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Quote Archive: Baptismal Regeneration

The “Becoming Catholic” series presents the biblical, philosophical, and historical evidence for why Eternal Christendom Founder, Joshua Charles, became and remains Catholic. The series table of contents is here.

This Quote Archive on Baptismal Regeneration is part of the Becoming Catholic series. Each archive of quotes is intended to serve as a reference source on the various topics addressed in the articles. They are periodically updated as more research is completed.

Apostolic Era Documents

The Shepherd of Hermas (Book 2, Fourth Commandment, Ch. 3) (c. 80)

(Ch. 3) And I said, “I heard, sir, some teachers maintain that there is no other repentance than that which takes place, when we descended into the water and received remission of our former sins.” He said to me, “That was sound doctrine which you heard; for that is really the case. For he who has received remission of his sins ought not to sin anymore, but to live in purity.”…

“St. Clement,” Second Letter (§6) (c. 80)

(§6) …For if we do the will of Christ, we shall find rest; otherwise, nothing shall deliver us from eternal punishment, if we disobey His commandments. For thus also says the Scripture in Ezekiel, If Noah, Job, and Daniel should rise up, they should not deliver their children in captivity. Now, if men so eminently righteous are not able by their righteousness to deliver their children, how can we hope to enter into the royal residence of God unless we keep our baptism holy and undefiled? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found possessed of works of holiness and righteousness?

Barnabas (possibly)

Letter of Barnabas (§11) (c. 75)

(§11) Let us further inquire whether the Lord took any care to foreshadow the water [of baptism] and the cross. Concerning the water, indeed, it is written, in reference to the Israelites, that they should not receive that baptism which leads to the remission of sins, but should procure another for themselves…Mark how He has described at once both the water and the cross. For these words imply, Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water…Further, what says He? “And there was a river flowing on the right, and from it arose beautiful trees; and whosoever shall eat of them shall live forever.” [Ez. 47:12] This means, that we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit

St. Ignatius of Antioch (died c. 107) (EAST)

St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to Polycarp (§6)

(§6) …Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete panoply. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that you may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you forever!

St. Justin Martyr (c. 100-165) (EAST)

St. Justin Martyr, First Apology (§61)

(§61) I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Unless you be born again, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” [John 3:5]…

And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; he who leads to the laver the person that is to be washed calling him by this name alone…And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings. And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost, who through the prophets foretold all things about Jesus, he who is illuminated is washed.

St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho (§§14, 19)

(§14) By reason, therefore, of this laver of repentance and knowledge of God, which has been ordained on account of the transgression of God’s people, as Isaiah cries, we have believed, and testify that that very baptism which he announced is alone able to purify those who have repented; and this is the water of life. But the cisterns which you [the Jews] have dug for yourselves are broken and profitless to you. For what is the use of that baptism which cleanses the flesh and body alone? Baptize the soul from wrath and from covetousness, from envy, and from hatred; and, lo! The body is pure

(§19) …Wherefore also God has announced that you [the Jews] have forsaken Him, the living fountain, and dug for yourselves broken cisterns which can hold no water. Even you, who are the circumcised according to the flesh, have need of our circumcision; but we, having the latter, do not require the former

(§43) …And we, who have approached God through Him, have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed. And we have received it through baptism, since we were sinners, by God’s mercy; and all men may equally obtain it

St. Irenaeus of Lyon (c. 130-c. 202) (EAST/WEST)

St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies (Book 1, Ch. 21, §1; Book 3, Ch. 17, §§1-2; Book 5, Ch. 15, §3) (c. 180)

(Book 1, Ch. 21, §1)

(§1) It happens that their [heretics’] tradition respecting redemption is invisible and incomprehensible, as being the mother of things which are incomprehensible and invisible; and on this account, since it is fluctuating, it is impossible simply and all at once to make known its nature, for every one of them hands it down just as his own inclination prompts. Thus there are as many schemes of redemption as there are teachers of these mystical opinions. And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole [Christian] faith.

(Book 3, Ch. 17, §§1-2)

(§1) …And again, giving to the disciples the power of regeneration into God, He said to them, “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” [Matt. 28:19]

(§2) Wherefore also the Lord promised to send the Comforter, [John 16:7] who should join us to God. For as a compacted lump of dough cannot be formed of dry wheat without fluid matter, nor can a loaf possess unity, so, in like manner, neither could we, being many, be made one in Christ Jesus without the water from heaven. And as dry earth does not bring forth unless it receive moisture, in like manner we also, being originally a dry tree, could never have brought forth fruit unto life without the voluntary rain from above. For our bodies have received unity among themselves by means of that laver which leads to incorruption; but our souls, by means of the Spirit. Wherefore both are necessary, since both contribute towards the life of God

(Book 5, Ch. 15, §3)

(§3) …For the Lord who formed the visual powers is He who made the whole man, carrying out the will of the Father. And inasmuch as man, with respect to that formation which, was after Adam, having fallen into transgression, needed the laver of regeneration, [the Lord] said to him [upon whom He had conferred sight], after He had smeared his eyes with the clay, “Go to Siloam, and wash” [John 9:7]; thus restoring to him both [his perfect] confirmation, and that regeneration which takes place by means of the laver. And for this reason when he was washed he came seeing, that he might both know Him who had fashioned him, and that man might learn [to know] Him who has conferred upon him life.

St. Irenaeus of Lyon, On the Apostolic Preaching (§§3, 7, 41-42)1

(§3) So, faith procures this for us, as the elders, the disciples of the apostles, have handed down to us: firstly, it exhorts us to remember that we have received baptism for the remission of sins, in the name of God the Father, and in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, [who as] incarnate, and died, and was raised, and in the Holy Spirit of God; and that this baptism is the seal of eternal life and rebirth unto God, that we may no longer be sons of mortal men, but of the eternal and everlasting God

(§7) For this reason the baptism of our regeneration takes place through these three articles, granting us regeneration unto God the Father through His Son by the Holy Spirit: for those who bear the Spirit of God are led to the Word, that is to the Son, while the Son presents [them] to the Father, and the Father furnishes incorruptibility…

(§41) …[T]he apostles, who being sent by Him, with the power of the Holy Spirit, into the whole world, realized the call of the Gentiles, showing mankind the way of life, turning them away from idols and from fornication and from avarice, cleansing their souls and bodies by the baptism of water and the Holy Spirit, distributing and dispensing the Holy Spirit, which they received from the Lord, to the faithful—and in this way they established the churches

(§42) For thus do the faithful keep, having the Holy Spirit constantly dwelling in them, who was given from Him [God] at baptism and kept by the recipient living in truth and holiness and righteousness and patience

St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus (§34)

(§34) “And [Naaman] dipped himself,” says [the Scripture], “seven times in Jordan.” [2 Kings 5:14] It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [it served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions; being spiritually regenerated as new-born babes, even as the Lord has declared: “Unless a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” [John 3:5]

St. Theophilus of Antioch (died c. 183-85) (EAST)

St. Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus (Book 2, §16)

(§16) …Moreover, the things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this also might be a sign of men’s being destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and laver of regeneration [baptism]—as many as come to the truth, and are born again, and receive blessing from God.

St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c. 215) (EAST)

St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor (Book 1, Ch. 6, 12)

(Ch. 6) …Being baptized, we are illuminated; illuminated, we become sons; being made sons, we are made perfect; being made perfect, we are made immortal. “I,” says He, “have said that you are gods, and all sons of the Highest.” [Ps. 82:6] This work is variously called grace, and illumination, and perfection, and washing: washing, by which we cleanse away our sins; grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted; and illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly…[T]hus also we who are baptized, having wiped off the sins which obscure the light of the Divine Spirit, have the eye of the spirit free, unimpeded, and full of light, by which alone we contemplate the Divine, the Holy Spirit flowing down to us from above. This is the eternal adjustment of the vision, which is able to see the eternal light, since like loves like; and that which is holy, loves that from which holiness proceeds, which has appropriately been termed light…For what ignorance has bound ill, is by knowledge loosed well; those bonds are with all speed slackened by human faith and divine grace, our transgressions being taken away by one Paeones medicine, the baptism of the Word. We are washed from all our sins, and are no longer entangled in evil. This is the one grace of illumination, that our characters are not the same as before our washing. And since knowledge springs up with illumination, shedding its beams around the mind, the moment we hear, we who were untaught become disciples. Does this, I ask, take place on the advent of this instruction? You cannot tell the time. For instruction leads to faith, and faith with baptism is trained by the Holy Spirit…In the same way, therefore, we also, repenting of our sins, renouncing our iniquities, purified by baptism, speed back to the eternal light, children to the Father.

(Ch. 12) …He Himself formed man of the dust, and regenerated him by water; and made him grow by his Spirit; and trained him by His word to adoption and salvation, directing him by sacred precepts; in order that, transforming earth-born man into a holy and heavenly being by His advent, He might fulfil to the utmost that divine utterance, Let Us make man in Our own image and likeness. [Gen. 1:26] And, in truth, Christ became the perfect realization of what God spoke; and the rest of humanity is conceived as being created merely in His image…

St. Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata (Book 4, Ch. 24)

(Ch. 24) …It ought to be known, then, that those who fall into sin after baptism are those who are subjected to discipline; for the deeds done before are remitted [by baptism], and those done after are purged [by penance]

St. Clement of Alexandria, Fragments, Parable of the Prodigal Son (§6)

(§6) …For it is said, “Put on him the best robe,” which was his the moment he obtained baptism. I mean the glory of baptism, the remission of sins, and the communication of the other blessings, which he obtained immediately he had touched the font

Tertullian (c. 155-c. 220) (WEST)

Tertullian, On Baptism (Ch. 1, 5, 7, 11-13, 16, 20)

(Ch. 1) Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life! A treatise on this matter will not be superfluous; instructing not only such as are just becoming formed (in the faith), but them who, content with having simply believed, without full examination of the grounds of the traditions, carry (in mind), through ignorance, an untried though probable faith. The consequence is, that a viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. Which is quite in accordance with nature; for vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do affect arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our ΙΧΘΥΣ Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes, by taking them away from the water!

(Ch. 5) …And thus, when the grace of God advanced to higher degrees among men [John 1:16-17], an accession of efficacy was granted to the waters and to the angel. They who were wont to remedy bodily defects, now heal the spirit; they who used to work temporal salvation now renew eternal; they who did set free but once in the year, now save peoples in a body daily, death being done away through ablution of sins. The guilt being removed, of course the penalty is removed too. Thus man will be restored for God to His likeness, who in days bygone had been conformed to the image of God; (the image is counted (to be) in his form: the likeness in his eternity) for he receives again that Spirit of God which he had then first received from His afflatus, but had afterward lost through sin

(Ch. 7) …[I]n the same way as the act of baptism itself too is carnal, in that we are plunged in water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins

(Ch. 11) …[N]o other [baptism] exists, except that of Christ subsequently; which at that time, of course, could not be given by His disciples, inasmuch as the glory of the Lord had not yet been fully attained, nor the efficacy of the font [of baptism] established through the passion and the resurrection; because neither can our death see dissolution except by the Lord’s passion, nor our life be restored without His resurrection.

(Ch. 12) …[T]he prescript is laid down that “without baptism, salvation is attainable by none” (chiefly on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, “Unless one be born of water, he has not life”)

(Ch. 13) Here, then, those miscreants provoke questions. And so they say, “Baptism is not necessary for them to whom faith is sufficient; for withal, Abraham pleased God by a sacrament of no water, but of faith.” But in all cases it is the later things which have a conclusive force, and the subsequent which prevail over the antecedent. Grant that, in days gone by, there was salvation by means of bare faith, before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and has become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added to the sacrament, viz., the sealing act of baptism; the clothing, in some sense, of the faith which before was bare, and which cannot exist now without its proper law. For the law of baptizing has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: “Go,” He says, “teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The comparison with this law of that definition, “Unless a man have been reborn of water and Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens,” [John 3:5] has tied faith to the necessity of baptism. Accordingly, all thereafter who became believers used to be baptized. Then it was, too, that Paul, when he believed, was baptized; and this is the meaning of the precept which the Lord had given him when smitten with the plague of loss of sight, saying, “Arise, and enter Damascus; there shall be demonstrated to you what you ought to do,” [Acts 9:6] to wit—be baptized, which was the only thing lacking to him

(Ch. 16) We have indeed, likewise, a second font, (itself withal one with the former) of blood, to wit; concerning which the Lord said, “I have to be baptized with a baptism,” when He had been baptized already. For He had come “by means of water and blood,” [1 John 5:6] just as John has written; that He might be baptized by the water, glorified by the blood; to make us, in like manner, called by water, chosen by blood. These two baptisms He sent out from the wound in His pierced side, in order that they who believed in His blood might be bathed with the water; they who had been bathed in the water might likewise drink the blood. This is the baptism which both stands in lieu of the fontal bathing when that has not been received, and restores it when lost

(Ch. 20) They who are about to enter baptism ought to pray with repeated prayers, fasts, and bendings of the knee, and vigils all the night through, and with the confession of all by-gone sins, that they may express the meaning even of the baptism of John: “They were baptized,” says (the Scripture), “confessing their own sins.” To us it is matter for thankfulness if we do now publicly confess our iniquities or our turpitudes: for we do at the same time both make satisfaction for our former sins, by mortification of our flesh and spirit, and lay beforehand the foundation of defenses against the temptations which will closely follow…Therefore, blessed ones [catechumens], whom the grace of God awaits, when you ascend from that most sacred font of your new birth, and spread your hands for the first time in the house of your mother, together with your brethren, ask from the Father, ask from the Lord, that His own specialties of grace and distributions of gifts [1 Cor. 12:4-12] may be supplied you.

Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh (Ch. 8)

(Ch. 8) Now such remarks have I wished to advance in defense of the flesh, from a general view of the condition of our human nature. Let us now consider its special relation to Christianity, and see how vast a privilege before God has been conferred on this poor and worthless substance. It would suffice to say, indeed, that there is not a soul that can at all procure salvation, except it believe while it is in the flesh, so true is it that the flesh is the very condition on which salvation hinges. And since the soul is, in consequence of its salvation, chosen to the service of God, it is the flesh which actually renders it capable of such service. The flesh, indeed, is washed, in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the cross), that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also maybe illuminated by the Spirit; the flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God. They cannot then be separated in their recompense, when they are united in their service…

Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews (Ch. 12)

(Ch. 12) …[T]he obduracy of this world had been sunk in the profundity of error, and is freed in baptism by the “wood” of Christ, that is, of His Passion

St. Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-235) (WEST)

St. Hippolytus of Rome, Discourse on the Holy Theophany (§§6, 8, 10)

(§6) Do you see, beloved, how many and how great blessings we would have lost, if the Lord had yielded to the exhortation of John, and declined baptism? For the heavens were shut before this; the region above was inaccessible. We would in that case descend to the lower parts, but we would not ascend to the upper. But was it only that the Lord was baptized? He also renewed the old man, and committed to him again the scepter of adoption. For straightway the heavens were opened to Him. A reconciliation took place of the visible with the invisible; the celestial orders were filled with joy; the diseases of earth were healed; secret things were made known; those at enmity were restored to amity. For you have heard the word of the evangelist, saying, “The heavens were opened to Him,” on account of three wonders. For when Christ the Bridegroom was baptized, it was meet that the bridal-chamber of heaven should open its brilliant gates

(§8) But give me now your best attention, I pray you, for I wish to go back to the fountain of life, and to view the fountain that gushes with healing. The Father of immortality sent the immortal Son and Word into the world, who came to man in order to wash him with water and the Spirit; and He, begetting us again to incorruption of soul and body, breathed into us the breath (spirit) of life, and endued us with an incorruptible panoply. If, therefore, man has become immortal, he will also be God. And if he is made God by water and the Holy Spirit after the regeneration of the laver he is found to be also joint-heir with Christ after the resurrection from the dead. Wherefore I preach to this effect: Come, all you kindreds of the nations, to the immortality of the baptism. I bring good tidings of life to you who tarry in the darkness of ignorance. Come into liberty from slavery, into a kingdom from tyranny, into incorruption from corruption. And how, says one, shall we come? How? By water and the Holy Ghost. This is the water in conjunction with the Spirit, by which paradise is watered, by which the earth is enriched, by which plants grow, by which animals multiply, and (to sum up the whole in a single word) by which man is begotten again and endued with life, in which also Christ was baptized, and in which the Spirit descended in the form of a dove

(§10) Come then, be begotten again, O man, into the adoption of God. And how? Says one. If you practice adultery no more, and commit not murder, and serve not idols; if you are not overmastered by pleasure; if you do not suffer the feeling of pride to rule you; if you clean off the filthiness of impurity, and put off the burden of sin; if you cast off the armor of the devil, and put on the breastplate of faith, even as Isaiah says, “Wash, and seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and plead for the widow. And come and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, I shall make them white as snow; and though they be like crimson, I shall make them white as wool. And if you be willing, and hear my voice, you shall eat the good of the land.” [Is. 1:16-19] Do you see, beloved, how the prophet spoke beforetime of the purifying power of baptism? For he who comes down in faith to the laver of regeneration, and renounces the devil, and joins himself to Christ; who denies the enemy, and makes the confession that Christ is God; who puts off the bondage, and puts on the adoption—he comes up from the baptism brilliant as the sun, flashing forth the beams of righteousness, and, which is indeed the chief thing, he returns a son of God and joint-heir with Christ. To Him be the glory and the power, together with His most holy, and good, and quickening Spirit, now and ever, and to all the ages of the ages. Amen.

St. Hippolytus of Rome, The Apostolic Tradition (§22)

(§22) Then the bishop, laying his hand upon them, shall pray, saying: “O Lord God, who hast made them worthy to obtain remission of sins through the laver of regeneration of [the] Holy Spirit [baptism], send into them thy grace [in confirmation], that they may serve thee according to thy will; for thine is the glory, to the Father and the Son, with [the] Holy Spirit in the holy church, both now and world without end. Amen.”…

St. Hippolytus of Rome, Christ and Antichrist (§59)

(§59) …And she bears in her midst also the trophy (which is erected) over death; for she carries with her the cross of the Lord. For her prow is the east, and her stern is the west, and her hold is the south, and her tillers are the two Testaments; and the ropes that stretch around her are the love of Christ, which binds the Church; and the net which she bears with her is the laver of the regeneration [baptism] which renews the believing, whence too are these glories

Origen (c. 184-c. 253) (EAST)

Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John (Book 6, §17)

(§17) …Regeneration did not take place with John, but with Jesus through His disciples it does so, and what is called the laver of regeneration takes place with renewal of the Spirit

St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. 210-258) (WEST)

While St. Cyprian was incorrect about the validity of baptism among heretics (who maintained the Trinitarian formula), his various letters nevertheless make it clear that the Church believed in baptismal regeneration.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 1: To Donatus (§§3-4):

(§3) While I was still lying in darkness and gloomy night, wavering hither and there, tossed about on the foam of this boastful age, and uncertain of my wandering steps, knowing nothing of my real life, and remote from truth and light, I used to regard it as a difficult matter, and especially as difficult in respect of my character at that time, that a man should be capable of being born again—a truth which the divine mercy had announced for my salvation—and that a man quickened to a new life in the layer of saving water should be able to put off what he had previously been; and, although retaining all his bodily structure, should be himself changed in heart and soul. “How,” said I, “is such a conversion possible, that there should be a sudden and rapid divestment of all which, either innate in us has hardened in the corruption of our material nature, or acquired by us has become inveterate by long accustomed use? These things have become deeply and radically engrained within us…”

(§4) These were my frequent thoughts. For as I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life, from which I did not believe that I could by possibility be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices; and because I despaired of better things, I used to indulge my sins as if they were actually parts of me, and indigenous to me. But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of former years had been washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, had been infused into my reconciled heart—after that, by the agency of the Spirit breathed from heaven, a second birth had restored me to a new man—then, in a wondrous manner, doubtful things at once began to assure themselves to me, hidden things to be revealed, dark things to be enlightened, what before had seemed difficult began to suggest a means of accomplishment, what had been thought impossible, to be capable of being achieved; so that I was enabled to acknowledge that what previously, being born of the flesh, had been living in the practice of sins, was of the earth earthly, but had now begun to be of God, and was animated by the Spirit of holiness

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 51: To Antonianus (§22)

(§22) …[I]t is written, “Alms do deliver from death,” [Tob. 4:10] and not, assuredly, from that death which once the blood of Christ extinguished, and from which the saving grace of baptism and of our Redeemer has delivered us, but from that which subsequently creeps in through sins…

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 54: To Pope Cornelius (§13)

(§13) …The highest degree of happiness is, not to sin; the second, to acknowledge our sins. In the former, innocence flows pure and unstained to preserve us; in the latter, there comes a medicine to heal us. Both of these they have lost by offending God, both because the grace is lost which is received from the sanctification of baptism, and repentance comes not to their help, whereby the sin is healed

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 58: To Fidus (§§5-6)

(§5) …But again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted—and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace—how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins—that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another.

(§6) And therefore, dearest brother, this was our opinion in council, that by us no one ought to be hindered from baptism and from the grace of God, who is merciful and kind and loving to all. Which, since it is to be observed and maintained in respect of all, we think is to be even more observed in respect of infants and newly-born persons, who on this very account deserve more from our help and from the divine mercy, that immediately, on the very beginning of their birth, lamenting and weeping, they do nothing else but entreat…

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 62: To Caecilius (§8)

(§8) …“If any man thirst, let him come and drink. He that believes in me,” as the Scripture says, “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” And that it might be more evident that the Lord is speaking there, not of the cup, but of baptism, the Scripture adds, saying, “But this spoke He of the Spirit, which they that believe in Him should receive.” For by baptism the Holy Spirit is received; and thus by those who are baptized, and have attained to the Holy Spirit, is attained the drinking of the Lord’s cup. And let it disturb no one, that when the divine Scripture speaks of baptism, it says that we thirst and drink, since the Lord also in the Gospel says, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness” [Matt. 5:6]; because what is received with a greedy and thirsting desire is drunk more fully and plentifully. As also, in another place, the Lord speaks to the Samaritan woman, saying, “Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall not thirst forever.” [John 4:13-14] By which is also signified the very baptism of saving water, which indeed is once received, and is not again repeated. But the cup of the Lord is always both thirsted for and drunk in the Church.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 71: To Pope Stephen (§1)

(§1) …But the subject in regard to which we had chiefly to write to you, and to confer with your gravity and wisdom, is one that more especially pertains both to the priestly authority and to the unity, as well as the dignity, of the Catholic Church, arising as these do from the ordination of the divine appointment…[When] they receive also the baptism of the Church. For then finally can they be fully sanctified, and be the sons of God, if they be born of each sacrament; since it is written, “Unless a man be born again of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” [John 3:5]

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 72: To Jubaianus (§21)

(§21) …But if not even the baptism of a public confession and blood can profit a heretic to salvation, because there is no salvation out of the Church, how much less shall it be of advantage to him, if in a hiding-place and a cave of robbers, stained with the contagion of adulterous water, he has not only not put off his old sins, but rather heaped up still newer and greater ones!…And therefore it behooves those to be baptized who come from heresy to the Church, that so they who are prepared, in the lawful, and true, and only baptism of the holy Church, by divine regeneration, for the kingdom of God, may be born of both sacraments, because it is written, “Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” [John 3:5]

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 73: To Pompey (§§5-7)

(§5) …Moreover, it is silly to say, that although the second birth is spiritual, by which we are born in Christ through the laver of regeneration, one may be born spiritually among the heretics, where they say that the Spirit is not. For water alone is not able to cleanse away sins, and to sanctify a man, unless he have also the Holy Spirit. Wherefore it is necessary that they should grant the Holy Spirit to be there, where they say that baptism is; or else there is no baptism where the Holy Spirit is not, because there cannot be baptism without the Spirit.

(§6) But what a thing it is, to assert and contend that they who are not born in the Church can be the sons of God! For the blessed apostle sets forth and proves that baptism is that wherein the old man dies and the new man is born, saying, “He saved us by the washing of regeneration.” [Tit. 3:5] But if regeneration is in the washing, that is, in baptism, how can heresy, which is not the spouse of Christ, generate sons to God by Christ? For it is the Church alone which, conjoined and united with Christ, spiritually bears sons; as the same apostle again says, “Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water.” [Eph. 5:25-26] If, then, she is the beloved and spouse who alone is sanctified by Christ, and alone is cleansed by His washing, it is manifest that heresy, which is not the spouse of Christ, nor can be cleansed nor sanctified by His washing, cannot bear sons to God.

(§7) But further, one is not born by the imposition of hands when he receives the Holy Ghost, but in baptism, that so, being already born, he may receive the Holy Spirit, even as it happened in the first man Adam. For first God formed him, and then breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. For the Spirit cannot be received, unless he who receives first have an existence. But as the birth of Christians is in baptism, while the generation and sanctification of baptism are with the spouse of Christ alone, who is able spiritually to conceive and to bear sons to God, where and of whom and to whom is he born, who is not a son of the Church, so as that he should have God as his Father, before he has had the Church for his Mother?…

St. Cyprian, Letter 74: To Firmilian, Bishop of Caesarea (§§14, 17, 22)

(§14) But if the baptism of heretics can have the regeneration of the second birth, those who are baptized among them must be counted not heretics, but children of God. For the second birth, which occurs in baptism, begets sons of God. But if the spouse of Christ is one, which is the Catholic Church, it is she herself who alone bears sons of God…

(§17) …[Pope] Stephen, who announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter, is stirred with no zeal against heretics, when he concedes to them, not a moderate, but the very greatest power of grace: so far as to say and assert that, by the sacrament of baptism, the filth of the old man is washed away by them, that they pardon the former mortal sins, that they make sons of God by heavenly regeneration, and renew to eternal life by the sanctification of the divine laver. He who concedes and gives up to heretics in this way the great and heavenly gifts of the Church, what else does he do but communicate with them for whom he maintains and claims so much grace? And now he hesitates in vain to consent to them, and to be a partaker with them in other matters also, to meet together with them, and equally with them to mingle their prayers, and appoint a common altar and sacrifice…

(§22) …And this is observed among us, that whosoever dipped by them come to us are baptized among us as strangers and having obtained nothing, with the only and true baptism of the Catholic Church, and obtain the regeneration of the laver of life….

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 4: On the Lord’s Prayer (§12)

(§12) After this we say, “Hallowed be Your name”; not that we wish for God that He may be hallowed by our prayers, but that we beseech of Him that His name may be hallowed in us. But by whom is God sanctified, since He Himself sanctifies? Well, because He says, “Be holy, even as I am holy,” [Lev. 20:7] we ask and entreat, that we who were sanctified in baptism may continue in that which we have begun to be. And this we daily pray for; for we have need of daily sanctification, that we who daily fall away may wash out our sins by continual sanctification. And what the sanctification is which is conferred upon us by the condescension of God, the apostle declares, when he says, “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor deceivers, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such indeed were you; but you are washed; but you are justified; but you are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.” [1 Cor. 6:9] He says that we are sanctified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God. We pray that this sanctification may abide in us and because our Lord and Judge warns the man that was healed and quickened by Him, to sin no more lest a worse thing happen unto him, we make this supplication in our constant prayers, we ask this day and night, that the sanctification and quickening which is received from the grace of God may be preserved by His protection.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 8: On Works and Alms (§2)

(§2) The Holy Spirit speaks in the sacred Scriptures, and says, “By almsgiving and faith sins are purged.” [Tob. 12:9] Not assuredly those sins which had been previously contracted, for those are purged by the blood and sanctification of Christ. Moreover, He says again, “As water extinguishes fire, so almsgiving quenches sin.” [Sir. 3:30] Here also it is shown and proved, that as in the laver of saving water the fire of Gehenna is extinguished, so by almsgiving and works of righteousness the flame of sins is subdued. And because in baptism remission of sins is granted once for all, constant and ceaseless labor, following the likeness of baptism, once again bestows the mercy of God. The Lord teaches this also in the Gospel. For when the disciples were pointed out, as eating and not first washing their hands, He replied and said, “He that made that which is within, made also that which is without. But give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you” [Luke 11:41]; teaching hereby and showing, that not the hands are to be washed, but the heart, and that the foulness from inside is to be done away rather than that from outside; but that he who shall have cleansed what is within has cleansed also that which is without; and that if the mind is cleansed, a man has begun to be clean also in skin and body. Further, admonishing, and showing whence we may be clean and purged, He added that alms must be given. He who is pitiful teaches and warns us that pity must be shown; and because He seeks to save those whom at a great cost He has redeemed, He teaches that those who, after the grace of baptism, have become foul, may once more be cleansed.

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 9 (§6)

(§6) …The Lord is baptized by the servant; and He who is about to bestow remission of sins, does not Himself disdain to wash His body in the laver of regeneration

St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise 10 (§14)

(§14) …Let us, then, who in baptism have both died and been buried in respect of the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things which are Christ’s, even as the same apostle again teaches and counsels, saying: “The first man is of the dust of the earth; the second man is from heaven. Such as he is from the earth, such also are they who are from the earth and such as He the heavenly is, such also are they who are heavenly. As we have borne the image of him who is of the earth, let us also bear the image of Him who is from heaven.” [1 Cor. 15:47-49] But we cannot bear the heavenly image, unless in that condition wherein we have already begun to be, we show forth the likeness of Christ.

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus (c. 213-270) (EAST)

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, On the Holy Theophany, or on Christ’s Baptism

[S]ee John the Baptist as he baptizes One who needs no baptism, and yet submits to the rite in order that He may bestow freely upon us the grace of baptism. Come, let us view the image of our regeneration, as it is emblematically presented in these waters.

St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, Twelve Topics on the Faith (Topic 12)

(Topic 12) …He was baptized in Jordan, not as receiving any sanctification for Himself, but as gifting a participation in sanctification to others

St. Pamphilus of Caesarea (died 309) (EAST)

St. Pamphilus of Caesarea, An Exposition of the Chapters of the Acts of the Apostles

Of the divine descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost which lighted on them who believed. In this we have also the instruction delivered by Peter, and passages from the prophets on the subject, and on the passion and resurrection and assumption of Christ, and the gift of the Holy Ghost; also of the faith of those present, and their salvation by baptism; and, further, of the unity of spirit pervading the believers and promoting the common good, and of the addition made to their number.

St. Methodius of Olympus (died c. 311) (EAST)

St. Methodius, Discourse on the Resurrection (Part 1, §5)

(§5) …For while the body still lives, before it has passed through death, sin must also live with it, as it has its roots concealed within us even though it be externally checked by the wounds inflicted by corrections and warnings; since, otherwise, it would not happen that we do wrong after baptism, as we should be entirely and absolutely free from sin. But now, even after believing, and after the time of being touched by the water of sanctification, we are oftentimes found in sin. For no one can boast of being so free from sin as not even to have an evil thought. So that it has come to pass that sin is now restrained and lulled to sleep by faith, so that it does not produce injurious fruits, but yet is not torn up by the roots. For the present we restrain its sprouts, such as evil imaginations, “test any root of bitterness springing up trouble,” [Heb. 12:15] not suffering its leaves to unclose and open into shoots; while the Word, like an axe, cuts at its roots which grow below. But hereafter the very thought of evil will disappear.

St. Methodius, Oration on Simeon and Anna (§12)

(§12) …Wherefore with divine wisdom did he, who had foreknowledge of these events, oppose the bringing in of the thankful Anna to the casting out of the ungrateful synagogue. Her very name also pre-signifies the Church, that by the grace of Christ and God is justified in baptism. For Anna is, by interpretation, grace.

St. Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins: Discourse 3 (Ch. 8)

(Ch. 8) …[I]t was for this cause that the Word, leaving His Father in heaven, came down to be “joined to His wife” [Eph. 5:31]; and slept in the trance of His passion, and willingly suffered death for her, that He might present the Church to Himself glorious and blameless, having cleansed her by the laver [Eph. 5:26-27], for the receiving of the spiritual and blessed seed, which is sown by Him who with whispers implants it in the depths of the mind; and is conceived and formed by the Church, as by a woman, so as to give birth and nourishment to virtue. For in this way, too, the command, “Increase and multiply,” [Gen. 1:18] is duly fulfilled, the Church increasing daily in greatness and beauty and multitude, by the union and communion of the Word who now still comes down to us and falls into a trance by the memorial of His passion; for otherwise the Church could not conceive believers, and give them new birth by the laver of regeneration, unless Christ, emptying Himself for their sake, that He might be contained by them, as I said, through the recapitulation of His passion, should die again, coming down from heaven, and being “joined to His wife,” the Church, should provide for a certain power being taken from His own side, so that all who are built up in Him should grow up, even those who are born again by the laver, receiving of His bones and of His flesh, that is, of His holiness and of His glory…

St. Methodius, Banquet of the Ten Virgins: Discourse 8 (Ch. 6)

(§6) Now the statement that she stands upon the moon, as I consider, denotes the faith of those who are cleansed from corruption in the laver of regeneration…The Church, then, stands upon our faith and adoption, under the figure of the moon, until the fullness of the nations come in, laboring and bringing forth natural men as spiritual men; for which reason too she is a mother…[T]he Church conceive those who flee to the Word, and, forming them according to the likeness and form of Christ, after a certain time produce them as citizens of that blessed state. Whence it is necessary that she should stand upon the laver, bringing forth those who are washed in it [through baptism]. And in this way the power which she has in connection with the laver is called the moon, because the regenerate shine being renewed with a new ray, that is, a new light. Whence, also, they are by a descriptive term called newly-enlightened; the moon ever showing forth anew to them the spiritual full moon, namely, the period and the memorial of the passion, until the glory and the perfect light of the great day arise.

St. Aphrahat the Persian (c. 280-c. 345) (EAST)

St. Aphrahat the Persian, Demonstrations (Book 6, §§1, 14)

(§1) …Whosoever puts on the new man, let him keep himself from all filthiness. Whosoever has put on armor from the water (of baptism), let him not put off his armor that he may not be condemned

(§14) …For from baptism do we receive the Spirit of Christ. For in that hour in which the priests invoke the Spirit, the heavens open and it descends and moves upon the waters. [Gen. 1:2] And those that are baptized are clothed in it; for the Spirit stays aloof from all that are born of the flesh, until they come to the new birth by water, and then they receive the Holy Spirit. For in the first birth they are born with an animal souls which is created within man and is not thereafter subject to death, as he said: “Adam became a living soul.” [Gen. 2:7] But in the second birth, that through baptism, they received the Holy Spirit from a particle of the Godhead, and it is not again subject to death. For when men die, the animal spirit is buried with the body, and sense is taken away from it, but the heavenly spirit that they receive goes according to its nature to Christ…Whosoever guards the Spirit of Christ in purity, when it returns to Christ it thus addresses him: “The body into which I went, and which put me on from the water of the baptism, has kept me in holiness.” And the Holy Spirit will be earnest with Christ for the resurrection of that body which kept Him with purity, and the Spirit will request to be again conjoined to it that that body may rise up in glory. And whatever man there is that receives the Spirit from the water (of baptism) and grieves it, it departs from him until he dies, and returns according to its nature to Christ, and accuses that man of having grieved it.

St. Athanasius the Great (c. 296/98-373) (EAST)

St. Athanasius the Great, Four Discourses Against the Arians (Discourse Three, Ch. 26, §33)

(§33) …For no longer according to our former origin in Adam do we die; but henceforward our origin and all infirmity of flesh being transferred to the Word, we rise from the earth, the curse from sin being removed, because of Him who is in us, and who has become a curse for us. And with reason; for as we are all from earth and die in Adam, so being regenerated from above of water and Spirit [baptism], in the Christ we are all quickened; the flesh being no longer earthly, but being henceforth made Word, by reason of God’s Word who for our sake “became flesh.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313-386) (EAST)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 3 (§§4, 10, 12)

(§4) …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, you cannot 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 says, “Unless a man be born anew (and He adds the, words) of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” [John 3:3] Neither does 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 has declared it: and here is the proof of the statement from Holy Scripture. Cornelius was a just man, who was honored with a vision of Angels, and had set up his prayers and almsdeeds as a good memorial before God in heaven.

(§10) If any man receive not Baptism, he has not salvation; except only Martyrs, who even without the water receive the kingdom. For when the Savior, 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 Savior is wont to call a baptism, saying, “Can you drink the cup which I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” [Mark 10:38]…

(§11) Jesus sanctified Baptism by being Himself baptized. If the Son of God was baptized, what godly man is he that despises 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 [Heb. 2:14], 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 honor

(§12) For you go down into the water, bearing your sins, but the invocation of grace, having sealed your soul, suffers you not afterwards to be swallowed up by the terrible dragon. Having gone down dead in sins, you come up quickened in righteousness. For if you have been united with the likeness of the Savior’s death [Rom. 6:5], you shall 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.

St. Gregory Nazianzen (c. 329-390) (EAST)

St. Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 40: On Holy Baptism (§§7-8)

(§7) …Such is the grace and power of baptism; not an overwhelming of the world as of old, but a purification of the sins of each individual, and a complete cleansing from all the bruises and stains of sin.

(§8) And since we are double-made, I mean of body and soul, and the one part is visible, the other invisible, so the cleansing also is twofold, by water and the spirit; the one received visibly in the body, the other concurring with it invisibly and apart from the body; the one typical, the other real and cleansing the depths

St. Basil the Great (330-379) (EAST)

St. Basil the Great, Concerning Baptism2

The manner of our being born anew of water, Paul states authoritatively when he says, speaking in Christ: [quotes Rom. 6:3-11] In all this, the nature of our regeneration is viewed under the form of an analogy. But it would be impossible to be born anew unless the grace of God had first been vouchsafed to us, as the Apostle himself shows, not only in the words just quoted, but also in subsequent passages concerning Baptism, beginning with the words: “But God commandeth his charity towards us; because when as yet we were sinners, Christ died for us; much more, therefore, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” [Rom. 5:8-10]

And there are many passages of this sort which set forth with clarity and splendor the great, ineffable benevolence of God in freely pardoning our sins and granting us the means and the power of performing righteous acts for the glory of God and His Christ in the hope of gaining eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

St. Basil the Great, Exhortation to Baptism3

Baptism is the ransom of captives, the remission of debts, the death of sin, the regeneration of the soul, the robe of light, the seal which cannot be broken, the chariot to heaven, the means to attain the kingdom, the gift of adoption. Dost thou think that pleasure is preferable to these and such like blessings?

St. Basil the Great, The Holy Spirit (Ch. 15, §35)

(§35) …In three immersions, then, and with three invocations, the great mystery of baptism is performed, to the end that the type of death may be fully figured, and that by the tradition of the divine knowledge the baptized may have their souls enlightened. It follows that if there is any grace in the water, it is not of the nature of the water, but of the presence of the Spirit.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-395) (EAST)

St. Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius (Book 2, §8)

(§8) …[In] the birth by water and the Spirit, Himself led the way in this birth, drawing down upon the water, by His own baptism, the Holy Spirit; so that in all things He became the first-born of those who are spiritually born again, and gave the name of brethren to those who partook in a birth like to His own by water and the Spirit

St. Ambrose of Milan (c. 340-397) (WEST)

St. Ambrose, The Holy Spirit (Book 1, Ch. 5, §§76-77)

(§76) There are, however, many who, because we are baptized with water and the Spirit, think that there is no difference in the offices of water and the Spirit, and therefore think that they do not differ in nature. Nor do they observe that we are buried in the element of water that we may rise again renewed by the Spirit. For in the water is the representation of death, in the Spirit is the pledge of life, that the body of sin may die through the water, which encloses the body as it were in a kind of tomb, that we, by the power of the Spirit, may be renewed from the death of sin, being born again in God.

(§77) And so these three witnesses are one, as John said: “The water, the blood, and the Spirit.” [1 John 5:8] One in the mystery, not in nature. The water, then, is a witness of burial, the blood is a witness of death, the Spirit is a witness of life. If, then, there be any grace in the water, it is not from the nature of water, but from the presence of the Holy Spirit.

St. Ambrose, On the Mysteries (Ch. 4, §20)

(§20) Therefore read that the three witnesses in baptism, the water, the blood, and the Spirit, [1 John 5:7] are one, for if you take away one of these, the Sacrament of Baptism does not exist. For what is water without the cross of Christ? A common element, without any sacramental effect. Nor, again, is there the Sacrament of Regeneration without water: “For except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” [John 3:5] Now, even the catechumen believes in the cross of the Lord Jesus, wherewith he too is signed; but unless he be baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, he cannot receive remission of sins nor gain the gift of spiritual grace.

St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) (EAST)

St. John Chrysostom, On the Priesthood (Book 3, §§5-6)

(§5) …For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will anyone, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?

(§6) These verily are they who are entrusted with the pangs of spiritual travail and the birth which comes through baptism: by their means we put on Christ, and are buried with the Son of God, and become members of that blessed Head.

St. Augustine (354-430) (WEST)

St. Augustine, City of God (Book 13, Ch. 7)

(Ch. 7) For whatever unbaptized persons die confessing Christ, this confession is of the same efficacy for the remission of sins as if they were washed in the sacred font of baptism. For He who said, “Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,” [John 3:5] made also an exception in their favor, in that other sentence where He no less absolutely said, “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” [Matt. 10:32]; and in another place, “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake, shall find it.” [Matt. 16:25]…For those who have been baptized when they could no longer escape death, and have departed this life with all their sins blotted out have not equal merit with those who did not defer death, though it was in their power to do so, but preferred to end their life by confessing Christ, rather than by denying Him to secure an opportunity of baptism. And even had they denied Him under pressure of the fear of death, this too would have been forgiven them in that baptism, in which was remitted even the enormous wickedness of those who had slain Christ

St. Augustine, On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins, and the Baptism of Infants (Book 1, Ch. 24, §34; Book 2, Ch. 27, §43)

(Book 1, Ch. 24, §34)

The Christians of Carthage have an excellent name for the sacraments, when they say that baptism is nothing else than “salvation,” and the sacrament of the body of Christ nothing else than “life.” Whence, however, was this derived, but from that primitive, as I suppose, and apostolic tradition, by which the Churches of Christ maintain it to be an inherent principle, that without baptism and partaking of the supper of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and everlasting life? So much also does Scripture testify…

(Book 2, Ch. 27, §43)

But the sacrament of baptism is undoubtedly the sacrament of regeneration…Even an infant, therefore, must be imbued with the sacrament of regeneration, lest without it his would be an unhappy exit out of this life; and this baptism is not administered except for the remission of sins. And so much does Christ show us in this very passage; for when asked, How could such things be? He reminded His questioner of what Moses did when he lifted up the serpent. Inasmuch, then, as infants are by the sacrament of baptism conformed to the death of Christ, it must be admitted that they are also freed from the serpent’s poisonous bite, unless we willfully wander from the rule of the Christian faith

St. Augustine, A Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed (§16)

(§16) In three ways then are sins remitted in the Church; by Baptism, by prayer, by the greater humility of penance; yet God does not remit sins but to the baptized. The very sins which He remits first, He remits not but to the baptized. When? When they are baptized. The sins which are after remitted upon prayer, upon penance, to whom He remits, it is to the baptized that He remits. For how can they say, Our Father, who are not yet born sons? The Catechumens, so long as they be such, have upon them all their sins. If Catechumens, how much more Pagans? How much more heretics? But to heretics we do not change their baptism. Why? Because they have baptism in the same way as a deserter has the soldier’s mark: just so these also have Baptism; they have it, but to be condemned thereby, not crowned. And yet if the deserter himself, being amended, begin to do duty as a soldier, does any man dare to change his mark?

St. Augustine, Sermon 213: To Converts on the Creed (§8)4

(§8) “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” If this power were not in the Church, there would be no hope; if there were no remission of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of future life and of eternal salvation. We give thanks to God who gave this gift to His Church. Behold, you are about to come to the sacred font; you will be washed in baptism; you will be renewed in the saving laver of regeneration. All the sins which in the past haunted you will be wiped out. Your sins will be like the Egyptians following the Israelites, pursuing only up to the Red Sea. [Cf. Ex. 14] What does “up to the Red Sea” mean? Up to the font consecrated by the cross and blood of Christ…Therefore, baptism is signified by the sign of Christ, that is, by the water in which you are immersed and through which you pass, as it were, in the Red Sea. Your sins are your enemies. They follow you, but only to the Red Sea. When you have entered [the water], you will escape; they will be destroyed, just as the Egyptians were engulfed by the waters while the Israelites escaped on dry land. And why does Scripture say: “There was not one of them left?” [Ps. 105:11] Because, whether you have committed many or few, great or small ills, even the smallest of them has not remained…Hence, when we have said: “I believe in the holy Church,” let us add, “and in the remission of sins.”

St. Augustine, On Baptism, Against the Donatists (Book 4, Ch. 21, §29-30; Ch. 22, §30; Book 5, Ch. 28, §39)

(Book 4, Ch. 21, §29)

I do not hesitate for a moment to place the Catholic catechumen, who is burning with love for God, before the baptized heretic; nor yet do we thereby do dishonor to the sacrament of baptism which the latter has already received, the former not as yet; nor do we consider that the sacrament of the catechumen is to be preferred to the sacrament of baptism, when we acknowledge that some catechumens are better and more faithful than some baptized persons. For the centurion Cornelius, before baptism, was better than Simon, who had been baptized. For Cornelius, even before his baptism, was filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 10:44]; Simon, even after baptism, was puffed up with an unclean spirit…But since it is of no avail for salvation unless he who has baptism indeed in full perfection be incorporated into the Church, correcting also his own depravity, let us therefore correct the error of the heretics, that we may recognize what in them is not their own but Christ’s.

(Book 4, Ch. 22, §30)

That the place of baptism is sometimes supplied by martyrdom is supported by an argument by no means trivial, which the blessed Cyprian adduces from the thief, to whom, though he was not baptized, it was yet said, “Today shall you be with me in Paradise.” [Luke 22:43] On considering which, again and again, I find that not only martyrdom for the sake of Christ may supply what was wanting of baptism, but also faith and conversion of heart, if recourse may not be had to the celebration of the mystery of baptism for want of time. For neither was that thief crucified for the name of Christ, but as the reward of his own deeds; nor did he suffer because he believed, but he believed while suffering. It was shown, therefore, in the case of that thief, how great is the power, even without the visible sacrament of baptism, of what the apostle says, “With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” [Rom. 10:10] But the want is supplied invisibly only when the administration of baptism is prevented, not by contempt for religion, but by the necessity of the moment

(Book 5, Ch. 28, §39)

…Certainly it is clear that, when we speak of within and without in relation to the Church, it is the position of the heart that we must consider, not that of the body, since all who are within in heart are saved in the unity of the ark through the same water, through which all who are in heart without, whether they are also in body without or not, die as enemies of unity. As therefore it was not another but the same water that saved those who were placed within the ark, and destroyed those who were left without the ark, so it is not by different baptisms, but by the same, that good Catholics are saved, and bad Catholics or heretics perish.

St. Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians (Book 3, Ch. 5)

(Ch. 5) Baptism, therefore, washes away indeed all sins—absolutely all sins, whether of deeds or words or thoughts, whether original or added, whether such as are committed in ignorance or allowed in knowledge

St. Augustine, Faith, Hope, and Charity (Ch. 13, §§42-43)5

(§42) Such is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism which is solemnized among us: that those who attain to this grace die to sin, just as we say He died to sin, in that He died to the flesh, that is, to the likeness of sin; and that they live through being reborn at the font (whatever may be the age of the body), just as He lived rising again from the tomb.

(§43) Just as no one, from the newborn babe to the old man, is to be barred from baptism, so there is no one who in baptism does not die to sin. While infants die only to original sin, adults die as well to all those sins which through bad living they have added to the sin they inherited upon birth.

St. Augustine, Letter 98: To Boniface (§2)

(§2) But the possibility of regeneration through the office rendered by the will of another, when the child is presented to receive the sacred rite, is the work exclusively of the Spirit by whom the child thus presented is regenerated. For it is not written, “Unless a man be born again by the will of his parents, or by the faith of those presenting the child, or of those administering the ordinance,” but, “Unless a man be born again of water and of the Spirit.” [John 3:5] By the water, therefore, which holds forth the sacrament of grace in its outward form, and by the Spirit who bestows the benefit of grace in its inward power, cancelling the bond of guilt, and restoring natural goodness [reconcilians bonum naturæ], the man deriving his first birth originally from Adam alone, is regenerated in Christ alone.

St. Augustine, Letter 143: To Marcellinus (§6)

(§6) …That infant children, even before they have committed any sin of their own, are partakers of sinful flesh, is, in my opinion, proved by their requiring to have it healed in them also, by the application in their baptism of the remedy provided in Him who came in the likeness of sinful flesh

St. Augustine, Letter 167: To Jerome (§15)

(§15) …[A]ll debts in word, deed, and thought were washed away in baptism.

St. Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians (Book 3, Ch. 5) (c. 420)

(Ch. 5) Baptism, therefore, washes away indeed all sins—absolutely all sins, whether of deeds or words or thoughts, whether original or added, whether such as are committed in ignorance or allowed in knowledge; but it does not take away the weakness which the regenerate man resists when he fights the good fight, but to which he consents when as man he is overtaken in any fault; on account of the former, rejoicing with thanksgiving, but on account of the latter, groaning in the utterance of prayers…

St. Pope Leo the Great (c. 400-461) (WEST)

St. Pope Leo the Great, Letter 15: To Turribius (§10)

(§10) …And because through the transgression of the first man the whole stock of the human race was tainted, no one can be set free from the state of the old Adam save through Christ’s sacrament of baptism, in which there are no distinctions between the re-born, as says the Apostle: “For as many of you as were baptized in Christ did put on Christ: there is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Gal. 3:27-28]


Council of Carthage (256)

Nemesianus of Thubunae said: …And in the Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with His divine voice, saying, “Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” [John 3:5] This is the Spirit which from the beginning was borne over the waters; for neither can the Spirit operate without the water, nor the water without the Spirit…Unless therefore they receive saving baptism in the Catholic Church, which is one, they cannot be saved, but will be condemned with the carnal in the judgment of the Lord Christ.

Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (Can. 2) (325)

(Can. 2) Forasmuch as, either from necessity, or through the urgency of individuals, many things have been done contrary to the Ecclesiastical canon, so that men just converted from heathenism to the faith, and who have been instructed but a little while, are straightway brought to the spiritual laver, and as soon as they have been baptized, are advanced to the episcopate or the presbyterate, it has seemed right to us that for the time to come no such thing shall be done…

Ecumenical Council of Constantinople I (Creed) (381)

(Creed) We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins

Other Documents

Clementine Recognitions (Book 6, §9) (c. 320)

(§9) But you will perhaps say, What does the baptism of water contribute towards the worship of God? In the first place, because that which has pleased God is fulfilled. In the second place, because, when you are regenerated and born again of water and of God, the frailty of your former birth, which you have through men, is cut off, and so at length you shall be able to attain salvation; but otherwise it is impossible. For thus has the true prophet testified to us with an oath: “Verily I say to you, That unless a man is born again of water, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Therefore make haste; for there is in these waters a certain power of mercy which was borne upon them at the beginning, and acknowledges those who are baptized under the name of the threefold sacrament, and rescues them from future punishments, presenting as a gift to God the souls that are consecrated by baptism. Betake yourselves therefore to these waters, for they alone can quench the violence of the future fire; and he who delays to approach to them, it is evident that the idol of unbelief remains in him, and by it he is prevented from hastening to the waters which confer salvation. For whether you be righteous or unrighteous, baptism is necessary for you in every respect: for the righteous, that perfection may be accomplished in him, and he may be born again to God; for the unrighteous, that pardon may be vouchsafed him of the sins which he has committed in ignorance. Therefore all should hasten to be born again to God without delay, because the end of every one’s life is uncertain.

Apostolic Constitutions (Book 6, Sec. 3, §15) (c. 400)

(§15) Be likewise contented with one baptism alone, that which is into the death of the Lord; not that which is conferred by wicked heretics, but that which is conferred by unblameable priests, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” [Matt. 28:19]…Nay, he that, out of contempt, will not be baptized, shall be condemned as an unbeliever, and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says: “Unless a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.” [John 3:5] And again: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.” [Mark 16:16] But he that says, “When I am dying I will be baptized, lest I should sin and defile my baptism,” is ignorant of God, and forgetful of his own nature. For do not delay to turn unto the Lord, for you know not what the next day will bring forth. Do you also baptize your infants, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of God. For says He: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.” [Matt. 19:14]


  1. St. Irenaeus of Lyon, John Behr, trans., On the Apostolic Preaching (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), 42, 44, 66, 67. ↩︎
  2. St. Basil, M. Monica Wagner, C.S.C., trans., The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 9: Saint Basil, Ascetical Works (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1999), 359-60. ↩︎
  3. St. Basil the Great, Exhortation to Baptism; Francis Patrick Kenrick, Bishop of Philadelphia, A Treatise on Baptism, with an Exhortation to Receive it, Translated from the Works of St. Basil the Great (Philadelphia: M Fithian, 1843), 233. ↩︎
  4. St. Augustine, Mary Sarah Muldowney, R.S.M., trans., The Fathers of the Church, 38: Saint Augustine, Sermons on the Liturgical Seasons (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984), 128-29. ↩︎
  5. Augustine, John J. Gavigan, trans., The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 2: Saint Augustine; Christian Instruction; Admonition and Grace; The Christian Combat; Faith, Hope, and Charity (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1992), 407. ↩︎
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