You have desired, my very dear Fortunatus, that since the weight of afflictions and persecutions lies heavy upon us, and at the end and at the consummation of the world the hostile time of antichrist has already begun to draw near, I bring together from the sacred Scripture exhortations for the preparation and strengthening of the minds of the brethren, with which I might animate the soldiers of Christ for the spiritual and heavenly struggle. I have felt obliged to obey your so compelling wish, so that, in so far as our mediocrity is able, prepared with the aid of divine inspiration, certain arms, as it were, and defenses might be brought forth from the Lord's precepts for the brethren who are about to fight. For it is a minor matter that we arouse the people of God with the trumpet call of our voice, unless we confirm by divine reading the faith of believers and their courage dedicated and devoted to God.
For what more fitly or more fully befits our care and solicitude than to prepare the people divinely committed to us and the army established in the heavenly camp with constant exhortations against the weapons and darts of the devil? For he cannot be a soldier fit for war who has not first been trained in the field, nor will he who seeks to obtain the contestant s crown be crowned in the stadium, unless he first gives thought to the practice and skill of his powers. He is an old adversary and an ancient enemy with whom we wage battle. Almost six thousand years are now being fulfilled since the devil first attacked man. All kinds of tempting and arts and plots for his overthrow has he learned by the very practice of a long time. If he finds a soldier of Christ unprepared, if untrained, if he does not find him vigilant with a solicitous and whole heart, he besets him in ignorance, he deceives him incautious, he entraps him inexperienced. But if anyone guards the precepts of the Lord, and bravely adhering to Christ stands against the devil, he must be conquered, since Christ whom we confess is invincible.
And not to extend my talk at length, dearest brother, and not to fatigue my listener or reader by the abundance of a rather diffuse style, I have made a summary, so that, after setting forth the headings first, which each one ought to know and retain, I might add passages of the Lord, and might establish what I had set forth by the authority of the divine words, thus seeming not so much to have sent you a treatise of mine as to have furnished material for those who make treatises. This plan is of greater utility to individuals in practice. For if I gave away a garment already finished and prepared, it would be my garment which another would use and perhaps the thing having been made according to the contour of the stature and the body of another would he held little fitting. But now I have sent the very wool and purple of the lamb through whom we have been redeemed and quickened, and when you receive it, you will make a tunic according to your wish, and you will rejoice the more in it as in your own private and personal garment, and you will also show others what we have sent, that they too may be able to make garments according to their judgment; thus covering that old nakedness, they may all bear the garments of Christ, dressed in the sanctification of heavenly grace.
Furthermore also, most beloved brother, I have viewed the plan as useful
and salutary in so necessary an exhortation as to make martyrs, that all
delays and tardiness of our words must be cut out, and that the
meanderings of human speech must be put aside, that those words alone must
be set down which God speaks, by which Christ exhorts His servants to
martyrdom. The divine precepts themselves must be supplied as arms for
those who fight. Let those be the incitements of the military trumpet; let
those be the clarion call for those who fight. By those let the ears be
made erect; by these let the minds be made ready; by these also let the
powers of mind and body be strengthened for the endurance of every
suffering. Let us only, who with the Lord's permission gave the first
baptism to believers, prepare each one for another baptism also, urging
and teaching that this baptism is greater in grace, more sublime in power,
more precious in honor, a baptism in which the angels baptize, a baptism
in which God and His Christ exult, a baptism after which no one sins
again, a baptism which brings to completion the increases of our faith, a
baptism which immediately joins us with God as we withdraw from the world.
In the baptism of water is received the remission of sins; in that of
blood the crown of virtues. This thing is to be embraced and longed for
and sought after with all entreaties of our prayers, so that we who were
servants of God may also be His friends. . . .