit and power of Elias”? In the same Holy Spirit in the room of Elias. Wherefore in room of Elias? Because what Elias will be to the second, that Jn was to the first advent. Rightly therefore, speaking literally, did Jn reply. For the Lord spoke figuratively, “Elias, the same is John:” but he, as I have said, spoke literally when he said, “I am not Elias.” Neither did Jn speak falsely, nor did the Lord speak falsely; neither was the word of the herald nor of the Judge false, if only thou understand. But who shall understand? He who shall have imitated the lowliness of the herald, and shall have acknowledged the loftiness of the Judge. For nothing was more lowly than the herald. My brethren, in nothing had Jn greater merit than in this humility, inasmuch as when he was able to deceive men, and to be thought Christ, and to have been received in the place of Christ (for so great were his grace and his excellency), nevertheless he openly confessed and said, “I am not the Christ.” “Art thou Elias?” If he had said I am Elias, it would have been as if Christ were already coming in His second advent to judge, not in His first to be judged. As if saying. Elias is yet to come, “I am not,” said he, “Elias.” But give heed to the lowly One before whom Jn came, that you may not feel the lofty One before whom Elias came. For thus also did the Lord complete the saying: “Jn the Baptist is he which is to come.” He came as a figure of that in which Elias is to come in his own person. Then Elias will in his own proper person be Elias, now in similitude he was John. Now Jn in his own proper person is John, in similitude Elias. The two heralds gave to each other their similitudes, and kept their own proper persons; but the Judge is one Lord, whether preceded by this herald or by that.
7. “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he said, No. And they said unto him, Art thou a prophet? and he answered, No! They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He saith, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”9 That said Isaiah. This prophecy was fulfilled in John, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Crying what? “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.” Would it not have seemed to you that a herald would have cried, “Go away, make room.” Instead of the herald’s cry “Go away,” Jn says “Come.” The herald makes men stand back from the judge; to the Judge John calls. Yes, indeed, Jn calls men to the lowly One, that they may not experience what He will be as the exalted Judge. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.” He did not say, I am John, I am Elias, I am a prophet. But what did he say? This I am called, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord: I am the prophecy itself.”
8. “And they which were sent were of the Pharisees,” that is, of the chief men among the Jews; “and they asked him and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet?” As if it seemed to them audacity to baptize, as if they meant to inquire, in what character baptizest thou? We ask whether thou art the Christ; thou sayest that thou art not. We ask whether thou perchance art His precursor, for we know that before the advent of Christ, Elias will come; thou answerest that thou art not. We ask, if perchance thou art some herald come long before, that is, a prophet, and hast received that power, and thou sayest that thou art not a prophet. And Jn was not a prophet; he was greater than a prophet. The Lord gave such testimony concerning him: “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” Of course implying that he was not shaken by the wind; because Jn was not such an one as is moved by the wind; for he who is moved by the wind is blown upon by every seductive blast. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” For Jn was clothed in rough garments; that is, his tunic was of camel’s hair. “Behold, they who are clothed in soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” You did not then go out to see a man clothed in soft raiment. “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, one greater than a prophet is here;”10 for the prophets prophesied of Christ a long time before, John pointed Him out as present.
9. “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet? Jn answered them, saying, I baptize with water; but there standeth One among you whom ye know not.” For, very truly, He was not seen, being humble, and therefore was the lamp lighted. Observe how Jn gives place, who might have been accounted other than he was. “He it is who cometh after me, who is made before me” (that is, as we have already said, is “preferred before me”), whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” How greatly did he humble himself! And therefore he was greatly lifted up; for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.11 Hence, holy brethren, you ought to note that if Jn so humbled himself as to say, “I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet,” what need they have to be humbled who say, “We baptize; what we give is ours, and what is ours is holy.” He said, Not I, but He; they say, We. Jn is not worthy to unloose His shoe’s latchet; and if he had said he was worthy, how humble would he still have been! And if he had said he was worthy, and had spoken thus, “He came after me who is made before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am only worthy to unloose,” he would have greatly humbled himself. But when he says that he is not worthy even to do this, truly was he full of the Holy Spirit, who in such fashion as a servant acknowledged his Lord, and merited to be made a friend instead of a servant.
10. “These things were done in Bethany, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day Jn saw Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world!” Let no one so arrogate to himself as to say that he taketh away the sin of the world. Give heed now to the proud men at whom Jn pointed the finger. The heretics were not yet born, but already were they pointed out; against them he then cried from the river, against whom he now cries from the Gospel. Jesus comes, and what says he? “Behold the Lamb of God!” If to be innocent is to be a lamb, then Jn was a lamb, for was not he innocent? But who is innocent? To what extent innocent? All come from that branch and shoot, concerning which David sings, even with groanings, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”12 Alone, then, was He, the Lamb who came, not so. For He was not conceived in iniquity, because not conceived of mortality; nor did His mother conceive Him in sin, whom the Virgin conceived, whom the Virgin brought forth; because by faith she conceived, and by faith received Him. Therefore, “Behold the Lamb of God.” He is not a branch derived from Adam: flesh only did he derive from Adam, Adam’s sin He did not assume. He who took not upon Him sin from our lump, He it is who taketh away our sin. “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!”
11. You know that certain men say sometimes, We take away sin from men, we who are holy; for if he be not holy who baptizeth, how taketh he away the sin of another, when he is a man himself full of sin? In opposition to these disputations, let us not speak our own words, let us read what Jn says: “Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world!” Let there not be presumptuous confidence of men upon men: let not the sparrow flee to the mountains, but let it trust in the Lord;13 and if it lift its eyes to the mountains, from whence cometh aid to it, let it understand that its aid is from the Lord who made heaven and earth.14 So great is the excellence of John, that to him it is said, “Art thou the Christ?” He says, No. Art thou Elias? He says, No. Art thou a prophet? He says, No. Wherefore then dost thou baptize? “Behold the Lamb of God; behold Him who taketh away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I spake, After me cometh a Man who was made before me; for He was before me.” “Cometh after me,” because He was born later; “was made before me,” because preferred before me; “He was before me,” because, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
12. “And I knew Him not,” he said; “but that He might be made manifest to Israel, therefore came I baptizing with water. And Jn bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, the same is He who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.” Give heed for a little, beloved. When did Jn learn Christ? For he was sent to baptize with water. They asked, Wherefore? That He might be made manifest to Israel, he said. Of what profit was the baptism of John? My brethren, if it had profited in any respect, it would have remained now, and men would have been baptized with the baptism of John, and thus have come to the baptism of Christ. But what saith he? “That He might be made manifest to Israel,”-that is, to Israel itself, to the people Israel, so that Christ might be made manifest to it,-therefore he came baptizing with water. Jn received the ministry of baptism, that by the water of repentance he might prepare the way for the Lord, not being himself the Lord; but where the Lord was known, it was superfluous to prepare for Him the way, for to those who knew Him He became Himself the way; therefore the baptism of Jn did not last long. But how was the Lord pointed out? Lowly, that John might so receive a baptism in which the Lord Himself should be baptized.
13. And was it needful for the Lord to be baptized? I instantly reply to any one who asks this question: Was it needful for the Lord to be born? Was it needful for the Lord to be crucified? Was it needful for the Lord to die? Was it needful for the Lord to be buried? If He undertook for us so great humiliation, might He not also receive baptism? And what profit was there that he received the baptism of a servant? That thou mightest not disdain to receive the baptism of the Lord. Give heed, beloved brethren. Certain catechumens were to arise in the Church of higher grace. It sometimes comes to pass that you see a catechumen who practises continence, bids farewell to the world, renounces all his possessions, distributing them to the poor; and although but a catechumen, instructed in the saving doctrine better, perhaps, than many of the faithful. It is to be feared regarding such an one that he may say to himself about holy baptism, whereby sins are remitted, What more shall I receive? Behold, I am better than this faithful man, and this,-having in his mind those among the faithful who are either married, or who are perhaps ignorant, or who keep possession of their property, while he has given his to the poor,-and considering himself better than those who have been already baptized, he deigns not to come to baptism, saying, Am I to receive what this man has, and this thinking of persons whom he despises, and, as it were, considers it an indignity to receive that which inferiors have received, because he appears to himself to be already better than they; and, nevertheless, all his sins are upon him, and without coming to saving baptism, wherein all sins are remitted, he cannot, with all his excellence, enter into the kingdom of heaven. But the Lord, in order to invite such excellence to his baptism, that sins might be remitted, Himself came to the baptism of His servant; and although He had no sin to be remitted, nor was there anything in Him that needed to be washed, He received baptism from a servant; and by so doing, addressed Himself to the son carrying himself proudly, and exalting himself, and disdaining, perhaps, to receive along with the ignorant that from which salvation comes to him, and said to him: How dost thou extend thyself? How dost thou exalt thyself? How great is thy excellence? How great is thy grace? Can it be greater than mine? If I come to the servant, dost thou disdain to come to the Lord? If I have received the baptism of the servant, dost thou disdain to be baptized by the Lord?
14. But that you may know, my brethren, that not from a necessity of any chain of sin did the Lord come to this John, as the other evangelists say when the Lord came to him to be baptized, Jn himself said, “Comest Thou to me? I have need to be baptized of Thee.”15 What did He reply to him? “Suffer it to be so now: let all righteousness be fulfilled?” What meaneth this, “let all righteousness be fulfilled”? I came to die for men, have I not to be baptized for men? What meaneth” let all righteousness be fulfilled”? Let all humility be fulfilled. What then? Was not He to accept baptism from a good servant who accepted suffering at the hands of evil servants? Give heed then. The Lord being baptized, if Jn for this end baptized, that by means of his baptism the Lord might manifest His humility, should no one else have been baptized with the baptism of John? But many were baptized with the baptism of John. When the Lord was baptized with the baptism of John, the baptism of Jn ceased. Jn was forthwith cast into prison. Afterwards we do not find that any one is baptized with that baptism. If, then, Jn came baptizing for this end that the humility of the Lord might be made manifest to us, in order that we might not disdain to receive from the Lord that which the Lord had received from a servant, should Jn have baptized the Lord alone? But if Jn had baptized the Lord alone, some would have thought that the baptism of Jn was more holy than that of Christ: as if Christ alone had been found worthy to be baptized with the baptism of John, but the human race with that of Christ. Give heed, beloved brethren. With the baptism of Christ we have been baptized, and not only we, but the whole world, and this will continue to the end. Which of us can in any respect be compared with Christ, whose shoe’s latchet Jn declared himself unworthy to unloose? If, then, the Christ, a man of such excellence, a man who is God, had been alone baptized with the baptism of John, what were men likely to say? What a baptism was that of John! His was a great baptism, an ineffable sacrament; behold, Christ alone deserved to be baptized with the baptism of John. And thus the baptism of the servant would appear greater than the baptism of the Lord. Others were also baptized with the baptism of John, that the baptism of Jn might not appear better than the baptism of Christ; but baptized also was the Lord, that through the Lord receiving the baptism of the servant, other servants might not disdain to receive the baptism of the Lord: for this end, then, was Jn sent.
15. But did he know Christ, or did he not know Him? If he did not know Him, wherefore did He say, when Christ came to the river, “I have need to be baptized of Thee”? that is to say, I know who Thou art. If, then, he already knew Him, assuredly he knew Him when he saw the dove descending. It is evident that the dove did not descend upon the Lord until after He went up out of the water of baptism. “The Lord having been baptized, went up out of the water, and the heavens were opened, and he saw a dove descending on Him.” If, then, the dove descended after the baptism, and if, before the Lord was baptized, John said to Him, “Comest Thou to me? I have need to be baptized of Thee;” that is to say, before he knew Him to whom he said, “Comest Thou to me? I have need to be baptized of Thee;”-how then said he, “And I knew Him not: but He who sent me to baptize with water. the same said to me, Upon whom thou seest the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost?” It is not an insignificant question, my brethren. If you have seen the question, you have seen not a little; it remains that the Lord give the solution of it. This, however, I say, if you have seen the question, it is no small matter. Behold, Jn is placed before your eyes, standing beside the river. Behold Jn the Baptist. Behold, the Lord comes, as yet to be baptized, not yet baptized. Hear the voice of John, “Comest Thou to me? I have need to be baptized of Thee.” Behold, already he knew the Lord, by whom He wishes to be baptized. The Lord, having been baptized, goes up out of the water; the heavens are opened, the Spirit descends; then Jn knows Him. If then for the first time he knew Him, why did he say before, “I have need to be baptized of Thee”? But if he did not then recognize Him for the first time, because he knew Him already, what is the meaning of what he said, “I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, as a dove, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost”?
16. My brethren, this question if solved today would oppress you, I do not doubt, for already have I spoken many words. But know that the question is of such a character that alone it is able to extinguish the party of Donatus. I have said thus much, my beloved, in order to gain your attention, as is my wont; and also in order that you may pray for us, that the Lord may grant to us to speak what is suitable, and that you may be found worthy to receive what is suitable. In the meantime, be pleased to defer the question for to-day. But in the meantime, I say this briefly, until I give a fuller solution: Inquire peacefully, without quarreling, without contention, without altercations, without enmities; both seek by yourselves, and inquire of others, and say, “This question our bishop proposed to us to-day, and he will resolve it at a future time, if the Lord will.” But whether it be resolved or not, reckon that I have propounded what appears to me of importance; for it does seem of considerable importance. Jn says, “I have need to be baptized of Thee,” as if he knew Christ. For if he did not know Him by whom he wished to be baptized, he spoke rashly when he said, “I have need to be baptized of Thee.” Therefore he knew Him. If he knew Him,what is the meaning of the saying, “I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon Him, as a dove, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost”? What shall we say? That we do not know when the dove came? Lest perchance they16 take refuge in this, let the other evangelists be read, who have spoken of this matter more plainly, and we find most evidently that the dove then descended when the Lord came up out of the water. Upon Him baptized the heavens opened, and He saw the Spirit descending.17 If it was when He was already baptized that Jn knew Him, how saith he to Him, coming to baptism, “I have need to be baptized of Thee”? Ponder this in the meantime with yourselves, confer upon it, treat of it, one with another. The Lord our God grant that before you hear it from me, the explanation may be revealed to some of you first. Nevertheless, brethren, know this, that by means of the solution of this question, the allegation of the party of Donatus, if they have any sense of shame, will be silenced, and their mouths will be shut regarding the grace of baptism, a matter about which they raise mists to confuse the uninstructed, and spread nets for flying birds.
1 (Ps 50,3).
2 (Is 53,7,
3 (Ps 49,3,
4 (Jn 5,35,
5 (Da 2,34-35.
6 (Lc 20,18).
7 (Mt 17,10-13 Mt 11,14, Vulg.
8 (Lc 1,17
9 (Is 40,3).
10 (Mt 11,7-9.
11 (Lc 14,11,
12 (Ps 51,7).
13 (Ps 10,2,
14 (Ps 112,1-2).
15 (Mt 3,14-15.
16 The Donatists).
17 (Mt 3,16 Mc 1,10 Lc 3,21-22
5 (Jn 1,33.
We have arrived, as the Lord hath willed it, to the day of our promise. He will grant this also, that we may arrive at the fulfillment of the promise. For then those things which we say, if they are useful to us and to you, are from Him; but those things which proceed from man are false, as our Lord Jesus Christ Himself has said, “He that speaketh a lie speaketh of his own.”1 No one has anything of his own except falsehood and sin. But if man has any truth and justice, it is from that fountain after which we ought to thirst in this desert, so that being, as it were, bedewed by some drops from it, and comforted in the meantime in this pilgrimage, we may not fail by the way, but reach His rest and satisfying fullness. If then “he that speaketh a lie speaketh of his own,” he who speaketh the truth speaketh of God. Jn is true, Christ is the Truth; Jn is true, but every true man is true from the Truth. If, then, Jn is true, and a man cannot be true except from the Truth, from whom was he true, unless from Him who said, “I am the truth”?2 The Truth, then, could not speak contrary to the true man, or the true man contrary to the Truth. The Truth sent the true man, and he was true because sent by the Truth. If it was the Truth that sent John, then it was Christ that sent him. But that which Christ does with the Father, the Father does; and what the Father does with Christ, Christ does. The Father does nothing apart from the Son, nor the Son anything apart from the Father: inseparable love, inseparable unity: inseparable majesty, inseparable power, according to these words which He Himself propounded,” I and my Father are one.”3 Who then sent John? If we say the Father, we speak truly; if we say the Son, we speak truly; but to speak more plainly, we say the Father and the Son. But whom the Father and the Son sent, one God sent; because the Son said, “I and the Father are one.” How, then, did he not know Him by whom he was sent? For he said, “I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me.” I interrogate John: “Who sent thee to baptize with water? what did He say to thee?“Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” Is it this, O John, that He said to thee who sent thee? It is manifest that it was this; who, then, sent thee? Perhaps the Father. True God is the Father, and the Truth is God the Son: if the Father without the Son sent thee, God without the Truth sent thee; but if thou art true, because thou dost speak the truth, and dost, speak of the Truth, the Father did not send thee without the Son, but the Father and the Son together sent thee. If, then, the Son sent thee with the Father, how didst thou not know Him by whom thou wast sent? He whom thou hadst seen in the Truth, Himself sent thee that He might be recognized in the flesh, and said, “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.’
2. Did Jn hear this that he might know Him whom he had not known, or that he might more fully know Him whom he had already known? For if he had been entirely ignorant of Him, he would not have said to Him when He came to the river to be baptized, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?”4 He knew Him therefore. But when did the dove descend? When the Lord had been baptized, and was ascending from the water. But if He who sent Him said, “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost,” and he knew Him not, but when the dove descended he learned to know Him, and the time at which the dove descended was when the Lord was going up from the water; but Jn had known the Lord, when the Lord came to him to the water: it is made plain to us that Jn after a manner knew, and after a manner did not at first know the Lord. And unless we understand it so, he was a liar. How was he true acknowledging the Lord and saying, “Comest Thou to me to be baptized,” and, “I have need to be baptized of Thee”? Is he true when he said this? And how is he again true when he saith, “I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost”? The Lord was made known by a dove, not to him who knew Him not, but to him who in a mannerknew Him, and in a manner knew Him not. It is for us to discover what, in Him, Jn did not know, and learned by the dove.
3. Why was Jn sent baptizing? Already, I recollect, I have explained that to you, beloved, according to my ability. For if the baptism of Jn was necessary for our salvation, it ought even now to be used. For we cannot think that men are not saved now, or that more are not saved now, or that there was one salvation then, another now. If Christ has been changed, the salvation has also been changed; if salvation is in Christ, and Christ Himself is the same, there is the same salvation to us. But why was Jn sent baptizing? Because it behoved Christ to be baptized. Wherefore did it behove Christ to be baptized? Wherefore did it behove Christ to be born? Wherefore did it behove Christ to be crucified? For if He had come to point out the way of humility, and to make Himself the way of humility; in all things had humility to be fulfilled by Him. He deigned from this to give authority to His own baptism, that His servants might know with what alacrity they ought to run to the baptism of the Lord, when He Himself did not refuse to receive the baptism of a servant. This favor was bestowed upon Jn that it should be called his baptism.
4. Give heed to this, exercise your discrimination, and know it, beloved. The baptism which Jn received is called the baptism of John: alone he received such a gift. No one of the just before him and no one after him so received a baptism that it should be called his baptism. He received it indeed, for of himself he could do nothing: for if any one speaketh of his own, he speaketh of his own a lie. And whence did he receive it except from the Lord Jesus Christ? From Him he received power to baptize whom he afterwards baptized. Do not marvel; for Christ acted in the same manner in respect to John as in respect to His mother. For concerning Christ it was said, “All things were made by Him.”5 If all things were made by him, Mary also was made by Him, of whom Christ was afterwards born. Give heed, beloved; in the same manner that He did create Mary. and was created by Mary, so did He give the baptism of John, and was baptized by John.
5. For this purpose therefore did He receive baptism from John, in order that, receiving what was inferior from an inferior, He might exhort inferiors to receive that which was superior. But wherefore was not He alone baptized by John, if John, by whom Christ was baptized, was sent for this end, to prepare a way for the Lord, that is, for Christ Himself? This we have already explained, but we recur to it, because it is necessary for the present question. If our Lord Jesus Christ had been alone baptized with the baptism of John;-hold fast what we say; let not the world have such power as to efface from your hearts what the Spirit of God has written there; let not the thorns of care have such power as to choke the seed which is being sown in you: for why are we compelled to repeat the same things, but because we are not sure of the memory of your hearts?-and if then the Lord alone had been baptized with the baptism of John, there would be persons who would so reckon it, that the baptism of Jn was greater than is the baptism of Christ. For they would say, that baptism is so much the greater, that Christ alone deserved to be baptized with it. Therefore, that an example of humility might be given us by the Lord, that the salvation of baptism might be obtained by us, Christ accepted what for Him was not necessary, but on our account was necessary. And again, lest that which Christ received from Jn should be preferred to the baptism of Christ, others also were permitted to be baptized by John. But for those who were baptized by Jn that baptism did not suffice: for they were baptized with the baptism of Christ; because the baptism of Jn was not the baptism of Christ. Those who receive the baptism of Christ do not seek the baptism of John; those who received the baptism of Jn sought the baptism of Christ. Therefore was the baptism of Jn sufficient for Christ. How should it not be sufficient, when not even it was necessary? For to Him wasno baptism necessary; but in order to exhort us to receive His baptism, He received the baptism of His servant. And lest the baptism of the servant should be preferred to the baptism of the Lord, other fellow-servants were baptized with the baptism of the servant. But it behoved those fellow-servants who were baptized with that baptism to be likewise baptized with the baptism of the Lord: but those who were baptized with the baptism of the Lord do not require the baptism of the fellow-servant.
6. Since, then, Jn had accepted a baptism which may be properly called the baptism of John, but the Lord Jesus Christ would not give His baptism to any, not that no one should be baptized with the baptism of the Lord, but that the Lord Himself should always baptize: that was done, that the Lord should baptize by means of servants; that is to say, those whom the servants of the Lord were to baptize, the Lord baptized, not they. For it is one thing to baptize in the capacity of a servant, another thing to baptize with power. For baptism derives its character from Him through whose power it is given; not from him through whose ministry it is given. As was John, so was his baptism: the righteous baptism of a righteous man; but of a man who had received from the Lord that grace, and so great grace, that he was worthy to be the forerunner of the Judge, and to point Him out with the finger, and to fulfill the saying of that prophecy: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way for the Lord.”6 As was the Lord, such was His baptism: the baptism of the Lord, then, was divine, because the Lord was God.
7. But the Lord Jesus Christ could, if He wished, have given power to one of His servants to give a baptism of his own, as it were, in His stead, and have transferred from Himself the power of baptizing, and assigned it to one of His servants, and have given the same power to the baptism transferred to the servant as it had when bestowed by the Lord. This He would not do, in order that the hope of the baptized might be in him by whom they acknowledged themselves to have been baptized. He would not, therefore, that the servant should place his hope in the servant. And therefore the apostle exclaimed, when he saw men wishing to place their hope in himself, “Was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”7 Paul then baptized as a servant, not as the power itself; but the Lord baptized as the power. Give heed. He was both able to give this power to His servants, and unwilling. For if He had given this power to His servants-that is to say, that what belonged to the Lord should be theirs-there would have been as many baptisms as servants; so that, as we speak of the baptism of John, we should also have spoken of the baptism of Peter, the baptism of Paul, the baptism of James, the baptism of Thomas, of Matthew, of Bartholomew: for we spoke of that baptism as that of John. But perhaps some one objects, and says, Prove to us that that baptism was called the baptism of John. I will prove it from the very words of the Truth Himself, when He asked the Jews, “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?”8 Therefore, lest as many baptisms should be spoken of as there are servants who received power from the Lord to baptize, the Lord kept to Himself the power of baptizing, and gave to His servants the ministry. The servant says that he baptizes; he says so rightly,as the apostle says. “And I baptized also the household of Stephanas;”9 but as a servant. Therefore, if even he be bad, and he happen to have the ministration of baptism, and if men do not know him, but God knows him, God, who has kept the power to Himself, permits baptism to be administered through him.
8. But this Jn did not know in the Lord. That He was the Lord he knew, and that he ought to be baptized by Him he knew; and he confessed that He was the Truth, and that he, the true man, was sent by the Truth: this he knew. But what was in Him which he knew not? That he was about to retain to Himself the power of His baptism, and was not to transmit or transfer it to any servant; but that, whether a good servant baptized in a ministerial manner, or whether an evil servant baptized, the person baptized should not know that he was baptized, unless by Him who kept to Himself the power of baptizing. And that you may know, brethren, what john did not know in Him, he learned it by means of the dove: for he knew the Lord; but that He was to retain to Himself the power of baptizing, and not to give it to any servant, he did not yet know. Regarding this he said, “I knew Him not.” And that you may know that he there learnt this, give heed to what follows: “But He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He.” What same is He? The Lord? But he already knew the Lord. Suppose, then, that Jn had said thus far, “I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me-“ We ask, what He said? It follows: “Upon whom thou shall see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him.” I do not say what follows. In the meantime give heed: “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He.” But what same is He? What did He who sent me mean to teach me by means of a dove? That He was Himself the Lord. Already I knew by whom I was sent; already I knew Him to whom I said, “Comest Thou to me to be baptized? I have need to be baptized of Thee.” So far, then, did I know the Lord, that I wished to be baptized by Him, not that He should be baptized by me; and then He said to me, “Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.”10 I came to suffer; do I not come to be baptized? “Let all righteousness be fulfilled,” says my God to me. Let all righteousness be fulfilled; let me teach entire humility. I know that there will be proud ones in my future people; I know that some men then will be eminent in some grace, so that when they see ordinary persons baptized, they, because they consider themselves better, whether in continence, or in alms-giving, or in doctrine, will perhaps not deign to receive what has been received by their inferiors. It was needful that I should heal them, so that they should not disdain to come to the baptism of the Lord, because I came to the baptism of the servant.
9. Already, then, Jn knew this, and he knew the Lord. What then did the dove teach? What did He desire to teach by means of the dove-that is, by means of the Holy Spirit thus coming to teach who had sent him to whom He said, “Upon whom thou shall see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He”? Who is this He? The Lord? I know. But didst thou already know this, that the same Lord having the power to baptize, was not to give that power to any servant, but to retain it to Himself, so that all who were baptized by the ministration of the servant, should not impute their baptism to the servant, but to the Lord? Didst thou already know this? I did not know this: so what did He say to me? “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding upon Him, the same is He who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” He does not say, “He is the Lord;” He does not say, “He is the Christ;” He does not say, “He is God;” He does not say, “He is Jesus;” He does not say, “He is the One who was born of the Virgin Mary, after thee, before thee.” This He does not say, for this Jn did already know. But what did he not know? That this great authority of baptism the Lord Himself was to have, and to retain to Himself, whether present in the earth or absent in body in the heaven, and present in majesty; lest Paul should say, my baptism; lest Peter should say, my baptism. Therefore see, give heed to the words of the apostles. None of the apostles said, my baptism. Although there was one gospel of all, yet thou findest that they said, my gospel: thou dost not find that they say, my baptism.
10. This, then, my brethren, Jn learned. What Jn learned by means of the dove let us also learn. For the dove did not teach Jn without teaching the Church, the Church to which it was said, “My dove is one.”11 Let the dove teach the dove; let the dove know what Jn learned by the dove. The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove. But this which John learned in the dove, wherefore did he learn it in the dove? For it behoved him to learn, and perhaps it did not so, much behove him to learn as to learn by the dove. What shall I say, my brethren, concerning the dove? or when will faculty of tongue or heart suffice to speak as I wish? And perchance, my wish falls short of my duty in speaking; even if I were able to speak as I wish, how much less am I able to speak as I ought? I could wish to hear one better than myself speak this, rather than speak of it to you.
11. Jn learns to know Him whom he knew; but he learns in Him with regard to what he did not know; with regard to what he did know, he does not learn. And what did he know? The Lord. What did he not know? That the power of the Lord’s baptism was not to pass from the Lord to any man, but that the ministration of it plainly would do so; the power from the Lord to no one, the ministration both to good and bad. Let not the dove shrink from the ministration of the bad, but have regard to the power of the Lord. What injury does a bad servant do to you where the Lord is good? What impediment can the malicious herald put in your way if the judge is well-disposed? Jn learned by means of the dove this. What is it that he learned? Let him repeat it himself. “The same said unto me,” saith he, “Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending as a dove, and abiding on Him, this is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” Let not those seducers deceive thee, O dove, who say,We baptize. Acknowledge, dove, what the dove has taught: “This is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” By means of the dove we are taught that this is He; and dost thou think that thou art baptized by his authority by whose ministration thou art baptized? If thou thinkest this, thou art not as yet in the body of the dove; and if thou art not in the body of the dove, it is not to be wondered at that thou hast not simplicity; for by means of the dove, simplicity is chiefly designated.
12. Wherefore, my brethren, by the simplicity of the dove did John learn that “This is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost,” unless to show that these are not doves who have scattered the Church? Hawks they were, and kites. The dove does not tear. And thou seest that they hold us up to hatred, for the persecutions, as they call them, which they have suffered. Bodily persecutions, indeed, if they are to be so called, they have suffered, since these were the scourges of the Lord, plainly administering temporal correction, lest He should have to condemn them eternally, if they did not acknowledge it and amend themselves. They truly persecute the Church who persecute by means of deceit; they strike the heart more heavily who strike with the sword of the tongue; they shed blood more bitterly who, as far as they can, slay Christ in man. They seem to be in fear, as it were, of the judgment of the authorities. What does the authority do to thee if thou art good? but if thou art evil, fear the authority; “For he beareth not the sword in vain,”12 saith the apostle. Draw not the sword wherewith thou dost strike Christ. Christian, what dost thou persecute in a Christian? What did the Emperor persecute in thee? He persecuted the flesh; thou in a Christian persecutest the Spirit. Thou dost not slay the flesh. And, nevertheless, they do not spare the flesh; as many as they were able, they slew with the sword; they spared neither their own nor strangers. This is known to all. The authority is hated because it is legitimate; he acts in a hated manner who acts according to the law; he acts without incurring hatred who acts contrary to the laws. Give heed, each one of you, my brethren, to what the Christian possesses. His humanity he has in common with many, his Christianity distinguishes him from many, and his Christianity belongs to him more strictly than his humanity. For, as a Christian, he is renewed after the image of God, by whom man was made after the image of God;13 but as a man he might be bad, he might be a pagan, he might be an idolater. This thou dost persecute in the Christian, which is his better part; for this by which he lives thou wishest to take away from him. For he lives temporally according to the spirit of life, by which his body is animated, but he lives for eternity according to the baptism which he received from the Lord; thou wishest to take this away from him which he received from the Lord, this thou wishest to take away from him by which he lives. Robbers, with regard to those whom they wish to despoil, have the purpose to enrich themselves and to deprive their victims of all that they have; but thou takest from him, and with thee there will not be anything more, for there does not accrue more to thee because thou takest from him. But, truly, they do the same as those who take away the natural life: they take it away from another, and yet they themselves have not two lives.
13. What, then, dost thou wish to take away? What displeases thee in the man whom thou wishest to rebaptize? Thou art not able to give what he already has, but thou makest him deny what he has. What greater cruelty did the pagan persecutor of the Church commit? Swords were stretched out against the martyrs, wild beasts were let loose, fires were applied: for what purpose these things? In order that the sufferer might be induced to say, I am not a Christian. What dost thou teach him whom thou wishest to rebaptize, unless that he first say, I am not a Christian? For the same purpose for which the persecutor put forth the flame, thou puttest forth the tongue; thou dost by seducing what he did not do by slaying. And what is it thou dost give, and to whom art thou to give it? If he tells thee the truth, and does not lie, seduced by thee, he will say, I have. Thou askest, Hast thou baptism? I have, he says. As long as he says, I have, thou sayest, I will not give. And do not give, for that which thou wishest to give cannot cleave to me; because what I received cannot be taken away from me. But wait, nevertheless; let me see what thou wouldest teach me. Say, he said, in the first place, I have not. But this I have; if I shall say, I have not, I lie; for what I have I have. Thou hast not, he says. Teach me that I have it not. An evil man gave it to thee. If Christ is evil, an evil man did give it to me. Christ, he says, is not evil; but Christ did not give it to thee. Who then gave it to me? Reply, I know that I received it from Christ. He who gave it to thee, he says, was not Christ, but some traditor. I shall see to it who was the minister; I shall see who was the herald. Concerning the official, I do not dispute; I give heed to the Judge: and, perchance, in thy objection to the official, thou speakest falsely. But I decline to discuss it; let the Lord of both decide the cause of His own official. If, perhaps, I were to ask for proof, thou couldst give none; indeed, thou liest; it has been proved that thou wert not able to give proof. But I do not place my case on this, lest from my zealous defense of innocent men thou infer that I have placed my hope even on innocent men. Let the men be what. they may, I received from Christ, I was baptized by Christ. No, he says; not Christ, but that bishop baptized thee, and that bishop communicates to them. By Christ I have been baptized, I know. How dost thou know? The dove taught me, which Jn saw. O evil kite, thou mayest not tear me from the bowels of the dove. I am numbered among the members of the dove, because what the dove taught, this I know. Thou sayest to me, This man or that baptized thee: by means of the dove it is said to me and tothee, “This is He which baptizeth.” Which shall I believe, the kite or the dove?
14. Tell me certainly, that thou mayest be confounded by that lamp by which also were the former enemies confounded, who were like to thee, the Pharisees, who, when they questioned the Lord by what authority He did those things: “I also,” said He, “will ask you this question, Tell me, the baptism of John, whence is it? from heaven, or of men?” And they, who were preparing to spread their wiles, were entangled by the question, and began to debate with themselves, and say, “If we shall answer, It is from heaven, He will say unto us, Wherefore did ye not believe him?” For Jn had said of the Lord, “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!”14 Why then do you inquire by what authority I act? O wolves, what I do, I do by the authority of the Lamb. But that you may know the Lamb, why do you not believe John, who said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world”? They, then, knowing what Jn had said regarding the Lord, said among themselves, “If we shall say that John’s baptism is from heaven, He will say unto us, Wherefore then did ye not believe him? If we shall say, It is of men, the people will stone us; for they hold Jn as a prophet.” Hence, they feared men; hence, they were confounded to confess the truth. Darkness replied with darkness; but they were overcome by the light. For what did they reply? “We know not;” regarding that which they knew, they said, “We know not.” And the Lord said, “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”15 And the first enemies were confounded. How? By the lamp. Who was the lamp? John. Can we prove that he was the lamp? We can prove it; for the Lord says: “He was a burning and a shining lamp.”16 Can we prove also that the enemies were confounded by him? Listen to the psalm: “I have prepared,” he says, “a lamp for my Christ. His enemies I will clothe with shame.”17
15. As yet, in the darkness of this life, we walk by the lamp of faith: let us hold also to the lamp John, and let us confound by him the enemies of Christ; indeed, let Christ Himself confound His own enemies by His own lamp. Let us put the question which the Lord put to the Jews, let us ask and say, “The baptism of John, whence is it? from heaven, or of men?” What will they say? Mark, if they are not as enemies confounded by the lamp. What will they say? If they shall say, Of men, even their own will stone them; but if they shall say, From heaven, let us say to them, Wherefore, then, did ye not believe him? They perhaps say, We believe him. Wherefore, then, do you say that you baptize, when Jn says, “This is He which baptizeth”? But it behoveth, they say, the ministers of so great a Judge who baptize, to be righteous. And I also say, and all say, that it behoveth the ministers of so great a Judge to be righteous; let the ministers, by all means, be righteous if they will; but if they will not be righteous who sit in the seat of Moses, my Master made me safe, of whom His Spirit said, “This is He which baptizeth.” How did He make me safe? “The scribes and the Pharisees,” He says, “sit in Moses’ seat: what they say, do; but what they do, that do not ye: for they say, and do not.”18 If the minister is righteous, I reckon him with Paul, I reckon him with Peter; with those I reckon righteous ministers: because, in truth, righteous ministers seek not their own glory; for they are ministers, they do not wish to be thought judges, they abhor that one should place his hope on them; therefore, I reckon the righteous minister with Paul. For what does Paul say? “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. Neither is he that planteth anything, nor he that watereth; but God who giveth the increase.”19 But he who is a proud minister is reckoned with the devil; but the gift of Christ is not contaminated, which flows through him pure, which passes through him liquid, and comes to the fertile earth. Suppose that he is stony, that he cannot from water rear fruit; even through the stony channel the water passes, the water passes to the garden beds; in the stony channel it causes nothing to grow, but nevertheless it brings much fruit to the gardens. For the spiritual virtue of the sacrament is like the light: both by those who are to be enlightened is it received pure, and if it passes through the impure it is not stained. Let the ministers be by all means righteous, and seek not their own glory, but His glory whose ministers they are; let them not say, The baptism is mine; for it is not theirs. Let them give heed unto John. Behold, Jn was full of the Holy Spirit; and he had his baptism from heaven, not from men; but how long had he it? He said himself, “Prepare ye the way for the Lord.”20 But when the Lord was known, Himself became the way; there was no longer need for the baptism of John to prepare the way for the Lord.
16. What, however, are they accustomed to say against us? “Behold, after John, baptism was given.” For before that question was properly treated in the Catholic Church, many erred in it, both great and good men; but because they were members of the dove, they did not cut themselves off, and in their case that happened which the apostle said, “If in any thing ye are otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.”21 Whence those who separated themselves became unteachable. What then are they wont to say? Behold, after Jn baptism was given; after heretical baptism is it not to be given because certain who had the baptism of Jn were commanded by Paul to be baptized,22 for they had not the baptism of Christ. Why then, say they, dost thou exaggerate the merit of John, and, as it were, underrate the misery of heretics? I also grant to you that the heretics are wicked; but the heretics gave the baptism of Christ, which baptism Jn did not give.
17. I go back to John, and say, “This is he which baptizeth.” For Jn is better than a heretic, just as Jn is better than a drunkard, as John is better than a murderer. If we ought to baptize after the worse because the apostles baptized after the better, whosoever among them were baptized by a drunkard,-I do not say by a murderer. I do not say by the satellite of some wicked man, I do not say by the robber of other men’s goods, I do not say by the oppressor of orphans, or a separater of married persons; I speak of none of these; I speak of what happens every year, of what happens every day; I speak of what all are called to, even in this city, when it is said to them, Let us play the part of the irrational, let us have pleasure, and on such a day as this of the calends of January we ought not to fast: these are the things I speak of, these trifling everyday proceedings;-when one is baptized by a drunkard, who is better? Jn or the drunkard? Reply, if thou canst, that the drunkard is better than John! This thou wilt never venture to do. Do you then, as a sober man, baptize after thy drunkard. For if the apostles baptized after John, how much more ought the sober to baptize after the drunkard? Or dost thou say, the drunkard is in unity with me? Was not Jn then, the friend of the Bridegroom, in unity with the Bridegroom?
18. But I say to thee thyself, whoever thou art, Art thou better than John? Thou wilt not venture to say: I am better than John. Then let thine own baptize after thee if they are better. For if baptism was administered after John, blush that baptism is not administered after thee. Thou wilt say, But I have and teach the baptism of Christ. Acknowledge, then, now the Judge, and do not be a proud herald. Thou givest the baptism of Christ, therefore baptism is not administered after thee: after Jn it was administered, because he gave not the baptism of Christ, but his own; for he had in such manner received it that it was his own. Thou art then not better than John: but the baptism given through thee is better than that of John; for the one is Christ’s, but the other is that of John. And that which was given by Paul, and that which was given by Peter, is Christ’s; and if baptism was given by Judas it was Christ’s. Judas gave baptism and after Judas baptism was not repeated; Jn gave baptism, and baptism was repeated after John: because if baptism was given by Judas, it was the baptism of Christ; but that which was given by John, was John’s baptism. We prefer not Judas to John; but the baptism of Christ, even when given by the hand of Judas, we prefer to the baptism of John, rightly given even by the hand of John. For it was said of the Lord before He suffered, that He baptized more than John; then it was added: “Howbeit, Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples.”23 He, and not He: He by power, they by ministry; they performed the service of baptizing, the power of baptizing remained in Christ. His disciples, then, baptized, and Judas was still among his disciples: and were those, then, whom Judas baptized not again baptized; and those whom Jn baptized were they again baptized? Plainly there was a repetition, but not a repetition of the same baptism. For those whom Jn baptized, Jn baptized; those whom Judas baptized, Christ baptized. In like manner, then, they whom a drunkard baptized, those whom a murderer baptized, those whom an adulterer baptized, if it was the baptism of Christ, were baptized by Christ. I do not fear the adulterer, the drunkard, or the murderer, because I give heed unto the dove, through whom it is said to me, “This is He which baptizeth.”
19. But, my brethren, it is madness to say that-I will not say Judas-but that any man was better than he of whom it was said, that “Among those that are born of women, there hath not arisen a greater than Jn the Baptist.”24 No servant then is preferred to him; but the baptism of the Lord, even when given through an evil servant, is preferred to the baptism even of a servant who was a friend. Listen to the sort of persons whom the Apostle Paul mentions, false brethren, preaching the word of God through envy, and what he says of them: “And I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”25 They proclaimed Christ, through envy indeed, but still they proclaimed Christ. Consider not the why, but the whom: through envy is Christ preached to thee. Behold Christ, avoid envy. Do not imitate the evil preacher, but imitate the Good One who is preached to thee. Christ then was preached by some out of envy. And what is envy? A shocking evil. By this evil was the devil cast down; this malignant pest it was which cast him down; and certain preachers of Christ were possessed by it, whom, nevertheless, the apostle permitted to preach. Wherefore? Because they preached Christ But he who envies, hates; and he who hates, what is said concerning him? Listen to the Apostle John: “He who hateth his brother is a murderer.”26 Behold, after Jn baptism was given, after a murderer baptism was not given; because Jn gave his own baptism, the murderer gave the baptism of Christ. That sacrament is so sacred that not even the ministration of a murderer pollutes it.
20. I do not reject John, but rather I believe John. In what do I believe John? In that which he learned through the dove? What did he learn through the dove? “This is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” Now therefore, brethren, hold this fast and impress it upon your hearts; for if I would more fully explain to-day, Wherefore through the dove, time fails. For I have, I think, to some extent made plain to you, holy brethren, that a matter which had to be learned was instilled into Jn by means of the dove, a matter with regard to Christ which Jn did not know, although he already knew Christ; but why it behoved this matter to be pointed out by means of the dove, I would say, were it possible to say it briefly: but because it would take long to say, and I am unwilling to burden you, since I have been helped by your prayers to perform my promise; with the renewed help of your pious attention and good wishes, it will likewise become clear to you, wherefore Jn with regard to that matter which he learned regarding the Lord, namely, that it is “He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost,” and that to none of His servants had he transferred the power of baptizing-why this it became him not to learn except through the dove.
1 (Jn 8,44,
2 (Jn 14,6).
3 (Jn 10,30,
4 (Mt 3,14).
5 (Jn 1,3,
6 (Is 40,3,
7 (1Co 1,13).
8 (Mt 21,25,
9 (1Co 1,16,
10 (Mt 3,15).
11 (Ct 6,8,
12 (Rm 13,4,
13 (Col 3,10).
14 (Jn 1,29,
15 (Mt 21,23-27).
16 (Jn 5,35,
17 (Ps 131,17-18.
18 (Mt 23,2-3.
19 (1Co 3,6-7
20 (Jn 1,23,
21 (Ph 3,15,
22 (Ac 19,3-5).
23 (Jn 4,1-2.
24 (Mt 11,11).
25 (Ph 1,15-18.
26 (1Jn 3,15,
Augustin on John 3