Epistle VII.42 – To the Clergy, Concerning Prayer to God.
Argument. – A Certificate Written in the Name of the Martyrs by Lucianus.
All the confessors to father79 Cyprian, greeting. Know that, to all, concerning whom the account of what they have done since the commission of their sin has been, in your estimation, satisfactory, we have granted peace; and we have desired that this rescript should be made known by you to the other bishops also. We bid you to have peace with the holy martyrs. Lucianus wrote this, there being present of the clergy, both an exorcist and a reader.
Epistle XVII.80 – To the Presbyters and Deacons about the Foregoing and the Following Letters.
Argument. – No Account Is to Be Made of Certificates from the Martyrs Before the Peace of the Church Is Restored.
Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons, his brethren, greeting. The Lord speaketh and saith, “Upon whom shall I look, but upon him that is humble and quiet, and that trembleth at my words?” (Isa_66:2) Although we ought all to be this, yet especially those ought to be so who must labour, that, after their grave lapse, they may, by true penitence and absolute humility, deserve well of the Lord. Now I have read the letter of the whole body of confessors, which they wish to be made known by me to all my colleagues, and in which they requested that the peace given by themselves should be assured to those concerning whom the account of what they have done since their crime has been, in our estimation, satisfactory; which matter, as it waits for the counsel and judgment of all of us, [Elucidation V.] I do not dare to prejudge, and so to assume a common cause for my own decision. And therefore, in the meantime, let us abide by the letters which I lately wrote to you, of which I have now sent a copy to many of my colleagues,81 who wrote in reply, that they were pleased with what I had decided, and that there must be no departure therefrom, until, peace being granted to us by the Lord, we shall be able to assemble together into one place, and to examine into the cases of individuals. But that you may know both what my colleague Caldonius wrote to me, and what I replied to him, I have enclosed with my letter a copy of each letter, the whole of which I beg you to read to our brethren, that they may be more and more settled down to patience, and not add another fault to what had hitherto been their former fault, not being willing to obey either me or the Gospel, nor allowing their cases to be examined in accordance with the letters of all the confessors. I bid you, beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell; and have me in remembrance. Salute all the brotherhood. Fare ye well!
Epistle XVIII.82 – Caldonius to Cyprian.
Argument. – When, in the Urgency of a New Persecution, Certain of the Lapsed Had Confessed Christ, and So, Before They Went Away into Exile, Sought for Peace, Caldonius Consults Cyprian as to Whether Peace Should Be Granted Them.
Caldonius to Cyprian and his fellow-presbyters83 abiding at Carthage, greeting. The necessity of the times induces us not hastily to grant peace. But it was well to write to you, that they84 who, after having sacrificed,85 were again tried, became exiles. And thus they seem to me to have atoned for their former crime, in that they now let go their possessions and homes, and, repenting, follow Christ. Thus Felix, who assisted in the office of presbyter86 under Decimus, and was very near to me in bonds (I knew that same Felix very thoroughly), Victoria, his wife, and Lucius, being faithful, were banished, and have left their possessions, which the treasury now has in keeping. Moreover, a woman, Bona by name, who was dragged by her husband to sacrifice, and (with no conscience guilty of the crime, but because those who held her hands, sacrificed) began to cry against them, “I did not do it; you it was who did it!” – was also banished.87 Since, therefore, all these were asking for peace, saying, “We have recovered the faith which we had lost, we have repented, and have publicly confessed Christ” – although it seems to me that they ought to receive peace, – yet I have referred them to your judgment, that I might not appear to presume anything rashly. If, therefore, you should wish me to do anything by the common decision, write to me. Greet our brethren; our brethren greet you. I bid you, beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XIX.88 – Cyprian Replies to Caldonius.
Argument. – Cyprian Treats of Nothing Peculiar in This Epistle, Beyond Acquiescing in the Opinion of Caldonius, to Wit, That Peace Should Not Be Refused to Such Lapsed As, by a True Repentance and Confession of the Name of Christ, Have Deserved It, and Have Therefore Returned to Him.
Cyprian to Caldonius, his brother, greeting. We have received your letter, beloved brother, which is abundantly sensible, and full of honesty and faith. Nor do we wonder that, skilled and exercised as you are in the Scriptures of the Lord, you do everything discreetly and wisely. You have judged quite correctly about granting peace to our brethren, which they, by true penitence and by the glory of a confession of the Lord, have restored to themselves, being justified by their words, by which before they had condemned themselves. Since, then, they have washed away all their sin, and their former stain, by the help of the Lord, has been done away by a more powerful virtue, they ought not to lie any longer under the power of the devil, as it were, prostrate; when, being banished and deprived of all their property, they have lifted themselves up and have begun to stand with Christ. And I wish that the others also would repent after their fall, and be transferred into their former condition; and that you may know how we have dealt with these, in their urgent and eager rashness and importunity to extort peace, I have sent a book89 to you, with letters to the number of five, that I wrote to the clergy and to the people, and to the martyrs also and confessors, which letters have already been sent to many of our colleagues, and have satisfied them; and they replied that they also agree with me in the same opinion according to the Catholic faith; which very thing do you also communicate to as many of our colleagues as you can, that among all these, may be observed one mode of action and one agreement, according to the Lord’s precepts.90 I bid you, beloved brother, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XX.91 – Celerinus to Lucian.
Argument. – Celerinus, on Behalf of His Lapsed Sisters at Rome, Beseeches Peace from the Carthaginian Confessors.
1. Celerinus to Lucian, greeting. In writing this letter to you, my lord and brother, I have been rejoicing and sorrowful, – rejoicing in that I had heard that you had been tried on behalf of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour, and had confessed His name in the presence of the magistrates of the world; but sorrowful, in that from the time when I was in your company I have never been able to receive your letters. And now lately a twofold sorrow has fallen upon me; that although you knew that Montanus, our common brother, was coming to me from you out of the dungeon, you did not intimate anything to me concerning your well-being, nor about anything that is done in connection with you. This, however, continually happens to the servants of God, especially to those who are appointed for the confession of Christ. For I know that every one looks not now to the things that are of the world, but that he is hoping for a heavenly crown. Moreover, I said that perhaps you had forgotten to write to me. For if from the lowest place I may be called by you yours, or brother, if I should be worthy to hear myself named Celerinus; yet, when I also was in such a purple92 confession, I remembered my oldest brethren, and I took notice of them in my letters, that their former love was still around me and mine. Yet I beseech, beloved of the Lord, that if, first of all, you are Washed in that sacred blood, and have suffered for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ before my letters find you in this world, or should they now reach you, that you would answer them to me. So may He crown you whose name you have confessed. For I believe, that although in this world we do not see each other, yet in the future we shall embrace one another in the presence of Christ. Entreat that I may be worthy, even I, to be crowned along with your company.
2. Know, nevertheless, that I am placed in the midst of a great tribulation; and, as if you were present with me, I remember your former love day and night, God only knows. And therefore I ask that you will grant my desire, and that you will grieve with me at the (spiritual) death of my sister, who in this time of devastation has fallen from Christ; for she has sacrificed and provoked our Lord, as seems manifest to us. And for her deeds I in this day of paschal rejoicing,93 weeping day and night, have spent the days in tears, in sackcloth, and ashes, and I am still spending them so to this day, until94 the aid of our Lord Jesus Christ, and affection manifested through you, or through those my lords who have been crowned, from whom you are about to ask it, shall come to the help of so terrible a shipwreck. For I remember your former love, that you will grieve with all the rest for our sisters whom you also knew well – that is, Numeria and Candida, – for whose sin, because they have us as brethren, we ought to keep watch. For I believe that Christ, according to their repentance and the works which they have done towards our banished colleagues who came from you – by whom themselves you will hear of their good works, – that Christ, I say, will have mercy upon them, when you, His martyrs, beseech Him.
3. For I have heard that you have received the ministry of the purpled ones. Oh, happy are you, even sleeping on the ground, to obtain your wishes which you have always desired! You have desired to be sent into prison for His name’s sake, which now has come to pass; as it is written, “The Lord grant thee according to thine own heart;” (Psa_20:4) and now made a priest of God over them, and the same their minister has acknowledged it.95 I ask, therefore my lord, and I entreat by our Lord Jesus Christ, that you will refer the case to the rest of your colleagues, your brethren, my lords, and ask from them, that whichever of you is first crowned, should remit such a great sin to those our sisters, Numeria and Candida. For this latter I have always called Etecusa96 – God is my witness, – because she gave gifts for herself that she might not sacrifice; but she appears only to have ascended to the Tria Fata,97 and thence to have descended. I know, therefore, that she has not sacrificed. Their cause having been lately heard, the chief rulers98 commanded them in the meantime to remain as they are, until a bishop should be appointed.99 But, as far as possible, by your holy prayers and petitions, in which we trust, since you are friends as well as witnesses of Christ, (we pray) that you would be indulgent in all these matters.
4. I entreat, therefore, beloved lord Lucian, be mindful of me, and acquiesce in my petition; so may Christ grant you that sacred crown which he has given you not only in confession but also in holiness, in which you have always walked and have always been an example to the saints as well as a witness, that you will relate to all my lords, your brethren the confessors, all about this matter, that they may receive help from you. For this, my lord and brother, you ought to know, that it is not I alone who ask this on their behalf, but also Statius and Severianus, and all the confessors who have come thence hither from you; to whom these very sisters went down to the harbour100 and took them up into the city, and they have ministered to sixty-five, and even to this day have tended them in all things, For all are with them. But I ought not to burden that sacred heart of yours any more, since I know that you will labour with a ready will. Macharius, with his sisters Cornelia and Emerita, salute you, rejoicing in your sanguinary confession, as well as in that of all the brethren, and Saturninus, who himself also wrestled with the devil, who also bravely confessed the name of Christ, who moreover, under the torture of the grappling claws, bravely confessed, and who also strongly begs and entreats this. Your brethren Calphurnius and Maria, and all the holy brethren, salute you. For you ought to know this too, that I have written also to my lords your brethren letters, which I request that you will deign to read to them.
Epistle XXI.101 – Lucian Replies to Celerinus.
Argument. – Lucian Assents to the Petition of Celerinus.
1. Lucian to Celerinus, his lord, and (if I shall be worthy to be called so) colleague in Christ, greeting. I have received your letter, most dearly beloved lord and brother, in which you have so laden me with expressions of kindness, that by reason of your so burdening me I was almost overcome with such excessive joy; so that I exulted in reading, by the benefit of your so great humility, the letter, which I also earnestly desired after so long a time to read, in which you deigned to call me to remembrance, saying to me in your writing, “if I may be worthy to be called your brother,” of a man such as I am who confessed the name of God with trembling before the inferior magistrates. For you, by God’s will, when you confessed, not only frightened back the great serpent himself, the pioneer of Antichrist,102 (but) have conquered him, by that voice and those divine words, whereby I know how you love the faith, and how zealous you are for Christ’s discipline, in which I know and rejoice that you are actively occupied.103 Now beloved, already to be esteemed among the martyrs, you have wished to overload me with your letter, in which you told us concerning our sisters, on whose behalf I wish that we could by possibility mention them without remembering also so great a crime committed. Assuredly we should not then think of them with so many tears as we do now.
2. You ought to know what has been done concerning us. When the blessed martyr Paulus was still in the body, he called me and said to me: “Lucian, in the presence of Christ I say to you, If any one, after my being called away, shall ask for peace from you, grant it in my name.” Moreover, all of us whom the Lord has condescended in such tribulation to call away, by our letters, by mutual agreement, have given peace to all. You see, then, brother, how (I have done this) in part of what Paulus bade me, as what we in all cases decreed when we were in this tribulation, wherein by the command of the emperor we were ordered to be put to death by hunger and thirst, and were shut up in two cells, that so they might weaken us by hunger and thirst. Moreover, the fire from the effect of our torture was so intolerable104 that nobody could bear it. But now we have attained the brightness itself. And therefore, beloved brother, greet Numeria and Candida, who (shall have peace105) according to the precept of Paulus, and the rest of the martyrs whose names I subjoin: viz., Bassus in the dungeon of the perjured,106 Mappalicus at the torture, Fortunio in prison, Paulus after torture, Fortunata, Victorinus, Victor, Herennius, Julia, Martial, and Aristo, who by God’s will were put to death in the prison by hunger, of whom in a few days you will hear of me as a companion. For now there are eight days, from the day in which I was shut up again, to the day in which I wrote my letter to you. For before these eight days, for five intervening days, I received a morsel of bread and water by measure. And therefore, brother, as here, since the Lord has begun to give peace to the Church itself, according to the precept of Paulus, and our tractate, the case being set forth before the bishop, and confession being made, I ask that not only these may have peace, but also (all) those whom you know to be very near to our heart.
3. All my colleagues greet you. Do you greet the confessors of the Lord who are there with you, whose names you have intimated, among whom also are Saturninus, with his companions, but who also is my colleague, and Maris, Collecta, and Emerita, Calphurnius and Maria, Sabina, Spesina, and the sisters, Januaria, Dativa, Donata. We greet Saturus with his family, Bassianus and all the clergy, Uranius, Alexius, Quintainus, Colonica, and all whose names I have not written, because I am already weary. Therefore they must pardon me. I bid you heartily farewell, and Alexius, and Getulicus, and the money-changers, and the sisters. My sisters Januaria and Sophia, whom I commend to you, greet you.107
Epistle XXII.108 – To the Clergy Abiding at Rome, Concerning Many of the Confessors, and Concerning the Forwardness of Lucian and the Modesty of Celerinus the Confessor.
Argument. – In This Letter Cyprian Informs the Roman Clergy of the Seditious Demand of the Lapsed to Be Restored to Peace, and of the Forwardness of Lucian. In Order That They May Better Understand These Matters, Cyprian Takes Care That Not Only His Own Letters, but also Those of Celerinus and Lucian, Should Be Sent to Them.
1. Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons abiding at Rome, his brethren, greeting. After the letters that I wrote to you, beloved brethren, in which what I had done was explained, and some slight account was given of my discipline and diligence, there came another matter which, any more than the others, ought not to be concealed from you. For our brother Lucian, who himself also is one of the confessors, earnest indeed in faith, and robust in virtue, but little established in the reading of the Lord’s word, has attempted certain things, constituting himself for a time an authority for unskilled people, so that certificates written by his hand were given indiscriminately to many persons in the name of Paulus; whereas Mappalicus the martyr, cautious and modest, mindful of the law and discipline, wrote no letters contrary to the Gospel, but only, moved with domestic affection for his mother,109 who had fallen, commanded peace to be given to her. Saturninus, moreover, after his torture, still remaining in prison, sent out no letters of this kind. But Lucian, not only while Paulus was still in prison, gave everywhere in his name certificates written with his own hand, but even after his decease persisted in doing the same things under his name, saying that this had been commanded him by Paulus, ignorant that he must obey the Lord rather than his fellow-servant. In the name also of Aurelius, a young man who had undergone the torture, many certificates were given, written by the hand of the same Lucian, because Aurelius did not know how to write himself.
2. In order, in some measure, to put a stop to this practice, I wrote letters to them, which I have sent to you under the enclosure of the former letter, in which I did not fail to ask and persuade them that consideration might be had for the law of the Lord and the Gospel. But after I sent my letters to them, that, as it were, something might be done more moderately and temperately; the same Lucian wrote a letter in the name of all the confessors, in which well nigh every bond of faith, and fear of God, and the Lord’s command, and the sacredness and sincerity of the Gospel were dissolved. For he wrote in the name of all, that they had given peace to all, and that he wished that this decree should be communicated through me to the other bishops, of which letter I transmitted a copy to you. It was added indeed, “of whom the account of what they have done since their crime has been satisfactory;” – a thing this which excites a greater odium against me, because I, when I have begun to hear the cases of each one and to examine into them, seem to deny to many what they now are all boasting that they have received from the martyrs and confessors.
3. Finally, this seditious practice has already begun to appear; for in our province, through some of its cities, an attack has been made by the multitude upon their rulers, and they have compelled that peace to be given to them immediately which they all cried out had been once given to them by the martyrs and confessors. Their rulers, being frightened and subdued, were of little avail to resist them, either by vigour of mind or by strength of faith. With us, moreover, some turbulent spirits, who in time past were with difficulty governed by me, and were delayed till my coming, were inflamed by this letter as if by a firebrand, and began to be more violent, and to extort the peace granted to them. I have sent a copy to you of the letters that I wrote to my clergy about these matters, and, moreover, what Caldonius, my colleague, of his integrity and faithfulness wrote, and what I replied to him. I have sent both to you to read. Copies also of the letter of Celerinus, the good and stout confessor, which he wrote to Lucian the same confessor – also what Lucian replied to him, – I have sent to you; that you may know both my labour in respect of everything, and my diligence, and might learn the truth itself, how moderate and cautious is Celerinus the confessor, and how reverent both in his humility and fear for our faith; while Lucian, as I have said, is less skilful concerning the understanding of the Lord’s word, and by his facility, is mischievous on account of the dislike that he causes for my reverential dealing. For while the Lord has said that the nations are to be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and their past sins are to be done away in baptism; this man, ignorant of the precept and of the law, commands peace to be granted and sins to be done away in the name of Paulus; and he says that this was commanded him by Paulus, as you will observe in the letter sent by the same Lucian to Celerinus, in which he very little considered that it is not martyrs that make the Gospel, but that martyrs are made by the Gospel;110 since Paul also, the apostle whom the Lord called a chosen vessel unto Him, laid down in his epistle: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the Gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 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 accursed.” (Gal_1:6-9)111
4. But your letter, which I received, written to my clergy, came opportunely; as also did those which the blessed confessors, Moyses and Maximus, Nicostratus, and the rest, sent to Saturninus and Aurelius, and the others, in which are contained the full vigour of the Gospel and the robust discipline of the law of the Lord. Your words much assisted me as I laboured here, and withstood with the whole strength of faith the onset of ill-will, so that my work was shortened from above, and that before the letters which I last sent you reached you, you declared to me, that according to the Gospel law, your judgment also strongly and unanimously concurred with mine. I bid you, brethren, beloved and longed-for, ever heartily farewell.
Epistle XXIII.112 – To the Clergy, on the Letters Sent to Rome, and about the Appointment of Aturus as Reader, and Optatus as Sub-Deacon. a.d. 250.
Argument. – The Clergy Are Informed by This Letter of the Ordination of Saturus and Optatus, and What Cyprian Had Written to Rome.
Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons, his brethren, greeting. That nothing may be unknown to your consciousness, beloved brethren, of what was written to me and what I replied, I have sent you a copy of each letter, and I believe that my rejoinder will not displease you. But I ought to acquaint you in my letter concerning this, that for a very urgent reason I have sent a letter to the clergy who abide in the city. And since it behoved me to write by clergy, while I know that very many of ours are absent, and the few that are there are hardly sufficient for the ministry of the daily duty, it was necessary to appoint some new ones, who might be sent. Know, then, that I have made Saturus a reader, and Optatus, the confessor, a sub-deacon; whom already, by the general advice, we had made next to the clergy, in having entrusted to Saturus on Easter-day, once and again, the reading; and when with the teacher-presbyters113 we were carefully trying readers – in appointing Optatus from among the readers to be a teacher of the hearers; – examining, first of all, whether all things were found fitting in them, which ought to be found in such as were in preparation for the clerical office. Nothing new, therefore, has been done by me in your absence; but what, on the general advice of all of us had been begun, has, upon urgent necessity, been accomplished. I bid you, beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell; and remember me. Fare ye well.
Epistle XXIV.114 – To Moyses and Maximus and the Rest of the Confessors.
Argument. – This Letter Is One of Congratulation to the Roman Confessors.
1. Cyprian to Moyses and Maximus, the presbyters, and to the other confessors, his very beloved brethren, greeting. I had already known from rumour, most brave and blessed brethren, the glory of your faith and virtue, rejoicing greatly and abundantly congratulating you, that the highest condescension of our Lord Jesus Christ should have prepared you for the crown by confession of His name. For you, who have become chiefs and leaders in the battle of our day, have set forward the standard of the celestial warfare; you have made a beginning of the spiritual contest which God has purposed to be now waged by your valour; you, with unshaken strength and unyielding firmness, have broken the first onset of the rising war. Thence have arisen happy openings of the fight; thence have begun good auspices of victory. It happened that here martyrdoms were consummated by tortures. But he who, preceding in the struggle, has been made an example of virtue to the brethren, is on common ground with the martyrs in honour. Hence you have delivered to us garlands woven by your hand, and have pledged your brethren from the cup of salvation.
2. To these glorious beginnings of confession and the omens of a victorious warfare, has been added the maintenance of discipline, which I observed from the vigour of your letter that you lately sent to your colleagues joined with you to the Lord in confession, with anxious admonition, that the sacred precepts of the Gospel and the commandments of life once delivered to us should be kept with firm and rigid observance. Behold another lofty degree of your glory; behold, with confession, a double title to deserving well of God, – to stand with a firm step, and to drive away in this struggle, by the strength of your faith, those who endeavour to make a breach in the Gospel, and bring impious hands to the work of undermining the Lord’s precepts: – to have before afforded the indications of courage, and now to afford lessons of life. The Lord, when, after His resurrection, He sent forth His apostles, charges them, 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: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Mat_28:18-20) And the Apostle John, remembering this charge, subsequently lays it down in his epistle: “Hereby,” says he, “we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith he knoweth Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1Jo_2:3, 1Jo_2:4) You prompt the keeping of these precepts; you observe the divine and heavenly commands. This is to be a confessor of the Lord; this is to be a martyr of Christ, -to keep the firmness of one’s profession inviolate among all evils, and secure.115 For to wish to become a martyr for the Lord, and to try to overthrow the Lord’s precepts; to use against Him the condescension that He has granted you; – to become, as it were, a rebel with arms that you have received from Him; – this is to wish to confess Christ, and to deny Christ’s Gospel. I rejoice, therefore, on your behalf, most brave and faithful brethren; and as much as I congratulate the martyrs there honoured for the glory of their strength, so much do I also equally congratulate you for the crown of the Lord’s discipline. The Lord has shed forth His condescension in manifold kinds of liberality. He has distributed the praises of good soldiers and their spiritual glories in plentiful variety. We also are sharers in your honour; we count your glory our glory, whose times have been brightened by such a felicity, that it should be the fortune of our day to see the proved servants of God and Christ’s soldiers crowned. I bid you, most brave and blessed brethren, ever heartily farewell; and remember me.
Epistle XXV.116 – Moyses, Maximus, Nicostratus, and the Other Confessors Answer the Foregoing Letter. a.d. 250.
Argument. – They Gratefully Acknowledge the Consolation Which the Roman Confessors Had Received from Cyprian’s Letter. Martyrdom Is Not a Punishment, but a Happiness. The Words of the Gospel Are Brands to Inflame Faith. In the Case of the Lapsed, the Judgment of Cyprian Is Acquiesced In.
1. To Caecilius Cyprian, bishop of the church of the Carthaginians, Moyses and Maximus, presbyters, and Nicostratus and Rufinus, deacons, and the other confessors persevering in the faith of the truth, in God the Father, and in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, greeting. Placed, brother, as we are among various and manifold sorrows, on account of the present desolations of many brethren throughout almost the whole world,117 this chief consolation has reached us, that we have been lifted up by the receipt of your letter, and have gathered some alleviation for the griefs of our saddened spirit. From which we can alreadyperceive that the grace of divine providence wished to keep us so long shut up in the prison chains, perhaps for no other reason than that, instructed and more vigorously animated by your letter, we might with a more earnest will attain to the destined crown. For your letter has shone upon us as a calm in the midst of a tempest, and as the longed-for tranquillity in the midst of a troubled sea, and as repose in labours, as health in dangers and pains, as in the densest darkness, the bright and glowing light. Thus we drank it up with a thirsty spirit, and received it with a hungry desire; so that we rejoice to find ourselves by it sufficiently fed and strengthened for encounter with the foe. The Lord will reward you for that love of yours, and will restore you the fruit due to this so good work; for he who exhorts is not less worthy of the reward of the crown than he who suffers; not less worthy of praise is he who has taught, than he who has acted also; he is not less to be honoured who has warned, than he who has fought; except that sometimes the weight of glory more redounds to him who trains, than to him who has shown himself a teachable learner; for the latter, perchance, would not have bad what he has practised, unless the former had taught him.
2. Therefore, again, we say, brother Cyprian, we have received great joy, great comfort, great refreshment, especially in that you have described, with glorious and deserved praises, the glorious, I will not say, deaths, but immortalities of martyrs. For such departures should have been proclaimed with such words, that the things which were related might be told in such manner as they were done. Thus, from your letter, we saw those glorious triumphs of the martyrs; and with our eyes in some sort have followed them as they went to heaven, and have contemplated them seated among angels, and the powers and dominions of heaven. Moreover, we have in some manner perceived with our ears the Lord giving them the promised testimony in the presence of the Father. It is this, then, which also raises our spirit day by day, and inflames us to the following of the track of such dignity.
3. For what more glorious, or what more blessed, can happen to any man from the divine condescension, than to confess the Lord God, in death itself, before his very executioners? Than among the raging and varied and exquisite tortures of worldly power, even when the body is racked and torn and cut to pieces, to confess Christ the Son of God with a spirit still free, although departing? Than to have mounted to heaven with the world left behind? Than, having forsaken men, to stand among the angels? Than, all worldly impediments being broken through, already to stand free in the sight of God? Than to enjoy the heavenly kingdom without any delay? Than to have become an associate of Christ’s passion in Christ’s name? Than to have become by the divine condescension the judge of one’s own judge? Than to have brought off an unstained conscience from the confession of His name? Than to have refused to obey human and sacrilegious laws against the faith? Than to have borne witness to the truth with a public testimony? Than, by dying, to have subdued death itself, which is dreaded by all? Than, by death itself, to have attained immortality? Than when torn to pieces, and tortured by all the instruments of cruelty, to have overcome the torture by the tortures themselves? Than by strength of mind to have wrestled with all the agonies of a mangled body? Than not to have shuddered at the flow of one’s own blood? Than to have begun to love one’s punishments, after having faith to bear them?118 Than to think it an injury to one’s life not to have left it?
4. For to this battle our Lord, as with the trumpet of His Gospel, stimulates us when He says, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth his own soul more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” (Mat_10:37, Mat_10:38) And again, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed shall ye be, when men shall persecute you, and hate you. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for so did their fathers persecute the prophets which were before you.” (Mat_5:10-12) And again,” Because ye shall stand before kings and powers, and the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son, and he that endureth to the end shall be saved;” (Mat_10:18, Mat_21:22) and “To him that overcometh will I give to sit on my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down on the throne of my Father.” (Rev_3:21) Moreover the apostle: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (As it is written, For thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors for Him who hath loved us.” (Rom_8:35)
5. When we read these things,119 and things of the like kind, brought together in the Gospel, and feel, as it were, torches placed under us, with the Lord’s words to inflame our faith, we not only do not dread, but we even provoke120 the enemies of the truth; and we have already conquered the opponents of God, by the very fact of our not yielding to them, and have subdued their nefarious laws against the truth. And although we have not yet shed our blood, we are prepared to shed it. Let no one think that this delay of our departure121 is any clemency; for it obstructs us, it makes a hindrance to our glory, it puts off heaven, it withholds the glorious sight of God. For in a contest of this kind, and in the kind of contest when faith is struggling in the encounter, it is not true clemency to put off martyrs by delay. Entreat therefore, beloved Cyprian, that of His mercy the Lord will every day more and more arm and adorn every one of us with greater abundance and readiness, and will confirm and strengthen us by the strength of His power; and, as a good captain, will at length bring forth His soldiers, whom He has hitherto trained and proved in the camp of our prison, to the field of the battle set before them. May He hold forth to us the divine arms, those weapons that know not how to be conquered, – the breastplate of righteousness, which is never accustomed to be broken, – the shield of faith, which cannot be pierced through, – the helmet of salvation, which cannot be shattered, – and the sword of the Spirit, which has never been wont to be injured. For to whom should we rather commit these things for him to ask for us, than to our so reverend bishop,122 as destined victims asking help of the priest?
6. Behold another joy of ours, that, in the duty of your episcopate, although in the meantime you have been, owing to the condition of the times, divided from your brethren, you have frequently confirmed the confessors by your letters; that you have ever afforded necessary supplies from your own just acquisitions; that in all things you have always shown yourself in some sense present; that in no part of your duty have you hung behind as a deserter.123 But what more strongly stimulated us to a greater joy we cannot be silent upon, but must describe with all the testimony of our voice. For we observe that you have both rebuked with fitting censure, and worthily, those who, unmindful of their sins, had, with hasty and eager desire, extorted peace from the presbyters in your absence, and those who, without respect for the Gospel, had with profane facility granted the holiness124 of the Lord unto dogs, and pearls to swine; although a great crime, and one which has extended with incredible destructiveness almost over the whole earth, ought only, as you yourself write, to be treated cautiously and with moderation, with the advice of all the bishops, presbyters, deacons, confessors, and even the laymen who abide fast,125 as in your letters you yourself also testify; so that, while wishing unseasonably to bring repairs to the ruins, we may not appear to be bringing about other and greater destruction, for where is the divine word left, if pardon be so easily granted to sinners? Certainly their spirits are to be cheered and to be nourished up to the season of their maturity, and they are to be instructed from the Holy Scriptures how great and surpassing a sin they have committed. Nor let them be animated by the fact that they are many, but rather let them be checked by the fact that they are not few.126 An unblushing number has never been accustomed to have weight in extenuation of a crime; but shame, modesty, patience, discipline, humility, and subjection, waiting for the judgment of others upon itself, and bearing the sentence of others upon its own judgment, – this it is which proves penitence; this it is which skins over a deep wound; this it is which raises up the ruins of the fallen spirit and restores them, which quells and restrains the burning vapour of their raging sins. For the physician will not give to the sick the food of healthy bodies, lest the unseasonable nourishment, instead of repressing, should stimulate the power of the raging disease, – that is to say, lest what might have been sooner diminished by abstinence, should, through impatience, be prolonged by growing indigestion.
7. Hands, therefore, polluted with impious sacrifices127 must be purified with good works, and wretched mouths defiled with accursed food128 must be purged with words of true penitence, and the spirit must be renewed and consecrated in the recesses of the faithful heart. Let the frequent groanings of the penitents be heard; let faithful tears be shed from the eyes not once only, but again and again, so that those very eyes which wickedly looked upon idols may wash away, with tears that satisfy God, the unlawful things that they had done. Nothing is necessary for diseases but patience: they who are weary and weak wrestle with their pain; and so at length hope for health, if, by tolerating it, they can overcome their suffering; for unfaithful is the scar which the physician has too quickly produced; and the healing is undone by any little casualty, if the remedies be not used faithfully from their very slowness. The flame is quickly recalled again to a conflagration, unless the material of the whole fire be extinguished even to the extremest spark; so that men of this kind should justly know that even they themselves are more advantaged by the very delay, and that more trusty remedies are applied by the necessary postponement. Besides, where shall it be said that they who confess Christ are shut up in the keeping of a squalid prison, if they who have denied Him are in no peril of their faith? Where, that they are bound in the cincture of chains in God’s name, if they who have not kept the confession of God are not deprived of communion? Where, that the imprisoned martyrs lay down their glorious lives, if those who have forsaken the faith do not feel the magnitude of their dangers and their sins? But if they betray too much impatience, and demand communion with intolerable eagerness, they vainly utter with petulant and unbridled tongues those querulous and invidious reproaches which avail nothing against the truth, since they might have retained by their own right what now by a necessity, which they of their own free will have sought, they are compelled to sue for.129 For the faith which could confess Christ, could also have been kept by Christ in communion. We bid you, blessed and most glorious father, ever heartily farewell in the Lord; and have us in remembrance.
Epistle XXVI.130 – Cyprian to the Lapsed.
Argument. – The Argument of This Letter Is Found Below in Letter XXVII. “They Wrote to Me,” Says He, “Not Asking That Peace Should Be Granted Them, but Claiming It for Themselves as Already Granted, Because They Say That Paulus Has Given Peace to All; as You Will Read in Their Letter of Which I Have Sent You a Copy, Together with What I Briefly Replied to Them” but the Letter of the Lapsed to Which He Replies Is Wanting.
1. Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop131 and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: “I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mat_16:18, Mat_16:19) Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. [Elucidated and worked out in the Treatise on Unity, infra.] Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some, with daring temerity, have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name of the Church; when the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith. For far be it from the mercy of God and His uncontrolled might to suffer the number of the lapsed to be called the Church; since it is written, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Mat_22:32)For we indeed desire that all may be made alive; and we pray that, by our supplications and groans, they may be restored to their original state. But if certain lapsed ones claim to be the Church, and if the Church be among them and in them, what is left but for us to ask of these very persons that they would deign to admit us into the Church? Therefore it behoves them to be submissive and quiet and modest, as those who ought to appease God, in remembrance of their sin, and not to write letters in the name of the Church, when they should rather be aware that they are writing to the Church.
2. But some who are of the lapsed have lately written to me, and are humble and meek and trembling and fearing God, and who have always laboured in the Church gloriously and liberally, and who have never made a boast of their labour to the Lord, knowing that He has said, “When ye shall have done all these things, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luk_17:10) Thinking of which things, and although they had received certificates from the martyrs, nevertheless, that their satisfaction might be admitted by the Lord, these persons beseeching have written to me that they acknowledge their sin, and are truly repentant, and do not hurry rashly or importunately to secure peace; but that they are waiting for my presence, saying that even peace itself, if they should receive it when I was present, would be sweeter to them. How greatly I congratulate these, the Lord is my witness, who hath condescended to tell what such, and such sort of servants deserve of His kindness. Which letters, as I lately received, and now read that you have written very differently, I beg that you will discriminate between your wishes; and whoever you are who have sent this letter, add your names to the certificate, and transmit the certificate to me with your several names. For I must first know to whom I have to reply; then I will respond to each of the matters that you have written, having regard to the mediocrity of my place and conduct. I bid you, beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell, and live quietly and tranquilly according to the Lord’s discipline. Fare ye well.
Epistle XXVII.132 – To the Presbyters and Deacons.
Argument. – The Argument of This Letter Is Sufficiently in Agreement with the Preceding, and It Appears That It Is the One of Which He Speaks in the Following Letter; for He Praises His Clergy for Having Rejected from Communion Gaius of Didda, a Presbyter, and His Deacon, Who Rashly Communicated with the Lapsed; and Exhorts Them to Do the Same with Certain Others.
1. Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons, his brethren, greeting. You have done uprightly and with discipline, beloved brethren, that, by the advice of my colleagues who were present, you have decided not to communicate with Gaius the presbyter of Didda, and his deacon; who, by communicating with the lapsed, and offering their oblations,133 have been frequently taken in their wicked errors; and who once and again, as you wrote to me, when warned by my colleagues not to do this, have persisted obstinately, in their presumption and audacity, deceiving certain brethren also from among our people, whose benefit we desire with all humility to consult, and whose salvation we take care for, not with affected adulation, but with sincere faith, that they may supplicate the Lord with true penitence and groaning and sorrow, since it is written, “Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent.” (Rev_2:5) And again, the divine Scripture says, “Thus saith the Lord, When thou shalt be converted and lament, then thou shalt be saved, and shall know where thou hast been.” (Isa_30:15, LXX)
2. Yet how can those mourn and repent, whose groanings and tears some of the presbyters obstruct when they rashly think that they may be communicated with, not knowing that it is written, “They who call you happy134 cause you to err, and destroy the path of your feet?” (Isa_3:12, LXX) Naturally, our wholesome and true counsels have no success, whilst the salutary truth is hindered by mischievous blandishments and flatteries, and the wounded and unhealthy mind of the lapsed suffers what those also who are bodily diseased and sick often suffer; that while they refuse wholesome food and beneficial drink as bitter and distasteful, and crave those things which seem to please them and to be sweet for the present, they are inviting to themselves mischief and death by their recklessness and intemperance. Nor does the true remedy of the skilful physician avail to their safety, whilst the sweet enticement is deceiving with its charms.
3. Do you, therefore, according to my letters, take counsel about this faithfully and wholesomely, and do not recede from better counsels; and be careful to read these same letters to my colleagues also, if there are any present, or if any should come to you; that, with unanimity and concord, we may maintain a healthful plan for soothing and healing the wounds of the lapsed, intending to deal very fully with all when, by the Lord’s mercy, we shall begin to assemble together. In the meantime, if any unrestrained and impetuous person, whether of our presbyters or deacons or of strangers, should dare, before our decree, to communicate with the lapsed, let him be expelled from our communion, and plead the cause of his rashness before all of us when, by the Lord’s permission, we shall assemble together again.135 Moreover, you wished me to reply what I thought concerning Philumenus and Fortunatus, sub-deacons, and Favorinus, an acolyte, who retired in the midst of the time of trial, and have now returned. Of which thing I cannot make myself sole judge, since many of the clergy are still absent, and have not considered, even thus late, that they should return to their place; and this case of each one must be considered separately and fully investigated, not only with my colleagues, but also with the whole of the people themselves.135 For a matter which hereafter may constitute an example as regards the ministers of the Church must be weighed and adjudged with careful deliberation. In the meanwhile, let them only abstain from the monthly division, not so as to seem to be deprived of the ministry of the Church, but that all matters being in a sound state, they may be reserved till my coming. I bid you, beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell. Greet all the brotherhood, and fare ye well.
Epistle XXVIII.136 – To the Presbyters and Deacons Abiding at Rome.
Argument. – The Roman Clergy Are Informed of the Temerity of the Lapsed Who Were Demanding Peace.
Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons abiding at Rome, his brethren, greeting. Both our common love and the reason of the thing demand, beloved brethren, that I should keep back from your knowledge nothing of those matters which are transacted among us, that so we may have a common plan for the advantage of the administration of the Church. For after I wrote to you the letter which I sent by Saturus the reader, and Optatus the sub-deacon, the combined temerity of certain of the lapsed, who refuse to repent and to make satisfaction to God, wrote to me, not asking that peace might be given to them, but claiming it as already given; because they say that Paulus has given peace to all, as you will read in their letter of which I have sent you a copy, as well as what I briefly replied to them in the meantime. But that you may also know what sort of a letter I afterwards wrote to the clergy, I have, moreover, sent you a copy of this. But if, after all, their temerity should not be repressed either by my letters or by yours, and should not yield to wholesome counsels, I shall take such proceedings as the Lord, according to His Gospel, has enjoined to be taken. I bid you, beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell.
78 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxiv. A.D. 250.
79 “Cypriano Papae,” to “Pope” Cyprian. [An instance illustrative of what is to be found on p. 54, supra. See also Elucidation III. p. 154, supra.
80 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxvi. A.D. 250.
81 [The affectionate and general usage of primitive bishops to seek the consensus fratrum, is noteworthy.]
82 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxiv. A.D. 250.
83 [The community of this term, presbyters, has been noted. See p. 156, supra.
84 “Some” would seem to be correct (Goldhorn); but it has no authority.
85 [i.e., to idols, or the imperial image.]
86 “Presbyterium sunbimistrabat;” assisted, probably as vicar or curate.
87 [A very touching incident, dramatically narrated.]
88 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxv. A.D. 250.
89 Probably the treatise, On the Lapsed.
90 [A beautiful specimen of obedience to the precept, 1Pe_5:5.]
91 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxi. A.D. 250.
92 “Florida,” scil. “purpurea,” purpled, that is, with blood. See concluding section of Ep. viii. The Oxford translator has “empurpled.”
93 [Written at Easter, like the first Epistle to the Corinthians, as implied in cap. 1Co_5:7. See Conybeare and Howson.]
94 The Oxford edition has a variation here, as follows: “Until our Lord Jesus Christ afford help, and pity be manifested to you, or through those my lords who may have been crowned, from whom you will entreat that these dreadful shipwrecks may be pardoned.”
95 This seems altogether unintelligible: the original is probably corrupt. [It seems to relate to the sort of priesthood which was conceded to all martyrs, in view of (Rev_1:6 and Rev_5:10) the message sent by the angel “to His servants,” and by their servant or minister, John.]
96 Dodwell conjectures this name to be from ἀτυχοῦσα (unhappy) or ἀεκοῦσα (unwilling), and applies it to Candida.
97 A spot in the Roman Forum which must of necessity be passed by in the ascent to the Capitol. It would appear that Candida therefore repented of her purpose of sacrificing, when she was actually on her way to effect it.
98 [i.e., the clergy administering jurisdiction.]
99 i.e., in the room of Fabian.
100 [i.e., to Ostia or Portus.]
101 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxii. A.D. 250.
102 The emperor Decius.
103 The passage is hopelessly confused.
104 “And, moreover, by the smoke of fire, and our suffering was so intolerable,” etc.; v. l.
105 These parenthetical words are necessary to the sense, but are omitted in the original.
106 “Pejerario.” There are many conjectures as to the meaning of this. Perhaps the most plausible is the emendation, “Petrario” – “in the mines.”
107 This epistle, as well as the preceding, seem to be very imperfect, having probably been “written,” says the Oxford translator, “by persons little versed in writing, – confessors, probably, of the less instructed sort.” The meaning in many places is very unsatisfactory.
108 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxvii. A.D. 250.
109 Some read, “his mother and sisters, who had fallen.”
110 [A Cyprianic aphorism applicable to the “The Fathers.”]
111 [Applicable to the new Marian dogma.]
112 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxix. The numbering of the epistles has hitherto been in accordance with Migne’s edition of the text. but as he here follows a typographical error in numbering the epistle “xxiv.,” and all subsequent ones accordingly, it has been thought better to continue the correct order in this translation. In each case, therefore, after this, the number of the epistle in the translation will be one earlier than Migne.
113 Not all “teachers and presbyters,” as in the Oxford translation, but “teaching presbyters.” For these were a distinct class of presbyters – all not being teachers, – and these were to be judges of the fitness of such as were to be teachers of the hearers. [According to Cyprian’s theory, all presbyters shared in the government and celebrated the Lord’s Supper, but only the more learned and gifted were preachers. 1Ti_4:1-16:17.]
114 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxviii. [The See of Rome was now vacant by the death of Fabian. A.D. 250. See letter xxiv. infra.]
115 “And not to become a martyr for the Lord’s sake” (or, by the Lord’s help”), “and to endeavour to overthrow the Lord’s precepts.” Baluz. reads “praeter,” but in notes, “propter,” while most mss. read “per Dominum.”
116 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxxi. [This epistle shows that Cyprian’s gentle reproof of their former implied regret at his retreat (see p. 280, supra) had been effective.]
117 [Note this testimony to the universality of the persecution. Vol. 4. p. 125, this series.]
118 Supplicia sua post fidem amare coepisse.
119 [Note the power of the Holy Scripture in creating and supporting the martyr-spirit.]
120 [See valuable note, Oxford translation, p. 71.]
121 Lit. “of our postponement.”
122 [I have amended the translation here from the Oxford trans.]
123 [An important testimony to Cyprian’s judicious retirement, in the spirit of St. Paul, Phi_1:24.]
124 “Sanctum.” [Note what follows: a rule for our times.]
125 [An important testimony to the Cyprianic theory from members of the Roman presbytery.]
126 [The extent of the lapses which Cyprian strove to check by due austerity must be noted.]
127 [The casting of a grain if incense upon the coals before as image, to escape death.]
128 [Meats offered to idols.]
129 [Note the profound convictions in these very lapsers of the truth of the Gospel and of the value of full communion with Christ.]
130 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxxiii. A.D. 250.
131 [This is the Cyprianic idea. The idea that this was peculiar to any one Bishop had never entered his mind. See vol. 4. p. 99.]
132 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxxiv. A.D. 250.
133 [At the Eucharist the alms and oblations were regarded in the light of Mat_5:23, Mat_5:24.]
134 “They which lead thee.” – E.V.
135 [Thus Cyprian keeps in view “the whole Church,” and adheres to his principle in letter xiii. p. 294, Elucidation IV., supra.
136 Oxford ed.: Ep. xxxv. A.D. 250.