The Epistles of Cyprian LV-LXXXII Epistle LV
THE EPISTLES OF CYPRIAN LV-LXXXII. EPISTLE LV. TO THE PEOPLE OF THIBARIS, EXHORTING TO MARTYRDOM. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN FIRST OF ALL EXCUSES HIMSELF TO THE THIBARITANS THAT HE HAD NOT BEEN TO VISIT THEM, AND GIVES THEM WARNINGS OF THE PERSECUTION AT HAND; HE THEN FURNISHES INDUCEMENTS READILY TO UNDERGO MARTYRDOM.
1. Cyprian to the people abiding at Thibaris, greeting. I had indeed thought, beloved brethren, and prayerfully desired–if the state of things and the condition of the times permitted, in conformity with what you frequently desired–myself to come to you; and being present with you, then to strengthen the brotherhood with; such moderate powers of exhortation as I possess. But since I am detained by such urgent affairs, that I have not the power to travel far from this place, and to be long absent from the people over whom by divine mercy I am placed, I have written in the meantime this letter, to be to you in my stead. For as, by the condescension of the Lord instructing me, I am very often instigated and warned, I ought to bring unto your conscience also the anxiety of my warning. For you ought to know and to believe, and hold it for certain, that the day of affliction has begun. to hang over our heads, and the end of the world and the time of Antichrist to draw near so that we must all stand prepared for the battle, nor consider anything but the glory of life eternal, and the crown of the confession of the Lord; and not regard those things which are coming as being such as were those which have passed away. A severer and a fiercer fight is now threatening, for which the soldiers of Christ ought to prepare themselves with uncorrupted faith and robust courage, considering that they drink the cup of Christ’s blood daily, for the reason that they themselves also may be able to shed their blood for Christ. For this is to wish to be found with Christ, to imitate that which Christ both taught and did, according to the Apostle John, who said, “He that saith he abideth in Christ ought himself also so to walk even as He walked.” Moreover, the blessed Apostle Paul exhorts and teaches, saying, “We are God’s children; but if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
2. Which things must all now be considered by us, that no one may desire anything from the world that is now dying, but may follow Christ, who both lives forever, and quickens His servants, who are established in the faith of His name. For there comes the time, beloved brethren, which our Lord long ago foretold and taught us was approaching, saying, ” The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things they will do unto you, because they have not known the Father nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come ye may remember that I told you of them.” Nor let any one wonder that we are harassed with constant persecutions, and continually tried with increasing afflictions, when the Lord before predicted that these things would happen in the last times, and has instructed us for the warfare by the teaching and exhortation of His words. Peter also, His apostle, has taught that persecutions occur for the sake of our being proved, and that we also should, by the example of righteous men who have gone before us, be joined to the love of God by death and sufferings. For he wrote in his epistle, and said, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, nor do ye fall away, as if some new thing happened unto you; but as often as ye partake in Christ’s sufferings, rejoice in all things, that when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached in the name of Christ, happy are ye for the name of the majesty and power of the Lord resteth on you, which indeed on their part is blasphemed, but on our part is glorified.” Now the apostles taught us those things which they themselves also learnt from the Lord’s precepts and the heavenly commands, the Lord Himself thus strengthening us, and saying, “There is no man that hath left house, or land or parents, or brethren, or sisters, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive sevenfold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.” And again He says, “Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and shall separate you from their company, and shall cast you out, and shall reproach your name as evil for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.”
3. The Lord desired that we should rejoice and leap for joy in persecutions, because, when persecutions occur, then are given the crowns of faith, then the soldiers of God are proved, then the heavens are opened to martyrs. For we have not in such a way given our name to warfare that we ought only to think about peace, and draw back from and refuse war, when in this very warfare the Lord walked first–the Teacher of humility, and endurance, and suffering–so that what He taught to be done, He first of all did, and what He exhorts to suffer, He Himself first suffered for us. Let it be before your eyes, beloved brethren, that He who alone received a judgment from the Father, and who will come to judge, has already declared the decree of His judgment and of His future recognition, foretelling and testifying that He will confess those before His Father who confess Him, and will deny those who deny Him. If we could escape death, we might reasonably fear to die. But since, on the other hand, it is necessary that mortal man should die, we should embrace the occasion that comes by divine promise and condescension and accomplish the ending provided by death with the reward of immortality; nor fear to be slain, since we are sure when we are slain to be crowned.
4. Nor let any one, beloved brethren, when he beholds our people driven away and scattered by the fear of persecution, be disturbed at not seeing the brotherhood gathered together, nor hearing the bishops discoursing. All are not able to be there together, who may not kill, but who must be killed. Wherever, in those days, each one of the brethren shall be separated from the flock for a time, by the necessity of the season, in body, not in spirit, let him not be moved at the terror of that flight; nor, if he withdraw and be concealed, let him be alarmed at the solitude of the desert place. He is not alone, whose companion in flight Christ is; he is not alone who, keeping God’s temple wheresoever he is, is not without God. And if a robber should fall upon you, a fugitive in the solitude or in the mountains; if a wild beast should attack you; if hunger, or thirst, or cold should distress you, or the tempest and the storm should overwhelm you hastening in a rapid voyage over the seas, Christ everywhere looks upon His soldier fighting; and for the sake of persecution, for the honor of His name gives a reward to him when he dies, as He has promised that He will give in the resurrection. Nor is the glory of martyrdom less that he has not perished publicly and before many, since the cause of perishing is to perish for Christ. That witness who proves martyrs, and crowns them, suffices for a testimony of his martyrdom.
5. Let us, beloved brethren, imitate righteous Abel, who initiated martyrdoms, he first being slain for righteousness’ sake. Let us imitate Abraham, the friend of God, who did not delay to offer his son as a victim with his own hands obeying God with a faith of devotion. Let us imitate the three children Ananias, Azarias, and I lisael, who, neither frightened by their youthful age nor broken down by captivity, Judea being conquered and Jerusalem taken, overcame the king by the power of faith in his own kingdom, who, when bidden to worship the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had made, stood forth stronger both than the king’s ! threats and the flames, calling out and attesting their faith by these words: “O king Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. For the Cod whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of thine hands, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, that we do not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” They believed that they might escape according, to their faith, but they added, “and if not,” that the king might know that they could also die for the God they worshipped. For this is the strength of courage and of faith, to believe and to know that God can deliver from present death, and yet not to fear death nor to give wav, that faith may be the more mightily proved. The uncorrupted and unconquered might of the Holy Spirit broke forth by their mouth, say that the words which the Lord in His Gospel] spoke are seen to be true: “But when they shall seize you, take no thought what ye s al] speak; for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” He said that what we are able to speak and to answer is given to us in that hour from heaven, and supplied; and that it is not then we who speak, but the Spirit of God our Father, who, as He does not depart nor is separated from those who confess Him, Himself both speaks and is crowned in us. So Daniel, too, when he was required to worship the idol Bel, which the people and the king then worshipped in asserting the honor of his God, broke forth with full faith and freedom, saying, ” I worship nothing but the Lord my God, who created he heaven and the earth.”
6. What shall we say of the cruel tortures of the blessed martyrs in the Maccabees, and the multiform sufferings of the seven brethren, and the in other comforting her children in their agonies, and herself dying also with her children? Do not they witness the proofs of great courage and faith, and exhort us by their sufferings to the triumphs of martyrdom? What of the prophets whom the Holy Spirit quickened to the foreknowledge of future events? What of the apostles whom the Lord chose? Since these righteous men were slain for righteousness sake, have they not taught us also to die? The nativity of Christ witnessed at once the martyrdom of infants, so that they who were two years old and under were slain for His name’s sake. An age not yet fitted for the battle appeared fit for the crown. That it might be manifest that they who are slain for Christ’s sake are innocent, innocent infancy was put to death for His name’s sake. It is shown that none is free from the peril of persecution, when even these accomplished martyrdoms. But how grave is the case of a Christian man, if he, a servant, is un willing to suffer, when his Master first suffered and that we should be unwilling to suffer for our own sins, when He who had no sin of His own suffered for us! The Son of God suffered that He might make us sons of God, and the son of man will not suffer that he may continue to be a son of God! If we suffer from the world’s hatred, Christ first endured the world’s hatred. If we suffer reproaches in this world if exile, if tortures, the Maker and Lord of the world experienced harder things than these, and He also warns us, saying, “If the world hate you, remember that it hated me before you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Whatever our Lord and God taught, He also did, that the disciple might not be excused if he learns and does not.
7. Nor let any one of you, beloved brethren be so terrified by the fear of future persecution, or the coming of the threatening Antichrist, as not to be found armed for all things by the evangelical exhortations and precepts, and by the heavenly warnings. Antichrist is coming, but above him comes Christ also. The enemy goeth about and rageth, but immediately the Lord follows to avenge our sufferings and our wounds. The adversary is enraged and threatens, but there is One who can deliver us from his hands. He is to be feared whose anger no one can escape, as He Himself forewarns, and says: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” And again: “He that loveth his life, shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal.” And in the Apocalypse He instructs and forewarns, saying, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand, the same also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, mixed in the cup of His indignation, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever; and they shall have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image.”
8. For the secular contest men are trained and prepared, and reckon it a great glory of their honor if it should happen to them to be crowned in the sight of the people, and in the presence of the emperor. Behold a lofty and great contest, glorious also with the reward of a heavenly crown, inasmuch as God looks upon us as we struggle, and, extending His view over those whom He has condescended to make His sons, He enjoys the spectacle of our contest God looks upon us in the warfare, and fighting in the encounter of faith; His angels look or us, and Christ looks on us. How great is the dignity, and how great the happiness of the glory, to engage in the presence of God, and to be crowned, with Christ for a judge! Let us be armed, beloved brethren, with our whole strength, and let us be prepared for the struggle with an uncorrupted mind, with a sound faith, with a devoted courage Let the camp of God go forth to the battle-field which is appointed to us Let the sound ones be armed, lest he that is sound should lose the advantage of having lately stood; let the lapsed also be armed, that even the lapsed may regain what he has lost let honor provoke the whole; let sorrow provoke the lapsed to the battle The Apostle Paul teaches us to be armed and prepared, saying, ” We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers, and the princes of this world and of this darkness, against spirits of wickedness in high places. Wherefore put on the whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand in the most evil day, that when ye have done all ye may stand; having your loins girt about with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one; and the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
9. Let us take these arms, let us fortify ourselves with these spiritual and heavenly safeguards, that in the most evil day we, may be able to withstand, and to resist the threats of the evil let us put on the breastplate of righteousness, that our breast may be fortified and safe against the darts of the enemy: let our feet be shod with evangelical teaching, and armed, so that when the serpent shall begin to be trodden and crushed by us, he may not be able to bite and trip us up: let us bravely bear the shield of faith, by the protection of which, whatever the enemy darts at us may be extinguished: let us take also for protection of our head the helmet of salvation, that our ears may be guarded from hearing the deadly edicts; that our eyes may be fortified, that they may not see the odious images; that our brow may be fortified, so as to keep safe the sign of God; that our mouth may be fortified, that the conquering tongue may confess Christ its Lord: let us also arm the right hand with the sword of the Spirit, that it may bravely reject the deadly sacrifices; that, mindful of the Eucharist, the hand which has received the Lord’s body may embrace the Lord Himself, hereafter to receive from the Lord the reward of heavenly crowns.
10. Oh, what and how great will that day be at its coming, beloved brethren, when the Lord shall begin to count up His people, and to recognize the deservings of each one by the inspection of His divine knowledge, to send the guilty to Gehenna, and to set on fire our persecutors with the perpetual burning of a penal fire, but to pay to us the reward of our faith and devotion! What will be the glory and how great the joy to be admitted to see God, to be honored to receive with Christ, thy Lord God, the joy of eternal salvation and light–to greet Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the patriarchs, and prophets, and apostles, and martyrs–to rejoice with the righteous and the friends of God in the kingdom of heaven, with the pleasure of immortality given to us–to receive there what neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man! For the apostle announces that we shall receive greater things than anything that we here either do or suffer, saying, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come hereafter which shall be revealed in us.” When that revelation shall come, when that glory of God shall shine upon us, we shall be as happy and joyful, honored with the condescension of God, as they will remain guilty and wretched, who, either as deserters from God or rebels against Him, have done the will of the devil, so that it is necessary for them to be tormented with the devil himself in unquenchable fire.
12. Let these things, beloved brethren, take hold of our hearts; let this be the preparation of our arms, this our daily and nightly meditation to have before our eyes and ever to revolve in our thoughts and feelings the punishments of the wicked and the rewards and the deservings of the righteous what the Lord threatens by way of punishment against those that deny Him; what, on the other hand, He promises by way of glory to those that confess Him. If, while we think and meditate on these things, there should come to us a day of persecution, the soldier of Christ instructed in His precepts and warnings is not fearful for the battle, but is prepared for the crown I bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LVI. TO CORNELIUS IN EXILE, CONCERNING HIS CONFESSION. ARGUMENT. -CYPRIAN PRAISES IN CORNELIUS AND HIS PEOPLE THEIR CONFESSION OF THE NAME OF CHRIST EVEN TO BANISHMENT; AND EXHORTS THEM TO CONSTANCY AND TO MUTUAL PRAYER FOR ONE ANOTHER, AS WELL IN RESPECT OF THE APPROACHING DAY OF STRUGGLE IN THIS LIFE, AS AFTER DEATH.
1. Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting. We have been made acquainted, dearest brother, with the glorious testimonies of your faith and courage, and have received with such exultation the honor of your confession, that we count ourselves also sharers and companions in your merits and praises. For as we have one Church, a mind united, and a concord undivided, what priest does not congratulate himself on the praises of his fellow-priest as if on his own; or what brotherhood would not rejoice in the joy of its brethren? It cannot be sufficiently declared how great was the exultation and how great the joy here, when we had heard of your success and bravery, that you had stood forth as a leader of confession to the brethren there; and, moreover, that the confession of the leader had increased by the consent of the brethren; so that, while you precede them to glory, you have made many your companions in glory, and have persuaded the people to become a confessor by being first prepared to confess on behalf of all; so that we are at a loss what we ought first of all to commend in you, whether your prompt and decided faith, or the inseparable love of the brethren. Among you the courage of the bishop going before has been publicly proved, and the unitedness of the brotherhood following has been shown. As with you there is one mind and one voice, the whole Roman Church has confessed.
2. The faith, dearest brethren, which the blessed apostle commended in you has shone brightly. He even then in the spirit foresaw this praise of courage and firmness of strength; and, attesting your merits by the commendation of your future doings, in praising the parents he provokes the children. While you are thus unanimous, while you are thus brave, you have given great examples both of unanimity and of bravery to the rest of the brethren. You have taught them deeply to fear God, firmly to cling to Christ; that the people should be associated with the priests in peril; that the brethren should not be separated from brethren in persecution; that a concord, once established, can by no means be overcome; that whatsoever is at the same time sought for by all, the God of peace will grant to the peaceful. The adversary had leapt forth to disturb the camp of Christ with violent terror; but, with the same impetuosity with which he had come, he was beaten back and conquered; and as much fear and terror as he had brought, so much bravery and strength he also found. He had thought that he could again overthrow the servants of God, and agitate them in his accustomed manner as if they were novices and inexperienced–as if little prepared and little cautious. He attacked one first, as a wolf had tried to separate the sheep from the flock, as a hawk to separate the dove from the flying troop; for he who has not sufficient strength against all, seeks to gain advantage for the solitude of individuals. But when beaten back as well by the faith as by the vigor of the combined army, he perceived that the soldiers of Christ are now watching, and stand sober and armed for the battle; that they cannot be conquered, but that they can die; and that by this very fact they are invincible, that they do not fear death; that they do not in turn assail their assailants, since it is not lawful for the innocent even to kill the guilty; but that they readily deliver up both their lives and their blood; that since such malice and cruelty rages in the world, they may the more quickly withdraw from the evil and cruel. What a glorious spectacle was that under the eyes of God! what a joy of His Church in the sight of Christ, that not single soldiers, but the whole camp, at once went forth to the battle which the enemy had tried to begin! For it is plain that all would have come if they could have heard, since whoever heard ran hastily and came. How many lapsed were there restored by a glorious confession! They bravely stood, and by the very suffering of repentance were made braver for the battle, that it might appear that lately they had been taken at unawares, and had trembled at the fear of a new and unaccustomed thing, but that they had afterwards returned to themselves; that true faith and their strength, gathered from the fear of God, had constantly and firmly strengthened them to all endurance; and that now they do not stand for pardon of their crime, but for the crown of their suffering.
3. What does Novatian say to these things dearest brother? Does he yet lay aside his error? Or, indeed, as is the custom of foolish men, is he more driven to fury by our very benefits and prosperity; and in proportion as the glory of love and faith grows here more and more, does the madness of dissension and envy break out anew there? Does the wretched man not cure his own wound, but wound both himself and his friends still more severely, clamoring with his tongue to the ruin of the brethren, and hurling darts of poisonous eloquence, more severe in accordance with the wickedness of a secular philosophy than peaceable with the gentleness of the Lord’s wisdom, –a deserter of the Church, a foe to mercy, a destroyer of repentance, a teacher of arrogance, a corrupter of truth, a murderer of love? Does he now acknowledge who is the priest of God; which is the Church and the house of Christ; who are God’s servants, whom the devil molests; who the Christians, whom Antichrist attacks? For neither does he seek those whom he has already subdued, nor does he take the trouble to overthrow those whom he has already made his own. The foe and enemy of the Church despises and passes by those whom he has alienated from the Church, and led without as captives and conquered; he goes on to harass those in whom he sees Christ dwell.
4. Even although any one of such should have been seized, there is no reason for his flattering himself, as if in the confession of the name; since it is manifest that, if people of this sort should be put to death outside the Church it is no crown of faith, but is rather a punishment of treachery. Nor will those dwell in the house of God among those that are of one mind, whom we see to have withdrawn by the madness of discord from the peaceful and divine household.
5. We earnestly exhort as much as we can, dearest brother, for the sake of the mutual love by which we are joined one to another, that since we are instructed by the providence of the Lord, who warns us, and are admonished by the wholesome counsels of divine mercy, that the day of our contest and struggle is already approaching, we should not cease to be instant with all the people in fastings, in watchings, in prayers. Let us be urgent, with constant groanings and frequent prayers. For these are our heavenly arms, which make us to stand fast and bravely to persevere. These are the spiritual defenses and divine weapons which defend us. Let us remember one another in concord and unanimity. Let us on both sides always pray for one another. Let us relieve burdens and afflictions by mutual love, that if any one of us, by the swiftness of divine condescension, shall go hence the first, our love may continue in the presence of the Lord, and our prayers for our brethren and sisters not cease in the presence of the Father’s mercy. I bid you, dearest brother, ever hearty farewell.
EPISTLE LVII. TO LUCIUS THE BISHOP OF ROME, RETURNED FROM BANISHMENT. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN, WITH HIS COLLEAGUES, CONGRATULATES LUCIUS ON HIS RETURN FROM EXILE, REMINDING HIM THAT MARTYRDOM DEFERRED DOES NOT MAKE THE GLORY LESS. THEN, POINTING OUT THAT THE MARTYRDOM OF CORNELIUS AND THE BANISHMENT OF LUCIUS HAD HAPPENED BY DIVINE DIRECTION, FOR THE CONFUSION OF THE NOVATIANS, HE FORETELLS TO HIM HIS OWN IMPENDING MARTYRDOM, GOD SO ORDAINING IT THAT IT SHOULD BE CONSUMMATED NOT AWAY FROM HOME, BUT AMONG HIS OWN PEOPLE.
1. Cyprian, with his colleagues, to Lucius his brother, greeting. We had lately also congratulated you indeed, dearest brother, when the divine condescension, by a double honor, appointed you in the administration of God’s Church; as well a confessor as a priest. But now also we no less congratulate you and your companions, and the whole fraternity, that the benignant and liberal protection of the Lord has brought. you back again to His own with the same glory, and with praises to you; that so the shepherd might be restored to feed his flock, and the pilot to manage the ship, and the ruler to govern the people; and that it might appear that your banishment was so divinely arranged, not that the bishop banished and driven away should be wanting to the Church, but that he should return to the Church greater than he had left it.
2. For the dignity of martyrdom was not the less in the case of the three youths, because, their death being frustrated, they came forth safe from the fiery furnace; nor did Daniel stand forth uncompleted in the praise he deserved, because, when he had been sent to the lions for a prey, he was protected by the Lord, and lived to glory. Among confessors of Christ, martyrdoms deferred do not diminish the merits of confession, but show forth the greatness of divine protection. We see represented in you what the brave and illustrious youths announced before the king that they indeed were prepared to be burnt in the flames, that they might not serve his gods, nor worship the image which he had made; but that the God whom they worshipped, and whom we also worship, was able even to rescue them from the fiery furnace, and to deliver them from the hands of the king, and from imminent sufferings. This we now find carried out in the faith of your confession, and in the Lord’s protection over you; so that while you were prepared and ready to undergo all punishment, yet the Lord withdrew you from punishment, and preserved you for the Church. In your return the dignity of his confession has not been abridged in the bishop, but the priestly authority has rather increased; so that a priest is assisting at the altar of God, who exhorts the people to take up the arms of confession, and to submit to martyrdom not by his words, but by his deeds; and, now that Antichrist is near, prepares the soldiers for the battle, not only by the urgency of his speech and his words, but by the example of his faith and courage.
3. We understand, dearest brother, and we perceive with the whole light of our heart, the salutary and holy plans of the divine majesty, whence the sudden persecution lately arose there–whence the secular power suddenly broke forth against the Church of Christ and the bishop Cornelius, the blessed martyr, and all of you; so that, for the confusion and beating down of heretics, the Lord might show which was the Church –which is its one bishop chosen by divine appointment–which presbyters are associated with the bishop in priestly honor–which is the united and true people of Christ, linked together in the love of the Lord’s flock–who they were whom the enemy would harass; whom, on the other hand, the devil would spare as being his own. For Christ’s adversary does not persecute and attack any except Christ’s camp and soldiers; heretics, once prostrated and made his own, he despises and passes by. He seeks to cast down those whom he sees to stand.
4. And I wish, dearest brother, that the power were now given us to be with you there on your return, that we ourselves, who love you with mutual love, might, being present with the rest, also receive the very joyous fruit of your coming. What exultation among all the brethren there; what running together and embracing of each one as they arrive! Scarcely can you be satisfied with the kisses of those who cling to you; scarcely can the very faces and eyes of the people be satiated with seeing. At the joy of your coming the brotherhood there has begun to recognize what and how great a joy will follow when Christ shall come. For because His advent will quickly approach, a kind of representation has now gone before in you; that just as John, His forerunner and preparer of His way, came and preached that Christ had come, so, now that a bishop returns as a confessor of the Lord, and His priest, it appears that the Lord also is now returning. But I and my colleagues, and all the brotherhood, send this letter to you in the stead of us, dearest brother; and setting forth to you by our letter our joy, we express the faithful inclination of our love here also in our sacrifices and our prayers, not ceasing to give thanks to God the Father, and to Christ His Son our Lord; and as well to pray as to entreat, that He who is perfect, and makes perfect, will keep and perfect in you the glorious crown of your confession, who perchance has called you back for this purpose, that your glory should not be hidden, if the martyrdom of your confession should be consummated away from home. For the victim which affords an example to the brotherhood both of courage and of faith, ought to be offered up when the brethren are present. We bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LVIII. TO FIDUS, ON THE BAPTISM OF INFANTS. ARGUMENT. –IN THIS LETTER CYPRIAN IS NOT ESTABLISHING ANY NEW DECREE; BUT KEEPING MOST FIRMLY THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH, FOR THE CORRECTION OF THOSE WHO THOUGHT THAT AN INFANT MUST NOT BE BAPTIZED BEFORE THE EIGHTH DAY AFTER ITS BIRTH, HE DECREED WITH SOME OF HIS FELLOW-BISHOPS, THAT AS SOON AS IT WAS BORN IT MIGHT PROPERLY BE BAPTIZED. HE TAKES OCCASION, HOWEVER, TO REFUSE TO RECALL THE PEACE THAT HAD BEEN GRANTED TO ONE VICTOR, ALTHOUGH IT HAD BEEN GRANTED AGAINST THE DECREES OF SYNODS CONCERNING THE LAPSED; BUT FORBIDS THERAPIUS THE BISHOP TO DO IT IN OTHER CASES.
1. Cyprian, and others his colleagues who were present in council, in number sixty-six, to Fidus their brother, greeting. We have read your letter, dearest brother, in which you intimated concerning Victor, formerly a presbyter, that our colleague Therapius, rashly at a too early season, and with over-eager haste, granted peace to him before he had fully repented, and had satisfied the Lord God, against whom he had sinned; which thing rather disturbed us, that it was a departure from the authority of our decree, that peace should be granted to him before the legitimate and full time of satisfaction, and without the request and consciousness of the people–no sickness rendering it urgent, and no necessity compelling it. But the judgment being long weighed among us, it was considered sufficient to rebuke Therapius our colleague for having done this rashly, and to have instructed him that he should not do the like with any other. Yet we did not think that the peace once granted in any wise by a priest s of God was to be taken away, and for this reason have allowed Victor to avail himself of the communion granted to him.
2. But in respect of the case of the infants, which you say ought not to be baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be baptized and sanctified within the eighth day, we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man. For as the Lord says in His Gospel, “The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them,” as far as we Can, We must strive that, if possible, no soul be lost. For what is wanting to him who has once been formed in the womb by the hand of God? To us, indeed, and to our eyes, according to the worldly course of days, they who are born appear to receive an increase. But whatever things are made by God, are completed by the majesty and work of God their Maker.
3. Moreover, belief in divine Scripture declares to us, that among all, whether infants or those who are older, there is the same equality of the divine gift. Elisha, beseeching God, so laid himself upon the infant son of the widow, who was lying dead, that his head was applied to his head, and his face to his face, and the limbs of Elisha were spread over and joined to each of the limbs of the child, and his feet to his feet. If this thing be considered with respect to the inequality of our birth and our body, an infant could not be made equal with a person grown up and mature, nor could its little limbs fit anti be equal to the larger limbs of a man. But in that is expressed the divine and spiritual equality, that all men are like and equal, since they have once been made by Cool; and our age may have a difference in the increase of our bodies, according to the world, but not according to God; unless that very grace also which is given to the baptized is given either less or more, according to the age of the receivers, whereas the Holy Spirit is not given with measure, but by the love and mercy of the Father alike to all. For God, as He does not accept the person, so does not accept the age; since He shows Himself Father to all with well-weighed equality for the attainment of heavenly grace.
4. For, with respect to what you say, that the aspect of an infant in the first days after its birth is not pure, so that any one of us would still shudder at kissing it, we do not think that this ought to be alleged as any impediment to heavenly grace. For it is written, “To the pure all things are pure.” Nor ought any of us to shudder at that which God hath condescended to make. For although the infant is still fresh from its birth, yet it is not such that anyone should shudder at kissing it in giving grace and in making peace; since in the kiss of an infant every one of us ought for his very religions sake, to consider the still recent hands of God themselves, which in some sort we are kissing, in the man lately formed and freshly born, when we are embracing that which God has made. For in respect of the observance of the eighth day in the Jewish circumcision of the flesh, a sacrament was given beforehand in shadow and in usage; but when Christ came, it was fulfilled in truth. For because the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, was to be that on which the Lord should rise again, and should quicken us, and give us circumcision of the spirit, the eighth day, that is, the first day after the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day, went before in the figure; which figure ceased when by and by the truth came, and spiritual circumcision was given to us.
5. For which reason we think that no one is to be hindered from obtaining grace by that law which was already ordained, and that spiritual circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision, but that absolutely every man is to be admitted to the grace of Christ, since Peter also in the Acts of the Apostles speaks, and says, “The Lord hath said to me that I should call no man common or unclean.” But if anything could hinder men from obtaining grace, their more heinous sins might rather hinder those who are mature and grown up and older. 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 he hindered from baptism and from the grace of God, who is merciful and kind and loving to all. Which, since it is to he 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. We bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LIX. TO THE NUMIDIAN BISHOPS, ON THE REDEMPTION OF THEIR BRETHREN FROM CAPTIVITY AMONG THE BARBARIANS. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN BEGINS BY DEPLORING THE CAPTIVITY OF THE BRETHREN, OF’ WHICH HE HAD HEARD FROM THE NUMIDIAN BISHOPS, AND SAYS THAT HE IS SENDING THEM A HUNDRED THOUSAND SESTERCES, CONTRIBUTED BY BRETHREN AND SISTERS AND COLLEAGUES
1. Cyprian to Januarius, Maximus, Proculus, Victor, Modianus, Nemesianus, Nampulus, and Honoratus, his brethren, greeting. With excessive grief of mind, and not without tears, dearest, brethren, I have read your letter which you wrote to me from the solicitude of your love, concerning the captivity of our brethren and sisters. For who would not grieve at misfortunes of that kind, or who would not consider his brother’s grief his own, since the Apostle Paul speaks, saying, “Whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member rejoice, all the members rejoice with it;” and in another place he says, “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” Wherefore now also the captivity of our brethren must be reckoned as our captivity, and the grief of those who are endangered is to be esteemed as our grief, since indeed there is one body of our union; and not love only, but also religion, ought to instigate and strengthen us to redeem the members of the brethren.
2. For inasmuch as the Apostle Paul says again, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”– even although love urged us less to bring help to the brethren, yet in this place we must have considered that it was the temples of God which were taken captive, and that we ought not by long inactivity and neglect of their suffering to allow the temples of God to be long captive, but to strive with what powers we can, and to act quickly by our obedience, to deserve well of Christ our Judge and Lord and God. For as the Apostle Paul says, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” Christ is to be contemplated in our captive brethren, and He is to be redeemed from the peril of captivity who redeemed us from the peril of death; so that He who took us out of the jaws of the devil, who abides and dwells in us, may now Himself be rescued and redeemed from the hands of barbarians by a sum of money–who redeemed us by His cross and blood–who suffers these things to happen for this reason, that our faith may be tried, whether each one of us will do for another what he would wish to be done for himself, if he himself were held captive among barbarians. For who that is mindful of humanity, and reminded of mutual love, if he be a father, will not now consider that his sons are there; if he be a husband, will not think that his wife is there kept captive, with as much grief as shame for the marriage tie? But how great is the general grief among all of us, and suffering concerning the peril of virgins who are kept there, on whose behalf we must bewail not only the loss of liberty, but of modesty; and must lament the bonds of barbarians less than the violence of seducers and abominable places, lest the members dedicated to Christ, and devoted forever in honor of continence by modest. virtue, should be sullied by the Just and contagion of the insulter.
3. Our brotherhood, considering all these things according to your letter, and sorrowfully examining, have all promptly and willingly and liberally gathered together supplies of money for the brethren, being always indeed, according to the strength of their faith, prone to the work of God, but now even more stimulated to salutary works by the consideration of so great a suffering. For since the Lord in His Gospel says, “I was sick, and ye visited me,” with how much greater reward for our work will He say now, “I was captive, and ye redeemed me!” And since again He says, “I was in prison, and ye came unto me,” how much more will it be when He begins to say, “I was in the dungeon of captivity, and I lay shut up and bound among barbarians, and from that prison of slavery you delivered me,” being about to receive a reward from the Lord when the day of judgment shall come! Finally, we give you the warmest thanks that you have wished us to be sharers in your anxiety, and in so great and necessary a work– that you have offered us fruitful fields in which we might cast the seeds of our hope, with the expectation of a harvest of the most abundant fruits which will proceed from this heavenly and saving operation. We have then sent you a sum of one hundred thousand sesterces, which have been collected here in the Church over which by the Lord’s mercy we preside, by the contributions of the clergy and people established with us, which you will there dispense with what diligence you may.
4. And we wish, indeed, that nothing of such a kind may happen again, and that our brethren, protected by the majesty of the Lord, may be preserved safe from perils of this kind. If, however, for the searching out of the love of our mind, and for the testing of the faith of our heart, any such thing should happen, do not delay to tell us of it in your letters, counting it for certain that our church and the whole fraternity here beseech by their prayers that these things may not happen again; but if they happen, that they will willingly and liberally render help. But that you may have in mind in your prayers our brethren and sisters who have labored so promptly and liberally for this needful work, that they may always labor; and that in return for their good work you may present them in your sacrifices and prayers, I have subjoined the names of each one; and moreover also I have added the names of my colleagues and fellow-priests, who themselves also, as they were present, contributed some little according to their power, in their own names and the name of their people. And besides our own amount, I have intimated and sent their small sums, all of whom, in conformity with the claims of faith and charity, you ought to remember in your supplications and prayers. We bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell, and remember us.
EPISTLE LX. TO EUCHRATIUS, ABOUT AN ACTOR. ARGUMENT. –HE FORBIDS AN ACTOR, IF HE CONTINUE IN HIS DISGRACEFUL CALLING, FROM COMMUNICATING IN THE CHURCH. NEITHER DOES HE ALLOW IT TO BE AN EXCUSE FOR HIM, THAT HE HIMSELF DOES NOT PRACTICE THE HISTRIONIC ART, SO LONG AS HE TEACHES IT TO OTHERS; NEITHER DOES HE EXCUSE IT BECAUSE OF THE WANT OF MEANS, SINCE NECESSARIES MAY BE SUPPLIED TO HIM FROM THE RESOURCES OF THE CHURCH; AND THEREFORE, IF THE MEANS OF THE CHURCH THERE ARE NOT SUFFICIENT, HE RECOMMENDS HIM TO COME TO CARTHAGE.
1. Cyprian to Euchratius his brother, greeting. From our mutual love and your reverence for me you have thought that I should be consulted, dearest brother, as to my opinion concerning a certain actor, who, being settled among you, still persists in the discredit of the same art of his; and as a master and teacher, not for the instruction, but for the destruction of boys, that which he has unfortunately learnt he also imparts to others: you ask whether such a one ought to communicate with us. This, I think, neither befits the divine majesty nor the discipline of the Gospel, that the modesty and credit of the Church should be polluted by so disgraceful and infamous a contagion. For since, in the law, men are forbidden to put on a woman’s garment, and those that offend in this manner are judged accursed, how much greater is the crime, not only to take women’s garments, but also to express base and effeminate and luxurious gestures, by the teaching of an immodest art.
2. Nor let anyone excuse himself that he himself has given up the theatre, while he is still teaching the art to others. For he cannot appear to have given it up who substitutes others in his place, and who, instead of himself alone, supplies many in his stead; against God’s appointment, instructing and teaching in what way a man may be broken down into a woman, and his sex changed by art, and how the devil who pollutes the divine image may be gratified by the sins of a corrupted and enervated body. But if such a one alleges poverty and the necessity of small means, his necessity also can be assisted among the rest who are maintained by the support of the Church; if he be content, that is, with very frugal but innocent food. And let him not think that he is redeemed by an allowance to cease from sinning, since this is an advantage not to us, but to himself. What more he may wish he must seek thence, from such gain as takes men away from the banquet of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and leads them down, sadly and perniciously fattened in this world, to the eternal torments of hunger and thirst; and therefore, as far as you can, recall him from this depravity and disgrace to the way of innocence, and to the hope of eternal life, that he may be content with the maintenance of the Church, sparing indeed, but wholesome. But if the Church with you is not sufficient for this, to afford support for those in need, he may transfer himself to us, and here receive what may be necessary to him for food and clothing, and not teach deadly things to others without the Church, but himself learn wholesome things in the Church. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXI. TO POMPONIUS, CONCERNING SOME VIRGINS. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN, WITH SOME OF HIS COLLEAGUES, REPLIES TO HIS COLLEAGUE POMPONIUS, THAT VIRGINS WHO HAD DETERMINED TO MAINTAIN THEIR STATE WITH CONTINENCY AND FIRMNESS, BUT WHO HAD YET SUBSEQUENTLY BEEN FOUND IN THE SAME BED WITH MEN, IF THEY WERE STILL FOUND TO BE VIRGINS, SHOULD BE RECEIVED INTO COMMUNION AND ADMITTED TO THE CHURCH. BUT IF OTHERWISE, SINCE THEY ARE ADULTEROUS TOWARDS CHRIST, THEY SHOULD BE COMPELLED TO FULL REPENTANCE, AND THOSE WHO SHOULD OBSTINATELY PERSEVERE SHOULD BE EJECTED FROM THE CHURCH.
1. Cyprian, Caecilius, Victor, Sedatus, Tertullus, with the presbyters who were present with them, to Pomponius their brother, greeting. We have read, dearest brother, your letter which you sent by Paconius our brother, asking and desiring us to write again to you, and say what we thought of those virgins who, after having once determined to continue in their condition, and firmly to maintain their continency, have afterwards been found to have remained in the same bed side by side with men; of whom you say that one is a deacon; and yet that the same virgins who have confessed that they have slept with men declare that they are chaste. Concerning which matters, since you have desired our advice, know that we do not depart from the traditions of the Gospel and of the apostles, but with constancy and firmness take counsel for our brethren and sisters, and maintain the discipline of the Church by all the ways of usefulness and safety, since the Lord speaks, saying, “And I will give you pastors according to. mine heart, and they shall feed you with discipline.” And again it is written; “Whoso despiseth discipline is miserable; and in the Psalms also the Holy Spirit admonishes and instructs us, saying, “Keep discipline, lest haply the Lord be angry, and ye perish from the right way, when His anger shall quickly burn against you.”
2. In the first place, therefore, dearest brother, both by overseers and people nothing is to be more eagerly sought after, than that we who fear God should keep the divine precepts with every observation of discipline, and should not suffer our brethren to stray, and to live according to their own fancy and lust; but that we should faithfully consult for the life of each one, and not stiffer virgins to dwell with men,–I do not say to sleep together, but to live together–since both their weak sex and their age, still critical, ought to be bridled in all things and ruled by us, lest an occasion should be given to the devil who ensnares us, and desires to rage over us, to hurt them, since the apostle also says, “Do not give place to the devil.” The ship is watchfully to be delivered from perilous places, that it may not be broken among the rocks and cliffs; the baggage must swiftly be taken out of the fire, before it is burnt up by the flames reaching it. No one who is near to danger is long safe, nor will the servant of God be able to escape the devil if he has entangled himself in the devil’s nets. We must interfere at once with such as these, that they may be separated while yet they can be separated in innocence; because by and by they will not be able to be separated by our interference, after they have become joined together by a very guilty conscience. Moreover, what a number of serious mischiefs we see to have arisen hence; and what a multitude of virgins we behold corrupted by unlawful and dangerous conjunctions of this kind, to our great grief of mind! But if they have faithfully dedicated themselves to Christ, let them persevere in modesty and chastity, without incurring any evil report, and so in courage and steadiness await the reward of virginity. But if they are unwilling or unable to persevere, it is better that they should marry, than that by their crimes they should fall into the fire. Certainly let them not cause a scandal to the brethren or sisters, since it is written, “If meat cause my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.”
3. Nor let any one think that she can be defended by this excuse, that she may be examined and proved whether she be a virgin; since both the hands and the eyes of the midwives are often deceived; and if she be found to be a virgin in that particular in which a woman may be so, yet she may have sinned in some other part of her body, which may be corrupted and yet cannot be examined. Assuredly the mere lying together, the mere embracing, the very talking together, and the act of kissing, and the disgraceful and foul slumber of two persons lying together, how much of dishonor and crime does it confess! If a husband come upon his wife, and see her lying with another man, is he not angry and raging, and by the passion of his rage does he not perhaps take his sword into his hand? And what shall Christ and our Lord and Judge think, when He sees His virgin, dedicated to Him, and destined for His holiness, lying with another? How indignant and angry is He, and what penalties does He threaten against such unchaste connections! whose spiritual sword and the coming day of judgment, that every one of the brethren may be able to escape, we ought with all our counsel to provide and to strive. And since it behooves all by all means to keep discipline, much more is it right that overseers and deacons should be careful for this, that they may afford an example and instruction to others concerning their conversation and character. For how can they direct the integrity and continence of others, if the corruptions and teachings of sin begin to proceed from themselves?
4. And therefore you have acted advisedly and with vigor, dearest brother, in excommunicating the deacon who has often abode with a virgin; and, moreover, the others who had been used to sleep with virgins. But if they have repented of this their unlawful lying together, and have mutually withdrawn from one another, let the virgins meantime be carefully inspected by midwives; and if they should be found virgins, let them be received to communion, and admitted to the Church; yet with this threatening, that if subsequently they should return to the same men, or if they should dwell together with the same men in one house or under the same roof, they should be ejected with a severer censure, nor should such be afterwards easily received into the Church. But if any one of them be found to be corrupted, let her abundantly repent, because she who has been guilty of this crime is an adulteress, not against a husband, but against Christ; and therefore, a due time being appointed, let her afterwards, when confession has been made, return to the Church. But if they obstinately persevere, and do not mutually separate themselves, let them know that, with this their immodest obstinacy, they can never be admitted by us into the Church, lest they should begin to set an example to others to go to ruin by their crimes. Nor let them think that the way of life or of salvation is still open to them, if they have refused to obey the bishops and priests, since in Deuteronomy the Lord God says, “And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest or judge, whosoever be shall be in those days, that man shall die, and all the people shall hear and fear, and do no more presumptuously.” God commanded those who did not obey His priests to be slain, and those who did not hearken to His judges who were appointed for the time. And then indeed they were slain with the sword, when the circumcision of the flesh was yet in force; but now that circumcision has begun to be of the spirit among God’s faithful servants, the proud and contumacious are slain with the sword of the Spirit, in that they are cast out of the Church. For they cannot live out of it, since the house of God is one, and there can be no salvation to any except in the Church. But the divine Scripture testifies that the undisciplined perish, because they do not listen to, nor obey wholesome precepts; for it says, “An undisciplined man loveth not him that correcteth him. But they who hate reproof shall be consumed with disgrace.”
5. Therefore, dearest brother, endeavor that the undisciplined should not be consumed and perish, that as much as you can, by your salutary counsels, you should rule the brotherhood, and take counsel of each one with a view to his salvation. Strait and narrow is the way through which we enter into life, but excellent and great is the reward when we enter into glory. Let those who have once made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven please God in all things, and not offend God’s priests nor the Lord’s Church by the scandal of their wickedness. And if, for the present, certain of our brethren seem to be made sorry by us, let us nevertheless remain in our wholesome persuasion, knowing that an apostle also has said, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” But if they shall obey us, we have gained our brethren, and have formed them as well to salvation as to dignity by our address. But if some of the perverse persons refuse to obey, let us follow the same apostle, who says, “If I please men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” If we cannot please some, so as to make them please Christ, let us assuredly, as far as we can, please Christ our Lord and God, by observing His precepts. I bid you, brother beloved and much longed-for. heartily farewell in the Lord.
EPISTLE LXII. CAECILIUS, ON THE SACRAMENT OF THE CUP OF THE LORD. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN TEACHES, IN OPPOSITION TO THOSE WHO USED WATER IN THE LORD’S SUPPER, THAT NOT WATER ALONE, BUT WINE MIXED WITH WATER, WAS TO BE OFFERED; THAT BY WATER WAS DESIGNATED IN SCRIPTURE, BAPTISM, BUT CERTAINLY NOT THE EUCHARIST. BY TYPES DRAWN FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT, THE USE OF WINE IN THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S BODY IS ILLUSTRATED; AND IT IS DECLARED THAT BY THE SYMBOL OF WATER IS UNDERSTOOD THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION.
1. Cyprian to Caecilius his brother, greeting. Although I know, dearest brother, that very many of the bishops who are set over the churches of the Lord by divine condescension, throughout the whole world, maintain the plan of evangelical truth, and of the tradition of the Lord, and do not by human and novel institution depart from that which Christ our Master both prescribed and did; yet since some, either by ignorance or simplicity in sanctifying the cup of the Lord, and in ministering to the people, do not do that which Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, the founder and teacher of this sacrifice, did and taught, I have thought it as well a religious as a necessary thing to write to you this letter, that, if anyone is still kept in this error, he may behold the light of truth, and return to the root and origin of the tradition of the Lord. Nor must you think, dearest brother, that I am writing my own thoughts or man’s; or that I am boldly assuming this to myself of my own voluntary will, since I always hold my mediocrity with lowly and modest moderation. But when anything is prescribed by the inspiration and command of God, it is necessary that a faithful servant should obey the Lord, acquitted by all of assuming anything arrogantly to himself, seeing that he is constrained to fear offending the Lord unless he does what he is commanded.
2. Know then that I have been admonished that, in offering the cup, the tradition of the Lord must be observed, and that nothing must be done by us but what the Lord first did on our behalf, as that the cup which is offered in remembrance of Him should be offered mingled with wine. For when Christ says, “I am the true vine.” the blood of Christ is assuredly not water, but wine; neither can His blood by which we are redeemed and quickened appear to be in the cup, when in the cup there is no wine whereby the blood of Christ is shown forth, which is declared by the sacrament and testimony of all the Scriptures.
3. For we find in Genesis also, in respect of the sacrament in Noe, this same thing was to them a precursor and figure of the Lord’s passion; that he drank wine; that he was drunken; that he was made naked in his household; that he was lying down with his thighs naked and exposed; that the nakedness of the father was observed by his second son, and was told abroad, but was covered by two, the eldest and the youngest; and other matters which it is not necessary to follow out, since this is enough for us to embrace alone, that Noe, setting forth a type of the future truth, did not drink water, but wine, and thus expressed the figure of the passion of the Lord.
4. Also in the priest Melchizedek we see prefigured the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Lord, according to what divine Scripture testifies, and says, “And Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine.” Now he was a priest of the most high God, and blessed Abraham. And that Melchizedek bore a type of Christ, the Holy Spirit declares in the Psalms, saying from the person of the Father to the Son: “Before the morning star I begat Thee; Thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek;” which order is assuredly this coming from that sacrifice and thence descending; that Melchizedek was a priest of the most high God; that he offered wine and bread; that he blessed Abraham. For who is more a priest of the most high God than our Lord Jesus Christ, who offered a sacrifice to God the Father, and offered that very same thing which Melchizedek had offered, that is, bread and wine, to wit, His body and blood? And with respect to Abraham, that blessing going before belonged to our people. For if Abraham believed in God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness, assuredly whosoever believes in God and lives in faith is found righteous, and already is blessed in faithful Abraham, and is set forth as justified; as the blessed Apostle Paul proves, when he says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Ye know, then, that they which are of faith, these are the children of Abraham. But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, pronounced before to Abraham that all nations should be blessed in him; therefore they who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Whence in the Gospel we find that “children of Abraham are raised from stones, that is, are gathered from the Gentiles.” And when the Lord praised Zacchaeus, He answered and said “This day is salvation come to this house, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.” ln Genesis, therefore, that the benediction, in respect of Abraham by Melchizedek the priest, might be duly celebrated, the figure of Christ’s sacrifice precedes, namely, as ordained in bread and wine; which thing the Lord, completing and fulfilling, offered bread and the cup mixed with wine, and so He who is the fulness of truth fulfilled the truth of the image prefigured.
5. Moreover the Holy Spirit by Solomon shows before the type of the Lord’s sacrifice, making mention of the immolated victim, and of the bread and wine, and, moreover, of the altar and of the apostles, and says, “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath underlaid her seven pillars; she hath killed her victims; she hath mingled her wine in the chalice; she hath also furnished her table: and she hath sent forth her servants, calling together with a lofty announcement to her cup, saying, Whoso is simple, let him turn to me; and to those that want understanding she hath said, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled for you.” He declares the wine mingled, that is, he foretells with prophetic voice the cup of the Lord mingled with water and wine, that it may appear that that was done in our Lord’s passion which had been before predicted.
6. In the blessing of Judah also this same thing is signified, where there also is expressed a figure of Christ, that He should have praise and worship from his brethren; that He should press down the back of His enemies yielding and fleeing, with the hands with which He bore the cross and conquered death; and that He Himself is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and should couch sleeping in His passion, and should rise up, and should Himself be the hope of the Gentiles. To which things divine Scripture adds, and says, “He shall wash His garment in wine, and His clothing in the blood of the grape.” But when the blood of the grape is mentioned, what else is set forth than the wine of the cup of the blood of the Lord?
7. In Isaiah also the Holy Spirit testifies this same thing concerning the Lord’s passion, saying, “Wherefore are Thy garments red, and Thy apparel as from the treading of the wine-press full and well trodden?” Can water make garments red? or is it water in the wine-press which is trodden by the feet, or pressed out by the press? Assuredly, therefore, mention is made of wine, that the Lord’s blood may be understood, and that which was afterwards manifested in the cup of the Lord might be foretold by the prophets who announced it. The treading also, and pressure of the wine- press, is repeatedly dwelt on; because just as the drinking of wine cannot be attained to unless the bunch of grapes be first trodden and pressed, so neither could we drink the blood of Christ unless Christ had first been trampled upon and pressed, and had first drunk the cup of which He should also give believers to drink.
8. But as often as water is named alone in the Holy Scriptures, baptism is referred to, as we see intimated in Isaiah: “Remember not,” says he, “the former things, and consider not the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, which shall now spring forth; and ye shall know it. I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the dry place, to give drink to my elected people, my people whom I have purchased, that they might show forth my praise.” There God foretold by the prophet, that among the nations, in places which previously had been dry, rivers should afterwards flow plenteously, and should provide water for the elected people of God, that is, for those who were made sons of God by the generation of baptism. Moreover, it is again predicted and foretold before, that the Jews, if they should thirst and seek after Christ, should drink with us, that is, should attain the grace of baptism. “If they shall thirst,” he says, “He shall lead them through the deserts, shall bring forth water for them out of the rock; the rock shall be cloven, and the water shall flow, and my people shall drink;” which is fulfilled in the Gospel, when Christ, who is the Rock, is cloven by a stroke of the spear in His passion; who also, admonishing what was before announced by the prophet, cries and says, “If any man thirst, let him come and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture saith, 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 on 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 Scrip-lure 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;” 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 drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall not thirst for ever.” 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.
9. Nor is there need of very many arguments, dearest brother, to prove that baptism is always indicated by the appellation of water, and that thus we ought to understand it, since the Lord, when He came, manifested the truth of baptism and the cup in commanding that that faithful water, the water of life eternal, should be given to believers in baptism, but, teaching by the example of His own authority, that the cup should be mingled with a union of wine and water. For, taking the cup on the eve of His passion, He blessed it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Drink ye all of this; for this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many, for the remission of sins. I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day in which I shall drink new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.” In which portion we find that the cup which the Lord offered was mixed, and that that was wine which He called His blood. Whence it appears that the blood of Christ is not offered if there be no wine in the cup, nor the Lord’s sacrifice celebrated with a legitimate consecration unless our oblation and sacrifice respond to His passion. But how shall we drink the new wine of the fruit of the vine with Christ in the kingdom of His Father, if in the sacrifice of God the Father and of Christ we do not offer wine, nor mix the cup of the Lord by the Lord’s own tradition?
10. Moreover, the blessed Apostle Paul, chosen and sent by the Lord, and appointed a preacher of the Gospel truth, lays down these very things in his epistle, saying, “The Lord Jesus, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, This is my body, which shall be given for you: do this in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye shall show forth the Lord’s death until He come.” But if it is both enjoined by the Lord, and the same thing is confirmed and delivered by His apostle, that as often as we drink, we do in remembrance of the Lord the same thing which the Lord also did, we find that what was commanded is not observed by us, unless we also do what the Lord did; and that mixing the Lord’s cup in like manner we do not depart from the divine teaching; but that we must not at all depart from the evangelical precepts, and that disciples ought also to observe and to do the same things which the Master both taught dud did. The blessed apostle in another place more earnestly and strongly teaches, saying, “I wonder that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into grace, unto another gospel, which is not another; but there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any otherwise than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be anathema.”
11. Since, then, neither the apostle himself nor an angel from heaven can preach or teach any otherwise than Christ has once taught and His apostles have announced, I wonder very much whence has originated this practice, that, contrary to evangelical and apostolical discipline, water is offered in some places in the Lord’s cup, which water by itself cannot express the blood of Christ. The Holy Spirit also is not silent in the Psalms on the sacrament of this thing, when He makes mention of the Lord’s cup, and says, “Thy inebriating cup, how excellent it is!” Now the cup which inebriates is assuredly mingled with wine, for water cannot inebriate anybody. And the cup of the Lord in such wise inebriates, as Noe also was intoxicated drinking wine, in Genesis. But because the intoxication of the Lord’s cup and blood is not such as is the intoxication of the world’s wine, since the Holy Spirit said in the Psalm, “Thy inebriating cup,” He added, “how excellent it is,” because doubtless the Lord’s cup so inebriates them that drink, that it makes them sober; that it restores their minds to spiritual wisdom; that each one recovers from that flavor of the world to the understanding of God; and in the same way, that by that common wine the mind is dissolved, and the soul relaxed, and all sadness is laid aside, so, when the blood of the Lord and the cup of salvation have been drunk, the memory of the old man is laid aside, and there arises an oblivion of the former worldly conversation, and the sorrowful and sad breast which before was oppressed by tormenting sins is eased by the joy of the divine mercy; because that only is able to rejoice him who drinks in the Church which, when it is drunk, retains the Lord’s truth..
12. But how perverse and how contrary it is, that although the Lord at the marriage made wine of water, we should make water of wine, when even the sacrament of that thing ought to admonish and instruct us rather to offer wine in the sacrifices of the Lord. For because among the Jews there was a want of spiritual grace, wine also was wanting. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts was the house of Israel; but Christ, when teaching and showing that the people of the Gentiles should succeed them, and that by the merit of faith we should subsequently attain to the place which the Jews had lost, of water made wine; that is, He showed that at the marriage of Christ and the Church, as the Jews failed, the people of the nations should rather flow together and assemble: for the divine Scripture in the Apocalypse declares that the waters signify the people, saying, “The waters which thou sawest, upon which the whore sitteth, are peoples and multitudes, and nations of the Gentiles, and tongues,” which we evidently see to be contained also in the sacrament of the cup.
13. For because Christ bore us all, in that He also bore our sins, we see that in the water is understood the people, but in the wine is showed the blood of Christ. But when the water is mingled in the cup with wine, the people is made one with Christ, and the assembly of believers is associated and conjoined with Him on whom it believes; which association and conjunction of water and wine is so mingled in the Lord’s cup, that that mixture cannot any more be separated. Whence, moreover, nothing can separate the Church–that is, the people established in the Church, faithfully and firmly persevering in that which they have believed–from Christ, in such a way as to prevent their undivided love from always abiding and adhering. Thus, therefore, in consecrating the cup of the Lord, water alone cannot be offered, even as wine alone cannot be offered. For if any one offer wine only, the blood of Christ is dissociated from us; but if the water be alone, the people are dissociated from Christ; but when both are mingled, and are joined with one another by a close union, there is completed a spiritual and heavenly sacrament. Thus the cup of the Lord is not indeed water alone, nor wine alone, unless each be mingled with the other; just as, on the other hand, the body of the Lord cannot be flour alone or water alone, unless both should be united and joined together and compacted in the mass of one bread; in which very sacrament our people are shown to be made one, so that in like manner as many grains, collected, and ground, and mixed together into one mass, make one bread; so in Christ, who is the heavenly bread, we may know that there is one body, with which our number is joined and united.
14. There is then no reason, dearest brother, for any one to think that the custom of certain persons is to be followed, who have thought in thee past that water alone should be offered in the cup of the Lord. For we must inquire whom they themselves have followed. For if in the sacrifice which Christ offered none is to be followed but Christ, assuredly it behooves us to obey and do that which Christ did, and what He commanded to be done, since He Himself says in the Gospel, “If ye do whatsoever I command you, henceforth I call you not servants, but friends.” And that Christ alone ought to be heard, the Father also testifies from heaven, saying, “This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” Wherefore, if Christ alone must be heard, we ought not to give heed to what another before us may have I thought was to be done, but what Christ, who is before all, first did. Neither is it becoming to follow the practice of man, but the truth of God; since God speaks by Isaiah the prophet, and says, “In vain do they worship me, teaching the commandments and doctrines of men.” And again the Lord in the Gospel repeals this same saying, and says, “Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Moreover, in another place He establishes it, saying, “Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” But if we may not break even the least of the Lord’s commandments, how much rather is it forbidden to infringe such important ones, so great, so pertaining to the very sacrament of our Lord’s passion and our own redemption, or to change it by human tradition into anything else than what was divinely appointed! For if Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates that which Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father, when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ Himself to have offered.
15.But the discipline of all religion and truth is overturned, unless what is spiritually prescribed be faithfully observed; unless indeed any one should fear in the morning sacrifices, lest by the taste of wine he should be redolent of the blood of Christ. Therefore thus the brotherhood is beginning even to be kept back from the passion of Christ in persecutions, by learning in the offerings to be disturbed concerning His blood and His blood-shedding. Moreover, however, the Lord says in the Gospel, “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed.” And the apostle also speaks, saying, “If I pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” But how can we shed our blood for Christ, who blush to drink the blood of Christ?
16. Does any one perchance flatter himself with this notion, that although in the morning, water alone is seen to be offered, yet when we come to supper we offer the mingled cup? But when we sup, we cannot call the people together to our banquet, so as to celebrate the truth of the sacrament in the presence of all the brotherhood. But still it was not in the morning, but after supper, that the Lord offered the mingled cup. Ought we then to celebrate the Lord’s cup after supper, that so by continual repetition of the Lord’s supper we may offer the mingled cup? It beloved Christ to offer about the evening of the day, that the very hour of sacrifice might show the setting and the evening of the world; as it is written in Exodus, “And all the people of the synagogue of the children of Israel shall kill it in the evening.” And again in the Psalms, “Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.” But we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord in the morning.
17. And because we make mention of His passion in all sacrifices, we ought to do nothing else than what He did. For Scripture says, “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord’s death till He come.” As often, therefore, as we offer the cup in commemoration of the Lord and of His passion, let us do what it is known the Lord did. And let this conclusion be reached, dear-est brother: if from among our predecessors any have either by ignorance or simplicity not observed and kept this which the Lord by His example and teaching has instructed us to do, he may, by the mercy of the Lord, have pardon granted to his simplicity. But we cannot be pardoned who are now admonished and instructed by the Lord to offer the cup of the Lord mingled with wine according to what the Lord offered, and to direct letters to our colleagues also about this, so that the evangelical law and the Lord’s tradition may be everywhere kept, and there be no departure from what Christ both taught and did.
18. To neglect these things any further, and to persevere in the former error, what is it else than to fall under the Lord’s rebuke, who in the l psalm reproveth, and says, “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction and castest my words behind thee? When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.” For to declare the righteousness and the covenant of the Lord, and not to do the same that the Lord did, what else is it than to cast away His words and to despise the Lord’s instruction, to commit not earthly, but spiritual thefts and adulteries? While any one is stealing from evangelical truth the words and doings of our Lord, he is corrupting and adulterating the divine precepts, as it is written in Jeremiah. He says, “What is the chaff to the wheat? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, who steal my words every one froth his neighbor, and cause my people to err by their lies and by their lightness.” Also in the same prophet, in another place, He says, “She committed adultery with stocks and stones, and yet for all this she turned not unto me.” That this theft and adultery may not fall unto us also, we ought to be anxiously careful, and fearfully and religiously to watch. For if we are priests of God and of Christ, I do not know any one whom we ought rather to follow than God and Christ, since He Himself emphatically says in the Gospel, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” Lest therefore we should walk in darkness, we ought to follow Christ, and to observe his precepts, because He Himself told His apostles in another place, as He sent them forth, “All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Wherefore, if we wish to walk in the light of Christ, let us not depart from His precepts and monitions, giving thanks that, while He instructs for the future what we ought to do, He pardons for the past wherein we in our simplicity have erred. And because already His second coming draws near to us, His benign and liberal condescension is more and more illuminating our hearts with the light of truth.
19. Therefore it befits our religion, and our fear, and the place itself, and the office of our priesthood, dearest brother, in mixing and offering the cup of the Lord, to keep the truth of the Lord’s tradition, and, on the warning of the Lord, to correct that which seems with some to have been erroneous; so that when He shall begin to come in His brightness and heavenly majesty, He may find that we keep what He admonished us; that we observe what He taught; that we do what He did. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXIII. TO EPICTETUS AND TO THE CONGREGATION OF ASSURAE, CONCERNING FORTUNATIANUS, FORMERLY THEIR BISHOP. ARGUMENT. –HE WARNS EPICTETUS AND THE CONGREGATION OF THE ASSURITANS NOT TO ALLOW FORTUNATIANUS, A LAPSER, BUT THEIR FORMER BISHOP, TO RETURN TO HIS EPISCOPATE, AS WELL FOR OTHER REASONS AS BECAUSE IT HAD BEEN DECREED THAT LAPSED BISHOPS SHOULD NOT BE ADMITTED TO THEIR FORMER RANK.
1. Cyprian to Epictetus his brother, and to the people established at Assurae, greeting. I was gravely and grievously disturbed, dearest brethren, at learning that Fortunatianus, formerly bishop among you, after the sad lapse of his fall, was now wishing to act as if he were sound, and beginning to claim for himself the episcopate. Which thing distressed me; in the first place, on his own account, who, wretched man that he is, being either wholly blinded in the darkness of the devil, or deceived by the sacrilegious persuasion of certain persons; when he ought to be making atonement, and to give himself to the work of entreating the Lord night and day, by tears, and supplications, and prayers, dares still to claim to himself the priesthood which he has betrayed, as if it were right, from the altars of the devil, to approach to the altar of God. Or as if he would not provoke a greater wrath and indignation of the Lord against himself in the day of judgment, who, not being able to be a guide to the brethren in faith and virtue, stands forth as a teacher in perfidy, in boldness, and in temerity; and he who has not taught the brethren to stand bravely in the battle, teaches those who are conquered and prostrate not even to ask for pardon; although the Lord says, “To them have ye poured a drink-offering, and to them have ye offered a meat-offering. Shall I not be angry for these things? saith the Lord.” And in another place, “He that sacrificeth to any god, save unto the Lord only, shall be destroyed.” Moreover, the Lord again speaks, and says, “They have worshipped those whom their own fingers have made: and the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: and I will not forgive them.” In the Apocalypse also, we read the anger of the Lord threatening, and saying, “If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God mixed in the cup of His anger; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torments shall ascend up for ever and ever; neither shall they have rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image.”
2. Since, therefore, the Lord threatens these torments, these punishments in the day of judgment, to those who obey the devil and sacrifice to idols, how does he think that he can act as a priest of God who has obeyed and served the priests of the devil; or how does he think that his hand can be transferred to the sacrifice of God and the prayer of the Lord which has been captive to sacrilege and to crime, when in the sacred Scriptures God forbids the priests to approach to sacrifice even if they have been in lighter guilt; and says in Leviticus: “The man in whom there shall be any blemish or stain shall not approach to offer gifts to God?” Also in Exodus: “And let the priests which come near to the Lord God sanctify themselves, lest perchance the Lord forsake them.” And again: “And when they come near to minister at the altar of the Holy One, they shall not bring sin upon them, lest they die.” Those, therefore, who have brought grievous sins upon themselves, that is, who, by sacrificing to idols, have offered sacrilegious sacrifices, cannot claim to themselves the priesthood of God, nor make any prayer for their brethren in His sight; since it is written in the Gospel, “God heareth not a sinner; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.” Nevertheless the profound gloom of the falling darkness has so blinded the hearts of some, that they receive no light from the wholesome precepts, but, once turned away from the direct path of the true way, they are hurried headlong and suddenly by the night and error of their sins.
3. Nor is it wonderful if now those reject our counsels, or the Lord’s precepts, who have denied the Lord. They desire gifts, and offerings, and gain, for which formerly they watched insatiably. They still long also for suppers and banquets, whose debauch they belched forth in the indigestion lately left to the day, most manifestly proving now that they did not before serve religion, but rather their belly and gain, with profane cupidity. Whence also we perceive and believe that this rebuke has come from God’s searching out, that they might not continue to stand at the altar; and any further, as unchaste persons, to have to do with modesty; as perfidious, to have to do with faith; as profane, with religion; as earthly, with things divine; as sacrilegious, with things sacred. That such persons may not return again to the profanation of the altar, and to the contagion of the brethren, we must keep watch with all our powers, and strive with all our strength, that, as far as in us lies, we may keep them back from this audacity of their wickedness, that they attempt not any longer to act in the character of priest; who, cast down to the lowest pit of death, have gone headlong with the weight of a greater destruction beyond the lapses of the laity.
4. But if, among these insane persons, their incurable madness shall continue, and, with the withdrawal of the Holy Spirit, the blindness which has begun shall remain in its deep night, our counsel will be to separate individual brethren from their deceitfulness; and, lest anyone should run into the toils of their error, to separate them from their contagion. Since neither can the oblation be consecrated where the Holy Spirit is not; nor can the Lord avail to any one by the prayers and supplications of one who himself has done despite to the Lord. But if Fortunatianus, either by the blindness induced by the devil forgetful of his crime, or become a minister and servant of the devil for deceiving the brotherhood, shall persevere in this his madness, do you, as far as in you lies, strive, and in this darkness of the rage of the devil, recall the minds of the brethren from error, that they may not easily consent to the madness of another; that they may not make themselves partakers in the crimes of abandoned men; but being sound, let them maintain the constant tenor of their salvation, and of the integrity preserved and guarded by them.
5. Let the lapsed, however, who acknowledge the greatness of their sin, not depart from entreating the Lord, nor forsake the Catholic Church, which has been appointed one and alone by the Lord; but, continuing in their atonements and entreating the Lord’s mercy, let them knock at the door of the Church, that they may be received there where once they were, and may return to Christ from whom they have departed, and not listen to those who deceive them with a fallacious and deadly seduction; since it is written, “Let no man deceive you with vain words, for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience; be not ye therefore partakers with them.” Therefore let no one associate himself with the contumacious, and those who do not fear God, and those who entirely with draw from the Church. But if anyone should be impatient of entreating the Lord who is offended, and should be unwilling to obey us, but should follow desperate and abandoned men, he must take the blame to himself when the day of judgment shall come. For how shall he be able in that day to entreat the Lord, who has both before this denied Christ, and now also the Church of Christ, and not obeying bishops sound and wholesome and living, has made himself an associate and a partaker with the dying? I bid you, dearest brethren and longed-for, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXIV. TO ROGATIANUS, CONCERNING THE DEACON WHO CONTENDED AGAINST THE BISHOP. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN WARNS THE BISHOP ROGATIANUS TO RESTRAIN THE PRIDE OF THE DEACON WHO HAD PROVOKED HIM WITH HIS INSULTS, AND TO COMPEL HIM TO REPENT OF HIS BOLDNESS; TAKING OCCASION TO REPEAT ONCE MORE WHATEVER HE HAS SAID IN THE PREVIOUS LETTER, ABOUT THE SACERDOTAL OR EPISCOPAL POWER.
1. Cyprian to his brother Rogatianus, greeting. I and my colleagues who were present with me were deeply and grievously distressed, dearest brother, on reading your letter in which you complained of your deacon, that, forgetful of your priestly station, and unmindful of his own office and ministry, he had provoked you by his insults and injuries. And you indeed have acted worthily, and with your accustomed humility towards us, in rather complaining of him to us; although you have power, according to the vigor of the episcopate and the authority of your See, whereby you might be justified on him at once, assured that all we your colleagues would regard it as a matter of satisfaction, whatever you should do by your priestly power in respect of an insolent deacon, as you have in respect of men of this kind divine commands. Inasmuch as the Lord God says in Deuteronomy, “And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest or the judge, whoever he shall be in those days, that man shall die; and all the people, when they hear, shall fear, and shall no more do impiously.” And that we may know that this voice of God came forth with His true and highest majesty to honor and avenge His priests; when three of the ministers–Korah, Dathan, and Abiram–dared to deal proudly, and to exalt their neck against Aaron the priest, and to equal themselves with the priest set over them; they were swallowed up and devoured by the opening of the earth, and so immediately suffered the penalty of their sacrilegious audacity. Nor they alone, but also two hundred and fifty others, who were their companions in boldness, were consumed by a fire breaking forth from the Lord, that it might be proved that God’s priests are avenged by Him who makes priests. In the book of Kings also, when Samuel the priest was despised by the Jewish people on account of his age, as you are now, the Lord in wrath exclaimed, and said, “They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me.” And that He might avenge this, He set over them Saul as a king, who afflicted them with grievous injuries, and trod on the people, and pressed down their pride with all insults and penalties, that the despised priest might he avenged by divine vengeance on a proud people.
2. Moreover also Solomon, established in the Holy Spirit, testifies and teaches what is the priestly authority and power, saying, “Fear the Lord with all thy soul, and reverence His priests;” and again, “Honor God with all thy soul, and honor His priests.” Mindful of which precepts, the blessed Apostle Paul, according to what we read in the Acts of the Apostles, when it was said to him, “Revilest thou thus God’s high priest?” answered and said, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, our King, and Judge, and God, even to the very day, of His passion observed the honor to priests and high priests, although they observed neither the fear of God nor the acknowledgment of Christ. For when He had cleansed the leper, He said to him, “Go, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift.” With that humility which taught us also to he humble, He still called him a priest whom He knew to be sacrilegious; also under the very sting of His passion, when He had received a blow, and it was said to Him, “Answerest thou the high priest so?” He said nothing reproachfully against the person of the high priest, but rather maintained His own innocence saying, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?” All which things were therefore done by Him humbly and patiently, that we might have an example of humility and patience; for He taught that true priests were lawfully and fully to be honored, in showing Himself such as He was in respect of false priests.
3. But deacons ought to remember that the Lord chose apostles, that is, bishops and overseers; while apostles appointed for themselves deacons after the ascent of the Lord into heaven, as ministers of their episcopacy and of the Church. But if we may dare anything against God who makes bishops, deacons may also dare against us by whom they are made; and therefore it behooves the deacon of whom you write to repent of his audacity, and to acknowledge the honor of the priest, and to satisfy the bishop set over him with full humility. For these things are the beginnings of heretics, and the origins and endeavors of evil-minded schismatics;–to please themselves, and with swelling haughtiness to despise him who is set over them. Thus, they depart from the Church–thus a profane altar is set up outside–thus they rebel against the peace of Christ, and the appointment and the unity of God. But if, further, he shall harass and provoke you with his insults, you must exercise against him the power of your dignity, by either deposing him or excommunicating him. For if the Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, said, “Let no man despise thy youth,” how much rather must it he said by your colleagues to you, “Let no man despise thy age? And since you have written, that one has associated himself with that same deacon of yours, and is a partaker of his pride and boldness, you may either restrain or excommunicate him also, and any others that may appear of a like disposition, and act against God’s priest. Unless, as we exhort anti advise, they should rather perceive that they have sinned and make satisfaction, and suffer us to keep our own purpose; for we rather ask and desire to overcome the reproaches and injuries of individuals by clemency and patience, than to punish them by our priestly power. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXV. TO THE CLERGY AND PEOPLE ABIDING AT FURNI, ABOUT VICTOR, WHO HAD MADE THE PRESBYTER FAUSTINUS A GUARDIAN. ARGUMENT. –SINCE, AGAINST THE DECISION OF A COUNCIL OF BISHOPS, GEMINIUS VICTOR HAD NAMED IN HIS WILL GEMINIUS FAUSTINUS THE PRESBYTER AS HIS GUARDIAN OR CURATOR, HE FORBIDS THAT OFFERING SHOULD BE MADE FOR HIM, OR THAT THE SACRIFICE SHOULD BE CELEBRATED FOR HIS REPOSE, INFERRING BY THE WAY, FROM THE EXAMPLE OF THE LEVITICAL TRIBE, THAT CLERICS OUGHT NOT TO MIX THEMSELVES UP IN SECULAR CARES.
1. Cyprian to the presbyters, and deacons, and people abiding at Furni, greeting. I and my colleagues who were present with me were greatly disturbed, dearest brethren, as were also our fellow-presbyters who sate with us, when we were made aware that Geminius Victor, our brother, when departing this life, had named Geminius Faustinus the presbyter executor to his will, although long since it was decreed, in a council of the bishops, that no one should appoint any of the clergy and the ministers of God executor or guardian by his will, since every one honored by the divine priesthood, and ordained in the clerical service, ought to serve only the altar and sacrifices, and to have leisure for prayers and supplications. For it is written: “No man that warreth for God entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him to whom he has pledged himself.” As this is said of all men, how much rather ought those not to be bound by worldly anxieties and involvements, who, being busied with divine and spiritual things, are not able to withdraw from the Church, and to have leisure for earthly and secular doings! The form of which ordination and engagement the Levites formerly observed under the law, so that when the eleven tribes divided the land and shared the possessions, the Levitical tribe, which was left free for the temple and the altar, and for the divine ministries, received nothing from that portion of the division; but while others cultivated the soil, that portion only cultivated the favor of God, and received the tithes from the eleven tribes, for their food and maintenance, from the fruits which grew. All which was done by divine authority and arrangement, so that they who waited on divine services might in no respect be called away, nor be compelled to consider or to transact secular business. Which plan and rule is now maintained in respect of the clergy, that they who are promoted by clerical ordination in the Church of the Lord may be called off in no respect from the divine administration, nor be tied down by worldly anxieties and matters; but in the honor of the brethren who contribute, receiving as it were tenths of the fruits, they may not withdraw from the altars and sacrifices, but may serve day and might in heavenly and spiritual things.
2. The bishops our predecessors religiously considering this, and wholesomely providing for it, decided that no brother departing should name a cleric for executor or guardian; and if any one should do this, no offering should be made for him, nor any sacrifice be celebrated for his repose. For he does not deserve to be named at the altar of God in the prayer of the priests, who has wished to call away the priests and ministers from the altar. And therefore, since Victor, contrary to the rule lately made in council by the priests, has dared to appoint Geminius Faustinus, a presbyter, his executor, it is not allowed that any offering be made by you for his repose, nor any prayer be made in the church in his name, that so the decree of the priests, religiously and needfully made, may be kept by us; and, at the same time, an example be given to the rest of the brethren, that no one should call away to secular anxieties the priests and ministers of God who are occupied with the service of His altar and Church. For care will probably be taken in time to come that this happen not with respect to the person of clerics any more, if what has now been done has been punished. I bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXVI. TO FATHER STEPHANUS, CONCERNING MARCIANUS OF ARLES, WHO HAD JOINED HIMSELF TO NOVATIAN. ARGUMENT. –AS MARCIANUS, BISHOP OF ARLES, WHEN HE FOLLOWED THE SECT OF NOVATIAN, HAD SEDUCED MANY, AND BY HIS SCHISM HAD SEPARATED HIMSELF FROM THE COMMUNION OF THE REST OF THE BISHOPS, CYPRIAN WARNS STEPHANUS, THAT HE SHOULD BY ANNOUNCING THE EXCOMMUNICATION OF THE OFFENDER, ALIKE BY ROME AND CARTHAGE, ENABLE THE CHURCH AT ARLES, TO ELECT ANOTHER IN HIS PLACE; AND THAT SO PEACE MIGHT BE GRANTED, AS WELL TO THE LAPSED AS TO THOSE SEDUCED BY HIM, UPON THEIR REPENTANCE, AND A RETURN TO THE CHURCH CONCEDED TO THEM.
1. Cyprian to his brother Stephen, greeting. Faustinus our colleague, abiding at Lyons, has once and again written to me, dearest brother, informing me of those things which also I certainly know to have been told to you, as well by him as by others our fellow-bishops established in the same province, that Marcianus, who abides at Aries, has associated himself with Novatian, and has departed from the unity of the Catholic Church, and from the agreement of our body and priesthood, holding that most extreme depravity of heretical presumption, that the comforts and aids of divine love and paternal tenderness are closed to the servants of God who repent, and mourn, and knock at the gate of the Church with tears, and groans, and grief; and that those who are wounded are not admitted for the soothing of their wounds, but that, forsaken without hope of peace and communion, they must be thrown to become the prey of wolves and the booty of the devil; which matter, dearest brother, it is our business to advise for and to aid in, since we who consider the divine clemency, and hold the balance in governing the Church, do thus exhibit the rebuke of vigor to sinners in such a way as that, nevertheless, we do not refuse the medicine of divine goodness and mercy in raising the lapsed and healing the wounded.
2. Wherefore it behooves you to write a very copious letter to our fellow-bishops appointed in Gaul, not to suffer any longer that Marcian, forward and haughty, and hostile to the divine mercy and to the salvation of the brotherhood, should insult our assembly, because he does not yet seem to be excommunicated by us; in that he now for a long time boasts and announces that, adhering to Novatian, and following his forwardness, he has separated himself from our communion; although Novatian himself, whom he follows, has formerly been excommunicated, and judged an enemy to the Church; and when he sent ambassadors to us into Africa, asking to be received into our communion, he received back word from a council of several priests who were here present, that he himself had excluded himself, and could not by any of us be received into communion, as he had attempted to erect a profane altar, and to set up an adulterous throne, and to offer sacrilegious sacrifices opposed to the true priest; while the Bishop Cornelius was ordained in the Catholic Church by the judgment of God, and by the suffrages of the clergy and people. Therefore, if he were willing to return to a right mind, and to come to himself, he should repent and return to the Church as a suppliant. How vain it is, dearest brother, when Novatian has lately been repulsed and rejected, and excommunicated by God’s priests throughout the whole world, for us still to suffer his flatterers now to jest with us, and to judge of the majesty and dignity of the Church!
3. Let letters be directed by you into the province and to the people abiding at Arles, by which, Marcian being excommunicated, another may be substituted in his place, and Christ’s flock, which even to this day is contemned as scattered and wounded by him, may be gathered together. Let it suffice that many of our brethren have departed in these late years in those parts without peace; and certainly let the rest who remain be helped, who groan both day and night, and beseeching the divine and fatherly mercy, entreat the comfort of our succor. For, for that reason, dearest brother, the body of priests is abundantly large, joined together by the bond of mutual concord, and the link of unity; so that if any one of our college should try to originate heresy, and to lacerate and lay waste Christ’s flock, others may help, and as it were, as useful and merciful shepherds, gather together the Lord’s sheep into the flock. For what if any harbor in the sea shall begin to be mischievous and dangerous to ships, by the breach of its defenses; do not the navigators direct their ships to other neighboring ports where there is a safe and practicable entrance, and a secure station? Or if, on the road, any inn should begin to be beset and occupied by robbers, so that whoever should enter would be caught by the attack of those who lie in wait there; do not the travellers, as soon as this its character is discovered, seek other houses of entertainment on the road, which shall be safer, where the lodging is trustworthy, and the inns safe for the travellers? And this ought now to be the case with us, dearest brother, that we should receive to us with ready and kindly humanity our brethren, who, tossed on the rocks of Marcian, are seeking the secure harbors of the Church; and that we afford such a place of entertainment for the travellers as is that in the Gospel, in which those who are wounded and maimed by robbers may be received and cherished, and protected by the host.
4. For what is a greater or a more worthy care of overseers, than to provide by diligent solicitude and wholesome medicine for cherishing and preserving the sheep? since the Lord speaks, and says, “The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost. And my sheep were scattered because there is no shepherd; and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, and none did search or seek after them. Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my flock at their hands, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall they feed them any more: for I will deliver them from their mouth, and I will feed them with judgment.” Since therefore the Lord thus threatens such shepherds by whom the Lord’s sheep are neglected and perish, what else ought we to do, dearest brother, than to exhibit full diligence in gathering together and restoring the sheep of Christ, and to apply the medicine of paternal affection to cure the wounds of the lapsed, since the Lord also in the Gospel warns, and says, “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick?” For although we are many shepherds, yet we feed one flock, and ought to collect and cherish all the sheep which Christ by His blood and passion sought for; nor ought we to suffer our suppliant and mourning brethren to be cruelly despised and trodden down by the haughty presumption of some, since it is written, “But the man that is proud and boastful shall bring nothing at all to perfection, who has enlarged his soul as hell.” And the Lord, in His Gospel, blames and condemns men of that kind, saying, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight Of God.” He says that those are execrable and detestable who please themselves, who, swelling and inflated, arrogantly assume anything to themselves. Since then Marcian has begun to be of these, and, allying himself with Novatian, has stood forth as the opponent of mercy and love, let him not pronounce sentence, but receive it; and let him not so act as if he himself were to judge of the college of priests, since he himself is judged by all the priests.
5. For the glorious honor of our predecessors, the blessed martyrs Cornelius and Lucius, must be maintained, whose memory as we hold in honor, much more ought you, dearest brother, to honor and cherish with your weight and authority, since you have become their vicar and successor. For they, full of the Spirit of God, and established in a glorious martyrdom, judged that peace should be granted to the lapsed, and that when penitence was undergone, the reward of peace and communion was not to be denied; and this they attested by their letters, and we all everywhere and entirely have judged the same thing. For there could not be among us a diverse feeling in whom there was one spirit; and therefore it is manifest that he does not hold the truth of the Holy Spirit with the rest, whom we observe to think differently. Intimate plainly to us who has been substituted at Arles in the place of Marcian, that we may know to whom to direct our brethren, and to whom we ought to write. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXVII. TO THE CLERGY AND PEOPLE ABIDING IN SPAIN, CONCERNING BASILIDES AND MARTIAL. ARGUMENT. –BASILIDES AND MARTIAL, BISHOPS, HAVING LAPSED AND BECOME CONTAMINATED BY THE CERTIFICATES OF IDOLATRY, CYPRIAN WITH HIS FELLOW- BISHOPS PRAISES THE CLERGY AND PEOPLE OF SPAIN THAT THEY HAD SUBSTITUTED IN THEIR PLACE BY A LEGITIMATE ELECTION SABINUS AND FELIX; ESPECIALLY AS, ACCORDING TO THE DECISION OF CORNELIUS AND HIS COLLEAGUES, LAPSED BISHOPS MIGHT INDEED BE RECEIVED TO REPENTANCE, BUT WERE PROHIBITED FROM THE PRIESTLY HONOR. MOREOVER, HE ALLUDES BY THE WAY TO CERTAIN MATTERS ABOUT THE ANCIENT RITE OF EPISCOPAL ELECTION. THE CONTEXT INDICATES THAT THIS WAS WRITTEN DURING THE EPISCOPATE OF STEPHEN.
1. Cyprian, Caecilius, Primus, Polycarp, Nicomedes, Lucilianus, Successus, Sedatus, Fortunatus, Januarius, Secundinus, Pomponius, Honora- tus, Victor, Aurelius, Sattius, Petrus, another Januarius, Saturninus, another Aurelius, Venantius, Quietus, Rogatianus, Tenax, Felix, Faustinus, Quintus, another Saturninus, Lucius, Vincentius, Libosus, Geminius, Marcellus, Iambus, Adelphius, Victoricus, and Paulus, to Felix the presbyter, and to the peoples abiding at Legio and Asturica, also to Laelius the deacon, and the people abiding at Emerita, brethren in the Lord, greeting. When we had come together, dearly beloved brethren, we read your letters, which according to the integrity of your faith and your fear of God you wrote to us by Felix and Sabinus our fellow-bishops, signifying that Basilides and Martial, being stained with the certificates of idolatry, and bound with the consciousness of wicked crimes, ought not to hold the episcopate and administer the priesthood of God; and you desired an answer to be written to you again concerning these things, and your solicitude, no less just than needful, to be relieved either by the comfort or by the help of our judgment. Nevertheless to this your desire not so much our counsels as the divine precepts reply, in which it is long since bidden by the voice of Heaven and prescribed by the law of God, who and what sort of persons ought to serve the altar and to celebrate the divine sacrifices. For in Exodus God speaks to Moses, and warns him, saying, “Let the priests which come near to the Lord God sanctify themselves, lest the Lord forsake them.” And again: “And when they come near to the altar of the Holy One to minister they shall not bring sin upon them, lest they die.” Also in Leviticus the Lord commands and says, “Whosoever hath any spot or blemish upon him, shall not approach to offer gifts to God.”
2. Since these things are announced and are made plain to us, it is necessary that our obedience should wait upon the divine precepts; nor in matters of this kind can human indulgence accept any man’s person, or yield anything to any one, when the divine prescription has interfered, and establishes a law. For we ought not to be forgetful what the Lord spoke to the Jews by Isaiah the prophet, rebuking, and indignant that they had despised the divine precepts and followed human doctrines. “This people,” he says, honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is widely removed from me; but in vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men.” This also the Lord repeats in the Gospel, and says, “Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may establish your own tradition.” Having which things before our eyes, and solicitously and religiously considering them, we ought in the ordinations of priests to choose none but unstained and upright ministers, who, holily and worthily offering sacrifices to God, may be heard in the prayers which they make for the safety of the Lord’s people, since it is written, “God heareth not a sinner; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.” On which account it is fitting, that with full diligence and sincere investigation those should be chosen for God’s priesthood whom it is manifest God will hear.
3. Nor let the people flatter themselves that they can be free from the contagion of sin, while communicating with a priest who is a sinner, and yielding their consent to the unjust and unlawful episcopacy of their overseer, when the divine reproof by Hosea the prophet threatens, and says, “Their sacrifices shall be as the bread of mourning; all that eat thereof shall be polluted;” teaching manifestly and showing that all are absolutely bound to the sin who have been contaminated by the sacrifice of a profane and unrighteous priest. Which, moreover, we find to be manifested also in Numbers, when Korah, and Dathan, and Abiram Claimed for themselves the power of sacrificing in opposition to Aaron the priest. There also the Lord commanded by Moses that the people should be separated from them, lest, being associated with the wicked, themselves also should be bound closely in the same wickedness. “Separate yourselves,” said He, “from the tents of these wicked and hardened men, and touch not those things which belong to them, lest ye perish together in their sins.” On which account a people obedient to the Lord’s precepts, and fearing God, ought to separate themselves from a sinful prelate, and not to associate themselves with the sacrifices of a sacrilegious priest, especially since they themselves have the power either of choosing worthy priests, or of rejecting unworthy ones.
4. Which very thing, too, we observe to come from divine authority, that the priest should be chosen in the presence of the people under the eyes of all, and should be approved worthy and suitable by public judgment and testimony; as in the book of Numbers the Lord commanded Moses, saying, “Take Aaron thy brother, and Eleazar his son, and place them in the mount, in the presence of all the assembly, and strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and let Aaron die there, and be added to his people.” God commands a priest to be appointed in the presence of all the assembly; that is, He instructs and shows that the ordination of priests ought not to be solemnized except with the knowledge of the people standing near, that in the presence of the people either the crimes of the wicked may be disclosed, or the merits of the good may be declared, and the ordination, which shall have been examined by the suffrage and judgment of all, may be just and legitimate. And this is subsequently observed, according to divine instruction, in the Acts of the Apostles, when Peter speaks to the people of ordaining an apostle in the place of Judas. “Peter,” it says, “stood up in the midst of the disciples, and the multitude were in one place.” Neither do we observe that this was regarded by the apostles only in the ordinations of bishops and priests, but also in those of deacons, of which matter itself also it is written in their Acts: “And they twelve called together,” it says, “the whole congregation of the disciples, and said to them;” which was done so diligently and carefully, with the calling together of the whole of the people, surely for this reason, that no unworthy person might creep into the ministry of the altar, or to the office of a priest. For that unworthy persons are sometimes ordained, not according to the will of God, but according to human presumption, and that those things which do not come of a legitimate and righteous ordination are displeasing to God, God Himself manifests by Hosea the prophet, saying, “They have set up for themselves a king, but not by me.”
5. For which reason you must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine tradition and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us, and almost throughout all the provinces; that for the proper celebration of ordinations all the neighboring bishops of the same province should assemble with that people for which a prelate is ordained. And the bishop should be chosen in the presence of the people, who have most fully known the life of each one, and have looked into the doings of each one as respects his habitual conduct. And this also, we see, was done by you in the ordination of our colleague Sabinus; so that, by the suffrage of the whole brotherhood, and by the sentence of the bishops who had assembled in their presence, and who had written letters to you concerning him, the episcopate was conferred upon him, and hands were imposed on him in the place of Basilides. Neither can it rescind an ordination rightly perfected, that Basilides, after the detection of his crimes, and the baring of his conscience even by his own confession, went to Rome and deceived Stephen our colleague, placed at a distance, and ignorant of what had been done, and of the truth, to canvass that he might be replaced unjustly in the episcopate from which he had been righteously deposed. The result of this is, that the sins of Basilides are not so much abolished as enhanced, inasmuch as to his former sins he has also added the crime of deceit and circumvention. For he is not so much to be blamed who has been through heedlessness surprised by fraud, as he is to be execrated who has fraudulently taken him by surprise. But if Basilides could deceive men, he cannot deceive God, since it is written, “God is not mocked.” But neither can deceit advantage Martialis, in such a way as that he who also is involved in great crimes should hold his bishopric, since the apostle also warns, and says, “A bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God.”
6. Wherefore, since as ye have written, dearly beloved brethren, and as Felix and Sabinus our colleagues affirm, and as another Felix of Caesar Augusta, a maintainer of the faith and a defender of the truth, signifies in his letter, Basilides and Martialis have been contaminated by the abominable certificate of idolatry; and Basilides, moreover, besides the stain of the certificate, when he was prostrate in sickness, blasphemed against God, and confessed that he blasphemed; and because of the wound to his own conscience, i voluntarily laying down his episcopate, turned I himself to repentance, entreating God, and considering himself sufficiently happy if it might be permitted him to communicate even as a layman: Martialis also, besides the long frequenting of the disgraceful and filthy banquets of the Gentiles in their college, and placing his sons in the same college, after the manner of foreign nations, among profane sepulchers, and burying them together with strangers, has also affirmed, by acts which are publicly taken before a ducenarian procurator, that he had yielded himself to idolatry, and had denied Christ; and as there are many other and grave crimes in which Basilides and Martialis are held to be implicated; such persons attempt to claim for themselves the episcopate in vain; since it is evident that men of that kind may neither rule over the Church of Christ, nor ought to offer sacrifices to God, especially since Cornelius also, our colleague, a peaceable and righteous priest, and moreover honored by the condescension of the Lord with martyrdom, has long ago decreed with us, and with all the bishops appointed throughout the whole world, that men of, this sort might indeed be admitted to repentance, but were prohibited from the ordination of the clergy, and from the priestly honor.
7. Nor let it disturb you, dearest brethren, if with some, in these last times, either an uncertain faith is wavering, or a fear of God without religion is vacillating, or a peaceable concord does not continue. These things have been foretold as about to happen in the end of the world; and it was predicted by the voice of the Lord, and by the testimony of the apostles, that now that the world is failing, and the Antichrist is drawing near, everything good shall fail, but evil and adverse things shall prosper.
8. Yet although, in these last times, evangelic rigor has not so failed in the Church of God, nor the strength of Christian virtue or faith so languished, that there is not left a portion of the priests which in no respect gives way under these ruins of things and wrecks of faith; but, bold and steadfast, they maintain the honor of the divine majesty and the priestly dignity, with full observance of fear. We remember and keep in view that, although others succumbed and yielded, Mattathias boldly vindicated God’s law; that Elias, when the Jews gave way and departed from the divine religion, stood and nobly contended; that Daniel, deterred neither by the loneliness of a foreign country nor by the harassment of continual persecution, frequently and gloriously suffered martyrdoms; also that the three youths, subdued neither by their tender years nor by threats, stood up faithfully against the Babylonian fires, and conquered the victor king even in their very captivity itself. Let the number either of prevaricators or of traitors see to it, who have now begun to rise in the Church against the Church, and to corrupt as well the faith as the truth. Among very many there still remains a sincere mind and a substantial religion, and a spirit devoted to nothing but the Lord and its God. Nor does the perfidy of others press down the Christian faith into ruin, but rather stimulates and exalts it to glory, according to what the blessed Apostle Paul exhorts, and says: “For what if some of these have fallen from their faith: hath their unbelief made the faith of God of none effect? God forbid. For God is true, but every man a liar.” But if every man is a liar, and God only true, what else ought we, the servants, and especially the priests, of God, to do, than forsake human errors and lies, and continue in the truth of God, keeping the Lord’s precepts?
9. Wherefore, although there have been found: some among our colleagues, dearest brethren, who think that the godly discipline may be neglected, and who rashly hold communion with Basilides and Martialis, such a thing as this ought not to trouble our faith, since the Holy Spirit threatens such in the Psalms, saying, “But thou hatest instruction, and castedst my words behind thee: when thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst unto him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.” He shows that they become sharers and partakers of other men’s sins who are associated with the delinquents. And besides, Paul the apostle writes, and says the same thing: “Whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, injurious, proud, boasters of themselves, inventors of evil things, who, although they knew the judgment of God, did not understand that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only they which commit those things, but they also which consent unto those who do these things.” Since they, says he, who do such things are worthy of death, he makes manifest and proves that not only they are worthy of death, and come into punishment who do evil things, but also those who consent unto those who do such things–who, while they are mingled in unlawful communion with the evil and sinners, and the unrepenting, are polluted by the contact of the guilty, and, being joined in the fault, are thus not separated in its penalty. For which reason we not only approve, but applaud, dearly beloved brethren, the religious solicitude of your integrity and faith, and exhort you as much as we can by our letters, not to mingle in sacrilegious communion with profane and polluted priests, but maintain the sound and sincere constancy of your faith with religious fear. I bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXVIII. TO FLORENTIUS PUPIANUS, ON CALUMNIATORS. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN CLEARS HIMSELF IN THE EYES OF FLORENTIUS PUPIANUS FROM VARIOUS CRIMES OF WHICH HE IS ACCUSED BY HIM; AND ARGUES THE LIGHTNESS OF HIS MIND, IN THAT HE HAS SO HASTILY TRUSTED CALUMNIATORS.
1. Cyprian, who is also called Thascius, to Florentius, who is also Pupianus, his brother, greeting. I had believed, brother, that you were now at length turned to repentance for having either rashly heard or believed in time past things so wicked, so disgraceful, so execrable even among Gentiles, concerning me. But even now in your letter I perceive that you are still the same as you were before–that you believe the same things concerning me, and that you persist in what you did believe, and, lest by chance the dignity of your eminence and your martyrdom should be stained by communion with me, that you are inquiring carefully into my character; and after God the Judge who makes priests, that you wish to judge–I will not say of me, for what am I?–but of the judgment of God and of Christ. This is not to believe in God–this is to stand forth as a rebel against Christ and His Gospel; so that although He says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and neither of them falls to the ground without the will of my Father,” and His majesty and truth prove that even things of little consequence are not done without the consciousness and permission of God, you think that God’s priests are ordained in the Church without His knowledge. For to believe that they who are ordained are unworthy and unchaste, what else is it than to believe that his priests are not appointed in the Church by God, nor through God?
2. Think you that my testimony of myself is better than that of God? when the Lord Himself teaches, and says that testimony is not true, if any one himself appears as a witness concerning himself, for the reason that every one would assuredly favor himself. Nor would any one put forward mischievous and adverse things against himself, but there may be a simple confidence of truth if, in what was announced of us, another is the announcer and witness. “If,” He says, “I bear witness of myself, my testimony is not true; but there is another who beareth witness of me.” but if the Lord Himself, who will by and by judge all things, was unwilling to be believed on His own testimony, but preferred to be approved by the judgment and testimony of God the Father, how much more does it behoove His servants to observe this, who are not only approved by, but even glory in the judgment and testimony of God! But with you the fabrication of hostile and malignant men has prevailed against the divine decree, and against our conscience resting upon the strength of its faith, as if among lapsed and profane persons placed outside the Church, from whose breasts the Holy Spirit has departed, there could be anything else than a depraved mind and a deceitful tongue, and venomous hatred, and sacrilegious lies, which whosoever believes, must of necessity be found with them when the day of judgment shall come.
3. But with respect to what you have said, that priests should be lowly, because both the Lord and His apostles were lowly; both all the brethren and Gentiles also well know and love my humility; and you also knew and loved it while you were still in the Church, and were in communion with me. But which of us is far from humility: I, who daily serve the brethren, and kindly receive with good-will and gladness every one that comes to the Church; or you, who appoint yourself bishop of a bishop, and judge of a judge, given for the time by God? Although the Lord God says in Deuteronomy, “And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priests or unto the judge who shall be in those days, even that man shall die; and all the people, when they hear, shall fear, and do no more presumptuously.” And again He speaks to Samuel, and says, “They have not despised thee, but they have despised me.” And moreover the Lord, in the Gospel, when it was said to Him, “Answerest thou the high priest so?” guarding the priestly dignity, and teaching that it ought to be maintained, would say nothing against the high priest, but only clearing His own innocence, answered, saying, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?” The blessed apostle also, when it was said to him, “Revilest thou God’s high priest?” spoke nothing reproachfully against the priest, when he might have lifted up himself boldly against those who had crucified the Lord, and who had already sacrificed God and Christ, and the temple and the priesthood; but even although in false and degraded priests, considering still the mere empty shadow of the priestly name, he said, “I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, Thou shall not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.”
4. Unless perchance I was a priest to you before the persecution, when you held communion with me, and ceased to be a priest after the persecution! For the persecution, when it came, lifted you to the highest sublimity of martyrdom. But it depressed me with the burden of proscription, since it was publicly declared, “If any one holds or possesses any of the property of Caecilius Cyprian, bishop of the Christians;” so that even they who did not believe in God appointing a bishop, could still believe in the devil proscribing a bishop. Nor do I boast of these things, but with grief I bring them forward, since you constitute yourself a judge of God and of Christ, who says to the apostles, and thereby to all chief rulers, who by vicarious ordination succeed to the apostles: “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that heareth me, heareth Him that sent me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me, and Him that sent me.”
5. For from this have arisen, and still arise, schisms and heresies, in that the bishop who is one and rules over the Church is contemned by the haughty presumption of some persons; and the man who is honored by God’s condescension, is judged unworthy by men. For what swelling of pride is this, what arrogance of soul, what inflation of mind, to call prelates and priests to one’s own recognition, and unless I may be declared clear in your sight and absolved by your judgment, behold now for six years the brotherhood has neither had a bishop, nor the people a prelate, nor the flock a pastor, nor the Church a governor, nor Christ a representative, nor God a priest! Pupianus must come to the rescue, and give judgment, and declare the decision of God and Christ accepted, that so great a number of the faithful who have been summoned away, under my rule, may not appear to have departed without hope of salvation and of peace; that the new crowd of believers may not be considered to have failed of attaining any grace of baptism and the Holy Spirit by my ministry; that the peace conferred upon so many lapsed and penitent persons, and the communion vouchsafed by my examination, may not be abrogated by the authority of your judgment. Condescend for once, and deign to pronounce concerning us, and to establish our episcopate by the authority of your recognition, that God and His Christ may thank you, in that by your means a representative and ruler has been restored as well to their altar as to their people.
6. Bees have a king, and cattle a leader, and they keep faith to him. Robbers obey their chief with an obedience full of humility. How much more simple and better than you are the brute cattle and dumb animals, and robbers, although bloody, and raging among swords and weapons! The chief among them is acknowledged and feared, whom no divine judgment has appointed, but on whom an abandoned faction and a guilty band have agreed.
7. You say, indeed, that the scruple into which you have fallen ought to be taken from your mind. You have fallen into it, but it was by your irreligious credulity. You have fallen into it, but it was by your own sacrilegious disposition and will in easily hearkening to unchaste, to impious, to unspeakable things against your brother. against a priest, and in willingly believing them in defending other men’s falsehoods, as if they were your own and your private property; and in not remembering that it is written, “Hedge thine ears with thorns, and hearken not to a wicked tongue;” and again: “A wicked doer giveth heed to the tongue of the unjust; but a righteous man regards not lying lips.” Wherefore have not the martyrs fallen into this scruple, full of the Holy Ghost, and already by their passion near to the presence of God and of His Christ; martyrs who, from their dungeon, directed letters to Cyprian the bishop, acknowledging the priest of God, and bearing witness to him? Wherefore have not so many bishops, my colleagues, fallen into this scruple, who either, when they departed from the midst of us, were proscribed, or being taken were cast into prison and were in chains; or who, sent away into exile, have gone by an illustrious road to the Lord; or who in some places, condemned to death, have received heavenly crowns from the glorification of the Lord? Wherefore have not they fallen into this scruple, from among that people of ours which is with us, and is by God’s condescension committed to us–so many confessors who have been put to the question and tortured, and glorious by the memory of illustrious wounds and scars; so many chaste virgins, so many praiseworthy widows; finally, all the churches throughout the whole world who are associated with us in the bond of unity? Unless all these, who are in communion with me, as you have written, are polluted with the pollution of my lips, and have lost the hope of eternal life by the contagion of my communion. Pupianus alone, sound, inviolate, holy, modest, who would not associate himself with us, shall dwell alone in paradise and in the kingdom of heaven.
8. You have written also, that on my account the Church has now a portion of herself in a state of dispersion, although the whole people of the Church are collected, and united, and joined to itself in an undivided concord: they alone have remained without, who even, if they had been within, would have had to be cast out. Nor does the Lord, the protector of His people, and their guardian, suffer the wheat to be snatched from His floor; but the chaff alone can be separated from the Church, since also the apostle says, “For what if some of them have departed from the faith? shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect? God forbid; for God is true, but every man a liar.” And the Lord also in the Gospel, when disciples forsook Him as He spoke, turning to the twelve, said, “Will ye also go away?” then Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the word of eternal life; and we believe, and are sure, that Thou art the Son of the living God.” Peter speaks there, on whom the Church was to be built, teaching and showing in the name of the Church, that although a rebellious and arrogant multitude of those who will not hear and obey may depart, yet the Church does not depart from Christ; and they are the Church who are a people united to the priest, and the flock which adheres to its pastor. Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church, which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another.
9. Wherefore, brother, if you consider God’s majesty who ordains priests, if you will for once have respect to Christ, who by His decree and word, and by His presence, both rules prelates themselves, and rules the Church by prelates; if you will trust, in respect of the innocence of bishops, not human hatred, but the divine judgment; if you will begin even a late repentance for your temerity, and pride, and insolence; if you will most abundantly make satisfaction to God and His Christ whom I serve, and to whom with pure and unstained lips I ceaselessly offer sacrifices, not only in peace, but in persecution; we may have some ground for communion with you, even although there still remain among us respect and fear for the divine censure; so that first I should consult my Lord whether He would permit peace to be granted to you, and you to be received to the communion of His Church by His own showing and admonition.
10. For I remember what has already been manifested to me, nay, what has been prescribed by the authority of our Lord and God to an obedient and fearing servant; and among other things which He condescended to show and to reveal, He also added this: “Whoso therefore does not believe Christ, who maketh the priest, shall hereafter begin to believe Him who avengeth the priest.” Although I know that to some men dreams seem ridiculous and visions foolish, yet assuredly it is to such as would rather believe in opposition to the priest, than believe the priest. But it is no wonder, since his brethren said of Joseph, “Behold, this dreamer cometh; come now therefore, let us slay him.” And afterwards the dreamer attained to what he had dreamed; and his slayers and sellers were put to confusion, so that they, who at first did not believe the words, afterwards believed the deeds. But of those things that you have done, either in persecution or in peace, it is foolish for me to pretend to judge you, since you rather appoint yourself a judge over us. These things, of the pure conscience of my mind, and of my confidence in my Lord and my God, I have written at length. You have my letter, and I yours. In the day of judgment, before the tribunal of Christ, both will be read.
EPISTLE LXIX. TO JANUARIUS AND OTHER NUMIDIAN BISHOPS, ON BAPTIZING HERETICS. ARGUMENT. –THE ARGUMENT OF THIS LETTER AND THE NEXT IS FOUND IN A SUBSEQUENT EPISTLE TO STEPHEN; “THAT WHAT HERETICS USE IS NOT BAPTISM; AND THAT NONE AMONG THEM CAN RECEIVE BENEFIT BY THE GRACE OF CHRIST, WHO OPPOSE CHRIST; HAS BEEN LATELY CAREFULLY EXPRESSED IN A LETTER WHICH WAS WRITTEN ON THAT SUBJECT TO QUINTUS, OUR COLLEAGUE, ESTABLISHED IN MAURITANIA; AS ALSO IN A LETTER WHICH OUR COLLEAGUES PREVIOUSLY WROTE TO THE BISHOPS PRESIDING IN NUMIDIA; OF BOTH OF WHICH LETTERS I HAVE SUBJOINED COPIES.”
1. Cyprian, Liberalis, Caldonius, Junius, Primus, Caecilius, Potycarp, Nicomedes, Felix, Marrutius, Successus, Lucianus, Honoratus, Fortu-natus, Victor, Donatus, Lucius, Herculanus, Pomponius, Demetrius, Quintus, Saturninus Januarius, Marcus, another Saturninus, another Donatus, Rogatianus, Sedatus, Tertullus, Hortensianus, still another Saturninus, Sattius, to their brethren Januarius, Saturninus, Maximus, Victor, another Victor, Cassius, Proculus, Modianus, Cittinus, Gargilius, Eutycianus, another Gargilius, another Saturninus, Nemesianus, Nampulus, Antonianus, Rogatianus, Honoratus, greeting. When we were together in council, dearest brethren, we read your letter which you wrote to us concerning those who seem to be baptized by heretics and schismatics, whether, when the), come to the Catholic Church, which is one, they ought to be baptized. On which matter, although you yourselves hold thereupon the truth and certainty of the Catholic rule, yet since you have thought that of our mutual love we ought to be consulted, we put forward our opinion, not as a new one, but we join with you in equal agreement, in an opinion long since decreed by our predecessors, and observed by us,–judging, namely, and holding it for certain that no one can be baptized abroad outside the Church, since there is one baptism appointed in the holy Church. And it is written in the words of the Lord, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out broken cisterns, which can hold no water.” And again, sacred Scripture warns, and says, “Keep thee from the strange water, and drink not from a fountain of strange water.” It is required, then, that the water should first be cleansed and sanctified by the priest, that it may wash away by its baptism the sins of the man who is baptized; because the Lord says by Ezekiel the prophet: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be cleansed from all your filthiness; and from all your idols will I cleanse you: a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” But how can he cleanse and sanctify the water who is himself unclean, and in whom the Holy Spirit is not? since the Lord says in the book of Numbers, “And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean.” Or how can he who baptizes give to another remission of sins who himself, being outside the Church, cannot put away his own sins?
2. But, moreover, the very interrogation which is put in baptism is a witness of the truth. For when we say, “Dost thou believe in eternal life and remission of sins through the holy Church?” we mean that remission of sins is not granted except in the Church, and that among heretics, where there is no Church, sins cannot be put away. Therefore they who assert that heretics can baptize, must either change the interrogation or maintain the truth; unless indeed they attribute a church also to those who, they contend, have baptism. It is also necessary that he should be anointed who is baptized; so that, having received the chrism, that is, the anointing, he may be anointed of God, and have in him the grace of Christ. Further, it is the Eucharist whence the baptized are anointed with the oil sanctified on the altar. But he cannot sanctify the creature of oil, who has neither an altar nor a church; whence also there can be no spiritual anointing among heretics, since it is manifest that the oil cannot be sanctified nor the Eucharist celebrated at all among them. But we ought to know and remember that it is written, “Let not the oil of a sinner anoint my head,” which the Holy Spirit before forewarned in the Psalms, lest any one going out of the way and wandering from the path of truth should be anointed by heretics and adversaries of Christ. Besides, what prayer can a priest who is impious and a sinner offer for a baptized person? since it is written, “God heareth not a sinner; but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.” Who, moreover, can give what he himself has not? or how can he discharge spiritual functions who himself has lost the Holy Spirit? And therefore he must be baptized and renewed who comes untrained to the Church, that he may be sanctified within by those who are holy, since it is written, “Be ye holy, for I am holy, saith the Lord.” So that he who has been seduced into error, and baptized outside of the Church, should lay aside even this very thing in the true and ecclesiastical baptism, viz., that he a man coming to God, while he seeks for a priest, fell by the deceit of error upon a profane one.
3. But it is to approve the baptism of heretics and schismatics, to admit that they have truly baptized. For therein a part cannot be void, and part be valid. If one could baptize, he could also give the Holy Spirit. But if he cannot give the Holy Spirit, because he that is appointed without is not endowed with the Holy Spirit, he cannot baptize those who come; since both baptism is one and the Holy Spirit is one, and the Church founded by Christ the Lord upon Peter, by a source and principle of unity, is one also. Hence it results, that since with them all things are futile and false, nothing of that which they have done ought to be approved by us. For what can be ratified and established by God which is done by them whom the Lord calls His enemies and adversaries? setting forth in His Gospel, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.” And the blessed Apostle John also, keeping the commandments and precepts of the Lord, has laid it down in his epistle, and said, “Ye have heard that antichrist shall come: even now there are many Antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, no doubt they would have continued with us.” Whence we also ought to gather and consider whether they who are the Lord’s adversaries, and are called antichrists, can give the grace of Christ. Wherefore we who are with the Lord, and maintain the unity of the Lord, and according to His condescension administer His priesthood in the Church, ought to repudiate and reject and regard as profane whatever His adversaries and the antichrists do; and to those who, coming out of error and wickedness, acknowledge the true faith of the one Church, we should give the truth both of unity and faith, by means of all the sacraments of divine grace. We bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXX. TO QUINTUS, CONCERNING THE BAPTISM OF HERETICS. ARGUMENT. –AN ANSWER IS GIVEN TO QUINTUS A BISHOP IN MAURITANIA, WHO HAS ASKED ADVICE CONCERNING THE BAPTISM OF HERETICS.
1. Cyprian to Quintus his brother, greeting. Lucian, our co-presbyter, has reported to me, dearest brother, that you have wished me to declare to you what I think concerning those who seem to have been baptized by heretics and schismatics; of which matter, that you may know what several of us fellow-bishops, with the brother presbyters who were present, lately determined in council, I have sent you a copy of the same epistle. For I know not by what presumption some of our colleagues are led to think that they who have been dipped by heretics ought not to be baptized when they come to us, for the reason that they say that there is one baptism which indeed is therefore one, because the Church is one, and there cannot be any baptism out of the Church. For since there cannot be two baptisms, if heretics truly baptize, they themselves have this baptism. And he who of his own authority grants this advantage to them yields and consents to them, that the enemy and adversary of Christ should seem to have the power of washing, and purifying, and sanctifying a man. But we say that those who come thence are not re-baptized among us, but are baptized. For indeed they do not receive anything there, where there is nothing; but they come to us, that here they may receive where there is both grace and all truth, because both grace and truth are one. But again some of our colleagues would rather give honor to heretics than agree with us; and while by the assertion of one baptism they are unwilling to baptize those that come, they thus either themselves make two baptisms in saying that there is a baptism among heretics; or certainly, which is a matter of more importance, they strive to set before and prefer the sordid and profane washing of heretics to the true and only and legitimate baptism of the Catholic Church, not considering that it is written, “He who is baptized by one dead, what availeth his washing?” Now it is manifest that they who are not in the Church of Christ are reckoned among the dead; and another cannot be made alive by him who himself is not alive, since there is one Church which, having attained the grace of eternal life, both lives forever and quickens the people of God.
2. And they say that in this matter they follow ancient custom; although among the ancients these were as yet the first beginnings of heresy and schisms, so that those were involved in them who departed from the Church, having first been baptized therein; and these, therefore, when they returned to the Church and repented, it was not necessary to baptize. Which also we observe in the present day, that it is sufficient to lay hands for repentance upon those who are known to have been baptized in the Church, and have gone over from us to the heretics, if, subsequently acknowledging their sin and putting away their error, they return to the truth and to their parent; so that, because it had been a sheep, the Shepherd may receive into His fold the estranged and vagrant sheep. But if he who comes from the heretics has not previously been baptized in the Church, but comes as a stranger and entirely profane, he must be baptized, that he may become a sheep, because in the holy Church is the one water which makes sheep. And therefore, because there can be nothing common to falsehood and truth, to darkness and light, to death and immortality, to Antichrist and Christ, we ought by all means to maintain the unity of the Catholic Church, and not to give way to the enemies of faith and truth in any respect.
3. Neither must we prescribe this from custom, but overcome opposite custom by reason. For neither did Peter, whom first the Lord chose, and upon whom He built His Church, when Paul disputed with him afterwards about circumcision, claim anything to himself insolently, nor arrogantly assume anything; so as to say that he held the primacy, and that he ought rather to be obeyed by novices and those lately come. Nor did he despise Paul because he had previously been a persecutor of the Church, but admitted the counsel of truth, and easily yielded to the lawful reason which Paul asserted, furnishing thus an illustration to us both of concord and of patience, that we should not obstinately love our own opinions, but should rather adopt as our own those which at any time are usefully and wholesomely suggested by our brethren and colleagues, if they be true and lawful. Paul, moreover, looking forward to this, and consulting faithfully for concord and peace, has laid down in his epistle this rule: “Moreover, let the prophets speak two or three, and let the rest judge. But if anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.” In which place he has taught and shown that many things are revealed to individuals for the better, and that each one ought not obstinately to contend for that which he had once imbibed and held; but if anything has appeared better and more useful, he should gladly embrace it. For we are not overcome when better things are presented to us, but we are instructed, especially in those matters which pertain to the unity of the Church and the truth of our hope and faith; so that we, priests of God and prelates of His Church, by His condescension, should know that remission of sins cannot be given save in the Church, nor can the adversaries of Christ claim to themselves anything belonging to His grace.
4. Which thing, indeed, Agrippinus also, a man of worthy memory, with his other fellow-bishops, who at that time governed the Lord’s Church in the province of Africa and Numidia, decreed, and by the well-weighed examination of the common council established: whose opinion, as being both religious and lawful and salutary, and in harmony with the Catholic faith and Church, we also have followed. And that you may know what kind of letters we have written on this subject, I have transmitted for our mutual love a copy of them, as well for your own information as for that of our fellow-bishops who are in those parts. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXXI. TO STEPHEN, CONCERNING A COUNCIL. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN WITH HIS COLLEAGUES IN A CERTAIN COUNCIL TELLS STEPHEN, THE ROMAN BISHOP, THAT IT HAD BEEN DECREED BY THEM, BOTH THAT THOSE WHO RETURNED FROM HERESY INTO THE CHURCH SHOULD BE BAPTIZED, AND THAT BISHOPS OR PRIESTS COMING FROM THE HERETICS SHOULD BE RECEIVED ON NO OTHER CONDITION, THAN THAT THEY SHOULD COMMUNICATE AS LAY PEOPLE. A.D. 255.
1. Cyprian and others, to Stephen their brother, greeting. We have thought it necessary for the arranging of certain matters, dearest brother, and for their investigation by the examination of a common council, to gather together and to hold a council, at which many priests were assembled at once; at which, moreover, many things were brought forward and transacted. 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; to wit, that those who have been dipped abroad outside the Church, and have been stained among heretics and schismatics with the taint of profane water, when they come to us and to the Church which is one, ought to be baptized, for the reason that it is a small matter to “lay hands on them that they may receive the Holy Ghost,” unless 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, “Except a man be born again of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” For we find also, in the Acts of the Apostles, that this is maintained by the apostles, and kept in the truth of the saving faith, so that when, in the house of Cornelius the centurion, the Holy Ghost had descended upon the Gentiles who were there, fervent in the warmth of their faith, and believing in the Lord with their whole heart; and when, filled with the Spirit, they blessed God in divers tongues, still none the less the blessed Apostle Peter, mindful of the divine precept and the Gospel, commanded that those same men should be baptized who had already been filled with the Holy Spirit, that nothing might seem to be neglected to the observance by the apostolic instruction in all things of the law of the divine precept and Gospel. But that that is not baptism which the heretics use; and that none of those who oppose Christ can profit by the grace of Christ; has lately been set forth with care in the letter which was written on that subject to Quintus, our colleague, established in Mauritania; as also in a letter which our colleagues previously wrote to our fellow-bishops presiding in Numidia, of both which letters I have subjoined copies.
2. We add, however, and connect with what we have said, dearest brother, with common consent and authority, that if, again, any presbyters or deacons, who either have been before ordained in the Catholic Church, and have subsequently stood forth as traitors and rebels against the Church, or who have been promoted among the heretics by a profane ordination by the hands of false bishops and antichrists contrary to the appointment of Christ, and have attempted to offer; in opposition to the one and divine altar, false and sacrilegious sacrifices without, that these also be received when they return, on this condition, that they communicate as laymen, and hold it to be enough that they should be received to peace, after having stood forth as enemies of peace; and that they ought not, on returning, to retain those arms of ordination and honor with which they rebelled against us. For it behooves priests and ministers, who wait upon the altar and sacrifices, to be sound and stainless; since the Lord God speaks in Leviticus, and says, “No man that hath a stain or a blemish shall come nigh to offer gifts to the Lord.” Moreover, in Exodus, He prescribes this same thing, and says, “And let the priests which come near to the Lord God sanctify themselves, lest the Lord forsake them.” And again: “And when they come near to minister at the altar of the holy place, they shall not bear iniquity upon them, lest they die.” But what can be greater iniquity, or what stain can be more odious, than to have stood in opposition to Christ; than to have scattered His Church, which He purchased and founded with His blood; than, unmindful of evangelical peace and love, to have fought with the madness of hostile discord against the unanimous and accordant people of God? Such as these, although they themselves return to the Church, still cannot restore and recall with them those who, seduced by them, and forestalled by death without, have perished outside the Church without communion and peace; whose souls in the day of judgment shall be required at the hands of those who have stood forth as the authors and leaders of their ruin. And therefore to such, when they return, it is sufficient that pardon should be granted; since perfidy ought certainly not to receive promotion in the household of faith. For what do we reserve for the good and innocent, and those who do not depart from the Church, if we honor those who have departed from us, and stood in opposition to the Church?
3. We have brought these things, dearest brother, to your knowledge, for the sake of our mutual honor and sincere affection; believing that, according to the truth of your religion and faith, those things which are no less religious than true will be approved by you. But we know that some will not lay aside what they have once imbibed, and do not easily change their purpose; but, keeping fast the bond of peace and concord among their colleagues, retain certain things peculiar to themselves, which have once been adopted among them. In which behalf we neither do violence to, nor impose a law upon, any one, since each prelate has in the administration of the Church the exercise of his will free, as he shall give an account of his conduct to the Lord. We bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXXII. TO JUBAIANUS, CONCERNING THE BAPTISM OF HERETICS. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN REFUTES A LETTER ENCLOSED TO HIM BY JUBAIANUS, AND WITH THE GREATEST CARE COLLECTS WHATEVER HE THINKS WILL AVAIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF HIS CAUSE. MOREOVER, HE SENDS JUBAIANUS A COPY OF THE LETTER TO THE NUMIDIANS AND TO QUINTUS, AND PROBABLY THE DECREES OF THE LAST SYNOD.
1. Cyprian to Jubaianus his brother, greeting. You have written to me, dearest brother, wishing that the impression of my mind should be signified to you, as to what I think concerning the baptism of heretics; who, placed without, and established outside the Church, arrogate to themselves a matter neither within their right nor their power. This baptism we cannot consider as valid or legitimate, since it is manifestly unlawful among them; and since we have already expressed in our letters what we thought on this matter, I have, as a compendious method, sent you a copy of the same letters, what we decided in council when very many of us were present, and what, moreover, I subsequently wrote back to Quintus, our colleague, when he asked about the same thing. And now also, when we had met together, bishops as well of the province of Africa as of Numidia, to the number of seventy-one, we established this same matter once more by our judgment, deciding that there is one baptism which is appointed in the Catholic Church; and that by this those are not re-baptized, but baptized by us, who at any time come from the adulterous and unhallowed water to be washed and sanctified by the truth of the saving water.
2. Nor does what you have described in your letters disturb us, dearest brother, that the Novarians re-baptize those whom they entice from us, since it does not in any wise matter to us what the enemies of the Church do, so long as we ourselves hold a regard for our power, and the steadfastness of reason and truth. For Novatian, after the manner of apes– which, although they are not men, yet imitate human doings–wishes to claim to himself the authority and truth of the Catholic Church, while he himself is not in the Church; nay, moreover, has stood forth hitherto as a rebel and enemy against the Church. For, knowing that there is one baptism, he arrogates to himself this one, so that he may say that the Church is with him, and make us heretics. But we who hold the head and root of the one Church know, and trust for certain, that nothing is lawful there outside the Church, and that the baptism which is one is among us, where he himself also was formerly baptized, when he maintained both the wisdom and truth of the divine unity. But if Novatian thinks that those who have been baptized in the Church are to be re-baptized outside–without the Church– he ought to begin by himself, that he might first be re-baptized with an extraneous and heretical baptism, since he thinks that after the Church, yea, and contrary to the Church, people are to be baptized without. But what sort of a thing is this, that, because Novatian dares to do this thing, we are to think that we must not do it! What then? Because Novatian also usurps the honor of the priestly throne, ought we therefore to renounce our throne? Or because Novatian endeavors wrongfully to set up an altar and to offer sacrifices, does it behoove us to cease from our altar and sacrifices, lest we should appear to be celebrating the same or like things with him? Utterly vain and foolish is it, that because Novatian arrogates to himself outside the Church the image of the truth, we should forsake the truth of the Church.
3. But among us it is no new or sudden thing for us to judge that those are to be baptized who come to the Church from among the heretics, since it is now many years and a long time ago, that, under Agrippinus–a man of worthy memory–very many bishops assembling together have decided this; and thenceforward until the present day, so many thousands of heretics in our provinces have been converted to the Church, and have neither despised nor delayed, nay, they have both reasonably and gladly embraced, the opportunity to attain the grace of the life-giving layer and of saving baptism. For it is not difficult for a teacher to insinuate true and lawful things into his mind, who, having condemned heretical privity, and discovered the truth of the Church, comes for this purpose, that he may learn, and learns for the purpose that he may live. We ought not to increase the stolidity of heretics by the patronage of our consent, when they gladly and readily obey the truth.
4. Certainly, since I found in the letter the copy of which you transmitted to me, that it was written, “That it should not be asked who baptized, since he who is baptized might receive remission of sins according to what he believed,” I thought that this topic was not to be passed by, especially since I observed in the same epistle that mention was also made of Marcion, saying that “even those that came from him did not need to be baptized, because they seemed to have been already baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” Therefore we ought to consider their faith who believe without, whether in respect of the same faith they can obtain any grace. For if we and heretics have one faith, we may also have one grace. If the Patripassians, Anthropians, Valentinians, Apelletians, Ophites, Marcionites, and other pests, and swords, and poisons of heretics for subverting the truth, confess the same Father, the same Son, the same Holy Ghost, the same Church with us, they may also have one baptism if they have also one faith.
5. And lest it should be wearisome to go through all the heresies, and to enumerate either the follies or the madness of each of them, because it is no pleasure to speak of that which one either dreads or is ashamed to know, let us examine in the meantime about Marcion alone, the mention of whom has been made in the letter transmitted by you to us, whether the ground of his baptism can be made good. For the Lord after His resurrection, sending His disciples, instructed and taught them in what manner they ought to baptize, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” He suggests the Trinity, in whose sacrament the nations were to be baptized. Does Marcion then maintain the Trinity? Does he then assert the same Father, the Creator, as we do? Does he know the same Son, Christ born of the Virgin Mary, who as the Word was made flesh, who bare our sins, who conquered death by dying, who by Himself first of all originated the resurrection of the flesh, and showed to His disciples that He had risen in the same flesh? Widely different is the faith with Marcion, and, moreover, with the other heretics nay, with them there is nothing but perfidy, and blasphemy, and contention, which is hostile to holiness and truth. How then can one who is baptized among them seem to have obtained mission of sins, and the grace of the divine mercy, by his faith, when he has not the truth of the faith itself? For if, as some suppose, one could receive anything abroad out of the Church according to his faith, certainly he has received what he believed; but if he believes what is false, he could not receive what is true; but rather he has received things adulterous and profane, according to what he believed.
6. This matter of profane and adulterous baptism Jeremiah the prophet plainly rebukes, saying, “Why do they who afflict me prevail? My wound is hard; whence shall I be healed? while it has indeed become unto me as deceitful water which has no faithfulness.” The Holy Spirit makes mention by the prophet of deceitful water which has no faithfulness. What is this deceitful and faithless water? Certainly that which falsely assumes the resemblance of baptism, and frustrates the grace of faith by a shadowy pretense. But if, according to a perverted faith, one could be baptized without, and obtain remission of sins, according to the same faith he could also attain the Holy Spirit; and there is no need that hands should be laid on him when he comes, that he might obtain the Holy Ghost, and be sealed. Either he could obtain both privileges without by his faith, or he who has been without has received neither.
7. But it is manifest where and by whom remission of sins can be given; to wit, that which is given in baptism. For first of all the Lord gave that power to Peter, upon whom He built the Church, and whence He appointed and showed the source of unity–the power, namely, that whatsoever he loosed on earth should be loosed in heaven. And after the resurrection, also, He speaks to the apostles, saying, “As the Father hath sent me, even so I send you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith, unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.” Whence we perceive that only they who are set over the Church and established in the Gospel law, and in the ordinance of the Lord, are allowed to baptize and to give remission of sins; but that without, nothing can either be bound or loosed, where there is none who can either bind or loose anything.
8. Nor do we propose this, dearest brother, without the authority of divine Scripture, when we say that all things are arranged by divine direction by a certain law and by special ordinance, and that none can usurp to himself, in opposition to the bishops and priests, anything which is not of his own right and power. For Korah, Dathan, and Abiram endeavored to usurp, in opposition to Moses and Aaron the priest, the power of sacrificing; and they did not do without punishment what they unlawfully dared. The sons of Aaron also, who placed strange fire upon the altar, were at once consumed in the sight of an angry Lord; which punishment remains to those who introduce strange water by a false baptism, that the divine vengeance may avenge and chastise when heretics do that in opposition to the Church, which the Church alone is allowed to do.
9. But in respect of the assertion of some concerning those who had been baptized in Samaria, that when the Apostles Peter and John came, only hands were imposed on them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, yet that they were not re-baptized; we see that that place does not, dearest brother, touch the present case. For they who had believed in Samaria had believed with a true faith; and within, in the Church which is one, and to which alone it is granted to bestow the grace of baptism and to remit sins, had been baptized by Philip the deacon, whom the same apostles had sent. And therefore, because they had obtained a legitimate and ecclesiastical baptism, there was no need that they should be baptized any more, but only that which was needed was performed by Peter and John; viz., that prayer being made for them, and hands being imposed, the Holy Spirit should be invoked and poured out upon them, which now too is done among us, so that they who are baptized in the Church are brought to the prelates of the Church, and by our prayers and by the imposition of hands obtain the Holy Spirit, and are perfected with the Lord’s seal.
10. There is no ground, therefore, dearest brother, for thinking that we should give way to heretics so far as to contemplate the betrayal to them of that baptism, which is only granted to the one and only Church. It is a good soldier’s duty to defend the camp of his general against rebels and enemies. It is the duty of an illustrious leader to keep the standards entrusted to him. It is written, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” We who have received the Spirit of God ought to have a jealousy for the divine faith; with such a jealousy as that wherewith Phineas both pleased God and justly allayed His wrath when He was angry, and the people were perishing. Why do we receive as allowed an adulterous and alien church, a foe to the divine unity, when we know only one Christ and His one Church? The Church, setting forth the likeness of paradise, includes within her walls fruit-bearing trees, whereof that which does not bring forth good fruit is cut off and is cast into the fire. These trees she waters with four rivers, that is, with the four Gospels, wherewith, by a celestial inundation, she bestows the grace of saving baptism. Can any one water from the Church’s fountains who is not within the Church? Can one impart those wholesome and saving draughts of paradise to any one if he is perverted, and of himself condemned, and banished outside the fountains of paradise, and has dried up and failed with the dryness of an eternal thirst?
11. The Lord cries aloud, that “whosoever thirsts should come and drink of the rivers of i living water that flowed out of His bosom.” Whither is he to come who thirsts? Shall he come to the heretics, where there is no fountain and river of living water at all; or to the Church which is one, and is founded upon one who has received the keys of it by the Lord’s voice? It is she who holds and possesses alone all the power of her spouse and Lord. In her we preside; for her honor and unity we fight; her grace, as well as her glory, we defend with faithful devotedness. We by the divine permission water the thirsting people of God; we guard the boundaries of the living fountains. If, therefore, we hold the right of our possession, if we acknowledge the sacrament of unity, wherefore are we esteemed prevaricators against truth? Wherefore are we judged betrayers of unity? The faithful, and saving, and holy water of the Church cannot be corrupted and adulterated, as the Church herself also is uncorrupted, and chaste, and modest. If heretics are devoted to the Church and established in the Church, they may use both her baptism and her other saving benefits. But if they are not in the Church, nay more, if they act against the Church, how can they baptize with the Church’s baptism?
12. For it is no small and insignificant matter, which is conceded to heretics, when their baptism is recognized by us; since thence springs the whole origin of faith and the saving access to the hope of life eternal, and the divine condescension for purifying and quickening the servants of God. For if any one could be baptized among heretics, certainly he could also obtain remission of sins. If he attained remission of sins, he was also sanctified. If he was sanctified, he also was made the temple of God. I ask, of what God? If of the Creator; he could not be, because he has not believed in Him. If of Christ; he could not become His temple, since he denies that Christ is God. If of the Holy Spirit; since the three are one, how can the Holy Spirit be at peace with him who is the enemy either of the Son or of the Father?
13. Hence it is in vain that some who are overcome by reason oppose to us custom, as if custom were greater than truth; or as if that were not to be sought after in spiritual matters which has been revealed as the better by the Holy Spirit. For one who errs by simplicity may be pardoned, as the blessed Apostle Paul says of himself, “I who at first was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious; yet obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly.” But after inspiration and revelation made to him, he who intelligently and knowingly perseveres in that course in which he had erred, sins without pardon for his ignorance. For he resists with a certain presumption and obstinacy, when he is overcome by reason. Nor let anyone say, “We follow that which we have received from the apostles,” when the apostles only delivered one Church, and one baptism, which is not ordained except in the same Church. And we cannot find that any one, when he had been baptized by heretics, was received by the apostles in the same baptism, and communicated in such a way as that the apostles should appear to have approved the baptism of heretics.
14. For as to what some say, as if it tended to favor heretics, that the Apostle Paul declared, “Only every way, whether in pretense or in truth, let Christ be preached,” we find that this also can avail nothing to their benefit who support and applaud heretics. For Paul, in his epistle, was not speaking of heretics, nor of their baptism, so that anything can be shown to have been alleged which pertained to this matter. He was speaking of brethren, whether as walking disorderly anti against the discipline of the Church, or as keeping the truth of the Gospel with the fear of God. And he said that certain of them spoke the word of God with constancy and courage, but some acted in envy and dissension; that some maintained towards him a benevolent love, but that some indulged a malevolent spirit of dissension; but yet that he bore all patiently, so long only as, whether in truth or in pretense, the name of Christ which Paul preached might come to the knowledge of many; and the sowing of the word, which as yet had been new and irregular, might increase through the preaching of the speakers. Besides, it is one thing for those who are within the Church to speak concerning the name of Christ; it is another for those who are without, and act in opposition to the Church, to baptize in the name of Christ. Wherefore, let not those who favor heretics put forward what Paul spoke concerning brethren, but let them show if he thought anything was to be conceded to the heretic, or if he approved of their faith or baptism, or if he appointed that perfidious and blasphemous men could receive remission of their sins outside the Church.
15. But if we consider what the apostles thought about heretics, we shall find that they, in all their epistles, execrated and detested the sacrilegious wickedness of heretics. For when they say that “their word creeps as a canker,” how is such a word as that able to give remission of sins, which creeps like a canker to the ears of the hearers? And when they say that there can be no fellowship between righteousness and un- righteousness, no communion between light and darkness, how can either darkness illuminate, or unrighteousness justify? And when they say that “they are not of God, but are of the spirit of Antichrist,” how can they transact spiritual and divine matters, who are the enemies of God, and whose hearts the spirit of Antichrist has possessed? Wherefore, if, laying aside the errors of human dispute, we return with a sincere and religious faith to the evangelical authority and to the apostolical tradition, we shall perceive that they may do nothing towards conferring the ecclesiastical and saving grace, who, scattering and attacking the Church of Christ, are called adversaries by Christ Himself, but by His apostles, Antichrists.
16. Again, there is no ground for any one, for the circumvention of Christian truth, opposing to us the name of Christ, and saying, “All who are baptized everywhere, and in any manner, in the name of Jesus Christ, have obtained the grace of baptism,”–when Christ Himself speaks, and says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”, And again, He forewarns and instructs, that no one should be easily deceived by false prophets and false Christs in His name. “Many,” He says, “shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.” And afterwards He added: “But take ye heed; behold, I have foretold you all things.” Whence it appears that all things are not at once to be received and assumed which are boasted of in the name of Christ, but only those things which are done in the truth of Christ.
17. For whereas in the Gospels, and in the epistles of the apostles, the name of Christ is alleged for the remission of sins; it is not in such a way as that the Son alone, without the Father, or against the Father, can be of advantage to anybody; but that it might be shown to the Jews, who boasted as to their having the Father, that the Father would profit them nothing, unless they believed on the Son whom He had sent. For they who know God the Father the Creator, ought also to know Christ the Son, lest they should flatter and applaud themselves about the Father alone, without the acknowledgment of His Son, who also said, “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” But He, the same, sets forth, that it is the knowledge of the two which saves, when He says, “And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Since, therefore, from the preaching and testimony of Christ Himself, the Father who sent must be first known, then afterwards Christ, who was sent, and there cannot be a hope of salvation except by knowing the two together; how, when God the Father is not known, nay, is even blasphemed, can they who among the heretics are said to be baptized in the name of Christ, be judged to have obtained the remission of sins? For the case of the Jews under the apostles was one, but the condition of the Gentiles is another. The former, because they had already gained the most ancient baptism of the law and Moses, were to be baptized also in the name of Jesus Christ, in conformity with what Peter tells them in the Acts of the Apostles, saying, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For this promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Peter makes mention of Jesus Christ, not as though the Father should be omitted, but that the Son also might be joined to the Father.
18. Finally, when, after the resurrection, the apostles are sent by the Lord to the heathens, they are bidden to baptize the Gentiles “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” How, then, do some say, that a Gentile baptized without, outside the Church, yea, and in opposition to the Church, so that it be only in the name of Jesus Christ, everywhere, and in whatever manner, can obtain remission of sin, when Christ Himself commands the heathen to be baptized in the full and united Trinity? Unless while one who denies Christ is denied by Christ, he who denies His Father whom Christ Himself confessed is not denied; and he who blasphemes against Him whom Christ called His Lord and His God, is rewarded by Christ, and obtains remission of sins, and the sanctification of baptism! But by what power can he who denies God the Creator, the Father of Christ, obtain, in baptism, the remission of sins, since Christ received that very power by which we are baptized and sanctified, from the same Father, whom He called “greater” than Himself, by whom He desired to be glorified, whose will He fulfilled even unto the obedience of drinking the cup, and of undergoing death? What else is it then, than to become a partaker with blaspheming heretics, to wish to maintain and assert, that one who blasphemes and gravely sins against the Father and the Lord and God of Christ, can receive remission of sins in the name of Christ? What, moreover, is that, and of what kind is it, that he who denies the Son of God has not the Father, and he who denies the Father should be thought to have the Son, although the Son Himself testifies, and says, “No man can come unto me except it were given unto him of my Father?” So that it is evident, that no remission of sins can be received in baptism from the Son, which it is not plain that the Father has granted. Especially, since He further repeats, and says, “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.”
19. But if Christ’s disciples are unwilling to learn from Christ what veneration and honor is due to the name of the Father, still let them learn from earthly and secular examples, and know that Christ has declared, not without the strongest rebuke, “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.” In this world of ours, if any one have offered an insult to the father of any; if in injury and frowardness he have wounded his reputation and his honor by a malevolent tongue, the son is indignant, and wrathful, and with what means he can, strives to avenge his injured father’s wrong. Think you that Christ grants impunity to the impious and profane, and the blasphemers of His Father, and that He puts away their sins in baptism, who it is evident, when baptized, still heap up evil words on the person of the Father, and sin with the unceasing wickedness of a blaspheming tongue? Can a Christian, can a servant of God, either conceive this in his mind, or believe it in faith, or put it forward in discourse? And what will become of the precepts of the divine law, which say, “Honor thy father and thy mother?” If the name of father, which in man is commanded to be honored, is violated with impunity in God, what will become of what Christ Himself lays down in the Gospel, and says, “He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death;” if He who bids that those who curse their parents after the flesh should be punished and slain, Himself quickens those who revile their heavenly and spiritual Father, and are hostile to the Church, their Mother? An execrable and detestable thing is actually asserted by some, that He who threatens the man who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, that he shall be guilty of eternal sin, Himself condescends to sanctify those who blaspheme against God the Father with saving baptism. And now, those who think that they must communicate with such as come to the Church without baptism, do not consider that they are becoming partakers with other men’s, yea, with eternal sins, when they admit without baptism those who cannot, except in baptism, put off the sins of their blasphemies.
20. Besides, how vain and perverse a thing it is, that when the heretics themselves, having repudiated and forsaken either the error or the wickedness in which they had previously been, acknowledge the truth of the Church, we should mutilate the rights and sacrament of that same truth, and say to those who come to us and repent, that they had obtained remission of sins when they confess that they have sinned, and are for that reason come to seek the pardon of the Church! Wherefore, dearest brother, we ought both firmly to maintain the faith and truth of the Catholic Church, and to teach, and by all the evangelical and apostolical precepts to set forth, the plan of the divine dispensation and unity.
21. Can the power of baptism be greater or of more avail than confession, than suffering, when one confesses Christ before men and is baptized in his own blood? And yet even this baptism does not benefit a heretic, although he has confessed Christ, and been put to death outside the Church, unless the patrons and advocates of heretics declare that the heretics who are slain in a false confession of Christ are martyrs, and assign to them the glory and the crown of martyrdom contrary to the testimony of the apostle, who says that it will profit them nothing although they were burnt and slain. 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! Wherefore baptism cannot be common to us and to heretics, to whom neither God the Father, nor Christ the Son, nor the Holy Ghost, nor the faith, nor the Church itself, is common. 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, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
22. On which place some, as if by human reasoning they were able to make void the truth of the Gospel declaration, object to us the case of catechumens; asking if any one of these, before he is baptized in the Church, should be apprehended and slain on confession of the name, whether he would lose the hope of salvation and the reward of confession, because he had not previously been born again of water? Let men of this kind, who are aiders and favorers of heretics, know therefore, first, that those catechumens hold the sound faith and truth of the Church, and advance from the divine camp to do battle with the devil, with a full and sincere acknowledgment of God the Father, and of Christ, and of the Holy Ghost; then, that they certainly are not deprived of the sacrament of baptism who are baptized with the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood, concerning which the Lord also said, that He had “another baptism to be baptized with.” But the same Lord declares in the Gospel, that those who are baptized in their own blood, and sanctified by suffering, are perfected, and obtain the grace of the divine promise, when He speaks to the thief believing and confessing in His very passion, and promises that he should be with Himself in paradise. Wherefore we who are set over the faith and truth ought not to deceive and mislead those who come to the faith and truth, and repent, and beg that their sins should be remitted to them; but to instruct them when corrected by us, and reformed for the kingdom of heaven by celestial discipline.
23. But someone says, “What, then, shall become of those who in past times, coming from heresy to the Church, were received without baptism?” The Lord is able by His mercy to give indulgence, and not to separate from the gifts of His Church those who by simplicity were admitted into the Church, and in the Church have fallen asleep. Nevertheless it does not follow that, because there was error at one time, there must always be error; since it is more fitting for wise and God-fearing men, gladly and without delay to obey the truth when laid open and perceived, than pertinaciously and obstinately to struggle against brethren and fellow- priests on behalf of heretics.
24. Nor let anyone think that, because baptism is proposed to them, heretics will be kept back from coming to the Church, as if offended at the name of a second baptism; nay, but on this very account they are rather driven to the necessity of coming by the testimony of truth shown and proved to them. For if they shall see that it is determined and decreed by our judgment and sentence, that the baptism wherewith they are there baptized is considered just and legitimate, they will think that they are justly and legitimately in possession of the Church also, and the other gifts of the Church; nor will there be any reason for their coming to us, when, as they have baptism, they seem also to have the rest. But further, when they know that there is no baptism without, and that no remission of sins can be given outside the Church, they more eagerly and readily hasten to us, and implore the gifts and benefits of the Church our Mother, assured that they can in no wise attain to the true promise of divine grace unless they first come to the truth of the Church. Nor will heretics refuse to be baptized among us with the lawful and true baptism of the Church, when they shall have learnt from us that they also were baptized by Paul, who already had been baptized with the baptism of John, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles.
25. And now by certain of us the baptism of heretics is asserted to occupy the ground, and, as if by a certain dislike of re-baptizing, it is counted unlawful to baptize after God’s enemies. And this, although we find that they were baptized whom John had baptized: John, esteemed the greatest among the prophets; John, filled with divine grace even in his mother’s womb; who was sustained with the spirit and power of Elias; who was not an adversary of the Lord, but His precursor and announcer; who not only foretold our Lord in words, but even showed Him to the eyes; who baptized Christ Himself by whom others are baptized. But if on that account a heretic could obtain the right of baptism, because he first baptized, then baptism will not belong to the person that has it, but to the person that seizes it. And since baptism and the Church can by no means be separated from one another, and divided, he who has first been able to lay hold on baptism has equally also laid hold on the Church; and you begin to appear to him as a heretic, when you being anticipated, have begun to be last, and by yielding and giving way have relinquished the right which you had received. But how dangerous it is in divine matters, that any one should depart from his right and power, Holy Scripture declares when, in Genesis, Esau thence lost his birthright, nor was able afterwards to regain that which he had once given up.
26. These things, dearest brother, I have briefly written to you, according to my abilities, prescribing to none, and prejudging none, so as to prevent any one of the bishops doing what he thinks well, and having the free exercise of his judgment. We, as far as in us lies, do not contend on behalf of heretics with our colleagues and fellow-bishops, with whom we maintain a divine concord and the peace of the Lord; especially since the apostle says, “If any man, however, is thought to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Church of God.” Charity of spirit, the honor of our college, the bond of faith, and priestly concord, are maintained by us with patience and gentleness. For this reason, moreover, we have with the best of our poor abilities, with the permission and inspiration of the Lord, written a treatise on the “Benefit of Patience,” which for the sake of our mutual love we have transmitted to you. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXXIII. TO POMPEY, AGAINST THE EPISTLE OF STEPHEN ABOUT THE BAPTISM OF HERETICS. ARGUMENT. –THE PURPORT OF THIS EPISTLE IS GIVEN IN ST. AUGUSTINE’S “CONTRA DONATISTAS,” LIB. V. CAP. 23. HE SAYS THERE: “CYPRIAN,MOREOVER, WRITES TO POMPEY ON THE SAME SUBJECT, WHEN HE PLAINLY SIGNIFIES THAT STEPHEN, WHO, AS WE LEARN, WAS THEN A BISHOP OF THE ROMAN CHURCH, NOT ONLY DID NOT AGREE WITH HIM ON THOSE POINTS, BUT EVEN HAD WRITTEN AND CHARGED IN OPPOSITION TO HIM.”
1. Cyprian to his brother Pompeius, greeting. Although I have fully comprised what is to be said concerning the baptism of heretics in the letters of which I sent you copies, dearest brother, yet, since you have desired that what Stephen our brother replied to my letters should be brought to your knowledge, I have sent you a copy of his reply; on the reading of which, you will more and more observe his error in endeavoring to maintain the cause of heretics against Christians, and against the Church of God. For among other matters, which were either haughtily assumed, or were not pertaining to the matter, or contradictory to his own view, which he unskillfully and without foresight wrote, he moreover added this saying: “If any one, therefore, come to you from any heresy whatever, let nothing be innovated which has not been handed down, to wit, that hands be imposed on him for repentance; since the heretics themselves, in their own proper character, do not baptize such as come to them from one another, but only admit them to communion.”
2. He forbade one coming from any heresy to be baptized in the Church; that is, he judged the baptism of all heretics to be just and lawful. And although special heresies have special baptisms and different sins, he, holding communion with the baptism of all, gathered up the sins of all, heaped together into his own bosom. And he charged that nothing should be innovated except what had been handed down; as if he were an innovator, who, holding the unity, claims for the one Church one baptism; and not manifestly he who, forgetful of unity, adopts the lies and the contagions of a profane washing. Let nothing be innovated, says he, nothing maintained, except what has been handed down. Whence is that tradition? Whether does it descend from the authority of the Lord and of the Gospel, or does it come from the commands and the epistles of the apostles? For that those things which are written must be done, God witnesses and admonishes, saying to Joshua the son of Nun: “The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein.” Also the Lord, sending His apostles, commands that the nations should be baptized, and taught to observe all things which He commanded. If, therefore, it is either prescribed in the Gospel, or contained in the epistles or Acts of the Apostles, that those who come from any heresy should not be baptized, but only hands laid upon them to repentance, let this divine and holy tradition be observed. But if everywhere heretics are called nothing else than adversaries and antichrists, if they are pronounced to be people to be avoided, and to be perverted and condemned of their own selves, wherefore is it that they should not be thought worthy of being condemned by us, since it is evident from the apostolic testimony that they are of their own selves condemned? So that no one ought to defame the apostles as if they had approved of the baptisms of heretics, or had communicated with them without the Church’s baptism, when they, the apostles, wrote such things of the heretics. And this, too, while as yet the more terrible plagues of heresy had not broken forth; while Marcion of Pontus had not yet emerged from Pontus, whose master Cerdon came to Rome,– while Hyginus was still bishop, who was the ninth bishop in that city,– whom Marcion followed, and with greater impudence adding other enhancements to his crime, and more daringly set himself to blaspheme against God the Father, the Creator, and armed with sacrilegious arms the heretical madness that rebelled against the Church with greater wickedness and determination.
3. But if it is evident that subsequently heresies became more numerous and worse; and if, in time past, it was never at all prescribed nor written that only hands should be laid upon a heretic for repentance, and that so he might be communicated with; and if there is only one baptism, which is with us, and is within, and is granted of the divine condescension to the Church alone, what obstinacy is that, or what presumption, to prefer human tradition to divine ordinance, and not to observe that God is indignant and angry as often as human tradition relaxes and passes by the divine precepts, as He cries out, and says by Isaiah the prophet, “This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men.” Also the Lord in the Gospel, similarly rebuking and reproving, utters and says, “Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mindful of which precept, the blessed Apostle Paul himself also warns and instructs, saying, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to His doctrine, he is proud, knowing nothing: from such withdraw thyself.”
4. Certainly an excellent and lawful tradition is set before us by the teaching of our brother Stephen, which may afford us a suitable authority! For in the same place of his epistle he has added and continued: “Since those who are specially heretics do not baptize those who come to them from one another, but only receive them to communion.” To this point of evil has the Church of God and spouse of Christ been developed, that she follows the examples of heretics; that for the purpose of celebrating the celestial sacraments, light should borrow her discipline from darkness, and Christians should do that which antichrists do. But what is that blindness of soul, what is that degradation of faith, to refuse to recognize the unity which comes from God the Father, and from the tradition of Jesus Christ the Lord and our God! For if the Church is not with heretics, therefore, because it is one, and cannot be divided; and if thus the Holy Spirit is not there, because He is one, and cannot be among profane persons, and those who are without; certainly also baptism, which consists in the same unity, cannot be among heretics, because it can neither be separated from the Church nor from the Holy Spirit.
5. Or if they attribute the effect of baptism to the majesty of the name, so that they who are baptized anywhere and anyhow, in the name of Jesus Christ, are judged to be renewed and sanctified; wherefore, in the name of the same Christ, are not hands laid upon the baptized persons among them, for the reception of the Holy Spirit? Why does not the same majesty of the same name avail in the imposition of hands, which, they contend, availed in the sanctification of baptism? For if any one born out of the Church can become God’s temple, why cannot the Holy Spirit also be poured out upon the temple? For he who has been sanctified, his sins being put away in baptism, and has been spiritually reformed into a new man, has become fitted for receiving the Holy Spirit; since the apostle says, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” He who, having been baptized among the heretics, is able to put on Christ, may much more receive the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent. Otherwise He who is sent will be greater than Him who sends; so that one baptized without may begin indeed to put on Christ, but not to be able to receive the Holy Spirit, as if Christ could either be put on without the Spirit, or the Spirit be separated from Christ. Moreover, it is silly to say, that although the second birth is spiritual, by which we are born in Christ through the layer 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.” 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.” 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? But as no heresy at all, and equally no schism, being without, can have the sanctification of saving baptism, why has the bitter obstinacy of our brother Stephen broken forth to such an extent, as to contend that sons are born to God from the baptism of Marcion; moreover, of Valentinus and Apelles, and of others who blaspheme against God the Father; and to say that remission of sins is granted in the name of Jesus Christ where blasphemy is uttered against the Father and against Christ the Lord God?
8. In which place, dearest brother, we must consider, for the sake of the faith and the religion of the sacerdotal office which we discharge, whether the account can be satisfactory in the day of judgment for a priest of God, who maintains, and approves, and acquiesces in the baptism of blasphemers, when the Lord threatens, and says, “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you: if ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord Almighty, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings.” Does he give glory to God, who communicates with the baptism of Marcion? Does he give glory to God, who judges that remission of sins is granted among those who blaspheme against God? Does he give glory to God, who affirms that sons are born to God without, of an adulterer and a harlot? Does he give glory to God, who does not hold the unity and truth that arise from the divine law, but maintains heresies against the Church? Does he give glory to God, who, a friend of heretics and an enemy to Christians, thinks that the priests of God, who support the truth of Christ and the unity of the Church, are to be excommunicated? If glory is thus given to God, if the fear and the discipline of God is thus preserved by His worshippers and His priests, let us cast away our arms; let us give ourselves up to captivity; let us deliver to the devil the ordination of the Gospel, the appointment of Christ, the majesty of God; let the sacraments of the divine warfare be loosed; let the standards of the heavenly camp be betrayed; and let the Church succumb and yield to heretics, light to darkness, faith to perfidy, hope to despair, reason to error, immortality to death, love to hatred, truth to falsehood, Christ to Antichrist! Deservedly thus do heresies and schisms arise day by day, more frequently and more fruitfully grow up, and with serpents’ locks shoot forth and cast out against the Church of God with greater force the poison of their venom; whilst, by the advocacy of some, both authority and support are afforded them; whilst their baptism is defended, whilst faith, whilst truth, is betrayed; whilst that which is done without against the Church is defended within in the very Church itself.
9. But if there be among us, most beloved brother, the fear of God, if the maintenance of the faith prevail, if we keep the precepts of Christ, if we guard the incorrupt and inviolate sanctity of His spouse, if the words of the Lord abide in our thoughts and hearts, when he says, “Thinkest thou, when the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth” then, because we are God’s faithful soldiers, who war for the faith and sincere religion of God, let us keep the camp entrusted to us by God with faithful valor. Nor ought custom, which had crept in among some, to prevent the truth from prevailing and conquering; for custom without truth is the antiquity of error. On which account, let us forsake the error and follow the truth, knowing that in Esdras also the truth conquers, as it is written: “Truth endureth and grows strong to eternity, and lives and prevails for ever and ever. With her there is no accepting of persons or distinctions; but what is just she does: nor in her judgments is there unrighteousness, but the strength, and the kingdom, and the majesty, and the power of all ages. Blessed be the Lord God of truth!” This truth Christ showed to us in His Gospel, and said, “I am the truth.” Wherefore, if we are in Christ, and have Christ in us, if we abide in the truth, and the truth abides in us, let us keep fast those things which are true.
10. But it happens, by a love of presumption and of obstinacy, that one would rather maintain his own evil and false position, than agree in the right and true which belongs to another. Looking forward to which, the blessed Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, and warns him that a bishop must not be “litigious, nor contentious, but gentle and teachable.” Now he is teachable who is meek and gentle to the patience of learning. For it behooves a bishop not only to teach, but also to learn; because he also teaches better who daily increases and advances by learning better; which very thing, moreover, the same Apostle Paul teaches, when he admonishes, “that if anything better be revealed to one sitting by, the first should hold his peace.” But there is a brief way for religious and simple minds, both to put away error, and to find and to elicit truth. For if we return to the head and source of divine tradition, human error ceases; and having seen the reason of the heavenly sacraments, whatever lay hid in obscurity under the gloom and cloud of darkness, is opened into the light of the truth. If a channel supplying water, which formerly flowed plentifully and freely, suddenly fail, do we not go to the fountain, that there the reason of the failure may be ascertained, whether from the drying up of the springs the water has failed at the fountainhead, or whether, flowing thence free and full, it has failed in the midst of its course; that so, if it has been caused by the fault of an interrupted or leaky channel, that the constant stream does not flow uninterruptedly and continuously, then the channel being repaired and strengthened, the water collected may be supplied for the use and drink of the city, with the same fertility and plenty with which it issues from the spring? And this it behooves the priests of God to do now, if they would keep the divine precepts, that if in any respect the truth have wavered and vacillated, we should return to our original and Lord, and to the evangelical and apostolical tradition; and thence may arise the ground of our action, whence has taken rise both our order and our origin.
11. For it has been delivered to us, that there is one God, and one Christ, and one hope, and one faith, and one Church, and one baptism ordained only in the one Church, from which unity whosoever will depart must needs be found with heretics; and while he upholds them against the Church, he impugns the sacrament of the divine tradition. The sacrament of which unity we see expressed also in the Canticles, in the person of Christ, who says, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a fountain sealed, a well of living water, a garden with the fruit of apples.” But if His Church is a garden enclosed, and a fountain sealed, how can he who is not in the Church enter into the same garden, or drink from its fountain? Moreover, Peter himself, showing and vindicating the unity, has commanded and warned us that we cannot be saved, except by the one only baptism of one Church. “In the ark,” says he, “of Noah, few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water, as also baptism shall in like manner save you.” In how short and spiritual a summary has he set forth the sacrament of unity! For as, in that baptism of the world in which its ancient iniquity was purged away, he who was not in the ark of Noah could not be saved by water, so neither can he appear to be saved by baptism who has not been baptized in the Church which is established in the unity of the Lord according to the sacrament of the one ark.
12. Therefore, dearest brother, having explored and seen the truth; it is observed and held by us, that all who are converted from any heresy whatever to the Church must be baptized by the only and lawful baptism of the Church, with the exception of those who had previously been baptized in the Church, and so had passed over to the heretics. For it behooves these, when they return, having repented, to be received by the imposition of hands only, and to be restored by the shepherd to the sheep-fold whence they had strayed. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXXIV. FIRMILIAN, BISHOP OF CAESAREA IN CAPPADOCIA, TO CYPRIAN, AGAINST THE LETTER OF STEPHEN. A.D. 256. ARGUMENT. –THE ARGUMENT OF THIS LETTER IS EXACTLY THE SAME AS THAT OF THE PREVIOUS ONE, BUT WRITTEN WITH A LITTLE MORE VEHEMENCE AND ACERBITY THAN BECOMES A BISHOP, CHIEFLY FOR THE REASON, AS MAY BE SUSPECTED, THAT STEPHEN HAD ALSO WRITTEN ANOTHER LETTER TO FIRMILIANUS, HELENUS, AND OTHER BISHOPS OF THOSE PARTS.
1. Firmilianus to Cyprian, his brother in the Lord, greeting. We have received by Rogatian, our beloved deacon, the letter sent by you which you wrote to us, well-beloved brother; and we gave the greatest thanks to the Lord, because it has happened that we who are separated from one another in body are thus united in spirit, as if we were not only occupying one country, but inhabiting together one and the self-same house. Which also it is becoming for us to say, because, indeed, the spiritual house of God is one. “For it shall come to pass in the last days,” saith the prophet, “that the mountain of the Lord shall be manifest, and the house of God above the tops of the mountains.” Those that come together into this house are united with gladness, according to what is asked from the Lord in the psalm, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of one’s life. Whence in another place also it is made manifest, that among the saints there is great and desirous love for assembling together. “Behold,” he says, “how good and how pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! ”
2. For unity and peace and concord afford the greatest pleasure not only to men who believe and know the truth, but also to heavenly angels themselves, to whom the divine word says it is a joy when one sinner repents and returns to the bond of unity. But assuredly this would not be said of the angels, who have their conversation in heaven, unless they themselves also were united to us, who rejoice at our unity; even as, on the other hand, they are assuredly saddened when they see the diverse minds and the divided wills of some, as if not only they do not together invoke one and the same God, but as if, separated and divided from one another, they can neither have a common conversation nor discourse. Except that we may in this matter give thanks to Stephen, that it has now happened through his unkindness that we receive the proof of your faith and wisdom. But although we have received the favor of this benefit on account of Stephen, certainly Stephen has not done anything deserving of kindness and thanks. For neither can Judas be thought worthy by his perfidy and treachery wherewith he wickedly dealt concerning the Savior, as though he had been the cause of such great advantages, that through him the world and the people of the Gentiles were delivered by the Lord’s passion.
3. But let these things which were done by Stephen be passed by for the present, lest, while we remember his audacity and pride, we bring a more lasting sadness on ourselves from the things that he has wickedly done. And knowing, concerning you, that you have settled this matter, concerning which there is now a question, according to the rule of truth and the wisdom of Christ; we have exulted with great joy, and have given God thanks that we have found in brethren placed at such a distance such a unanimity of faith and truth with us. For the grace of God is mighty to associate and join together in the bond of charity and unity even those things which seem to be divided by a considerable space of earth, according to the way in which of old also the divine power associated in the bond of unanimity Ezekiel and Daniel, though later in their age, and separated from them by a long space of time, to Job and Noah, who were among the first; so that although they were separated by long periods, yet by divine inspiration they felt the same truths. And this also we now observe in you, that you who are separated from us by the most extensive regions, approve yourselves to be, nevertheless, joined with us in mind and spirit. All which arises from the divine unity. For even as the Lord who dwells in us is one and the same, He everywhere joins and couples His own people in the bond of unity, whence their sound has gone out into the whole earth, who are sent by the Lord swiftly running in the spirit of unity; as, on the other hand, it is of no advantage that some are very near and joined together bodily, if in spirit and mind they differ, since souls cannot at all be united which divide themselves from God’s unity. “For, lo,” it says, “they that are far from Thee shall perish.” But such shall undergo the judgment of God according to their desert, as depart from His words who prays to the Father for unity, and says, “Father, grant that, as Thou and I are one, so they also may be one in us.”
4. But we receive those things which you have written as if they were our own; nor do we read them cursorily, but by frequent repetition have committed them to memory. Nor does it hinder saving usefulness, either to repeat the same things for the confirmation of the truth, or, moreover, to add some things for the sake of accumulating proof. But if anything has been added by us, it is not added as if there had been too little said by you; but since the divine discourse surpasses human nature, and the soul cannot conceive or grasp the whole and perfect word, therefore also the number of prophets is so great, that the divine wisdom in its multiplicity may be distributed through many. Whence also he who first speaks in prophecy is bidden to be silent if a revelation be made to a second. For which reason it happens of necessity among us, that year by year we, the elders and prelates, assemble together to arrange those matters which are committed to our care, so that if any things are more serious they may be directed by the common counsel. Moreover, we do this that some remedy may be sought for by repentance for lapsed brethren, and for those wounded by the devil after the saving layer, not as though they obtained remission of sins from us, but that by our means they may be converted to the understanding of their sins, and may be compelled to give fuller satisfaction to the Lord.
5. But since that messenger sent by you was in haste to return to you, and the winter season was pressing, we replied what we could to your letter. And indeed, as respects what Stephen has said, as though the apostles forbade those who come from heresy to be baptized, and delivered this also to be observed by their successors, you have replied most abundantly, that no one is so foolish as to believe that the apostles delivered this, when it is even well known that these heresies themselves, execrable and detestable as they are, arose subsequently; when even Marcion the disciple of Cerdo is found to have introduced his sacrilegious tradition against God long after the apostles, and after long lapse of time from them. Apelles, also consenting to his blasphemy, added many other new and more important matters hostile to faith and truth. But also the time of Valentinus and Basilides is manifest, that they too, after the apostles, and after a long period, rebelled against the Church of God with their wicked lies. It is plain that the other heretics, also, afterwards introduced their evil sects and perverse inventions, even as everyone was led by error; all of whom, it is evident, were self-condemned, and have declared against themselves an inevitable sentence before the day of judgment; and he who confirms the baptism of these, what else does he do but adjudge himself with them, and condemn himself, making himself a partaker with such?
6. But that they who are at Rome do not observe those things in all cases which are handed down from the beginning, and vainly pretend the authority of the apostles; any one may know also from the fact, that concerning the celebration of Easter, and concerning many other sacraments of divine matters, he may see that there are some diversities among them, and that all things are not observed among them alike, which are observed at Jerusalem, just as in very many other provinces also many things are varied because of the difference of the places and names. And yet on this account there is no departure at all from the peace and unity of the Catholic Church, such as Stephen has now dared to make; breaking the peace against you, which his predecessors have always kept with you in mutual love and honor, even herein defaming Peter and Paul the blessed apostles, as if the very men delivered this who in their epistles execrated heretics, and warned us to avoid them. Whence it appears that this tradition is of men which maintains heretics, and asserts that they have baptism, which belongs to the Church alone.
7. But, moreover, you have well answered that part where Stephen said in his letter that heretics themselves also are of one mind in respect of baptism; and that they do not baptize such as come to them from one another, but only communicate with them; as if we also ought to do this. In which place, although you have already proved that it is sufficiently ridiculous for anyone to follow those that are in error, yet we add this moreover, over and above, that it is not wonderful for heretics to act thus, who, although in some lesser matters they differ, yet in that which is greatest they hold one and the same agreement to blaspheme the Creator, figuring for themselves certain dreams and phantasms of an unknown God. Assuredly it is but natural that these should agree in having a baptism which is unreal, in the same way as they agree in repudiating the truth of the divinity. Of whom, since it is tedious to reply to their several statements, either wicked or foolish, it is sufficient shortly to say in sum, that they who do not hold the true Lord the Father cannot hold the truth either of the Son or of the Holy Spirit; according to which also they who are called Cataphrygians, and endeavor to claim to themselves new prophecies, can have neither the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Spirit, of whom, if we ask what Christ they announce, they will reply that they preach Him who sent the Spirit that speaks by Montanus and Prisca. And in these, when we observe that there has been not the spirit of truth, but of error, we know that they who maintain their false prophesying against the faith of Christ cannot have Christ. Moreover, all other heretics, if they have separated themselves from the Church of God, can have nothing of power or of grace, since all power and grace are established in the Church where the elders preside, who possess the power both of baptizing, and of imposition of hands, and of ordaining. For as a heretic may not lawfully ordain nor lay on hands, so neither may he baptize, nor do anything holily or spiritually, since he is an alien from spiritual and deifying sanctity. All which we some time back confirmed in Iconium, which is a place in Phrygia, when we were assembled together with those who had gathered from Galatia and Cilicia, and other neighboring countries, as to be held and firmly vindicated against heretics, when there was some doubt in certain minds concerning that matter.
8. And as Stephen and those who agree with him contend that putting away of sins and second birth may result from the baptism of heretics, among whom they themselves confess that the Holy Spirit is not; let them consider and understand that spiritual birth cannot be without the Spirit; in conformity with which also the blessed Apostle Paul baptized anew with a spiritual baptism those who had already been baptized by John before the Holy Spirit had been sent by the Lord, and so laid hands on them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. But what kind of a thing is it, that when we see that Paul, after John’s baptism, baptized his disciples again, we are hesitating to baptize those who come to the Church from heresy after their unhallowed and profane dipping. Unless, perchance, Paul was inferior to the bishops of these times, so that these indeed can by imposition of hands alone give the Holy Spirit to those heretics who come , while Paul was not fitted to give the Holy Spirit by imposition of hands to those who had been baptized by John, unless he had first baptized them also with the baptism of the Church.
9. That, moreover, is absurd, that they do not think it is to be inquired who was the person that baptized, for the reason that he who has been baptized may have obtained grace by the invocation of the Trinity, of the names of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Then this will be the wisdom which Paul writes is in those who are perfected. But who in the Church is perfect and wise who can either defend or believe this, that this bare invocation of names is sufficient to the remission of sins and the sanctification of baptism; since these things are only then of advantage, when both he who baptizes has the Holy Spirit, and the baptism itself also is not ordained without the Spirit? But, say they, he who in any manner whatever is baptized without, may obtain the grace of baptism by his disposition and faith, which doubtless is ridiculous in itself, as if either a wicked disposition could attract to itself from heaven the sanctification of the righteous, or a false faith the truth of believers. But that not all who call on the name of Christ are heard, and that their invocation cannot obtain any grace, the Lord Himself manifests, saying, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.” Because there is no difference between a false prophet and a heretic. For as the former deceives in the name of God or Christ, so the latter deceives in the sacrament of baptism. Both strive by falsehood to deceive men’s wills.
10. But I wish to relate to you some facts concerning a circumstance which occurred among us, pertaining to this very matter. About two-and- twenty years ago, in the tithes after the Emperor Alexander, there happened in these parts many struggles and difficulties, either in general to all men, or privately to Christians. Moreover, there were many and frequent earthquakes, so that many places were overthrown throughout Cappadocia and Pontus; even certain cities, dragged into the abyss, were swallowed up by the opening of the gaping earth. So that from this also a severe persecution arose against us of the Christian name; and this after the long peace of the previous age arose suddenly, and with its unusual evils was made more terrible for the disturbance of our people. Serenianus was then governor in our province, a bitter and terrible persecutor. But the faithful being set in this state of disturbance, and fleeing hither and thither for fear of the persecution, and leaving their country and passing over into other regions–for there was an opportunity of passing over, for the reason that that persecution was not over the whole world, but was local–there arose among us on a sudden a certain woman, who in a state of ecstasy announced herself as a prophetess, and acted as if filled with the Holy Ghost. And she was so moved by the impetus of the principal demons, that for a long time she made anxious and deceived the brotherhood, accomplishing certain wonderful and portentous things, and promised that she would cause the earth to be shaken. Not that the power of the demon was so great that he could prevail to shake the earth, or to disturb the elements; but that sometimes a wicked spirit, prescient, and perceiving that there will be an earthquake, pretends that he will do what he sees will happen. By these lies and boastings he had so subdued the minds of individuals, that they obeyed him and followed whithersoever he commanded and led. He would also make that woman walk in the keen winter with bare feet over frozen snow, and not to be troubled or hurt in any degree by that walking. Moreover, she would say that she was hurrying to Judea and to Jerusalem, feigning as if she had come thence. Here also she deceived one of the presbyters, a countryman, and another, a deacon, so that they had intercourse with that same woman, which was shortly afterwards detected. For on a sudden there appeared unto her one of the exorcists, a man approved and always of good conversation in respect of religious discipline; who, stimulated by the exhortation also of very many brethren who were themselves strong and praiseworthy in the faith, raised himself up against that wicked spirit to overcome it; which moreover, by its subtle fallacy, had predicted this a little while before, that a certain adverse and unbelieving tempter would come. Yet that exorcist, inspired by God’s grace, bravely resisted, and showed that that which was before thought holy, was indeed a most wicked spirit. But that woman, who previously by wiles and deceitfulness of the demon was attempting many things for the deceiving of the faithful, among other things by which she had deceived many, also had frequently dared this; to pretend that with an invocation not to be contemned she sanctified bread and celebrated, the Eucharist, and to offer sacrifice to the Lord, not without the sacrament of the accustomed utterance; and also to baptize many, making use of the usual and lawful words of interrogation, that nothing might seem to be different from the ecclesiastical rule.
11. What, then, shall we say about the baptism of this woman, by which a most wicked demon baptized through means of a woman? Do Stephen and they who agree with him approve of this also especially when neither the symbol of the Trinity nor the legitimate and ecclesiastical interrogatory were wanting to her? Can it be believed that either remission of sins was given, or the regeneration of the saving layer duly completed, when all things, although after the image of truth, yet were done by a demon? Unless, perchance, they who defend the baptism of heretics contend that the demon also conferred the grace of baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Among them, no doubt, there is the same error- -it is the very deceitfulness of devils, since among them the Holy Spirit is not at all.
12. Moreover, what is the meaning of that which Stephen would assert, that the presence and holiness of Christ is with those who are baptized among heretics? For if the apostle does not speak falsely when he says, “As many of you as are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ,” certainly he who has been baptized among them into Christ, has put on Christ. But if he has put on Christ, he might also receive the Holy Ghost, who was sent by Christ, and hands are vainly laid upon him who comes to us for the reception of the Spirit; unless, perhaps, he has not put on the Spirit from Christ, so that Christ indeed may be with heretics, but the Holy Spirit not be with them.
13. But let us briefly run through the other matters also, which were spoken of by you abundantly and most fully, especially as Rogatianus, our well-beloved deacon, is hurrying to you. For it follows that they must be asked by us, when they defend heretics, whether their baptism is carnal or spiritual. For if it is carnal, they differ in no respect from the baptism of the Jews, which they use in such a manner that in it, as if in a common and vulgar laver, only external filth is washed away. But if it is spiritual, how can baptism be spiritual among those among whom there is no Holy Spirit? And thus the water wherewith they are washed is to them only a carnal washing, not a sacrament of baptism.
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. For there are not many spouses of Christ, since the apostle says, “I have espoused you, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ;” and, “Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people, for the King hath greatly desired thy beauty;” and, “Come with me, my spouse, from Lebanon; thou shalt come, and shalt pass over from the source of thy faith; ” and, “I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse.” We see that one person is everywhere set forward, because also the spouse is one. But the synagogue of heretics is not one with us, because the spouse is not an adulteress and a harlot. Whence also she cannot bear children of God; unless, as appears to Stephen, heresy indeed brings them forth and exposes them, while the Church takes them up when exposed, and nourishes those for her own whom she has not born, although she cannot be the mother of strange children. And therefore Christ our Lord, setting forth that His spouse is one, and declaring the sacrament of His unity, says, “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” For if Christ is with us, but the heretics are not with us, certainly the heretics are in opposition to Christ; and if we gather with Christ, but the heretics do not gather with us, doubtless they scatter.
15. But neither must we pass over what has been necessarily remarked by you, that the Church, according to the Song of Songs, is a garden enclosed, and a fountain sealed, a paradise with the fruit of apples. They who have never entered into this garden, and have not seen the paradise planted by God the Creator, how shall they be able to afford to another the bring water of the saving lava from the fountain which is enclosed within, and sealed with a divine seal? And as the ark of Noah was nothing else than the sacrament of the Church of Christ, which then, when all without were perishing, kept those only safe who were within the ark, we are manifestly instructed to look to the unity of the Church. Even as also the Apostle Peter laid down, saying, “Thus also shall baptism in like manner make you safe;” showing that as they who were not in the ark with Noah not only were not purged and saved by water, but at once perished in that deluge; so now also, whoever are not in the Church with Christ will perish outside, unless they are converted by penitence to the only and saving lava of the Church.
16. But what is the greatness of his error, and what the depth of his blindness, who says that remission of sins can be granted in the synagogues of heretics, and does not abide on the foundation of the one Church which was once based by Christ upon the rock, may be perceived from this, that Christ said to Peter alone, “Whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And again, in the Gospel, when Christ breathed on the apostles alone, saying, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whose soever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained.” Therefore the power of remitting sins was given to the apostles, and to the churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and to the bishops who succeeded to them by vicarious ordination. But the enemies of the one Catholic Church in which we are, and the adversaries of us who have succeeded the apostles, asserting for themselves, in opposition to us, unlawful priesthoods, and setting up profane altars, what else are they than Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, profane with a like wickedness, and about to suffer the same punishments which they did, as well as those who agree with them, just as their partners and abettors perished with a like death to theirs?
17. And in this respect I am justly indignant at this so open and manifest folly of Stephen, that he who so boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter,” on whom the foundations of the Church were laid, should introduce many other rocks and establish new buildings of many churches; maintaining that there is baptism in them by his authority. For they who are baptized, doubtless, fill up the number of the Church. But he who approves their baptism maintains, of those baptized, that the Church is also with them. Nor does he understand that the truth of the Christian Rock is overshadowed, and in some measure abolished, by him when he thus betrays and deserts unity. The apostle acknowledges that the Jews, although blinded by ignorance, and bound by the grossest wickedness, have yet a zeal for God. 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 layer. 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.
18. But, says he, “the name of Christ is of great advantage to faith and the sanctification of baptism; so that whosoever is anywhere so-ever baptized in the name of Christ, immediately obtains the grace of Christ: “although this position may be briefly met and answered, that if baptism without in the name of Christ availed for the cleansing of man; in the name of the same Christ, the imposition of hands might avail also for the reception of the Holy Spirit; and the other things also which are done among heretics will begin to seem just and lawful when they are done in the name of Christ; as you have maintained in your letter that the name of Christ could be of no avail except in the Church alone, to which alone Christ has conceded the power of heavenly grace.
19. But with respect to the refutation of custom which they seem to oppose to the truth, who is so foolish as to prefer custom to truth, or when he sees the light, not to forsake the darkness?–unless most ancient custom in any respect avail the Jews, upon the advent of Christ, that is, the Truth, in remaining in their old usage, and forsaking the new way of truth. And this indeed you Africans are able to say against Stephen, that when you knew the truth you forsook the error of custom. But we join custom to truth, and to the Romans’ custom we oppose custom, but the custom of truth; holding from the beginning that which was delivered by Christ and the apostles. Nor do we remember that this at any time began among us, since it has always been observed here, that we knew none but one Church of God, and accounted no baptism holy except that of the holy Church. Certainly, since some doubted about the baptism of those who, although they receive the new prophets, yet appear to recognize the same Father and Son with us; very many of us meeting together in Iconium very carefully examined the matter, and we decided that every baptism was altogether to be rejected which is arranged for without the Church.
20. But to what they allege and say on behalf of the heretics, that the apostle said, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached,” it is idle for us to reply; when it is manifest that the apostle, in his epistle wherein he said this, made mention neither of heretics nor of baptism of heretics, but spoke of brethren only, whether as perfidiously speaking in agreement with himself, or as persevering in sincere faith; nor is it needful to discuss this in a long argument, but it is sufficient to read the epistle itself, and to gather from the apostle himself what the apostle said.
21. What then, say they, will become of those who, coming from the heretics, have been received without the baptism of the Church? If they have departed this life, they are reckoned in the number of those who have been catechumens indeed among us, but have died before they were baptized, – -no trifling advantage of truth and faith, to which they had attained by forsaking error, although, being prevented by death, they had not gained the consummation of grace. But they who still abide in life should be baptized with the baptism of the Church, that they may obtain remission of sins, lest by the presumption of others they remain in their old error, and die without the completion of grace. But what a crime is theirs on the one hand who receive, or on the other, theirs who are received, that their foulness not being washed away by the layer of the Church, nor their sins put away, communion being rashly seized, they touch the body and blood of the Lord, although it is written, “Whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord!”
22. We have judged, that those also whom they, who had formerly been bishops in the Catholic Church, and afterwards had assumed to themselves the power of clerical ordination, had baptized, are to be regarded as not baptized. 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 layer of life. And yet there is a great difference between him who unwillingly and constrained by the necessity of persecution has given way, and him who with a profane will boldly rebels against the Church, or with impious voice blasphemes against the Father and God of Christ and the Creator of the whole world. And Stephen is not ashamed to assert and to say that remission of sins can be granted by those who are themselves set fast in all kinds of sins, as if in the house of death there could be the layer of salvation.
23. What, then, is to be made of what is written, “Abstain from strange water, and drink not from a strange fountain,” if, leaving the sealed fountain of the Church, you take up strange water for your own, and pollute the Church with unhallowed fountains? For when you communicate with the baptism of heretics, what else do you do than drink from their slough and mud; and while you yourself are purged with the Church’s sanctification, you become befouled with the contact of the filth of others? And do you not fear the judgment of God when you are giving testimony to heretics in opposition to the Church, although it is written, “A false witness shall not be unpunished?” But indeed you are worse than all heretics. For when many, as soon as their error is known, come over to you from them that they may receive the true light of the Church, you assist the errors of those who come, and, obscuring the light of ecclesiastical truth, you heap up the darkness of the heretical night; and although they confess that they are in sins, and have no grace, and therefore come to the Church, you take away from them remission of sins, which is given in baptism, by saying that they are already baptized and have obtained the grace of the Church outside the Church, and you do not perceive that their souls will be required at your hands when the day of judgment shall come, for having denied to the thirsting the drink of the Church, and having been the occasion of death to those that were desirous of living. And, after all this, you are indignant!
24. Consider with what want of judgment you dare to blame those who strive for the truth against falsehood. For who ought more justly to be indignant against the other?–whether he who supports God’s enemies, or he who, in opposition to him who supports God’s enemies, unites with us on behalf of the truth of the Church?–except that it is plain that the ignorant are also excited and angry, because by the want of counsel and discourse they are easily turned to wrath; so that of none more than of you does divine Scripture say, “A wrathful man stirreth up strifes, and a furious man heapeth up sins.” For what strifes and dissensions have you stirred up throughout the churches of the whole world! Moreover, how great sin have you heaped up for yourself, when you cut yourself off from so many flocks! For it is yourself that you have cut off. Do not deceive yourself, since he is really the schismatic who has made himself an apostate from the communion of ecclesiastical unity. For while you think that all may be excommunicated by you, you have excommunicated yourself alone from all; and not even the precepts of an apostle have been able to mold you to the rule of truth and peace, although he warned, and said, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long- suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”
25. How carefully has Stephen fulfilled these salutary commands and warnings of the apostle, keeping in the first place lowliness of mind and meekness! For what is more lowly or meek than to have disagreed with so many bishops throughout the whole world, breaking peace with each one of them in various kinds of discord: at one time with the eastern churches, as we are sure you know; at another time with yon who are in the south, from whom he received bishops as messengers sufficiently patiently and meekly not to receive them even to the speech of an ordinary conference; and even more, so mindful of love and charity as to command the entire fraternity, that no one should receive them into his house, so that not only peace and communion, but also a shelter and entertainment, were denied to them when they came! This is to have kept the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, to cut himself off from the unity of love, and to make himself a stranger in all respects from his brethren, and to rebel against the sacrament and the faith with the madness of contumacious discord! With such a man can there be one Spirit and one body, in whom perchance there is not even one mind, so slippery, and shifting, and uncertain is it?
26. But as far as he is concerned, let us leave him; let us rather deal with that concerning which there is the greatest question. They who contend that persons baptized among the heretics ought to be received as if they had obtained the grace of lawful baptism, say that baptism is one and the same to them and to us, and differs in no respect. But what says the Apostle Paul? “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.” If the baptism of heretics be one and the same with ours, without doubt their faith also is one; but if our faith is one, assuredly also we have one Lord: if there is one Lord, it follows that we say that He is one. But if this unity which cannot be separated and divided at all, is itself also among heretics, why do we contend any more? Why do we call them heretics and not Christians? Moreover, since we and heretics have not one God, nor one Lord, nor one Church, nor one faith, nor even one Spirit, nor one body, it is manifest that neither can baptism be common to us with heretics, since between us there is nothing at all in common. And yet Stephen is not ashamed to afford patronage to such in opposition to the Church, and for the sake of maintaining heretics to divide the brotherhood and in addition, to call Cyprian “a false Christ and a false apostle, and a deceitful worker.” And he, conscious that all these characters are in himself, has been in advance of you, by falsely objecting to another those things which he himself ought deservedly to hear. We all bid you, for all our sakes, with all the bishops who are in Africa, and all the clergy, and all the brotherhood, farewell; that, constantly of one mind, and thinking the same thing, we may find you united with us even though afar off.
EPISTLE LXXV. TO MAGNUS, ON BAPTIZING THE NOVATIANS, AND THOSE WHO OBTAIN GRACE ON A SICK-BED. ARGUMENT. –THE FORMER PART OF THIS LETTER IS OF THE SAME TENOR WITH THOSE THAT PRECEDE, EXCEPT THAT HE INCULCATES CONCERNING THE NOVATIANS WHAT HE HAD IN SUBSTANCE SAID CONCERNING ALL HERETICS; MOREOVER, INSINUATING BY THE WAY THAT THE LEGITIMATE SUCCESSION OF CORNELIUS AT ROME IS KNOWN, AS THE CHURCH MAY BE KNOWN. IN THE SECOND PART HE TEACHES THAT THAT IS A TRUE BAPTISM WHEREIN ONE IS BAPTIZED BY SPRINKLING ON A SICK-BED, AS WELL AS BY IMMERSION IN THE CHURCH.
1. Cyprian to Magnus his son, greeting. With your usual religious diligence, you have consulted my poor intelligence, dearest son, as to whether, among other heretics, they also who come from Novatian ought, after his profane washing, to be baptized, and sanctified in the Catholic Church, with the lawful, and true, and only baptism of the Church. Respecting which matter, as much as the capacity of my faith and the sanctity and truth of the divine Scriptures suggest, I answer, that no heretics and schismatics at all have any power or right. For which reason Novatian neither ought to be nor can be expected, inasmuch as he also is without the Church and acting in opposition to the peace and love of Christ, from being counted among adversaries and antichrists. For our Lord Jesus Christ, when He testified in His Gospel that those who were not with Him were His adversaries, did not point out any species of heresy, but showed that all whatsoever who were not with Him, and who, not gathering with Him, were scattering His flock, were His adversaries; saying, “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” Moreover, the blessed Apostle John himself distinguished no heresy or schism, neither did he set down any as specially separated; but he called all who had gone out from the Church, and who acted in opposition to the Church, antichrists, saying, “Ye have heard that Antichrist cometh, and even now are come many antichrists; wherefore we know that this is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” Whence it appears, that all are adversaries of the Lord and antichrists, who are known to have departed from charity and from the unity of the Catholic Church. In addition, moreover, the Lord establishes it in His Gospel, and says, “But if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.” Now if they who despise the Church are counted heathens and publicans, much more certainly is it necessary that rebels and enemies, who forge false altars, and lawless priesthoods, and sacrilegious sacrifices, and corrupter names, should be counted among heathens and publicans; since they who sin less, and are only despisers of the Church, are by the Lord’s sentence judged to be heathens and publicans.
2. But that the Church is one, the Holy Spirit declares in the Song of Songs, saying, in the person of Christ, “My dove, my undefiled, is one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her.” Concerning which also He says again, “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring sealed up, a well of living water.” But if the spouse of Christ, which is the Church, is a garden enclosed; a thing that is closed up cannot lie open to strangers and profane persons. And if it is a fountain sealed, he who, being placed without has no access to the spring, can neither drink thence nor be sealed. And the well also of living water, if it is one and the same within, he who is placed without cannot be quickened and sanctified from that water of which it is only granted to those who are within to make any use, or to drink. Peter also, showing this, set forth that the Church is one, and that only they who are in the Church can be baptized; and said, “In the ark of Noah, few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water; the like figure where-unto even baptism shall save you;” proving and attesting that the one ark of Noah was a type of the one Church. If, then, in that baptism of the world thus expiated and purified, he who was not in the ark of Noah could be saved by water, he who is not in the Church to which alone baptism is granted, can also now be quickened by baptism. Moreover, too, the Apostle Paul, more openly and clearly still manifesting this same thing, writes to the Ephesians, and says, “Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water.” But if the Church is one which is loved by Christ, and is alone cleansed by His washing, how can he who is not in the Church be either loved by Christ, or washed and cleansed by His washing?
3. Wherefore, since the Church alone has the living water, and the power of baptizing and cleansing man, he who says that any one can be baptized and sanctified by Novatian must first show and teach that Novatian is in the Church or presides over the Church. For the Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with Novatian, she was not with Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop Fabian by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honor of the priesthood, the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way.
4. For the faith of the sacred Scripture sets forth that the Church is not without, nor can be separated nor divided against itself, but maintains the unity of an inseparable and undivided house; since it is written of the sacrament of the passover, and of the lamb, which Lamb designated Christ: “In one house shall it be eaten: ye shall not carry forth the flesh abroad out of the house.” Which also we see expressed concerning Rahab, who herself also bore a type of the Church, who received the command which said, “Thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household unto thee into thine house; and whosoever shall go out of the doors of thine house into the street, his blood shall be upon him.” In which mystery is declared, that they who will live, and escape from the destruction of the world, must be gathered together into one house alone, that is, into the Church; but whosoever of those thus collected together shall go out abroad, that is, if any one, although he may have obtained grace in the Church, shall depart and go out of the Church, that his blood shall be upon him; that is, that he himself must charge it upon himself that he perishes; which the Apostle Paul explains, teaching and enjoining that a heretic must be avoided, as perverse, and a sinner, and as condemned of himself. For that man will be guilty of his own ruin, who, not being cast out by the bishop, but of his own accord deserting from the Church is by heretical presumption condemned of himself.
5. And therefore the Lord, suggesting to us a unity that comes from divine authority, lays it down, saying, “I and my Father are one.” To which unity reducing His Church, He says again, “And there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.” But if the flock is one, how can he be numbered among the flock who is not in the number of the flock? Or how can he be esteemed a pastor, who,–while the true shepherd remains and presides over the Church of God by successive ordination,–succeeding to no one, and beginning from himself, becomes a stranger and a profane person, an enemy of the Lord’s peace and of the divine unity, not dwelling in the house of God, that is, in the Church of God, in which none dwell except they are of one heart and one mind, since the Holy Spirit speaks in the Psalms, and says, “It is God who maketh men to dwell of one mind in a house.”
6. Besides even the Lord’s sacrifices themselves declare that Christian unanimity is linked together with itself by a firm and inseparable charity, For when the Lord calls bread, which is combined by the union of many grains, His body, He indicates our people whom He bore as being united; and when He calls the wine, which is pressed from many grapes and clusters and collected together, His blood, He also signifies our flock linked together by the mingling of a united multitude. If Novatian is united to this bread of the Lord, if he also is mingled with this cup of Christ, he may also seem to be able to have the grace of the one baptism of the Church, if it be manifest that he holds the unity of the Church. In fine, how inseparable is the sacrament of unity, and how hopeless are they, and what excessive ruin they earn for themselves from the indignation of God, who make a schism, and, forsaking their bishop, appoint another false bishop for themselves without, –Holy Scripture declares in the books of Kings; where ten tribes were divided from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, and, forsaking their king, appointed for themselves another one without. It says, “And the Lord was very angry with all the seed of Israel, and removed them away, and delivered them into the hand of spoilers, until He had cast them out of His sight; for Israel was scattered from the house of David, and they made themselves a king, Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” It says that the Lord was very angry, and gave them up to perdition, because they were scattered from unity, and had made another king for themselves. And so great was the indignation of the Lord against those who had made the schism, that even when the man of God was sent to Jeroboam, to charge upon him his sins, and predict the future vengeance, he was forbidden to eat bread or to drink water with them. And when he did not observe this, and took meat against the command of God, he was immediately smitten by the majesty of the divine judgment, so that returning thence he was slain on the way by the jaws of a lion which attacked him. And dares any one to say that the saving water of baptism and heavenly grace can be in common with schismatics, with whom neither earthly food nor worldly drink ought to be in common? Moreover, the Lord satisfies us in His Gospel, and shows forth a still greater light of intelligence, that the same persons who had then divided themselves from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, and forsaking Jerusalem had seceded to Samaria, should be reckon among profane persons and Gentiles. For when first He sent His disciples on the ministry of salvation, He bade them, saying, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” Sending first to the Jews, He commands the Gentiles as yet to be passed over; but by adding that even the city of the Samaritans was to be omitted, where there were schismatics, He shows that schismatics were to be put on the same level as Gentiles.
7. But if any one objects, by way of saying that Novatian holds the same law which the Catholic Church holds, baptizes with the same symbol with which we baptize, knows the same God and Father, the same Christ the Son, the same Holy Spirit, and that for this reason he may claim the power of baptizing, namely, that he seems not to differ from us in the baptismal interrogatory; let any one that thinks that this may be objected, know first of all, that them is not one law of the Creed, nor the same interrogatory common to us and to schismatics. For when they say, “Dost thou believe the remission of sins and life eternal through the holy Church?” they lie in their interrogatory, since they have not the Church. Then, besides, with their own voice they themselves confess that remission of sins cannot be given except by the holy Church; and not having this, they show that sins cannot be remitted among them.
8. But that they are said to have the same God the Father as we, to know the same Christ the Son, the same Holy Spirit, can be of no avail to such as these. For even Korah, Dathan, and Abiram knew the same God as did the priest Aaron and Moses. Living under the same law and religion, they invoke the one and true God, who was to be invoked and worshipped; yet, because they transgressed the ministry of their office in opposition to Aaron the priest, who bad received the legitimate priesthood by the condescension of God and the ordination of the Lord, and claimed to themselves the power of sacrificing, divinely stricken, they immediately suffered punishment for their unlawful endeavors; and sacrifices offered irreligiously and lawlessly, contrary to the right of divine appointment, could not be accepted, nor profit them. Even those very censers in which incense had been lawlessly offered, lest they should any more be used by the priests, but that they might rather exhibit a memorial of the divine vengeance and indignation for the correction of their successors, being by the command of the Lord melted and purged by fire, were beaten out into flexible plates, and fastened to the altars, according to what the Holy Scripture says, “to be,” it says, “a memorial to the children of Israel, that no stranger which is not of the seed of Aaron come near to offer incense before the Lord, that he be not as Korah.” And yet those men had not made a schism, nor had gone out abroad, and in opposition to God’s priests rebelled shamelessly and with hostility; but this these men are now doing who divide the Church, and, as rebels against the peace and unity of Christ, attempt to establish a throne for themselves, and to assume the primacy, and to claim the right of baptizing and of offering. How can they complete what they do, or obtain anything by lawless endeavors from God, seeing that they are endeavoring against God what is not lawful to them? Wherefore they who patronize Novatian or other schismatics of that kind, contend in vain that anyone can be baptized and sanctified with a saving baptism among them, when it is plain that he who baptizes has not the power of baptizing.
9. And, moreover, that it may be better understood what is the divine judgment against audacity of the like kind, we find that in such wickedness, not only the leaders and originators, but also the partakers, are destined to punishment, unless they have separated themselves from the communion of the wicked; as the Lord by Moses commands, and says, “Separate yourselves from the tents of these most hardened men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in their sins.” And what the Lord had threatened by Moses He fulfilled, that whosoever had not separated himself from Korah, and Dathan, and Abiram, immediately suffered punishment for his impious communion. By which example is shown and proved, that all will be liable to guilt as well as its punishment, who with irreligious boldness mingle themselves with schismatics in opposition to prelates and priests; even as also by the prophet Osea the Holy Spirit witnesses, and says, “Their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourning; all that thereof shall be polluted; ” teaching, doubtless, and showing that all are absolutely joined with the leaders in punishment, who have been contaminated by their crime.
10. What, then, can be their deservings in the sight of God, on whom punishment are divinely denounced? or how can such persons justify and sanctify the baptized, who, being enemies of the priests, strive to usurp things foreign and lawless, and by no right conceded to them? And yet we do not wonder that, in accordance with their wickedness, they do contend for them. For it is necessary that each one of them should maintain what they do; nor when vanquished will they easily yield, although they know that what they do is not lawful. That is to be wondered at, yea, rather to be indignant and aggrieved at, that Christians should support antichrists; and that prevaricators of the faith, and betrayers of the Church, should stand within in the Church itself. And these, although otherwise obstinate and unteachable, yet still at least confess this that all, whether heretics or schismatics, are without the Holy Ghost, and therefore can indeed baptize, but cannot confer the Holy Spirit; and at this very point they are held fast by us, inasmuch as we show that those who have not the Holy Ghost are not able to baptize at all.
11. For since in baptism everyone has his own sins remitted, the Lord proves and declares in His Gospel that sins can only be put away by those who have the Holy Spirit. For after His resurrection, sending forth His disciples, He speaks to them, and says, “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they shall be retained.” In which place He shows, that he alone can baptize and give remission of sins who has the Holy Spirit. Moreover, John, who was to baptize Christ our Lord Himself, previously received the Holy Ghost while he was yet in his mother’s womb, that it might be certain and manifest that none can baptize save those who have the Holy Spirit. Therefore those who patronize heretics or schismatics must answer us whether they have or have not the Holy Ghost. If they have, why are hands imposed on those who are baptized among them when they come to us, that they may receive the Holy Ghost, since He must surely have been received there, where if He was He could be given? But if heretics and schismatics baptized without have not the Holy Spirit, and therefore hands are imposed on them among us, that here may be received what there neither is nor can be given; it is plain, also, that remission of sins cannot be given by those who, it is certain, have not the Holy Spirit. And therefore, in order that, according to the divine arrangement and the evangelical truth, they may be able to obtain remission of sins, and to be sanctified, and to become temples of God, they must all absolutely be baptized with the baptism of the Church who come from adversaries and antichrists to the Church of Christ.
12. You have asked also, dearest son, what I thought of those who obtain God’s grace in sickness and weakness, whether they are to be accounted legitimate Christians, for that they are not to be washed, but sprinkled, with the saving water. In this point, my diffidence and modesty prejudges none, so as to prevent any from feeling what he thinks right, and from doing what he feels to be right. As far as my poor understanding conceives it, I think that the divine benefits can in no respect be mutilated and weakened; nor can anything less occur in that case, where, with full and entire faith both of the giver and receiver, is accepted what is drawn from the divine gifts. For in the sacrament of salvation the contagion of sins is not in such wise washed away, as the filth of the skin and of the body is washed away in the carnal and ordinary washing, as that there should be need of saltpeter and other appliances also, and a bath and a basin wherewith this vile body must be washed and purified. Otherwise is the breast of the believer washed; otherwise is the mind of man purified by the merit of faith. In the sacraments of salvation, when necessity compels, and God bestows His mercy, the divine methods confer the whole benefit on believers; nor ought it to trouble any one that sick people seem to be sprinkled or affused, when they obtain the Lord’s grace, when Holy Scripture speaks by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel, and says, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from alI your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit will I put within you.” Also in Numbers: “And the man that shall be unclean until the evening shall be purified on the third day, and on the seventh day shall be clean: but if he shall not be purified on the third day, on the seventh day he shall not be clean. And that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of sprinkling hath not been sprinkled upon him.” And again: “And the Lord spoke unto Moses saying, Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: thou shall sprinkle them with the water of purification.” And again: “The water of sprinkling is a purification.” Whence it appears that the sprinkling also of water prevails equally with the washing of salvation; and that when this is done in the Church, where the faith both of receiver and giver is sound, all things hold and may be con- summated and perfected by the majesty of the Lord and by the truth of faith.
13. But, moreover, in respect of some calling those who have obtained the peace of Christ by the saving water and by legitimate faith, not Christians, but Clinics, I do not find whence they take up this name, unless perhaps, having read more, and of a more recondite kind, they have taken these Clinics from Hippocrates or Soranus. For I, who know of a Clinic in the Gospel, know that to that paralytic and infirm man, who lay on his bed during the long course of his life, his infirmity presented no obstacle to his attainment in the fullest degree of heavenly strength. Nor was he only raised from his bed by the divine indulgence, but he also took up his bed itself with his restored and increased strength. And therefore, as far as it is allowed me by faith to conceive and to think, this is my opinion, that any one should be esteemed a legitimate Christian, who by the law and right of faith shall have obtained the grace of God in the Church. Or if any one think that those have gained nothing by having only been sprinkled with the saving water, but that they are still empty and void, let them not be deceived, so as if they escape the evil of their sickness, and get well, they should seek to be baptized. But if they cannot be baptized who have already been sanctified by ecclesiastical baptism, why are they offended in respect of their faith and the mercy of the Lord? Or have they obtained indeed the divine favor, but in a shorter and more limited measure of the divine gift and of the Holy Spirit, so as indeed to be esteemed Christians, but yet not to be counted equal with others?
14. Nay, verily, the Holy Spirit is not given by measure, but is poured out altogether on the believer. For if the day rises alike to all, and if the sun is diffused with like and equal light over all, how much more does Christ, who is the true sun and the true day, bestow in His Church the light of eternal life with the like equality! Of which equality we see the sacrament celebrated in Exodus, when the manna flowed down from heaven, and, prefiguring the things to come, showed forth the nourishment of the heavenly bread and the food of the coming Christ. For there, without distinction either of sex or of age, an omer was collected equally by each one? Whence it appeared that the mercy of Christ, and the heavenly grace that would subsequently follow, was equally divided among all; without difference of sex, without distinction of years, without accepting of persons, upon all the people of God the gift of spiritual grace was shed. Assuredly the same spiritual grace which is equally received in baptism by believers, is subsequently either increased or diminished in our conversation and conduct; as in the Gospel the Lord’s seed is equally sown, but, according to the variety of the soil, some is wasted, and some is increased into a large variety of plenty, with an exuberant fruit of either thirty or sixty or a hundred fold. But, once more, when each was called to receive a penny, wherefore should what is distributed equally by God be diminished by human interpretation?
15. But if anyone is moved by this, that some of those who are baptized in sickness are still tempted by unclean spirits, let him know that the obstinate wickedness of the devil prevails even up to the saving water, but that in baptism it loses all the poison of his wickedness. An instance of this we see in the king Pharaoh, who, having struggled long, and delayed in his perfidy, could resist and prevail until he came to the water; but when he had come thither, he was both conquered and destroyed. And that that sea was a sacrament of baptism, the blessed Apostle Paul declares, saying, “Brethren, I would not have you ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;” and he added, saying, “Now all these things were our examples.” And this also is done in the present day, in that the devil is scourged, and burned, and tortured by exorcists, by the human voice, and by divine power; and although he often says. that he is going out, and will leave the men of God, yet in that which he says he deceives, and puts in practice what was before done by Pharaoh with the same obstinate and fraudulent deceit. When, however, they come to the water of salvation and to the sanctification of baptism, we ought to know and to trust that there the devil is beaten down, and the man, dedicated to God, is set free by the divine mercy. For as scorpions and serpents, which prevail on the dry ground, when cast into water, cannot prevail nor retain their venom; so also the wicked spirits, which are called scorpions and serpents, and yet are trodden under foot by us, by the power given by the Lord, cannot remain any longer in the body of a man in whom, baptized and sanctified, the Holy Spirit is beginning to dwell.
16. This, finally, in very fact also we experience, that those who are baptized by urgent necessity in sickness, and obtain grace, are free from the unclean spirit wherewith they were previously moved, and live in the Church in praise and honor, and day by day make more and more advance in the increase of heavenly grace by the growth of their faith. And, on the other hand, some of those who are baptized in health, if subsequently they begin to sin, are shaken by the return of the unclean spirit, so that it is manifest that the devil is driven out in baptism by the faith of the believer, and returns if the faith afterwards shall fail. Unless, indeed, it seems just to some, that they who, outside the Church among adversaries and antichrists, are polluted with profane water, should be judged to be baptized; while they who are baptized in the Church are thought to have attained less of divine mercy and grace; and so great consideration be had for heretics, that they who come from heresy are not interrogated whether they are washed or sprinkled, whether they be clinics or peripatetics; but among us the sound truth of faith is disparaged, and in ecclesiastical baptism its majesty and sanctity suffer derogation.
17. I have replied, dearest son, to your letter, so far as my poor ability prevailed; and I have shown, as far as I could, what I think; prescribing to no one, so as to prevent any prelate from determining what he thinks right, as he shall give an account of his own doings to the Lord, according to what the blessed Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans writes and says: “Every one of us shall give account for himself: let us not therefore judge one another.” I bid you, dearest son, ever heartily farewell.
EPISTLE LXXVI. CYPRIAN TO NEMESIANUS AND OTHER MARTYRS IN THE MINES. ARGUMENT. –HE EXTOLS WITH WONDERFUL COMMENDATIONS THE MARTYRS IN THE MINES, OPPOSING, IN A BEAUTIFUL ANTITHESIS, TO THE TORTURES OF EACH, THE CONSOLATIONS OF EACH.
1. Cyprian to Nemesianus, Felix, Lucius, another Felix, Litteus, Polianus, Victor, Jader, and Dativus, his fellow-bishops, also to his fellow-presbyters and deacons, and the rest of the brethren in the mines, martyrs of God the Father Almighty, and of Jesus Christ our Lord, and of God our preserver, everlasting greeting. Your glory, indeed, would demand, most blessed and beloved brethren, that I myself should come to see and to embrace you, if the limits of the place appointed me did not restrain me, banished as I am for the sake of the confession of the Name. But in what way I can, I bring myself into your presence; and even though it is not permitted me to come to you in body and in movement, yet in love and in spirit I come expressing my mind in my letter, in which mind I joyfully exult in those virtues and praises of yours, counting myself a partaker with you, although not in bodily suffering, yet in community of love. Could I be silent and restrain my voice in stillness, when I am made aware of so many and such glorious things concerning my dearest friends, things with which the divine condescension has honored you, so that part of you have already gone before by the consummation of their martyrdom to receive from their Lord the crown of their deserts? Part still abide in the dungeons of the prison, or in the mines and in chains, exhibiting by the very delays of their punishments, greater examples for the strengthening and arming of the brethren, advancing by the tediousness of their tortures to more ample titles of merit, to receive as many payments in heavenly rewards, as days are now counted in their punishments. I do not marvel, most brave and blessed brethren, that these things have happened to you in consideration of the desert of your religion and your faith; that the Lord should thus have lifted you to the lofty height of glory by the honor of His glorification, seeing that you have always flourished in His Church, guarding the tenor of the faith, keeping firmly the Lord’s commands; in simplicity, innocence; in charity, concord; modesty in humility, diligence in administration, watchfulness in helping those that suffer, mercy in cherishing the poor, constancy in defending the truth, judgment in severity of discipline. And that nothing should be wanting to the example of good deeds in you, even now, in the confession of your voice and the suffering of your body, you provoke the minds of your brethren to divine martyrdom, by exhibiting yourselves as leaders of virtue, that while the flock follows its pastors, and imitates what it sees to be done by those set over it, it may be crowned with the like merits of obedience by the Lord.
2. But that, being first severely beaten with clubs, and ill-used, you have begun by sufferings of that kind, the glorious firstlings of your confession, is not a matter to be execrated by us. For a Christian body is not very greatly terrified at clubs, seeing all its hope is in the Wood. The servant of Christ acknowledges the sacrament of his salvation: redeemed by wood to life eternal, he is advanced by wood to the crown. But what wonder if, as golden and silver vessels, you have been committed to the mine that is the home of gold and silver, except that now the nature of the mines is changed, and the places which previously had been accustomed to yield gold and silver have begun to receive them? Moreover, they have put fetters on your feet, and have bound your blessed limbs, and the temples of God with disgraceful chains, as if the spirit also could be bound with the body, or your gold could be stained by the contact of iron. To men who are dedicated to God, and attesting their faith with religious courage, such things are ornaments, not chains; nor do they bind the feet of the Christians for infamy, but glorify them for a crown. Oh feet blessedly bound, which are loosed, not by the smith but by the Lord! Oh feet blessedly bound, which are guided to paradise in the way of salvation! Oh feet bound for the present time in the world, that they may be always free with the Lord! Oh feet, lingering for a while among the fetters and cross- bars, but to run quickly to Christ on a glorious road! Let cruelty, either envious or malignant, hold you here in its bonds and chains as long as it will, from this earth and from these sufferings you shall speedily come to the kingdom of heaven. The body is not cherished in the mines with couch and cushions, but it is cherished with the refreshment and solace of Christ. The frame wearied with labors lies prostrate on the ground, but it is no penalty to lie down with Christ. Your limbs unbathed, are foul and disfigured with filth and dirt; but within they are spiritually cleansed, although without the flesh is defiled. There the bread is scarce; but man liveth not by bread alone, but by the word of God. Shivering, you want clothing; but he who puts on Christ is both abundantly clothed and adorned. The hair of your half-shorn bead seems repulsive; but since Christ is the head of the man, anything whatever must needs become that head which is illustrious on account of Christ’s name. All that deformity, detestable and foul to Gentiles, with what splendor shall it be recompensed! This temporal and brief suffering, how shall it be exchanged for the re ward of a bright and eternal honor, when, according to the word of the blessed apostle, “the Lord shall change the body of our humiliation, that it may be fashioned like to the body of His brightness!”
3. But there cannot be felt any loss of either religion or faith, most beloved brethren, in the fact that now there is given no opportunity there to God’s priests for offering and celebrating the divine sacrifices; yea, you celebrate and offer a sacrifice to God equally precious and glorious, and that will greatly profit you for the retribution of heavenly rewards, since the sacred Scripture speaks, saying, “The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God doth not despise.” You offer this sacrifice to God; you celebrate this sacrifice without intermission day and night, being made victims to God, and exhibiting yourselves as holy and unspotted offerings, as the apostle exhorts and says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”
4. For this it is which especially pleases God; it is this wherein our works with greater deserts are successful in earning God’s good-will; this it is which alone the obedience of our faith and devotion can render to the Lord for His great and saving benefits, as the Holy Spirit declares and witnesses in the Psalms: “What shall I render,” says He, “to the Lord for all His benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Who would not gladly and readily receive the cup of salvation? Who would not with joy and gladness desire that in which he himself also may render somewhat unto His Lord? Who would not bravely and unfalteringly receive a death precious in the sight of the Lord, to please His eyes, who, looking down from above upon us who are placed in the conflict for His name, approves the willing, assists the struggling, crowns the conquering with the recompense of patience, goodness, and affection, rewarding in us whatever He Himself has bestowed, and honoring what He has accomplished?
5. For that it is His doing that we conquer, and that we attain by the subduing of the adversary to the palm of the greatest contest, the Lord declares and teaches in His Gospel, saying, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” And again: “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer; for I will give you a month and wisdom, which your adversaries shall not be able to resist.” In which, indeed, is both the great confidence of believers, and the gravest fault of the faithless, that they do not trust Him who promises to give His help to those who confess Him, and do not on the other hand fear Him who threatens eternal punishment to those who deny Him.
6. All which things, most brave and faithful soldiers of Christ, you have suggested to your brethren, fulfilling in deeds what ye have previously taught in words, hereafter to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, as the Lord promises and says, “Whosoever shall do and teach so, shall be called the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Moreover, a manifold portion of the people, following your example, have confessed alike with you, and alike have been crowned, associated with you in the bond of the strongest charity, and separated from their prelates neither by the prison nor by the mines; in the number of whom neither are there wanting virgins in whom the hundred-fold are added to the fruit of sixty- fold, and whom a double glory has advanced to the heavenly crown. In boys also a I courage greater than their age has surpassed their years in the praise of their confession, so that every sex and every age should adorn the blessed flock of your martyrdom.
7. What now must be the vigor, beloved brethren, of your victorious consciousness, what the loftiness of your mind, what exultation in feeling, what triumph in your breast, that every one of you stands near to the promised reward of God, are secure from the judgment of God, walk in the mines with a body captive indeed, but with a heart reigning, that you know Christ is present with you, rejoicing in the endurance of His servants, who are ascending by His footsteps and in His paths to the eternal kingdoms! You daily expect with joy the saving day of your departure; and already about to withdraw from the world, you are hastening to the rewards of martyrdom, and to the divine homes, to behold after this darkness of the world the purest light, and to receive a glory greater than all sufferings and conflicts, as the apostle witnesses, and says, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” And because now your word is more effectual in prayers, and supplication is more quick to obtain what is sought for in afflictions, seek more eagerly, and ask that the divine condescension would consummate the confession of all of us; that from this darkness and these snares of the world God would set us also free with you, sound and glorious; that we who here are united in the bond of charity and peace, and have stood together against the wrongs of heretics and the oppressions of the heathens, may rejoice together in the heavenly kingdom. I bid you, most blessed and most beloved brethren, ever farewell in the Lord, and always and everywhere remember me.
EPISTLE LXXVII. THE REPLY OF NEMESIANUS, DATIVUS, FELIX, AND VICTOR, TO CYPRIAN. ARGUMENT. –THIS EPISTLE AND THE TWO FOLLOWING CONTAIN NOTHING ELSE THAN REPLIES TO THE FOREGOING, INASMUCH AS THEY CONTAIN THE THANKSGIVING AS WELL FOR THE COMFORT CONVEYED BY THE LETTER AS FOR THE ASSISTANCE SENT THEREWITH. BUT FROM THE FACT THAT THREE DISTINCT LETTERS ARE SENT IN REPLY TO THE SINGLE ONE OF CYPRIAN’S, WE ARE TO GATHER THAT THE BISHOPS WHO WROTE THEM WERE PLACED IN DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS OF THE MINES.
1. Nemesianus, Dativus, Felix, and Victor, to their brother Cyprian, in the Lord eternal salvation. You speak, dearly beloved Cyprian, in your letters always with deep meaning, as suits the condition of the time, by the assiduous reading of which letters both the wicked are corrected and men of good faith are confirmed. For while you do not cease in your writings to lay bare the hidden mysteries, you thus make us to grow in faith, and men from the world to draw near to belief. For by whatever good things you have introduced in your many books, unconsciously you have described yourself to us. For you are greater than all men in discourse, in speech more eloquent, in counsel wiser, in patience more simple, in works more abundant, in abstinence more holy, in obedience more humble, and in good deeds more innocent. And you yourself know, beloved, that our eager wish was, that we might see you, our teacher and our lover, attain to the crown of a great confession.
2. For, in the proceedings before the proconsul; as a good and true teacher you first have pronounced that which we your disciples, following you, ought to say before the president. And, as a sounding trumpet, you have stirred up God’s soldiers, furnished with heavenly arms, to the close encounter; and fighting in the first rank, you have slain the devil with a spiritual sword: you have also ordered the troops of the brethren, on the one hand and on the other, with your words, so that snares were on all sides laid for the enemy, and the severed sinews of the very carcass of the public foe were trodden under foot. Believe us, dearest, that your innocent spirit is not far from the hundred-fold reward, seeing that it has feared neither the first onsets of the world, nor shrunk from going into exile, nor hesitated to leave the city, nor dreaded to dwell in a desert place; and since it furnished many with an example of confession, itself first spoke the martyr-witness. For it provoked others to acts of martyrdom by its own example; and not only began to be a companion of the martyrs already departing from the world, but also linked a heavenly friendship with those who should be so.
3. Therefore they who were condemned with us give you before God the greatest thanks, beloved Cyprian, that in your letter you have refreshed their suffering breasts; have healed their limbs wounded with clubs; have loosened their feet bound with fetters; have smoothed the hair of their half-shorn head; have illuminated the darkness of the dungeon; have brought down the mountains of the mine to a smooth surface; have even placed fragrant flowers to their nostrils, and have shut out the foul odor of the smoke. Moreover, your continued gifts, and those of our beloved Quirinus, which you sent to be distributed by Herennianus the sub-deacon, and Lucian, and Maximus, and Amantius the acolytes, provided a supply of whatever had been wanting for the necessities of their bodies. Let us, then, be in our prayers helpers of one another: and let us ask, as you have bidden us, that we may have God and Christ and the angels as supporters in all our actions. We bid you, lord and brother, ever heartily farewell, and have us in mind. Greet all who are with you. All ours who are with us love you, and greet you, and desire to see you.
EPISTLE LXXVIII. THE REPLY TO THE SAME OF LUCIUS AND THE REST OF THE MARTYRS. ARGUMENT. –THE ARGUMENT OF THE PRESENT LETTER IS, IN SUBSTANCE, THE SAME AS THAT OF THE PRECEDING; AND THEREFORE IT IS NOT A LETTER OF LUCIUS THE ROMAN BISHOP, BUT OF LUCIUS THE AFRICAN BISHOP AND MARTYR.
1. To Cyprian our brother and colleague, Lucius, and all the brethren who are with me in the Lord, greeting. Your letter came to us, dearest brother, while we were exulting and rejoicing in God that He had armed us for the struggle, and had made us by His condescension conquerors in the battle; the letter, namely, which you sent to us by Herennianus the sub- deacon, and Lucian, and Maximus, and Amantius the acolytes, which when we read we received a relaxation in our bonds, a solace in our affliction, and a support in our necessity; and we were aroused and more strenuously animated to bear whatever more of punishment might be awaiting us. For before our suffering we were called forth by you to glory, who first afforded us guidance to confession of the name of Christ. We indeed, who follow the footsteps of your confession, hope for an equal grace with you. For he who is first in the race is first also for the reward; and you who first occupied the course thence have communicated this to us from what you began, showing doubtless the undivided love wherewith you have always loved us, so that we who had one Spirit in the bond of peace might have the grace of your prayers, and one crown of confession.
2. But in your case, dearest brother, to the crown of confession is added the reward of your labors–an abundant measure which you shall receive from the Lord in the day of retribution, who have by your letter presented yourself to us, as you manifested to us that candid and blessed breast of yours which we have ever known, and in accordance with its largeness have uttered praises to God with us, not as much as we deserve to hear, but as much as you are able to utter. For with your words you have both adorned those things which had been less in-strutted in us, and have strengthened us to the sustaining of those sufferings which we bear, as being certain of the heavenly rewards, and of the crown of martyrdom, and of the kingdom of God, from the prophecy which, being filled with the Holy Spirit, you have pledged to us in your letter. All this will happen, beloved, if you will have us in mind in your prayers, which I trust you do even as we certainly do.
3. And thus, O brother most longed-for, we have received what you sent to us from Quirinus and from yourself, a sacrifice from every clean thing. Even as Noah offered to God, and God was pleased with the sweet savor, and had respect unto his offering, so also may He have respect unto yours, and may He be pleased to return to you the reward of this so good work. But I beg that you will command the letter which we have written to Quirinus to be sent forward. I bid you, dearest brother and earnestly desired, ever heartily farewell, and remember us. Greet all who are with you. Farewell. EPISTLE LXXIX. THE ANSWER OF FELIX, JADER, POLIANUS, AND THE REST OF THE MARTYRS, TO CYPRIAN. ARGUMENT. –THE MARTYRS ABOVE SPOKEN OF ACKNOWLEDGE WITH GRATITUDE THE ASSISTANCE SENT TO THEM BY CYPRIAN. To our dearest and best beloved Cyprian, Felix, Jader, Polianus, together with the presbyters and all who are abiding with us at the mine of Sigua, eternal health in the Lord. We reply to your salutation, dearest brother, by Herennianus the sub-deacon, Lucian and Maximus our brethren, strong and safe by the aid of your prayers, from whom we have received a sum under the name of an offering, together with your letter which you wrote, and in which you have condescended to comfort us as if we were sons, out of the heavenly words. And we have given and do give thanks to God the Father Almighty through His Christ, that we have been thus comforted and strengthened by your address, asking from the candor of your mind that you would deign to have us in mind in your constant prayers, that the Lord would supply what is wanting in your confession and ours, which He has condescended to confer on us. Greet all who abide with you. We bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell in God. I Felix wrote this; I Jader subscribed it; I Polianus read it. I greet my lord Eutychianus.
EPISTLE LXXX. CYPRIAN TO SERGIUS, ROGATIANUS, AND THE OTHER CONFESSORS IN PRISON. ARGUMENT. –HE CONSOLES ROGATIANUS AND HIS COLLEAGUES, THE CONFESSORS IN PRISON, AND GIVES THEM COURAGE BY THE EXAMPLE OF THE MARTYRS ROGATIANUS THE ELDER AND FELICISSIMUS. THE LETTER ITSELF INDICATES THAT IT WAS WRITTEN IN EXILE.
1. Cyprian to Sergius and Rogatianus, and the rest of the confessors in the Lord, everlasting health. I salute you, dearest and most blessed brethren, myself also desiring to enjoy the sight of you, if the state in which I am placed would permit me to come to you. For what could happen to me more desirable and more joyful than to be now close to you, that you might embrace me with those hands, which, pure and innocent, and maintaining the faith of the Lord, have rejected the profane obedience? What more pleasant and sublime than now to kiss your lips, which with a glorious voice have confessed the Lord, to be looked upon even in presence by your eyes, which, despising the world, have become worthy of looking upon God? But since opportunity is not afforded me to share in this joy, I send this letter in my stead to your ears and to your eyes, by which I congratulate and exhort you that you persevere strongly and steadily in the confession of the heavenly glory; and having entered on the way of the Lord’s condescension, that you go on in the strength of the Spirit, to receive the crown, having the Lord as your protector and guide, who said, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” O blessed prison, which your presence has enlightened! O blessed prison, which sends the men of God to heaven! O darkness, more bright than the sun itself, and clearer than the light of this world, where now are placed temples of God, and your members are to be sanctified by divine confessions!
2. Nor let anything now be revolved in your hearts and minds besides the divine precepts and heavenly commands, with which the Holy Spirit has ever animated you to the endurance of suffering. Let no one think of death, but of immortality; nor of temporary punishment, but of eternal glory; since it is written, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints;” and again, “A broken spirit is a sacrifice to God: a contrite and humble heart God doth not despise.” And again, where the sacred Scripture speaks of the tortures which consecrate God’s martyrs, and sanctify them in the very trial of suffering: “And if they have suffered torments in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality; and having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace hath He tried them, and received them as a sacrifice of a burnt-offering, and in due time regard shall be had unto them. The righteous shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people; and their Lord shall reign forever.” When, therefore, you reflect that you shall judge and reign with Christ the Lord, you must needs exult and tread under foot present sufferings, in the joy of what is to come; knowing that from the beginning of the world it has been so appointed that righteousness should suffer there in the conflict of the world, since in the beginning, even at the first, the righteous Abel was slain, and thereafter all righteous men, and prophets, and apostles who were sent. To all of whom the Lord also in Himself has appointed an example, teaching that none shall attain to His kingdom but those who have followed Him in His own way, saying, “He that loveth his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” And again: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Paul also exhorts us that we who desire to attain to the Lord’s promises ought to imitate the Lord in all things. “We are,” says he, “the sons of God: but if sons, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” Moreover, he added the comparison of the present time and of the future glory, saying, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory which shall be revealed in us.” Of which brightness, when we consider the glory, it behooves us to bear all afflictions and persecutions; because, although many are the afflictions of the righteous, yet those are delivered from them all who trust in God.
3. Blessed women also, who are established with you in the same glory of confession, who, maintaining the Lord’s faith, and braver than their sex, not only themselves are near to the crown of glory, but have afforded an example to other women by their constancy! And lest anything should be wanting to the glory of your number, that each sex and every age also might be with you in honor, the divine condescension has also associated with you boys in a glorious confession; representing to us something of the same kind as once did Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, the illustrious youths to whom, when shut up in the furnace, the fires gave way, and the flames gave refreshment, the Lord being present with them, and proving that against His confessors and martyrs the heat of hell could have no power, but that they who trusted in God should always continue unhurt and safe in all dangers. And I beg you to consider more carefully, in accordance with your religion, what must have been the faith in these youths which could deserve such full acknowledgment from the Lord. For, prepared for every fate, as we ought all to be, they say to the king, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter; for our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king! But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Although they believed, and, in accordance with their faith, knew that they might even be delivered from their present punishment, they still would not boast of this, nor claim it for themselves, saying, “But if not.” Lest the virtue of their confession should be less without the testimony of their suffering, they added that God could do all things; but yet they would not trust in this, so as to wish to be delivered at the moment; but they thought on that glory. of eternal liberty and security.
4. And you also, retaining this faith, and meditating day and night, with your whole heart prepared for God, think of the future only, with contempt for the present, that you may be able to come to the fruit of the eternal kingdom, and to the embrace and kiss, and the sight of the Lord, that you may follow in all things Rogatianus the presbyter, the glorious old man who, to the glory of our time, makes a way for you by his religious courage and divine condescension, who, with Felicissimus our brother, ever quiet and temperate, receiving the attack of a ferocious people, first prepared for you a dwelling in the prison, and, marking out the way for you in some measure, now also goes before you. That this may be consummated in you, we beseech the Lord in constant prayers, that from beginnings going on to the highest results, He may cause those whom He has made to confess, also to be crowned. I bid you, dearest and most beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell in the Lord; and may you attain to the crown of heavenly glory. Victor the deacon, and those who are with me, greet you.
EPISTLE LXXXI. TO SUCCESSUS ON THE TIDINGS BROUGHT FROM ROME, TELLING OF THE PERSECUTION. ARGUMENT. –CYPRIAN TELLS THE BISHOP SUCCESSUS, THAT IN A SEVERE PERSECUTION THAT HAD BEEN DECREED BY THE EMPEROR VALERIAN XISTUS THE BISHOP HAD SUFFERED AT ROME ON THE EIGHTH OF THE IDES OF AUGUST; AND HE BEGS HIM TO INTIMATE THE SAME TO THE REST OF HIS COLLEAGUES, THAT EACH ONE MIGHT ANIMATE HIS OWN FLOCK TO MARTYRDOM.
1. Cyprian to his brother Successus, greeting. The reason why I could not write to you immediately, dearest brother, was that all the clergy, being placed in the very heat of the contest, were unable in any way to depart hence, all of them being prepared in accordance with the devotion of their mind for divine and heavenly glory. But know that those have come whom I had sent to the City for this purpose, that they might find out and bring back to us the truth, in whatever manner it had been decreed respecting us. For many various and uncertain things are current in men’s opinions. But the truth concerning them is as follows, that Valerian had sent a rescript to the Senate, to the effect that bishops and presbyters and deacons should immediately be punished; but that senators, and men of importance, and Roman knights, should lose their dignity, and moreover be deprived of their property; and if, when their means were taken away, they should persist in being Christians, then they should also lose their heads; but that matrons should be deprived of their property, and sent into banishment. Moreover, people of Caesar’s household, whoever of them had either confessed before, or should now confess, should have their property confiscated, and should be sent in chains by assignment to Caesar’s estates. The Emperor Valerian also added to this address a copy of the letters which he sent to the presidents of the provinces concerning us; which letters we are daily hoping will come, waiting according to the strength of our faith for the endurance of suffering, and expecting from the help and mercy of the Lord the crown of eternal life. But know that Xistus was martyred in the cemetery on the eighth day of the Ides of August, and with him four deacons. Moreover, the prefects in the City are daily urging on this persecution; so that, if any are presented to them, they are martyred, and their property claimed by the treasury.
2. I beg that these things may be made known by your means to the rest of our colleagues, that everywhere, by their exhortation, the brotherhood may be strengthened and prepared for the spiritual conflict, that every one of us may think less of death than of immortality; and, dedicated to the Lord, with full faith and entire courage, may rejoice rather than fear in this confession, wherein they know that the soldiers of God and Christ are not slain, but crowned. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell in the Lord.
EPISTLE LXXXII. TO THE CLERGY AND PEOPLE CONCERNING HIS RETIREMENT, A LITTLE BEFORE HIS MARTYRDOM. ARGUMENT. –WHEN, NEAR THE END OF HIS LIFE, CYPRIAN, ON RETURNING TO HIS GARDENS, WAS TOLD THAT MESSENGERS WERE SENT TO TAKE HIM FOR PUNISHMENT TO UTICA, HE WITHDREW. AND LEST IT SHOULD BE THOUGHT THAT HE HAD DONE SO FROM FEAR OF DEATH, HE GIVES THE REASON IN THIS LETTER, VIZ., THAT HE MIGHT UNDERGO HIS MARTYRDOM NOWHERE ELSE THAN AT CARTHAGE, IN THE SIGHT OF HIS OWN PEOPLE. A.D. 258.
1. Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons, and all the people, greeting. When it had been told to us, dearest brethren, that the gaolers had been sent to bring me to Utica, and I had been persuaded by the counsel of those dearest to me to withdraw for a time from my gardens, as a just reason was afforded I consented. For the reason that it is fit for a bishop, in that city in which he presides over the Church of the Lord, there to confess the Lord, and that the whole people should be glorified by the confession of their prelate in their presence. For whatever, in that moment of confession, the confessor-bishop speaks, he speaks in the mouth of all, by inspiration of God. But the honor of our Church, glorious as it is, will be mutilated if I, a bishop placed over another church, receiving my sentence or my confession at Utica, should go thence as a martyr to the Lord, when indeed, both for my own sake and yours, I pray with continual supplications, and with all my desires entreat, that I may confess among you, and there suffer, and thence depart to the Lord even as I ought. Therefore here in a hidden retreat I await the arrival of the proconsul returning to Carthage, that I may hear from him what the emperors have commanded upon the subject of Christian laymen and bishops, and may say what the Lord will wish to be said at that hour.
2. But do you, dearest brethren, according to the discipline which you have ever received from me out of the Lord’s commands, and according to what you have so very often learnt from my discourse, keep peace and tranquility; nor let any of you stir up any tumult for the brethren, or voluntarily offer himself to the Gentiles. For when apprehended and delivered up, he ought to speak, inasmuch as the Lord abiding in us speaks in that hour, who willed that we should rather confess than profess. But for the rest, what it is fitting that we should observe before the proconsul passes sentence on me for the confession of the name of God, we will with the instruction of the Lord arrange in common. May our Lord make you, dearest brethren, to remain safe in His Church, and condescend to keep you. So be it through His mercy.