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Suddenness of Christ's coming.
Among us, however, there is as great a defect of unanimity as there is a falling off in the works of charity. Men in those days gave houses and lands for sale, and laying up for themselves treasure in heaven, presented the price to the Apostles, for distribution among the necessitous. But now we do not even give tithes of our estates, and wbile the Lord saith "sell," we rather buy and gather up. Thus is it that the power of faith languishes, and the believer's strength sinks: and therefore the Lord, in respect of this our age, saith in His Gospel, “ When the Son of Man cometh, think you that He will find faith on the earth?"
? We see that done, which He predicted. In the fear of God, in the law of righteousness, in love, in works, faith is not. No man, in fear of the future, takes thought for the day of the LORD and the anger of God; and no man contemplates the punishment which is to come on unbelievers, and the eternal torments decreed to the faithless. That which our conscience would fear if it believed, because it believes not, it does not fear; if it believed, it would become cautious ; if made cautious, it would escape. Let us awake, my beloved brethren, as far as we can; let us break through the slumbers of our former sloth, and rise up to observe and perform the commandments of our LORD. Let us be such as He bade us to be ; " let your loins be girded, and your lamps burning, and be ye like unto men who await their Lord, when He cometh from the marriage, that when He cometh and knocketh they may open unto Him : blessed are those servants, whom their LORD when He cometh shall find watching." We must gird ourselves up, lest when the day of haste cometh, He find us hindered and impeded. Let our light shine in good works, let it so beam, as to lead us on from the night of this world to the splendours of eternal glory. Let us be always anxiously and cautiously on the wait for the sudden coming of our LORD, that when He knocketh our faith may be found watching, and may receive the reward of vigilance from the Lord. If these commandments are kept, and these warnings and lessons maintained, it will not be for us to slumber, and so be subdued by the wiles of Satan, but we shall reign in the kingdom of Christ, as servants that have been found watching.
ST. CYPRIAN'S ACCOUNT OF HIS BAPTISM.
(From his Treatise on the Grace of God, addressed to Donatus.)
For me, while I yet lay in darkness and bewildering night, and was tossed to and fro on the billows of this troublesome world, ignorant of my true life, an outcast from light and truth, I used to think that second birth, which Divine Mercy promised for my salvation, a hard saying according to the life I then led; as if a man could be so quickened to a new life in the laver of healing water, as to put off his natural self, and keep his former tabernacle, yet be changed in heart and soul! How is it possible, said I, for so great conversion to be accomplished, so that both the obstinate defilement of our natural substance, and old and ingrained habits should suddenly and rapidly be put off, -evils, whose roots are deeply seated within ?
Such were my frequent musings ;-for whereas I was encumbered with the many sins of my past life, which it seemed impossible to be rid of, so I had used myself to give way to my clinging infirmities, and from despair of better things, to humour the evils of my heart as slaves born in my house, and my proper offspring. But, after that life-giving water succoured me, washing away the stain of former years, and pouring into my cleansed and hallowed breast the light which comes from heaven, after that I drank in the Heavenly Spirit, and was created into a new man by a second birth,—then marvellously, what before was doubtful forthwith became plain to me,—what was hidden was revealed,—what was dark began to shine,—what was before difficult now had a way and means, what had seemed impossible now could be achieved, --what was in me of the guilty flesh now confessed that it was carthy,—what was quickened in me by the Holy Ghost now had a growth according to God. Thou knowest, O my friend, thou knowest, thou canst recollect as well as I, what was then taken from me, and what was given by that death of sin, that quickening power of holiness!
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TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.
RECORDS OF THE CHURCH.
THE HOLY CHURCH THROUGHOUT ALL THE WORLD
Tertullian on Baptism.
The tract, of which the following are extracts, was written in opposition to a sect of early heretics, of the Gnostic stock, called Caiani, or Cainites, from the honour they paid to Cain; or, rather, against one Quintilla, a female preacher, who had belonged to this sect, and had added to its impieties the special error of denying the use of baptism, on the pretence that faith was sufficient for salvation without it. Tertullian's treatise was written about A. D. 202.
BLESSED is the Sacrament of Water, in which, when cleansed, we are released from the sins of our original blindness, unto eternal life! ... How great is the power of stubbornness, to unsettle the Faith, or even to reject it altogether, when we find it impugns it, on account of the very articles it contains. Nothing so hardens men's minds, as that simplicity of divine works which is seen in the doing of them, contrasted with the greatness which is promised as the effect of them. For instance, in the case before us; since the candidate for baptism is plunged into water in so simple a way, without many ceremonies, without any novel ado, without cost, and is bathed with a few words said over him, and then rises not much or not at all cleaner to look at, therefore it is considered incredible that he can have gained thereby an eternal gift. . . . Wretched incredulity! to deny to GOD His own characteristics, simplicity and power. What, then? is it not wonderful that even a bath should wash away death? surely; but let us even be the more ready to believe, if its marvellousness, forsooth, is made a reason for unbelief. For what should be the character of divine works, but surpassing marvellousness? We, ourselves, marvel also, but because we do believe. Incredulity marvels without believing; at what is simple, as being contemptible; at what is great, as being impossible. Be it so: yet the divine announcement has gone before,