Epistle XXXIX.190 — To the People, Concerning Five Schismatic Presbyters of the Faction of Felicissimus.
Argument. — In like Manner, as in the Epistle but One Before This, Cyprian Told the Clergy, so Now He Tells the People, That Felicissimus Is to Be Avoided, Together with Five Presbyters of His Faction, Who Not Only Granted Peace to the Lapsed Without Any Discrimination, but Stirred up Sedition and Schism Against Himself.
1. Cyprian to the whole people, greeting. Although, dearest brethren, Virtius,191 a most faithful and upright presbyter, and also Rogatianus and Numidicus, presbyters, confessors, and illustrious by the glory of the divine condescension, and also the deacons, good men and devoted to the ecclesiastical administration in all its duties, with the other ministers, afford you the full attention of their presence, and do not cease to confirm individuals by their assiduous exhortations, and, moreover, to govern and reform the minds of the lapsed by their wholesome counsels, yet, as much as I can, I admonish, and as I can, I visit you with my letters. By my letters I say, dearest brethren; for the malignity and treachery of certain of the presbyters has accomplished this, that I should not be allowed to come to you before Easter-day; since mindful of their conspiracy, and retaining that ancient venom against my episcopate, that is, against your suffrage and God’s judgment, they renew their old attack upon me, and once more begin their sacrilegious machinations with their accustomed craft. And, indeed, of God’s providence, neither by our wish nor desire, nay, although we were forgiving and silent, they have suffered the punishment which they had deserved; so that, not cast out by us, they of their own accord have cast themselves out. They themselves, before their own conscience, have passed sentence on themselves in accordance with your suffrages and the divine. These conspirators and evil men of their own accord have driven themselves from the Church.
2. Now it has appeared whence came the faction of Felicissimus; on what root and by what strength it stood. These men supplied in former times encouragements and exhortations to certain confessors, not to agree with their bishop, not to maintain the ecclesiastical discipline with faith and quietness according to the Lord’s precepts, not to keep the glory of their confession with an uncorrupt and unspotted conversation. And lest it should be too little to have corrupted the minds of certain confessors, and to have wished to arm a portion of our broken fraternity against God’s priesthood, they have now turned their attention with their envenomed deceitfulness to the ruin of the lapsed, to turn away from the healing of their wound the sick and the wounded, and those who, by the misfortune of their fall, are less fit and less sturdy to take stronger counsel; and invite them, by the falsehood of a fallacious peace, to a fatal rashness, leaving off prayers and supplications, whereby, with long and continual satisfaction, the Lord is to be appeased.
3. But I pray you, brethren, watch against the snares of the devil, and, taking care for your own salvation, be diligently on your guard against this death-bearing fallacy. This is another persecution and another temptation. Those five presbyters are none other than the five leaders who were lately associated with the magistrates in an edict, that they might overthrow our faith, that they might turn away the feeble hearts of the brethren to their deadly nets by the prevarication of the truth. Now the same scheme, the same overturning, is again brought about by the five presbyters, linked with Felicissimus, to the destruction of salvation, that God should not be besought, and that he who has denied Christ should not appeal for mercy to the same Christ whom he had denied; that after the fault of the crime, repentance also should be taken away; and that the Lord should not be appeased through bishops and priests, but that the Lord’s priests being, forsaken, a new tradition of a sacrilegious appointment should arise, contrary to the evangelical discipline. And although it was once arranged as well by us as by the confessors and the city192 clergy, and moreover by all the bishops appointed either in our province or beyond the sea,193 that no novelty should be introduced in respect of the case of the lapsed unless we all assembled into one place, and our counsels being compared, should decide upon a moderate sentence, tempered alike with discipline and with mercy; — against this our counsel they have rebelled, and all priestly authority and power is destroyed by factious conspiracies.
4. What sufferings do I now endure, dearest brethren, that I myself am not able to come to you at the present juncture, that I myself cannot approach you each one, that I myself cannot exhort you according to the teaching of the Lord and of His Gospel! An exile of, now, two years194 was not sufficient, and a mournful separation from you, from your countenance, and from your sight, — continual grief and lamentation, which, in my loneliness without you, breaks me to pieces with my constant mourning, nor my tears flowing day and night, that there is not even an opportunity for the priest, whom you made with so much love and eagerness, to greet you, nor to be enfolded in your embraces. This greater grief is added to my worn spirit, that in the midst of so much solicitude and necessity I am not able myself to hasten to you, since, by the threats and by the snares of perfidious men, we are anxious that on our coming a greater tumult may not arise there; and so, although the bishop ought to be careful for peace and tranquillity in all things, he himself should seem to have afforded material for sedition, and to have embittered persecution anew. Hence, however, beloved brethren, I not only admonish but counsel you, not rashly to trust to mischievous words, nor to yield an easy consent to deceitful sayings, nor to take darkness for light, night for day, hunger for food, thirst for drink, poison for medicine, death for safety. Let not the age nor the authority deceive you of those who, answering to the ancient wickedness of the two elders;195 as they attempted to corrupt and violate the chaste Susannah,196 are thus also attempting, with their adulterous doctrines, to corrupt the chastity of the Church and violate the truth of the Gospel.
5. The Lord cries aloud, saying, “Hearken not unto the words of the false prophets, for the visions of their own hearts deceive them. They speak, but not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say to them that despise the word of the Lord, Ye shall have peace.” (Jer_23:16, Jer_23:17) They are now offering peace who have not peace themselves. They are promising to bring back and recall the lapsed into the Church, who themselves have departed from the Church. There is one God, and Christ is one, and there is one Church, and one chair founded upon the rock by the word of the Lord.197 Another altar cannot be constituted nor a new priesthood be made, except the one altar and the one priesthood. Whosoever gathereth elsewhere, scattereth. Whatsoever is appointed by human madness, so that the divine disposition is violated, is adulterous, is impious, is sacrilegious. Depart far from the contagion of men of this kind, and flee from their words, avoiding them as a cancer and a plague, as the Lord warns you and says, “They are blind leaders of the blind. But if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch.” (Mat_15:14) They intercept your prayers, which you pour forth with us to God day and night, to appease Him with a righteous satisfaction. They intercept your tears with which you wash away the guilt of the sin you have committed; they intercept the peace which you truly and faithfully ask from the mercy of the Lord; and they do not know that it is written, “And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, that hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, shall be put to death.” (Deu_13:5) Let no one, beloved brethren, make you to err from the ways of the Lord; let no one snatch you, Christians, from the Gospel of Christ; let no one take sons of the Church away from the Church; let them perish alone for themselves who have wished to perish; let them remain outside the Church alone who have departed from the Church; let them alone be without bishops who have rebelled against bishops; let them alone undergo the penalties of their conspiracies who formerly, according to your votes, and now according to God’s judgment, have deserved to undergo the sentence of their own conspiracy and malignity.
6. The Lord warns us in His Gospel, saying, “Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may establish your own tradition.” (Mar_7:9) Let them who reject the commandment of God and endeavour to keep their own tradition be bravely and firmly rejected by you; let one downfall be sufficient for the lapsed; let no one by his fraud hurl down those who wish to rise; let no one cast down more deeply and depress those who are down, on whose behalf we pray that they may be raised up by God’s hand and arm; let no one turn away from all hope of safety those who are half alive and entreating that they may receive their former health; let no one extinguish every light of the way of salvation to those that are wavering in the darkness of their lapse. The apostle instructs us, saying, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the wholesome words of our Lord Jesus Christ and His doctrine, he is lifted up with foolishness: from such withdraw thyself.” (1Ti_6:3-5) And again he says, “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.” (Eph_5:6, Eph_5:7) There is no reason that you should be deceived with vain words, and begin to be partakers of their depravity. Depart from such, I entreat you, and acquiesce in our counsels, who daily pour out for you continual prayers to the Lord, who desire that you should be recalled to the Church by the clemency of the Lord, who pray for the fullest peace from God, first for the mother, and then for her children. Join also your petitions and prayers with our prayers and petitions; mingle your tears with our wailings. Avoid the wolves who separate the sheep from the shepherd; avoid the envenomed tongue of the devil, who from the beginning of the world, always deceitful and lying, lies that he may deceive, cajoles that he may injure, promises good that he may give evil, promises life that he may put to death. Now also his words are evident, and his poisons are plain. He promises peace, in order that peace may not possibly be attained; he promises salvation, that he who has sinned may not come to salvation; he promises a Church, when he so contrives that he who believes him may utterly perish apart from the Church.
7. It is now the occasion, dearly beloved brethren, both for you who stand fast to persevere bravely, and to maintain your glorious stability, which you kept in persecution with a continual firmness.; and if any of you by the circumvention of the adversary have fallen, that in this second temptation you should faithfully take counsel for your hope and your peace; and in order that the Lord may pardon you, that you should not depart from the priests of the Lord, since it is written, “And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest or unto the judge that shall be in those days, even that man shall die.” (Deu_17:12) Of this persecution this is the latest and final temptation, which itself also, by the Lord’s protection, shall quickly pass away; so that I shall be again presented to you after Easter-day with my colleagues, who, being present, we shall be able as well to arrange as to complete the matters which require to be done according to your judgment and to the general advice of all of us as it has been decided before.198 But if anybody, refusing to repent and to make satisfaction to God, shall yield to the party of Felicissimus and his satellites, and shall join himself to the heretical faction, let him know that he cannot afterwards return to the Church and communicate with the bishops and the people of Christ. I bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell, and that you plead with me in continual prayer that the mercy of God may be entreated.
Epistle XL.199 — To Cornelius, on His Refusal to Receive Novatian’s Ordination.200
Argument. — The Messengers Sent by Novatian to Intimate His Ordination to the Church of Carthage Are Rejected by Cyprian.
1. Cyprian to Cornelius, his brother, greeting. There have come to us, beloved brother, sent by Novatian, Maximus the presbyter, and Augendus the deacon, and a certain Machaeus and Longinus. But, as we discovered, as well from the letters which they brought with them, as from their discourse and declaration, that Novatian had been made bishop; disturbed by the wickedness of an unlawful ordination made in opposition to the Catholic Church, we considered at once that they must be restrained from communion with us; and having, in the meanwhile, refuted and repelled the things which they pertinaciously and obstinately endeavoured to assert, I and several of my colleagues, who had come together to me, were awaiting the arrival of our colleagues Caldonius and Fortunatus, whom we had lately sent to you as ambassadors, and to our fellow-bishops, who were present at your ordination,201 in order that, when they came and reported the truth of the matter, the wickedness of the adverse party might be quelled through them, by greater authority and manifest proof. But there came, in addition, Pompeius and Stephanus, our colleagues, who themselves also, by way of instructing us thereon, put forward manifest proofs and testimonies in conformity with their gravity and faithfulness, so that it was not even necessary that those who had come, as sent by Novatian, should be heard any further. And when in our solemn assembly202 they burst in with invidious abuse and turbulent clamour, demanding that the accusations, which they said that they brought and would prove, should be publicly investigated by us and by the people, we said that it was not consistent with our gravity to suffer the honour of our colleague, who had already been chosen and ordained and approved by the laudable sentence of many, to be called into question any further by the abusive voice of rivals. And because it would be a long business to collect into a letter the matters in which they have been refuted and repressed, and in which they have been manifested as having caused heresy by their unlawful attempts, you shall hear everything most fully from Primitivus our co-presbyter,203 when he shall come to you.
2. And lest their raging boldness should ever cease, they are striving here also to distract the members of Christ into schismatical parties, and to cut and tear the one body of the Catholic Church, so that, running about from door to door, through the houses of many, or from city to city, through certain districts, they seek for companions in their obstinacy and error to join to themselves in their schism. To whom we have once given this reply, nor shall we cease to command them to lay aside their pernicious dissensions and disputes, and to be aware that it is an impiety to forsake their Mother; and to acknowledge and understand that when a bishop204 is once made and approved by the testimony and judgment of his colleagues and the people, another can by no means be appointed.205 Thus, if they consult their own interest peaceably and faithfully, if they confess themselves to be maintainers of the Gospel of Christ, they must return to the Church. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XLI.206 — To Cornelius, about Cyprian’s Approval of His Ordination, and Concerning Felicissimus.
Argument. — Cyprian Excuses Himself for Not Having Without Hesitation Believed in the Ordination of Cornelius, Until He Received the Letters of His Colleagues Caldonius and Fortunatus, Which Fully Testified to Its Legitimacy; and Incidentally Repeats, in Respect of the Contrary Faction of the Novatian Party, That He Did Not in the Very First Instance Give His Adhesion to That, but Rather to Cornelius, Even to the Extent of Refusing to Receive Accusations Against Him.
1. Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting. As was fitting for God’s servants, and especially for upright and peaceable priests, dearest brother, we recently sent our colleagues Caldonius and Fortunatus, that they might, not only by the persuasion of our letters, but by their presence and the advice of all of you, strive and labour with all their power to bring the members of the divided body into the unity of the Catholic Church, and associate them into the bond of Christian charity. But since the obstinate and inflexible pertinacity of the adverse party has not only rejected the bosom and the embrace of its root and Mother, but even, with a discord spreading and reviving itself worse and worse, has appointed a bishop for itself, and, contrary to the sacrament once delivered of the divine appointment and of Catholic Unity, has made an adulterous and opposed head outside the Church; having received your letters as well as those of our colleagues, at the coming also of our colleagues Pompeius and Stephanus, good men and very dear to us, by whom all these things were undoubtedly alleged and proved to us with general gladness,207 in conformity with the requirements alike of the sanctity and the truth of the divine tradition and ecclesiastical institution, we have directed our letters to you. Moreover, bringing these same things under the notice of our several colleagues throughout the province, we have bidden also that our brethren, with letters from them, be directed to you.
2. This has been done, although our mind and intention had been already plainly declared to the brethren, and to the whole of the people in this place, when, having received letters lately from both parties, we read your letters, and intimated your ordination to the episcopate, in the ears of every one. Moreover, remembering the common honour, and having respect for the sacerdotal gravity and sanctity, we repudiated those things which from the other party had been heaped together with bitter virulence into a document transmitted to us; alike considering and weighing, that in so great and so religious an assembly of brethren, in which God’s priests were sitting together, and His altar was set, they ought neither to be read nor to be heard. For those things should not easily be put forward, nor carelessly and rudely published, which may move a scandal by means of a quarrelsome pen in the minds of the hearers, and confuse brethren, who are placed far apart and dwelling across the sea, with uncertain opinions. Let those beware, who, obeying either their own rage or lust, and unmindful of the divine law and holiness, rejoice to throw abroad in the meantime things which they cannot prove; and although they may not be successful in destroying and ruining innocence, are satisfied with scattering stains upon it with lying reports and false rumours. Assuredly, we should exert ourselves, as it is fitting for prelates and priests to do, that such things, when they are written by any, should be repudiated as far as we are concerned. For otherwise, what will become of that which we learn and which we declare to be laid down in Scripture: “Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile?” (Psa_34:13) And elsewhere: “Thy mouth abounded in malice, and thy tongue embraced deceit. Thou sayest and spakest against thy brother, and slenderest thine own mother’s son.” (Psa_50:19, Psa_50:20) Also whist the apostle says: “Let no corrupt communication proceed from thy mouth, but that which is good to the edifying of faith, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Eph_4:29) Further, we show what the right course of conduct to pursue is,208 if, when such things are written by the calumnious temerity of some, we do not allow them to be read among us: and therefore, dearest brother, when such letters came to me against you, even though they were the letters of your co-presbyter sitting with you,209 as they breathed a tone of religious simplicity, and did not echo with any barkings of curses and revilings, I ordered them to be read to the clergy and the people.
3. But in desiring letters from our colleagues,210 who were present at your ordination at that place, we did not forget the ancient usage, nor did we seek for any novelty. For it was sufficient for you to announce yourself by letters211 to have been made bishop, unless there had been a dissenting faction on the other side, who by their slanderous and calumnious fabrications disturbed the minds and perplexed the hearts of our colleagues, as well as of several of the brethren. To set this matter at rest, we judged it necessary to obtain thence the strong and decided authority of our colleagues who wrote to us; and they, declaring the testimony of their letters to be fully deserved by your character, and life, and teaching, have deprived even your rivals, and those who delight either in novelty or evil, of every scruple of doubt or of difference; and, according to our advice weighed in wholesome reason, the minds of the brethren tossing about in this sea have sincerely and decidedly approved your priesthood. For this, my brother, we especially both labour after, and ought to labour after, to be careful to maintain as much as we can the unity delivered by the Lord, and through His apostles to us their successors, and, as far as in us lies, to gather into the Church the dispersed and wandering sheep which the wilful faction and heretical temptation of some is separating from their Mother; those only being left outside, who by their obstinacy and madness have persisted, and have been unwilling to return to us; who themselves will have to give an account to the Lord of the dissension and separation made by them, and of the Church that they have forsaken.
4. But, so far as pertains to the cause of certain presbyters here, and of Felicissimus, that you may know what has been done here, our colleagues have sent you letters subscribed by their own hand, that you may learn, when you have heard the parties, from their letters what they have thought and what they have pronounced. But you will do better,212 brother, if you will also bid copies of the letters which I had sent lately by our colleagues Caldonius and Fortunatus to you, to he read for the common satisfaction, which I had written concerning the same Felicissimus and his presbytery to the clergy there, and also to the people, to be read to the brethren there; declaring your ordination, and the course of the whole transaction, that so as well there as here the brotherhood may be informed of all things by us. Moreover, I have here transmitted also copies of the same by Mettius the sub-deacon, sent by me, and by Nicephorus the acolyte. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XLII.213 — To the Same, on His Having Sent Letters to the Confessors Whom Novatian Had Seduced.
Argument. — The Argument of This Letter Sufficiently Appears from the Title. It Is Manifest That This Letter and the Following Were Sent by One Messenger.
Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting. I have though it both obligatory on me, and necessary for you, dearest brother, to write a short letter to the confessors who are there with you, and, seduced by the obstinacy and depravity of Novatian and Novatus,214 have departed from the Church; in which letter I might induce them, for the sake of our mutual affection, to return to their Mother, that is, to the Catholic Church. This letter I have first of all entrusted to you by Mettius the sub-deacon for your perusal, lest any one should pretend that I had written otherwise than according to the contents of my letter. I have, moreover, charged the same Mettius sent by me to you, that he should be guided by your decision; and if you should think that this letter should be given to the confessors, then that he should deliver it. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XLIII.215 — To the Roman Confessors, That They Should Return to Unity.
Argument. — He Exhorts the Roman Confessors Who Had Been Seduced by the Faction of Novatian and Novatus, to Return to Unity.
Cyprian to Maximus and Nicostratus, and the other confessors, greeting. As you have frequently gathered from my letters, beloved, what honour I have ever observed in my mode of speaking for your confession, and what love for the associated brotherhood; believe, I entreat you, and acquiesce in these my letters, wherein I both write and with simplicity and fidelity consult for you, and for your doings, and for your praise. For it weighs me down and saddens me, and the intolerable grief of a smitten, almost prostrate, spirit seizes me, when I find that you there, contrary to ecclesiastical order, contrary to evangelical law, contrary to the unity of the Catholic institution, had consented that another bishop should be made.216 That is what is neither right nor allowable to be done; that another church should be set up; that Christ’s members should be torn asunder; that the one mind and body of the Lord’s flock should be lacerated by a divided emulation. I entreat that in you, at all events, that unlawful rending of our brotherhood may not continue; but remembering both your confession and the divine tradition, you may return to the Mother whence you have gone forth; whence you came to the glory of confession with the rejoicing of the same Mother. And think not that you are thus maintaining the Gospel of Christ when you separate yourselves from the flock of Christ, and from His peace and concord; since it is more fitting for glorious and good soldiers to sit down within their own camp, and so placed within to manage and provide for those things which are to be dealt with in common. For as our unanimity and concord ought by no means to be divided, and because we cannot forsake the Church and go outside her to come to you, we beg and entreat you with what exhortations we can, rather to return to the Church your Mother, and to our brotherhood. I bid you, dearest brethren, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XLIV.217 — To Cornelius, Concerning Polycarp the Adrumetine.
Argument. — He Excuses Himself in This Letter for What Had Occurred, in That, During the Time That He Was at Adrumetum, Letters Had Been Sent Thence by the Clergy of Polycarp, Not to Cornelius, but to the Roman Clergy, Notwithstanding That Previously Polycarp Himself Had Written Rather to Cornelius. It Appears Tolerably Plain from the Context Itself That This Was Written After the Preceding Ones.
1. Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting. I have read your letters, dearest brother, which you sent by Primitivus our co-presbyter, in which I perceived that you were annoyed that, whereas letters from the Adrumetine colony in the name of Polycarp were directed to you, yet after Liberalis and I came to that place, letters began to be directed thence to the presbyters and to the deacons.
2. In respect of which I wish you to know, and certainly to believe, that it was done from no levity or contempt. But when several of our colleagues who had assembled into one place had determined that, while our co-bishops Caldonius and Fortunatus were sent as ambassadors to you, all things should be in the meantime suspended as they were, until the same colleagues of ours, having reduced matters there to peace, or, having discovered their truth, should return to us; the presbyters and deacons abiding in the Adrumetine colony; in the absence of our co-bishop Polycarp, were ignorant of what had been decided in common by us. But when we came before them, and our purpose was understood, they themselves also began to observe what the others did, so that the agreement of the churches abiding there was in no respect broken.
3. Some persons, however, sometimes disturb men’s minds and spirits by their words, in that they relate things otherwise than is the truth. For we, who furnish every person who sails hence with a plan that they may sail without any of-fence, know that we have exhorted them to acknowledge and hold the root and matrix of the Catholic Church.218 But since our province is wide-spread, and has Numidia and Mauritania attached to it; lest a schism made in the city should confuse the minds of the absent with uncertain opinions, we decided — having obtained by means of the bishops the truth of the matter, and having got a greater authority for the proof of your ordination, and so at length every scruple being got rid of from the breast of every one — that letters should be sent you by all who were placed anywhere in the province; as in fact is done, that so the whole of our colleagues might decidedly approve of and maintain both you and your communion, that is as well to the unity of the Catholic Church as to its charity. That all which has by God’s direction come to pass, and that our design has under Providence been forwarded, we rejoice.
4. For thus as well the truth as the dignity of your episcopate has been established in the most open light, and with the most manifest and substantial approval; so that from the replies of our colleagues, who have thence written to us, and from the account and from the testimonies of our co-bishops Pompeius, and Stephanus, and Caldonius, and Fortunatus, both the needful cause and the right order, and moreover the glorious innocence, of your ordination might be known by all. That we, with the rest of our colleagues, may steadily and firmly administer this office, and keep it in the concordant unanimity of the Catholic Church, the divine condescension will accomplish; so that the Lord who condescends to elect and appoint for Himself priests in His Church, may protect them also when elected and appointed by His good-will and help, inspiring them to govern, and supplying both vigour for restraining the contumacy of the wicked, and gentleness for cherishing the penitence of the lapsed. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XLV.219 — Cornelius to Cyprian, on the Return of the Confessors to Unity.
Argument. — Cornelius Informs Cyprian of the Solemn Return of the Confessors to the Church, and Describes It.
1. Cornelius to Cyprian his brother, greeting. In proportion to the solicitude and anxiety that we sustained in respect of those confessors who had been circumvented and almost deceived and alienated from the Church by the craft and malice of that wily and subtle man,220 was the joy with which we were affected, and the thanks which we gave to Almighty God and to our Lord Christ, when they, acknowledging their error, and perceiving the poisoned cunning of the malignant man, as if of a serpent, came back, as they with one heart profess, with singleness of will to the Church from which they had gone forth. And first, indeed, our brethren of approved faith, loving peace and desiring unity, announced that the swelling pride of these men was already soothed;221 yet there was no fitting assurance to induce us easily to believe that they were thoroughly changed. But afterwards, Urbanus and Sidonius the confessors came to our presbyters, affirming that Maximus the confessor and presbyter, equally with themselves, desired to return into the Church; but since many things had preceded this which they had contrived, of which you also have been made aware from our co-bishops and from my letters, so that faith could not hastily be reposed in them, we determined to hear from their own mouth and confession those things which they had sent by the messengers. And when they came, and were required by the presbyters to give an account of what they had done, and were charged with having very lately repeatedly sent letters full of calumnies and reproaches, in their name, through all the churches, and had disturbed nearly all the churches; they affirmed that they had been deceived, and that they had not known what was in those letters; that only through being misled they had also committed schismatical acts, and been the authors of heresy, so that they suffered hands to be imposed on him as if upon a bishop.222 And when these and other matters had been charged upon them, they entreated that they might be done away and altogether discharged from memory.
2. The whole of this transaction therefore being brought before me, I decided that the presbytery [See Ep. xvii., p. 296, supra.] should be brought together; (for there were present five bishops, who were also present to-day;) so that by well-grounded counsel it might be determined with the consent of all what ought to be observed in respect of their persons. And that you may know the feeling of all, and the advice of each one, I decided also to bring to your knowledge our various opinions, which you will read subjoined. When these things were done, Maximus, Urbanus, Sidonius, and several brethren who had joined themselves to them, came to the presbytery, desiring with earnest prayers that what had been done before might fall into oblivion, and no mention might be made of it; and promising that henceforth, as though nothing had been either done or said, all things on both sides being forgiven, they would now exhibit to God a heart clean and pure, following the evangelical word which says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Mat_5:8) What remained was, that the people should be informed of all this proceeding, that they might see those very men established in the Church whom they had long seen and mourned as wanderers and scattered. Their will being known, a great concourse of the brotherhood was assembled. There was one voice from all, giving thanks to God; all were expressing the joy of their heart by tears, embracing them as if they had this day been set free from the penalty of the dungeon. And to quote their very own words, — ”We,” they say, “know that Cornelius is bishop of the most holy Catholic Church elected by Almighty God, and by Christ our Lord. We confess our error; we have suffered imposture; we were deceived by captious perfidy and loquacity. For although we seemed, as it were, to have held a kind of communion with a man who was a schismatic and a heretic, yet our mind was always sincere in the Church. For we are not ignorant that there is one God; that there is one Christ the Lord whom we have confessed, and one Holy Spirit; and that in the Catholic Church there ought to be one bishop.”223 Were we not rightly induced by that confession of theirs,224 to allow that what they had confessed before the power of the world they might approve when established in the Church? Wherefore we bade Maximus the presbyter to take his own place; the rest we received with great approbation of the people. But we remitted all things to Almighty God, in whose power all things are reserved.
3. These things therefore, brother, written to you in the same hour, at the same moment, we have transmitted; and I have sent away at once Nicephorus the acolyte, hastening to descend to embarkation, that so, no delay being made, you might, as if you had been present among that clergy and in that assembly of people, give thanks to Almighty God and to Christ our Lord. But we believe — nay, we confide in it for certain-that the others also who have been ranged in this error will shortly return into the Church when they see their leaders acting with us. I think, brother, that you ought to send these letters also to the other churches, that all may know that the craft and prevarication of this schismatic and heretic are from day to day being reduced to nothing. Farewell, dearest brother.
Epistle XLVI.225 — Cyprian’s Answer to Cornelius, Congratulating Him on the Return of the Confessors from Schism.
Argument. — He Congratulates Him on the Return of the Confessors to the Church, and Reminds Him How Much That Return Benefits the Catholic Church.
1. Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting. I profess that I both have rendered and do render the greatest thanks without ceasing, dearest brother, to God the Father Almighty, and to His Christ the Lord and our God and Saviour, that the Church is thus divinely protected, and its unity and holiness is not constantly nor altogether corrupted by the obstinacy of perfidy and heretical wickedness. For we have read your letter, and have exultingly received the greatest joy from the fulfilment of our common desire; to wit, that Maximus the presbyter, and Urbanus, the confessors, with Sidonius and Macarius, have re-entered into the Catholic Church, that is, that they have laid aside their error, and given up their schismatical, nay, their heretical madness, and have sought again in the soundness of faith the home of unity and truth; that whence they had gone forth to glory, thither they might gloriously return; and that they who had confessed Christ should not afterwards desert the camp of Christ, and that they might not tempt the faith of their charity and unity,226 who had not been overcome in strength and courage. Behold the safe and unspotted integrity of their praise; behold the uncorrupted and substantial dignity of these confessors, that they have departed from the deserters and fugitives, that they have left the betrayers of the faith, and the impugners of the Catholic Church. With reason did both the people and the brotherhood receive them when they returned, as you write, with the greatest joy; since in the glory of confessors who had maintained their glory, and returned to unity, there is none who does not reckon himself a partner and a sharer.
2. We can estimate the joy of that day227 from our own feelings. For if, in this place, the whole number of the brethren rejoiced at your letter which you sent concerning their confession, and received this tidings of common rejoicing with the greatest alacrity, what must have been the joy there when the matter itself, and the general gladness, was carried on tinder the eyes of all? For since the Lord in His Gospel says that there is the highest “joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth,” (Luk_15:7) how much greater is the joy in earth, no less than in heaven, over confessors who return with their glory and with praise to the Church of God, and make a way of returning for others by the faith and approval of their example? For this error had led away certain of our brethren, so that they thought they were following the communion of confessors. When this error was removed, light was infused into the breasts of all, and the Catholic Church has been shown to be one, and to be able neither to be cut nor divided. Nor can any one now be easily deceived by the talkative words of a raging schismatic, since it has been proved that good and glorious soldiers of Christ could not long be detained without the Church by the deceitfulness and perfidy of others. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XLVII.228 — Cornelius to Cyprian, Concerning the Faction of Novatian with His Party.
Argument. — Cornelius Gives Cyprian an Account of the Faction of Novatian.229
Cornelius to Cyprian his brother, greeting. That nothing might be wanting to the future punishment of this wretched man, when cast down by the powers of God, (on the expulsion by you of Maximus, and Longinus, and Machaeus;) he has risen again; and, as I intimated in my former letter which I sent to you by Augendus the confessor, I think that Nicostratus, and Novatus, and Evaristus, and Primus, and Dionysius, have already come thither. Therefore let care be taken that it be made known to all our co-bishops and brethren, that Nicostratus is accused of many crimes, and that not only has he committed frauds and plunders on his secular patroness, whose affairs he managed; but, moreover (which is reserved to him for a perpetual punishment), he has abstracted no small deposits of the Church; that Evaristus has been the author of a schism; and that Zetus has been appointed bishop in his room, and his successor to the people over whom he had previously presided. But he contrived greater and worse things by his malice and insatiable wickedness than those which he was then always practising among his own people; so that you may know what kind of leaders and protectors that schismatic and heretic constantly had joined to his side. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily fare well.
Epistle XLVIII.230 — Cyprian’s Answer to Cornelius, Concerning the Crimes of Novatus.
Argument. — He Praises Cornelius, That He Had Given Him Timely Warning, Seeing That the Day After the Guilty Faction Had Come to Him He Had Received Cornelius’ Letter. Then He Describes at Length Novatus’ Crimes, and the Schism That Had Before Been Stirred up by Him in Africa.
1. Cyprian to Cornelius his brother, greeting. You have acted, dearest brother, both with diligence and love, in sending us in haste Nicephorus the acolyte, who both told us the glorious gladness concerning the return of the confessors, and most fully instructed us against the new and mischievous devices of Novatian and Novatus for attacking the Church of Christ. For whereas on the day before, that mischievous faction of heretical wickedness had arrived here, itself already lost and ready to ruin others who should join it, on the day after, Nicephorus arrived with your letter. From which we both learnt ourselves, and have begun to teach and to instruct others, that Evaristus from being a bishop has now not remained even a layman; but, banished from the see and from the people, and an exile from the Church of Christ, he roves about far and wide through other provinces, and, himself having made shipwreck of truth and faith, is preparing for some who are like him, as fearful shipwrecks. Moreover, that Nicostratus, having lost the diaconate of sacred administrations, because he had abstracted the Church’s money by a sacrilegious fraud, and disowned the deposits of the widows and orphans, did not wish so much to come into Africa as to escape thither from the city, from the consciousness of his rapines and his frightful crimes. And now a deserter and a fugitive from the Church, as if to have changed the clime were to change the man, he goes on to boast and announce himself a confessor, although he can no longer either be or be called a confessor of Christ who has denied Christ’s Church. For when the Apostle Paul says, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the Church;” (Eph_5:31, Eph_5:32) — when, I say, the blessed apostle says this, and with his sacred voice testifies to the unity of Christ with the Church, cleaving to one another with indivisible links, how can he be with Christ who is not with the spouse of Christ, and in His Church? [See letter xliv. p. 322, supra.] Or how does he assume to himself the charge of ruling or governing the Church, who has spoiled and wronged the Church of Christ?
2. For about Novatus there need have been nothing told by you to us, since Novatus ought rather to have been shown by us to you, as always greedy of novelty, raging with the rapacity of an insatiable avarice, inflated with the arrogance and stupidity of swelling pride; always known with bad repute to the bishops there; always condemned by the voice of all the priests as a heretic and a perfidious man; always inquisitive, that he may betray: he flatters for the purpose of deceiving, never faithful that he may love; a torch and fire to blow up the flames of sedition; a whirlwind and tempest to make shipwrecks of the faith; the foe of quiet, the adversary of tranquillity, the enemy of peace. Finally, when Novatus withdrew thence from among you, that is, when the storm and the whirlwind departed, calm arose there in part, and the glorious and good confessors who by his instigation had departed from the Church, after he retired from the city, returned to the Church. This is the same Novatus who first sowed among us the flames of discord and schism; who separated some of the brethren here from the bishop; who, in the persecution itself, was to our people, as it were, another persecution, to overthrow the minds of the brethren. He it is who, without my leave or knowledge, of his own factiousness and ambition appointed his attendant Felicissimus a deacon, and with his own tempest sailing also to Rome to overthrow the Church, endeavoured to do similar and equal things there, forcibly separating a part of the people from the clergy, and dividing the concord of the fraternity that was firmly knit together and mutually loving one another. Since Rome from her greatness plainly ought to take precedence of Carthage, he there committed still greater and graver crimes.231 He who in the one place had made a deacon contrary to the Church, in the other made a bishop. Nor let any one be surprised at this in such men. The wicked are always madly carried away by their own furious passions; and after they have committed crimes, they are agitated by the very consciousness of a depraved mind. Neither can those remain in God’s Church, who have not maintained its divine and ecclesiastical discipline, either in the conversation of their life or the peace of their character. Orphans despoiled by him, widows defrauded, moneys moreover of the Church withheld, exact from him those penalties which we behold inflicted in his madness. His father also died of hunger in the street, and afterwards even in death was not buried by him. The womb of his wife was smitten by a blow of his heel; and in the miscarriage that soon followed, the offspring was brought forth, the fruit of a father’s murder. And now does he dare to condemn the hands of those who sacrifice, when he himself is more guilty in his feet, by which the son, who was about to be born, was slain?
3. He long ago feared this consciousness of crime. On account of this he regarded it as certain that he would not only be turned out of the presbytery, but restrained from communion; and by the urgency of the brethren, the day of investigation was coming on, on which his cause was to be dealt with before us, if the persecution had net prevented. He, welcoming this, with a sort of desire of escaping and evading condemnation, committed all these crimes, and wrought all this stir; so that he who was to be ejected and excluded from the Church, anticipated the judgment of the priests by a voluntary departure, as if to have anticipated the sentence were to have escaped the punishment.
4. But in respect to the other brethren, over whom we grieve that they were circumvented by him, we labour that they may avoid the mischievous neighbourhood of the crafty impostor, that they may escape the deadly nets of his solicitations, that they may once more seek the Church from which he deserved by divine authority to be expelled. Such indeed, with the Lord’s help, we trust may return by His mercy, for one cannot perish unless it is plain that he must perish, since the Lord in His Gospel says, “Every planting which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.” (Mat_15:13) He alone who has not been planted in the precepts and warnings of God the Father, can depart from the Church: he alone can forsake the bishops232 and abide in his madness with schismatics and heretics. But the mercy of God the Father, and the indulgence of Christ our Lord, and our own patience, will unite the rest with us. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XLIX.233 — Maximus and the Other Confessors to Cyprian, about Their Return from Schism.
Argument. — They Inform Cyprian That They Had Returned to the Church.
Maximus, Urbanus, Sidonius, and Macharius, to Cyprian their brother, greeting. We are certain, dearest brother, that you also rejoice together with us with equal earnestness, that we having taken advice, and especially, considering the interests and the peace of the Church, having passed by all other matters, and reserved them to God’s judgment, have made peace with Cornelius our bishop, as well as with the whole clergy.234 You ought most certainly to know from these our letters that this was done with the joy of the whole Church, and even with the forward affection of the brethren. We pray, dearest brother, that for many years you may fare well.
Epistle L.235 — From Cyprian to the Confessors, Congratulating Them on Their Return from Schism.
Argument. — Cyprian Congratulates the Roman Confessors on Their Return into the Church, and Replies to Their Letters.
1. Cyprian to Maximus the presbyter, also to Urbanus, and Sidonius, and Maturest, his brethren, greeting. When I read your letters, dearest brethren, that you wrote to me about your return, and about the peace of the Church, and the brotherly restoration, I confess that I was as greatly overjoyed as I had before been overjoyed when I learnt the glory of your confession, and thankfully received tidings of the heavenly and spiritual renown of your warfare. For this, moreover, is another confession of your faith and praise; to confess that the Church is one, and not to become a sharer in other men’s error, or rather wickedness; to seek anew the same camp whence you went forth, whence with the most vigorous strength you leapt forth to wage the battle and to subdue the adversary. For the trophies from the battle-field ought to be brought back thither whence the arms for the field had been received, lest the Church of Christ should not retain those same glorious warriors whom Christ had furnished for glory. Now, however, you have kept in the peace of the Lord the fitting tenor of your faith and the law of undivided charity and concord, and have given by your walk an example of love and peace to others; so that the truth of the Church, and the unity of the Gospel mystery which is held by us, are also linked together by your consent and bond; and confessors of Christ do not become the leaders of error, after having stood forth as praiseworthy originators of virtue and honour.
2. Let others consider how much they may congratulate you, or how much each one may glory for himself: I confess that I congratulate you more, and I more boast of you to others, in respect of this your peaceful return and charity. For you ought in simplicity to hear what was in my heart. I grieved vehemently, and I was greatly afflicted, that I could not hold communion with those whom once I had begun to love. After the schismatical and heretical error laid hold of you, on your going forth from prison, it seemed as if your glory had been left in the dungeon. For there the dignity of your name seemed to have stayed behind when the soldiers of Christ did not return from the prison to the Church, although they had gone into the prison with the praise and congratulations of the Church.
3. For although there seem to be tares in the Church, yet neither our faith nor our charity ought to be hindered, so that because we see that there are tares in the Church we ourselves should withdraw from the Church: we ought only to labour that we may be wheat, that when the wheat shall begin to be gathered into the Lord’s barns, we may receive fruit for our labour and work. The apostle in his epistle says, “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honour and some to dishonour.” (2Ti_2:20) Let us strive, dearest brethren, and labour as much as we possibly can, that we may be vessels of gold or silver. But to the Lord alone it is granted to break the vessels of earth, to whom also is given the rod of iron. The servant cannot be greater than his lord, nor may any one claim to himself what the Father has given to the Son alone, so as to think that he can take the fan for winnowing and purging the threshing-floor, or can separate by human judgment all the tares from the wheat. That is a proud obstinacy and a sacrilegious presumption which a depraved madness assumes to itself. And while some are always assuming to themselves more dominion than meek justice demands, they perish from the Church; and while they insolently extol themselves, blinded by their own swelling, they lose the light of truth. For which reason we also, keeping moderation, and considering the Lord’s balances, and thinking of the love and mercy of God the Father, have long and carefully pondered with ourselves, and have weighed what was to be done with due moderation.
4. All which matters you can look into thoroughly, if you will read the tracts which I have lately read here, and have, for the sake of our mutual love, transmitted to you also for you to read; wherein there is neither wanting for the lapsed, censure which may rebuke, nor medicine which may heal. Moreover, my feeble ability has expressed as well as it could the unity of the Catholic Church.236 Which treatise I now more and more trust will be pleasing to you, since you now read it in such a way as both to approve and love it; inasmuch as what we have written in words you fulfil in deeds, when you return to the Church in the unity of charity and peace. I bid you, dearest brethren, and greatly longed-for, ever heartily farewell.
190 Oxford ed.: Ep. xliii. A.D. 251.
191 Some read “Britius” or “Briccius.”
192 “Clericis urbicis,” scil. the “Roman city clergy.” [A very important example of concurrent action of the clergy of the metropolis with those of sister churches.]
193 “Romae,” scil. “across the sea, at Rome.” [The African canons forbade appeals to any bishop beyond seas.]
194 [Concerning this exile, see p. 270, supra.]
195 [“The elders,” i.e., presbyters. Our author plays upon the word, and compares the corrupt presbyters to their like in the Hebrew Church, from which this name is borrowed. Exo_3:16 and passim.]
196 Hist. of Susannah.
197 [See Treatise on Unity. Cyprian considers the universal episcopate as one cathedra, like “Moses’ seat” in the Church of the Hebrews. This one chair he calls “Peter’s chair.”]
198 [The high official tone with which Cyprian upholds his own authority is always balanced by equal zeal for the presbyters and the laity. On which compare Hooker, Polity, book viii. cap. vi. 8.]
199 Oxford ed.: Ep. xliv. A.D. 251.
200 [Cornelius has succeeded to the cathedra in Rome. Here opens a new chapter in the history of Cyprian and of the Roman See.]
201 [Ordination to the episcopate was the term used. Consecration is the inferior term now usual in Western Christendom. Elucidation VIII.]
202 “In statione,” “stationary assembly;” these being the Wednesdays and Fridays in each week (Marshall). [see vol. i. p. 33.]
203 [Note the free use of this phrase by Cyprian. This also to the Bishop of Rome.]
204 [Nothing of a “universal bishop” is intimated or heard of. The election is that of a bishop like any other bishop.]
205 [Here note, that the episcopate of Rome is in no otherwise regulated or regarded than that of any other See.]
206 Oxford ed.: Ep. xlv. A.D. 251.
207 The Oxford edition follows some authorities in reading this “sadness” rather than “gladness.”
208 Lit.: “that these things ought to be done.”
209 The co-presbyter here spoken of is Novatian. The Oxford text reads, “When such writings came to me concerning you and your co-presbyters sitting with you, as had the true ring of religious simplicity in them.” there is a variety of readings. [But think of a modern “Pope” thus addressed about a “co-presbyter.”]
210 [Cyprian, however, respectfully demands the canonical evidences from his brother Cornelius.]
211 [Every bishop thus announced his ordination.]
212 [Had such instructions proceeded from the Roman See to Cyprian, what inferences would have been manufactured out of them by the mediaeval writers.]
213 Oxford ed.: Ep. xlvii. A.D. 251.
214 [On the frequent confusion of these names see Wordsworth, Hippol., p. 109.]
215 Oxford ed.: Ep. xlvi. A.D. 251.
216 [“Another bishop should be made.” What would have been the outcry of the whole Church, and what the language of Cyprian, had any idea entered their minds that the case was that of the Divine Oracle of Christendom, the Vicar of Christ, the Centre of Unity, the Infallible, etc.]
217 Oxford ed.: Ep. xlviii. A.D. 251.
218 [This refers to the episcopate. They had taken letters only to “presbyters and deacons.” Or to Christ the root, and the Church the womb or matrix. See infra, Letter xlviii., p. 325.
219 Oxford ed.: Ep. xlix. A.D. 251.
221 Baluz.: “Announced the swelling pride of some, the softened temper of others.”
222 [i.e., for episcopal ordination and consecration.]
223 [Episcopatus unus est. One bishop, i.e., one episcopate. See the note, Oxford translation of this letter, p. 108, and Cyprian’s theory of the same in his Treatise on Unity.]
224 Baluzius reads, without authority: “Who would not be moved by that profession of theirs,” etc.
225 Oxford ed.: Ep. li. A.D. 251.
226 Some read, “might not be tried by faith of their charity and unity.”
227 Some old editions read, “of that thing.”
228 Oxford ed.: Ep. l. A.D. 251.
229 [Oxford trans., p. 111. Elucidation VIII. and p. 319, supra.]
230 Oxford ed.: Ep. lii. A.D. 251.
231 [“From her greatness:” he does not even mention her dignity as the one and only apostolic see of Western Christendom. And this is the case in subsequent action of the Great Councils. Rome, though not the root, was yet a “root and matrix.”]
232 [Cyprian’s idea of unity as expounded in his treatise, infra.]
233 Oxford ed.: Ep. liii. A.D. 251.
234 [The language of this letter clearly demonstrates the primitive condition of the Roman clergy and their bishop, and their entire unconsciousness of any exceptional position in their estate or relations to other churches. “Our bishop” — not Urbis et Urbis papa.]
235 Oxford ed.: Ep. liv. A.D. 251.
236 “Of the Unity of the Church.” [And note, Cyprian innocently teaches those Roman clergy the principles of Catholic unity, without an idea that they were in a position to know much more on the subject than they could be taught by a bishop in Africa.]