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Basil the Great

On the Holy Spirit

From: Schaff - Wace, (ed)., Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II, v. 8, tr. by the Rev. Blomfield Jackson, London 1894.


Objection that some were baptized unto Moses and believed in him, and an answer to it; with remarks upon types.

31. BUT even if some are baptized unto the Spirit, it is not, it is urged, on this account right for the Spirit to be ranked with God. Some "were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." And it is admitted that faith even before now has been put in men; for "The people believed God and his servant Moses." Why then, it is asked, do we, on account of faith and of baptism, exalt and magnify the Holy Spirit so far above creation, when there is evidence that the same things have before now been said of men? What, then, shall we reply? Our answer is that the faith in the Spirit is the same as the faith in the Father and the Son; and in like manner, too, the baptism. But the faith in Moses and in the cloud is, as it were, in a shadow and type. The nature of the divine is very frequently represented by the rough and shadowy outlines of the types;but because divine things are prefigured by small and human things, it is obvious that we must not therefore conclude the divine nature to be small. The type is an exhibition of things expected, and gives an imitative anticipation of the future. So Adam was a type of "Him that was to come." Typically, "That rock was Christ;" and the water a type of the living power of the word; as He says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." The manna is a type of the living bread that came down from heaven; and the serpent on the standard, of the passion of salvation accomplished by means of the cross, wherefore they who even looked thereon were preserved. So in like manner, the history of the exodus of Israel is recorded to shew forth those who are being saved through baptism. For the firstborn of the Israelites were preserved, like the bodies of the baptized, by the giving of grace to them that were marked with blood. For the blood of the sheep is a type of the blood of Christ; and the firstborn, a type of the first-formed. And inasmuch as the first-formed of necessity exists in us, and, in sequence of succession, is transmitted till the end, it follows that "in Adam" we "all die," and that "death reigned" until the fulfilling of the law and the coming of Christ. And the firstborn were preserved by God from being touched by the destroyer, to show that we who were made alive in Christ no longer die in Adam. The sea and the cloud for the time being led on through amazement to faith, but for the time to come they typically prefigured the grace to be. "Who is wise and he shall understand these things?" --how the sea is typically a baptism bringing about the departure of Pharaoh. in like manner as this washing causes the departure of the tyranny of the devil. The sea slew the enemy in itself: and in baptism too dies our enmity towards God. From the sea the people came out unharmed: we too, as it were, alive from the dead, step up from the water "saved" by the "grace" of Him who called us. And the cloud is a shadow of the gift of the Spirit, who cools the flame of our passions by the "mortification" of our "members."

32. What then? Because they were typically baptized unto Moses, is the grace of baptism therefore small? Were it so, and if we were in each ease to prejudice the dignity of our privileges by comparing them with their types, not even one of these privileges could be reckoned great; then not the love of God, who gave His only begotten Son for our sins, would be great and extraordinary, because Abraham did not spare his own son; then even the passion of the Lord would not be glorious, because a sheep typified the offering instead of Isaac; then the descent into hell was not fearful, because Jonah had previously typified the death in three days and three nights. The same prejudicial comparison is made also in the case of baptism by all who judge of the reality by the shadow, and, comparing the typified with the type, attempt by means of Moses and the sea to disparage at once the whole dispensation of the Gospel. What remission of sins, what renewal of life, is there in the sea? What spiritual gift is there through Moses? What dying of sins is there? Those men did not die with Christ; wherefore they were not raised with Him. They did not "bear the image of the heavenly;" they did "bear about in the body the dying of Jesus;" they did not "put off the old man;" they did not "put on the new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him which created him." Why then do you compare baptisms which have only the name in common, while the distinction between the things themselves is as great as might be that of dream and reality, that of shadow and figures with substantial existence?

33. But belief in Moses not only does not show our belief in the Spirit to be worthless. but, if we adopt our opponents' line of argument, it rather weakens our confession in the God of the universe. "The people," it is written, "believed the Lord and his servant Moses." Moses then is joined with God, not with the Spirit; and he was a type not of the Spirit, but of Christ. For at that time in the ministry of the law, he by means of himself typified "the Mediator between God and men." Moses, when mediating for the people in things pertaining to God, was not a minister of the Spirit; for the law was given, "ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator," namely Moses, in accordance with the summons of the people, "Speak thou with us, . . . but let not God speak with us." Thus faith in Moses is referred to the Lord, the Mediator between God and men, who said, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me." Is then our faith in the Lord a trifle, because it was signified beforehand through Moses? So then, even if men were baptized unto Moses, it does not follow that the grace given of the Spirit in baptism is small. I may point out, too, that it is usual in Scripture to say Moses and the law, as in the passage, "They have Moses and the prophets." When therefore it is meant to speak of the baptism of the law, the words are, "They were baptized unto Moses." Why then do these calumniators of the truth, by means of the shadow and the types, endeavour to bring contempt and ridicule on the "rejoicing" of our "hope," and the rich gift of our God and Saviour, who through regeneration renews our youth like the eagle's? Surely it is altogether childish, and like a babe who must needs be fed on milk, to be ignorant of the great mystery of our salvation; inasmuch as, in accordance with the gradual progress of our education, while being brought to perfection in our training for godliness, we were first taught elementary and easier lessons, suited to our intelligence, while the Dispenser of our lots was ever leading us up, by gradually accustoming us, like eyes brought up in the dark, to the great light of truth. For He spares our weakness, and in the depth of the riches of His wisdom, and the inscrutable judgments of His intelligence, used this gentle treatment, fitted for our needs, gradually accustoming us to see first the shadows of objects, and to look at the sun in water, to save us from dashing against the spectacle of pure unadulterated light, and being blinded. Just so the Law, having a shadow of things to come, and the typical teaching of the prophets, which is a dark utterance of the truth, have been devised means to train the eyes of the heart, in that hence the transition to the wisdom hidden in mystery will be made easy. Enough so far concerning types; nor indeed would it be possible to linger longer on this topic, or the incidental discussion would become many times bulkier than the main argument.

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