Cyprian (Cont.)The Epistles of Cyprian. (Cont.)

Epistle LXXX.503 – Cyprian to Sergius, Rogatianus, and the Other Confessors in Prison.

Argument. – He Consoles Rogatianus and His Colleagues, the Confessors in Prison, and Gives Them Courage by the Example of the Martyrs Rogatianus the Elder and Felicissimus. The Letter Itself Indicates That It Was Written in Exile.


1. Cyprian to Sergius and Rogatianus, and the rest of the confessors in the Lord, everlasting health. I salute you, dearest and most blessed brethren, myself also desiring to enjoy the sight of you, if the state in which I am placed would permit me to come to you. For what could happen to me more desirable and more joyful than to be now close to you, that you might embrace me with those hands, which, pure and innocent, and maintaining the faith of the Lord, have rejected the profane obedience? What more pleasant and sublime than now to kiss your lips, which with a glorious voice have confessed the Lord, to be looked upon even in presence by your eyes, which, despising the world, have become worthy504 of looking upon God? But since opportunity is not afforded me to share in this joy, I send this letter in my stead to your ears and to your eyes, by which I congratulate and exhort you that you persevere strongly and steadily in the confession of the heavenly glory; and having entered on the way of the Lord’s condescension, that you go on in the strength of the Spirit, to receive the crown, having the Lord as your protector and guide, who said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Mat_28:20) O blessed prison, which your presence has enlightened! O blessed prison, which sends the men of God to heaven! O darkness, more bright than the sun itself, and clearer than the light of this world, where now are placed temples of God, and your members are to be sanctified by divine confessions!


2. Nor let anything now be revolved in your hearts and minds besides the divine precepts and heavenly commands, with which the Holy Spirit has ever animated you to the endurance of suffering. Let no one think of death, but of immortality; nor of temporary punishment, but of eternal glory; since it is written, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints;” (Psa_116:15) and again, “A broken spirit is a sacrifice to God: a contrite and humble heart God doth not despise.” (Psa_51:19) And again, where the sacred Scripture speaks of the tortures which consecrate God’s martyrs, and sanctify them in the very trial of suffering: “And if they have suffered torments in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality; and having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy of Himself. As gold in the furnace hath He tried them, and received them as a sacrifice of a burnt-offering, and in due time regard shall be had unto them. The righteous shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people; and their Lord shall reign for ever.” (Wisdom of Solomon 3:4-8) When, therefore, you reflect that you shall judge and reign with Christ the Lord, you must needs exult and tread under foot present sufferings, in the joy of what is to come; knowing that from the beginning of the world it has been so appointed that righteousness should suffer there in the conflict of the world, since in the beginning, even at the first, the righteous Abel was slain, and thereafter all righteous men, and prophets, and apostles who were sent. To all of whom the Lord also in Himself has appointed an example, teaching that none shall attain to His kingdom but those who have followed Him in His own way, saying, “He that loveth his life in this world shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (Joh_12:25) And again: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mat_10:28) Paul also exhorts us that we who desire to attain to the Lord’s promises ought to imitate the Lord in all things. “We are,” says he, “the sons of God: but if sons, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Rom_8:16, Rom_8:17) Moreover, he added the comparison of the present time and of the future glory, saying, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom_8:18) Of which brightness, when we consider the glory, it behoves us to bear all afflictions and persecutions; because, although many are the afflictions of the righteous, yet those are delivered from them all who trust in God.


3. Blessed women also, who are established with you in the same glory of confession, who, maintaining the Lord’s faith, and braver than their sex, not only themselves are near to the crown of glory, but have afforded an example to other women by their constancy! And lest anything should be wanting to the glory of your number, that each sex and every age also might be with you in honour, the divine condescension has also associated with you boys [see p. 404, note 491, supra.] in a glorious confession; representing to us something of the same kind as once did Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, the illustrious youths to whom, when shut up in the furnace, the fires gave way, and the flames gave refreshment, the Lord being present with them, and proving that against His confessors and martyrs the heat of hell could have no power, but that they who trusted in God should always continue unhurt and safe in all dangers. And I beg you to consider more carefully, in accordance with your religion, what must have been the faith in these youths which could deserve such full acknowledgment from the Lord. For, prepared for every fate, as we ought all to be, they say to the king, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter; for our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king! But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Dan_3:16-18) Although they believed, and, in accordance with their faith, knew that they might even be delivered from their present punishment, they still would not boast of this, nor claim it for themselves, saying, “But if not.” Lest the virtue of their confession should be less without the testimony of their suffering, they added that God could do all things; but yet they would not trust in this, so as to wish to be delivered at the moment; but they thought on that glory, of eternal liberty and security.


4. And you also, retaining this faith, and meditating day and night, with your whole heart prepared for God, think of the future only, with contempt for the present, that you may be able to come to the fruit of the eternal kingdom, and to the embrace and kiss, and the sight of the Lord, that you may follow in all things Rogatianus the presbyter, the glorious old man who, to the glory of our time, makes a way for you by his religious courage and divine condescension, who, with Felicissimus our brother, ever quiet and temperate, receiving the attack of a ferocious people, first prepared for you a dwelling in the prison, and, marking out the way505 for you in some measure, now also goes before you. That this may be consummated in you, we beseech the Lord in constant prayers, that from beginnings going on to the highest results, He may cause those whom He has made to confess, also to be crowned. I bid you, dearest and most beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell in the Lord; and may you attain to the crown of heavenly glory. Victor the deacon, and those who are with me, greet you.


Epistle LXXXI.506 – To Successus on the Tidings Brought from Rome, Telling of the Persecution.

Argument. – Cyprian Tells the Bishop Successus, That in a Severe Persecution That Had Been Decreed by the Emperor Valerian507 Xistus the Bishop Had Suffered at Rome on the Eighth of the Ides of August; and He Begs Him to Intimate the Same to the Rest of His Colleagues, That Each One Might Animate His Own Flock to Martyrdom.


1. Cyprian to his brother Successus, greeting. The reason why I could not write to you immediately, dearest brother, was that all the clergy, being placed in the very heat of the contest, were unable in any way to depart hence, all of them being prepared in accordance with the devotion of their mind for divine and heavenly glory. But know that those have come whom I had sent to the City508 for this purpose, that they might find out and bring back to us the truth, in whatever manner it had been decreed respecting us. For many various and uncertain things are current in men’s opinions. But the truth concerning them is as follows, that Valerian had sent a rescript to the Senate, to the effect that bishops and presbyters and deacons should immediately be punished; but that senators, and men of importance, and Roman knights, [Elucidation XX.] should lose their dignity, and moreover be deprived of their property; and if, when their means were taken away, they should persist in being Christians, then they should also lose their heads; but that matrons should be deprived of their property, and sent into banishment. Moreover, people of Caesar’s household, whoever of them had either confessed before, or should now confess, should have their property confiscated, and should be sent in chains by assignment to Caesar’s estates. The Emperor Valerian also added to this address a copy of the letters which he sent to the presidents of the provinces concerning us; which letters we are daily hoping will come, waiting according to the strength of our faith for the endurance of suffering, and expecting from the help and mercy of the Lord the crown of eternal life. But know that Xistus was martyred in the cemetery on the eighth day of the Ides of August, and with him four deacons.509 Moreover, the prefects in the City510 are daily urging on this persecution; so that, if any are presented to them, they are martyred, and their property claimed by the treasury.


2. I beg that these things may be made known by your means to the rest of our colleagues, that everywhere, by their exhortation, the brotherhood may be strengthened and prepared for the spiritual conflict, that every one of us may think less of death than of immortality; and, dedicated to the Lord, with full faith and entire courage, may rejoice rather than fear in this confession, wherein they know that the soldiers of God and Christ are not slain, but crowned. I bid you, dearest brother, ever heartily farewell in the Lord.511


Epistle LXXXII.512 – To the Clergy and People Concerning His Retirement, a Little Before His Martyrdom.

Argument. – When, near the End of His Life, Cyprian, on Returning to His Gardens, Was Told That Messengers Were Sent to Take Him for Punishment to Utica, He Withdrew. And Lest It Should Be Thought That He Had Done so from Fear of Death, He Gives the Reason in This Letter, Viz., That He Might Undergo His Martyrdom Nowhere Else than at Carthage, in the Sight of His Own People. A.D. 258.


1. Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons, and all the people, greeting. When it had been told to us, dearest brethren, that the gaolers513 had been sent to bring me to Utica, and I had been persuaded by the counsel of those dearest to me to withdraw for a time from my gardens, as a just reason was afforded I consented. For the reason that it is fit for a bishop, in that city in which he presides over the Church of the Lord, there to confess the Lord, and that the whole people should be glorified by the confession of their prelate in their presence. For whatever, in that moment of confession, the confessor-bishop speaks, he speaks in the mouth of all, by inspiration of God.514 But the honour of our Church, glorious as it is, will be mutilated if I, a bishop placed over another church, receiving my sentence or my confession at Utica, should go thence as a martyr to the Lord, when indeed, both for my own sake and yours, I pray with continual supplications, and with all my desires entreat, that I may confess among you, and there suffer, and thence depart to the Lord even as I ought. Therefore here in a hidden retreat I await the arrival of the proconsul returning to Carthage, that I may hear from him what the emperors have commanded upon the subject of Christian laymen and bishops, and may say what the Lord will wish to be said at that hour.


2. But do you, dearest brethren, according to the discipline which you have ever received from me out of the Lord’s commands, and according to what you have so very often learnt from my discourse, keep peace and tranquillity; nor let any of you stir up any tumult for the brethren, or voluntarily offer himself to the Gentiles. For when apprehended and delivered up, he ought to speak, inasmuch as the Lord abiding in us speaks in that hour, who willed that we should rather confess than profess. But for the rest, what it is fitting that we should observe before the proconsul passes sentence on me for the confession of the name of God, we will with the instruction of the Lord arrange in common.515 May our Lord make you, dearest brethren, to remain safe in His Church, and condescend to keep you. So be it through His mercy.




(The presbyterate and the priesthood)

Here is an instance of a usage just becoming common to the East and West, – to give the name of priesthood to the chief ministry as distinguished from the presbyterate. So in Chrysostom passim, but notably in his treatise περὶ ἱερωσύνης. The scriptural warrant for this usage is derived, dialectically, from the universal priesthood of Christians (1Pe_2:5), front the Old Testament prophecies of the Christian ministry (Isa_66:21), and from the culmination of the sacerdotium in the chief ministry of St. Paul. Over and against the Mosaic priesthood he is supposed to assert his own priestly charisma in the Epistle to the Romans, (Rom_15:15, Rom_15:16, compared with Mal_1:11) where he says, “I have therefore my glorying in Christ Jesus” (i.e., the Great High Priest), “in things pertaining to God;” that is (according to the Epistle to the Hebrews Heb_5:1), “as a high priest taken from among men, in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” He asserts himself, therefore, as a better priest than those of the Law, “because of the grace that was given me of God, that I should be a minister of Christ Jesus unto the Gentiles, ministering in sacrifice516 the Gospel of God.” He then (according to this theory) adopts the language and the idea of Malachi, and adds, “that the oblation of the Gentiles might be acceptable,” etc.; i.e., the pure ninchah, or oblation of bread and wine, commemorative of the one “and only propitiatory sacrifice of Calvary.”

These ideas run through all the primitive liturgies,517 which we are soon to reach in this series. It is no part of my plan to vindicate them, but only to state them. It will be felt by many that these were at least exaggerated views of the apostle’s ministry, – of the principle underlying his phrase, εἰς τὸ εἶναί με λειτουργὸν … ἱερουργοῦντα τὸ ἐυαγγέλιον; but let nobody read into these primitive expressions concerning a commemoration of the one only propitiatory sacrifice “once offered,” the monstrous doctrine of the Council of Trent, which, reduced to its mildest form,518 is as follows: “The sacrifice of the Mass is, and ought to be considered, one and the same sacrifice with that of the Cross … which being the case, it must be taught, without arty hesitation, that (as the holy Council of Trent hath moreover explained) the sacred and holy sacrifice of the Mass is not only a sacrifice of praise and eucharist, or a mere commemoration of the sacrifice effected on the Cross, but also truly a propitiatory sacrifice, by which God is appeased, and rendered propitious to us.” That such was not the doctrine of the Latin churches, even in the ninth century, sufficiently appears from the treatise of Ratramn; but it is not less apparent from the ancient liturgies themselves, and even from many primitive features which glitter like gold-dust amid the dross of the Roman missal itself.



(To do nothing on my own private opinion)

Note this golden principle which runs through all the epistles and treatises of our large-minded and free-spirited author, “A primordio episcopatus mei statuerim nihil, sine consilio vestro, et sine consensu plebis meae privata sententia gerere.” When, in the midst of persecution, he could not convoke his council, he apologizes, as will appear hereafter, [Epistle xxiii. and Elucidation III.] even for taking measures requisite to the emergency without such counsel. Such was his duty according to the primitive discipline, no doubt; but our author knew well that a relaxing of discipline in exceptional circumstances is the fruitful source of corruption. He is jealous against himself: – 


“Twill be recorded for a precedent;

And many an error, by the same example 

Will rush into the Church.”


It is instructive to find the views of Baxter harmonizing with those of Cyprian. He speaks for himself and his brethren as not opposed to episcopacy, but only to “the engrossing (by prelates) of the sole power of ordination and jurisdiction … excluding wholly the pastors of particular churches from all share in it.” This is a sound Cyprianic remonstrance;519 but Cyprian always includes the plebs as well as the “pastors.” In short, if Ignatius, his Gamaliel, teaches primarily, “Do nothing without the bishop,” he not less reiterates his own maxim, “Let bishops do nothing without the presbytery and the people.”

Here it must be noted, however, that the primitive Fathers never speak of the episcopate as a development of the presbyterate, as do the Middle-Age writers and the schoolmen. It was the policy of these to write down the bishops to mere presbyters, for the purpose of exalting the papacy, which they made the only episcopate and the universal apostolate. The Universal Bishop might, then, appoint presbyters to be his local vicars, and to bear a titular episcopate, as such, – the name of an office, and not an order. The episcopate was no longer, as with Ignatius and Cyprian, the apostolic office from which the presbyterate and diaconate were precipitated, but, rather, an ecclesiastical sublimate of the presbyterate. By this theory no bishop in the Latin communion can deal with the Bishop of Rome as Cyprian did, – on terms of equality, and as a co-bishop or colleague in a common episcopate. Such is the school doctrine: and the Council of Trent made it dogma, abolishing the order of bishops as such, and defining that there are only three Holy Orders; viz., presbyters, deacons, and sub-deacons.520 The order of bishops is thus reduced to a merely ecclesiastical order in “the hierarchy,” a vicariate of the papacy.



(According to the Lord’s discipline)

Here he lays down, as a divine constitution for the Church, the principle exemplified in the Acts of the Apostles (Act_15:4-6, Act_15:22, Act_15:23). Compare Epistle xiv., where he speaks of some presbyters and deacons as “too little mindful of discipline,” and of his instructions to the laity to maintain the same. Observe his language in the exceptional case referred to in the previous elucidation. “In ordinations of the clergy, beloved brethren” (he writes to “presbyters, deacons, and the whole people”), “we usually consult you beforehand, and weigh (the matter) with the general advice.”

It is surprising that the learned and pious Dr. Pusey, always influenced by his essential Gallicanism, and too little devoted to the primitive discipline, hastily committed himself, in his work on The Councils of the Church, to an erroneous statement of the historic facts521 as to the participation of the laity in synods. In reply, that American Cyprian, Whittingham of Maryland, called the Doctor’s attention to an example he had evidently overlooked, in words worthy of note from so profound a patristic scholar. He says, “It occurred in the middle of the period to which Dr. Pusey’s book is limited, and, as nearly as can be known, during the episcopate of Cyprian.” He adds, “I doubt whether there is another equally particular relation of the circumstances of an episcopal election within the first four centuries.” It is given in the life of Gregory Thaumaturgus, by his namesake Gregory of Nyssa.522 The whole of Bishop Whittingham’s searching reviewal523 of Dr. Pusey’s positions is an honour to American scholarship, and ought to be consulted by the student of primitive antiquity.



(Common consultation)

Again, we have our author’s testimony to the free spirit of primitive councils, in which I exult as a Christian believer, and as a loyal supporter of constitutional liberty, i.e., freedom regulated by law. Concerning which, note the saying of Franklin, note 9, vol. i. p. 552, of this series. To primitive discipline and to these free councils of the Cyprianic age the world is indebted for all its free constitutions; and when narrow-minded men presume to assert the contrary, because of mediaeval feudalism in the West, let them be reminded that not till the Church’s constitutions were superseded by the forged Decretals, was the Western Church so deprived of its freedom as to be made the tool of despotism in violating the liberty of Christians. The last council of the whole West that retained anything of the primitive spirit was that of Frankfort, A.D. 794: but its spirit survived, and not infrequently asserted itself in “the Gallican maxims,” so called; while in England it was never smothered, but always survived in the parliaments until the usurpations of the papacy were abolished in the Church and realm. This was done by a practical re-assertion of Cyprianic principles. It is well to remind such reckless critics as Draper and Lecky that the Christian Church is responsible only for her own Catholic legislation; not at all for what has been done under the fraudulent pretexts of the Decretals, in defiance of her whole system, which is embodied in the Ante-Nicene Fathers and the Nicene Constitutions. 



(Counsel and judgment of all … a common cause)

The language here is indicative of the whore spirit of Catholic canons, to which that of the Latin canonists affords such a contrast after the Isidorian forgeries had been made, by Nicholas, the system of the West. Note the words which our author addresses to his clergy, omni plebe adstante: “Quae res cum omnium nostrum consilium et sententiam specter, praejudicare ego, et soli mihi rem communem vindicare, non audeo.” In other words, “What concerns all, ought by all to be considered and decided.”524

The fifteenth chapter of Bishop Wordsworth’s History of the Church (vol. i.) deals with the Ante-Nicene councils, and expounds their spirit and organization in a very able and concise manner.



(Let us pray for the lapsed)

The passage that follows seems to be a quotation from the common prayers then in use. Out of these “bidding prayers” grew the ancient litanies; the deacon dictating the suffrage, and the people responding with the petition, “Lord, have mercy upon them,” or the like.

By arranging the petitions thus, – 



Pro lapsis ut erigantur;   


Pro stantibus ut non tententur, etc.  


we shall see how such prayers were formulated, and how the people, by responding Amen to each suffrage, gave their common supplications accordingly. These suffrages might be enlarged indefinitely, as divers subjects for prayer were presented; and so there was a mingling of what has been called “free prayer” with the liturgical system, without confusion or lack of harmony.



(The honour of our colleague)

Thus Cyprian speaks of the Bishop of Rome, whose due ordination and rightful jurisdiction Novatian was impugning. The absurdity of calling this heretic Novatian an anti-pope involves a great confusion of ideas, however. For, as Cornelius was no more a pope than Cyprian (to both of whom the title was freely conceded in its primitive sense (Elucidation III., p. 154, supra.)), how can it be proper to give Novatian a name which implies a mediaeval sense, and leads the student to infer that his claim was not merely to the See of Rome,525 but to a universal bishopric over all Christians? It is needless to say, that, had the churches so understood the case, the whole Christian world would have been convulsed by a matter which, in point of fact, was soon settled by Cyprian’s enforcement of the canons. See subsequent letters.



(Novatian,Epistle XLII.)

The similarity of the names of Novatus and Novatian, and their complicity in a common schism, led to great confusions among their contemporaries, which have not been wholly cleared even to this day. See Lardner’s elaborate argument against the latter name as a mere blunder. He calls Novatian also Novatus, and gives his forcible reasons.

Observe that “ordination” is the term here used for conferring the order of bishops on a presbyter. So always anciently, though now it is customary to speak only of the “consecration” of a bishop. This is the inferior term; for the bishop is supposed to be “consecrated” to his specialty or diocese, while he is raised by “ordination” to the order in which all bishops are equal. Mirabeau says, “Words are things.” I quote from a political source the following remarks of a shrewd observer of Mirabeau’s principle. Speaking of American phraseology in constitutional affairs, he says, “It is true that this is a mere matter of words or phrases, but words and phrases misused have a very potent influence for confusing the minds of men as to real things. In politics, as in theology, it is best to stick to the text, and to avoid supposedly equivalent phrases. Such phrases often contain within them the seeds of heresy and schism.” Now, it was the policy of the schoolmen to confuse terms, in order to break down the Cyprianic theory; and they denied that bishops were ordained to a “Holy Order.” Theirs was only a name of office; and their order was only an ecclesiastical order, as much so as “sacristans.”526 This to, keep them from Cyprian’s claim of equality with the Bishop of Rome. But this was debatable school doctrine only, till the Council of Trent. Since that, it has been dogma in the Roman communion. Contrast, therefore, the Greek and (modern) Roman dogmas: – 


1. Greek.527 “The three orders, by divine institution, are, (1) the episcopate, (2) the priesthood, (3) the diaconate.”


2. Roman.528 “According to the uniform tradition529 of the Catholic Church, the number of these orders is seven; and they are called (1) porter, (2) reader, (3) exorcist, (4) acolyte, (5) sub-deacon, (6) deacon, (7) priest.” The “bishop,” then, is only a priest, who acts as vicar for the one “Universal Bishop” at Rome. For the Greek theory, note Cyprian passim.



(Cornelius, our colleague)

Observe the state of the case. “Lest perchance the number of bishops in Africa should seem unsatisfactory,” etc., he wrote to his colleague in Rome, who gathered a council also, “with very many bishops.” Imagine such language, and such action in any case, between the French metropolitan and the present Bishop of Rome! The contrast illustrates the absolute nonentity, in the Cyprianic age, of any conception of such relations as now exist between Rome and her vassal episcopate. “Prostrate at the feet of your Holiness,” etc.: the noblest bishops and the boldest at the Vatican Council thus signed their feeble and abject remonstrances. Among their names are Schwarzenberg, Furstenberg, and even Strossmayer.530



(One episcopate diffused)

Here is the principle expounded in the Treatise on Unity. He states it tersely as follows: – 

“Episcopatus unus, episcoporum multorum concordi numerositate diffusus.”

And he then states in few words his theory of the “compact unity of the Catholic Church,” in which the existence of the “provinces” is recognised, and an “ecclesiastical structure;” but not a hint of what must have been laid down as the test and primal law of truth and unity, had any infallible supremacy been imagined to exist. In that case, no need of a treatise, no need of words: he would have said nothing of “co-bishops,” but simply of communion with the Bishop of Rome.



(Fabian and Donatus, also our predecessors)

Here the Paris editors of A.D. 1574 take pains to remind us that Cyprian means “Fabian, your predecessor, and Donatus, mine.” Very well. But the implication is that “our predecessors” were persons of the same office and dignity. Let us suppose the present Bishop of Alger writing to Leo XIII. in the same manner, as follows: “Bishop Strossmayer was severely remarked upon by Pius and Martial, our predecessors, in their letters.” Would this be tolerated? The editor of this series answered the invitation of Pius IX. to his council in 1869, after the manner of a contemporary of Cyprian,531 in order to make the contrast between the third century and the nineteenth palpable to the venerable pontiff and his adviser Antonelli. It was resented with animosity by the Ultramontane journals, on the ground that nobody on earth should address the pontiff as bishop to bishop, or as man to man.



(To whom perfidy could have no access)

When we put a man in mind of his self-respect, we imply that he is in peril of forgetting the quality we impute to him. “You are a gentleman, and, of course, cannot deceive me:” such language is not complimentary, but involves a gentle reproof. So here our author has to remind the Roman clergy of what is due to themselves if they would keep up the credit assigned to them by St. Paul, but from which, as the apostle himself warned them, they were in danger of falling. Cyprian goes on to remind them of what they owe to Carthage and its synods, and warns them against “abandoned men” seeking to discredit the African bishops.532 The Roman clergy had already confessed their sense of what was due to Carthage, (Ep. xxix. p. 308, supra.) and in another epistle, (Ep. xxx. p. 309, supra.) doubtless remembering Zephyrinus and Callistus, they confess their degeneracy, and the ignominy of their actual position as compared with that which the apostle had praised. The passage is often quoted as if it read, “to whom corrupt faith can have no access:” but the word is perfidia, and has reference, not to faith, but morals; and, to avoid ambiguity, I have put the word “perfidy” into the translation, where the Edinburgh translator has “faithlessness.”

Here note (p. 346, note 296) the reference to St. Paul’s term (κατατομὴ), the concision, where the Oxford note (p. 170, Oxford trans.) is to the point. Only let it be more clearly stated, that St. Path calls the Judaizing schismatics the κατατομὴ; meaning that, instead of the circumcised body, they are but the particula proeputii cut off and cast away. Our author uses it here with great effect, therefore. In another place (Gal_5:12 in the Greek) St. Paul carries his scornful anathema farther, with a witty reference to a heathen example; on which see Canon Farrar in his St. Paul, cap. xxii. (Agdistis) p. 235, ed. New York. The “sport with children,” in the Canon’s note (p. 227), seems to me illustrated by Exo_4:24-26. Trifling with children, i.e., their salvation. 



(I both warn and ask you, at note 298.)

The original is, “admoneo et peto;” the language of an equal, but yet of an older brother in the episcopate. Here some other points are worthy to be noted in this important letter, and they shall be briefly taken in serie.


1. We here encounter the tangled knot of the triple schisms, in which the unhappy Felicissimus, with Novatus and Novatian, has long presented a scandal to criticism. Thus, our author speaks of Felicissimus as “schismatis et disidii auctor;” and difficulties have been raised about the meaning of the text, because Novatus would rather seem entitled to that “bad eminence.” I think all difficulty disappears if we drop the idea that a particular schism is here referred to, and understand merely that this bad man was “the beginner of schism and dissension,” out of which the three specific schisms had cropped. Go back to Epistles xxxvii. (p. 315) and xxxviii. (p. 316) and xxxix. (p. 319) for his antecedents. The “faction of Felicissimus” (sec. 2), and of “five presbyters” with him (sec. 3), is here sufficiently evident to illustrate the point now under consideration. In Epistle xlviii. (p. 325) we find Novatus, it is true, accused as “the first sower of discord and sedition,” but in another sense, because Felicissimus was a mere layman. Novatus took him up, and had him unlawfully ordained a deacon; and now Felicissimus becomes a mere appendage, and Novatus becomes formidable. Sailing to Italy, and coming to Rome just in time to inspire the discontent of Novatian with a wicked ambition, he next proceeds to engineer his schismatical ordination to the bishopric of Rome by the hands of three bishops, acting uncanonically and sinfully. So now Novatian becomes the chief character as rival to Cornelius, and pretender to his See; while Novatus returns to Africa to foment new disturbances, but is justly excommunicated, and disappears from history.


2. In this epistle it would seem that Cornelius had vacillated weakly, and was in peril of acting uncanonically. Cyprian gently admonishes him (sec. 2): “I was considerably surprised,” etc.; also (sec. 6), “I speak to you as being provoked, as grieving, as constrained,” etc.


3. Here Fortunatus appears on the scene, to embroil the matter yet more seriously; of whom (sec. 9) enough appears in this letter.


4. Fortunatus, with his wicked allies, sails to Rome (sec. 11) as the nearest apostolic See, hence spoken of (sec. 14) as the chief church (i.e., of the West) and the matrix of unity (i.e., to the daughter churches of Africa). Let us read into the pages of Cyprian no Decretalist ideas when he modestly acknowledges the comparative inferiority of his place. Let us find his meaning in this very letter, and others, in which his words contradict all ideas of any official inferiority. Take also the ideas of the epoch for illustration. Recur to Cyprian’s master expounding the relations of the primitive churches, one to another, in his Prescription. Tertullian points out a root-principle in all apostolic Sees; (Cap. xx. p. 252, note 147, etc. See vol. 3., this series) and then, after elaborate discussion, he thus applies it practically: – 


“Run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles,” etc. “Achaia, e.g., is proximate to you; then there is Corinth. If you are near Macedonia, there is Philippi. … Crossing to Asia, you get Ephesus.… Close to Italy you have Rome, from which comes to us (in Africa) our authority,” etc. I abridge, but do not alter the sense. (Vol. 3. p. 260, cap. xxxvi. and note 267.) Here, then, we find what Cyprian was writing about. The schismatics, on this principle, had rushed to the nearest apostolic See, viz., that of the Imperial City. Cyprian recognises his claims on its bishop; Rome being the source of his own ordination, and the matrix of the Carthaginian church. This animates him with a loving humility. But what next? Having expressed all this, he proceeds, as an equal but an elder brother, to assert his rights, and to admonish Cornelius that he, too, must obey the ecclesiastical discipline. Nobody, even among the Greeks, would object to such a Roman primacy, even at this day; but “to give place by subjection, even for an hour,” is what St. Cyprian would not endure any more than St. Paul. (Gal_2:5) “Supremacy” is another thing.


5. The grounds of his conduct in this and other acts are unfolded in his Treatise on Unity. But here is the place to show what Cyprian had in his mind as the ἄρχαῖα ἔθη. A canon533 of the African church, after providing for local appeals, reads as follows: “Let them not appeal to tribunals beyond the seas, but to the primates of their own provinces, or to a general council, as hath been often ordained with respect to bishops. But whoso shall persevere in appealing to tribunals beyond seas, let them be received to communion by no one in Africa.” And here note that the plural is used, illustrating the above quotation from Tertullian. All the apostolic Sees are treated alike, as “tribunals beyond seas.” Note, also, that if any one of these tribunals should receive and hear the appellant, its decisions were of no force in Africa.


6. And, still further, let it be noted that the greatness of Rome, as the capital, was its only ground, even to a canonical primacy afterwards conceded to it for the sake of order. The Council of Chalcedon (Fourth Ecumenical, A.D. 451) states the case, and sets the historical fact beyond dispute, as follows: “The Fathers rightly granted the seniority (ἀποδεδώκασι τὰ πρεσβεῖα), because that city was the capital, to the throne of the elder Rome, … and equal precedency (τὰ ἶσα πρεσβεῖα) to the most holy throne of New Rome (Constantinople); justly judging that the city which is dignified with the sovereignty and the senate, and enjoys equal privileges with the elder imperial Rome, should likewise be magnified with the other in ecclesiastical affairs, and rank second after that See.” Second as to order, that is; but equal as to this presbeia.


Cyprian’s theory shows why they said nothing of its apostolic dignity; viz. because in that respect all apostolic Sees were equal, and all older than Rome, and because all other churches in communion with these centres were practically apostolic, and each was a See of Peter. For, as Cyprian expounds it, there is but one episcopate; and each bishop, locally, possesses the whole of it. It was given first to Peter to make this principle emphatic; i.e., it is a gift held whole and entire by each holder. Then he gave the same to all the apostles, that each one of them might comprehend that what St. Peter had, he had: it was an undivided and indivisible authority. “Each particular church,” says the Oxford translator, “being the miniature of the whole, each bishop the representative of Christ, the Chief Bishop; so that, all bishops being, in their several stations, one and the same (as representing the Same), there was, as it were, but one bishop. Such was Cyprian’s exposition of the ἀρχαῖα ἔθη: I am not so forgetful as to introduce anything of my own. But here it is to be noted that the theory of the Decretals was subversive of all this: there was but one, personally, the representative of Christ, His534 Vicar; and his See, by divine warrant, was supreme. Hence others, called bishops, were not such, as being equals with the Bishop of Rome in the episcopal order, for their “order” was only that of presbyters; and they were called “bishops” only as vicars of the one Bishop at Rome, empowered to act for him in local stations, but having no real episcopate in themselves. Now, Calvin’s memorable sentence was based on this difference between the primitive bishops and those of his day With his strong logic he argued: if, then, bishops are but shadows of a papacy which we have proved fabulous, bishops must be rejected as part of the papacy. But, he said, “Talem nobis hierarchiam si exhibeant, in qua sic emineant episcopi ut Christo subesse non recusent, et ab illo, tanquam unico capite, pendeant et ad ipsum referantur; in qua, sic inter se fraternam societatem colant ut non alio nodo, quam ejus veritate sint colligati; rum veto nullo non anathemate dignos fatear, si qui erunt, qui non eam reverenter, summaque obedientia, observent.”

It would seem, therefore, that Calvin drew a correct distinction between the Cyprianic theory and that of the Decretists. “A Christo, unico capite, pendeant,” touches the point of the Western schism, which altered this principle into “A pontifice Romano, unico capite,” prorsus pendeant omnes praesules Catholici. 



(The bishop should be chosen in the presence of the people)

Concerning the election of bishops, and the part of the laity therein, enough has been already said to elucidate this important historical point. (Elucidation III., p. 411, supra) But here is the place to elucidate Cyprian’s relations to Ignatius, by pointing out his theory as to “bishops, presbyters, and deacons.” The inquiry is, not whether his theory was right or wrong; but the Ante-Nicene Constitutions and Canons cannot be understood without a clear comprehension of it, and it is practically important in the coming collisions with the alien religion now lifting its head aggressively amongst us. To refute its pretensions, Cyprian and Hippolytus are sufficient if cleared from all ambiguities thrown back into their expressions from the mediaeval corruption of primitive words, idioms, and modes of thought.

As to presbyters and deacons, then, we must refer to pp. 306, 366, 370; sub-deacons are mentioned pp. 301 and 306, with lectors under “teaching-presbyters,” as preparing for the clerical office. On p. 306 an acolyte is mentioned. Now, these readers, sub-deacons, and acolytes (ἀκόλουθος) are all of a class, – persons preparing for Holy Orders, and after a time known as in “ecclesiastical” or minor orders.535 The lectors need not be explained. The sub-deacons are a class not heard of till this third century, even in the West. Cyprian and Cornelius are the first to mention them. In the East, sub-deacons and acolytes first appear in the fourth century; they were sub-ministrants and attendants on the clergy, and doubtless had charge of the very trouble some work of preparing the candidates for immersion, and the waters for that sacrament, besides cleansing the fonts, and superintending the changes of raiment made necessary. Their offices in time of divine service, attending upon the altar, taking the offerings, seating the congregation, watching the children, etc., may be supposed. Apart from the names, just such offices, like those of sextons, are required in all public worship. The Moravians have acolyths, to this day.



(Cornelius … a peaceable and righteous priest, etc.)

Now observe his parting tribute in these words, “Cornelius, our colleague, a peaceable and righteous priest, and moreover honoured by the condescension of the Lord with martyrdom, has long ago decreed, with us and with all the bishops appointed throughout the whole world,” etc. A colleague, sharing in the decrees of his co-bishops throughout the whole world, is the recognised position of this successor of St. Peter. And Cyprian, who firmly believes that St. Peter, as “a source and principle of unity,” had the personal honour of being the first foundation-stone laid on the Corner-Stone Himself, sees nothing in that to make Cornelius the foundation; nor did Cornelius himself. No, nor St. Peter either, who says (1Pe_2:5) all Christians may become Peters by being laid on the Living Stone, Christ Jesus.

Thus we are prepared to read the Treatise on Unity. We may also concede to the bishops of Rome, even now, that as soon as they claim no more than Cornelius and St. Peter himself did, their primacy will no longer be a stumbling-block and a schism to the Christian universe.

In parting with Cornelius, it is useful to note that he represents his diocese in his day536 as numbering “forty-six presbyters, seven deacons and the same number of sub-deacons, with forty-two acolytes and exorcists, readers and sacristans in all fifty-two.” More than “fifteen hundred widows and sufferers” dependent on this comparatively small and poor church show the terrible ravages made by persecution. 



(Epistle lxxi.… To Stephen their brother)

We now reach a very different character from that of his predecessor; and in him we encounter the germinant spirit which, in long after-ages, was able to overcome the discipline of the Church.537 At this time, and during the great synodical period, these personal caprices were made light of: the canons and constitutions of the Church were strong enough to check them; and such was the predominance of the Eastern mind, for many generations, that the ship of the Church was not thrown out of trim. Let us carefully note this historical point, however, and the spirit in which our great author exposes the elements of error.



(In the name of, etc. Since Three are One)

Having elsewhere touched upon the quotation attributed to Tertullian, (vol. 3. p. 631) I need not repeat what has been said of this once very painfully agitated matter. But, as to the quotations of the African Fathers generally, it ought to be understood that there was a vetus Itala before Jerome, – more than one, no doubt, – to which that Father was largely indebted for the text now called the Vulgate. Vercellone assured Dean Burgon that there was indeed one established Latin text,538 an old Itala.

Scrivener539 says candidly, “It is hard to believe that 1Jo_5:7 was not cited by Cyprian;” and again, “The African writers Vigilius of Thapsus (at the end of the fifth century) and Fulgentius (circa 520) in two places expressly appeal to the three heavenly Witnesses.” So, too, Victor Vitensis, in the notable case of the African king of the Vandals. The admission of Tischendorf is also cited by Scrivener. Tischendorf says, “Gravissimus est Cyprianus (in Tract. de Eccles. Unitate), Dicit Dominus, Ego et Pater unum sumus (Joann. x. 30); et, iterum, de Patre, Filio, et Spiritu Sancto, scripture est, Et tres unum sunt.” Tischendorf adds the testimony of this epistle to Jubaianus. And Scrivener decides that “it is surely safer and more candid to admit that Cyprian read it in his copies, than to resort to,” etc., the usual explainings away. To this note of this same erudite scholar the reader may also turn for satisfaction as to the reasons against authenticity. But primarily, to meet questions as to versions used by Cyprian, let him consult the same invaluable work (p. 269) on the Old Latin before Jerome. I have added an important consideration in a note to the Anonymous Treatise on Baptism, which follows (infra), with other documents, in our Appendix.540



(Return to our Lord and Origin)

Here is an appeal to the ἀρχαῖα ἔθη, that explains other references to “the Root and Origin,” which he here identifies with our Lord, (p. 322, note 218) and “the evangelical and apostolic tradition.” This was the understanding at Nicaea: “ut si in aliquo nutaverit et vacillaverit veritas, ad originem dominicam et evangelicam et apostolicam traditionem revertamur.” Is not this the grand catholicon for the disorders of modern Christendom? “Nam consuetudo, sine veritate, vetustas erroris est,” says Cyprian in this very Epistle. (see secs. 9 and 10) And, “If we return to the head and source of divine tradition, human error ceases.”



(Firmilianus to Cyprian)

The contest with Stephen, bishop of Rome, will require no great amount of annotation here, chiefly because the matter has no practical bearings, except as it incidentally proves what was the relation of Stephen to other bishops and to the Catholic Church. In this letter (sec. 6) Firmilian accuses Stephen of “daring to make a departure from the peace and unity of the Catholic Church.” And (in sec. 16), further, he sets forth, for the Easterns, the same theory of unity which Cyprian had expounded for the West; viz., the unity of the episcopate. He interprets the parallel texts (Mat_16:19 and Joh_20:22, Joh_20:23) of bestowal in the same manner. His idea is, that, had the latter bestowal been the only one, the apostles might have felt that each had only a share in the same respectively; while, as it stands, there is one episcopate only: in effect, only “one bishop;” each apostle and every bishop, by “vicarious ordination,” holding for his flock in his own See all that Christ gave to Peter himself, save only the personal privilege of a leader in opening the door to the Gentiles, (Act_15:7) and in teaching the apostles the full meaning of the gift. The point here is not whether this was the true meaning of our Lord: it is merely that such was the understanding of the Ante-Nicene Fathers.541

Further (sec. 17), he complains of Stephen for his folly in assuming that he had received some superior privileges as the successor of Peter; also censures him for “betraying and deserting unity.” So (in sec. 35) he reflects on Stephen for “disagreeing with so many bishops throughout the world … with the Eastern churches and with the South.” He adds, “with such a man, can there he one spirit and one body?”

Firmilian was of Cappadocia, and a disciple of Origen. The interest of his letter turns upon its entire innocence of any conception that Stephen has a right to dictate; and, while it shows a dangerous tendency in the latter personally to take airs upon himself as succeeding the primate of the apostolic college, it proves not less that the Church was aware of no ground for it, but held all bishops equally responsible for unity by communion with their brethren. To make them thus responsible to him and his See had probably not even entered Stephen’s head. He was rash and capricious in his resort to measures by which every bishop felt bound to separate himself from complicity with open heretics, and he seems to have had local usage on his side. But how admirable the contrasted forbearance of Cyprian, whose views were equally strong, but who protested against all coercive measures against others.




Cyprian’s moderation is conspicuous in his views of clinic baptism; for, though Novatian knew none other, he forbore to urge this irregularity against him. Even the good Cornelius was not so forbearing.542 St. Cyprian seems to be the earliest apologist for sprinkling. See Wall, Reflections on Baptism of Infants (Wall’s Works), vol. iii. p. 219, for a refutation of Tertullian’s supposed admission of “a little sprinkling.” (Tertullian, vol. 3. p. 661) And see Beveridge on Trine Immersion, Works, vol. xii. p. 86; also Canon L., Apostolical Canons. 



(Senators and men of importance and Roman knights)

1Co_1:26. We have already seen tokens of the gradual enlightenment of the higher classes in the empire; “the palace, senate, forum,” are mentioned by Tertullian. (Vol. 3., p. 45, this series) The fiercer persecutions seem now to be stimulated by this very fact, and a fear lest Christianity should spread too freely among patricians must have prompted this decree.



(The Lord … speaks in that hour)

The saying of Christ (Mat_10:10, Mar_13:11), “It is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost,” was literally accepted, and acted upon. Is it marvellous that it inspired believing men to be martyrs, or that martyrs were so much venerated? And ought not the same texts to be more faithfully accepted in explaining the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures? Language could hardly be stronger: “It is not ye that speak.” So we reach the close of this holy and heroic life of the great, the fervid, the intrepid, but, withal, the gentle and generous Cyprian. And in these last words we see the spirit of the man cropping out in his proposal to “arrange in common” with the clergy and people what should be observed, as requisite for the diocese after his decease, according to “the instruction of the Lord.” Qui facit voluntatem Dei manet in aeternum. 1Jo_2:17. 





503 Oxford ed.: Ep. vi. A.D. 257, possibly A.D. 250.

504 [Luk_20:35, Luk_21:36; 1Th_2:12. Such expressions in our author teach no worthiness apart from the merits of Christ.]

505 “Metator.”

506 Oxford ed.: Ep. lxxx. As Cyprian suffered shortly after, in the month of September, there is no doubt but that this letter was written near the close of his life. A.D. 258.

507 Doubtless with Gallienus.

508 [Of Rome.]

509 Or, “and with him Quartus.”

510 [The modern name, Istamboul (εἰς τὴν πόλιν), grows out of like usage in the east. And, as Constantinople was “New Rome,” this illustrates Irenaeus and his convenire, vol. 1. p. 460.]

511 [The baptismal question went by default, and was practically given up by the African Church, amid greater issues. It has never been dogmatically settled by the Church Catholic; and Roman usage is evasive (in spite of its own anathemas); for it baptizes again, sub conditionel. See useful note, Oxford ed. p. 244.]

512 Oxford ed.: Ep. lxxxi. [Cyprian’s contest with Stephen is practically valueless as to the point at issue between them (see supra, p. 396), but it throws a flood of light on the questions raised by Papal pretensions. It also illuminates the anti-Nicene doctrine of unity.]

513 Or, “commissaries.”

514 [Mat_10:19. there is something sublime in the martyr’s reliance upon this word of Jesus. See sec. 2, infra, and Elucidation XXII.]

515 [Recur to the passion of this holy martyr as related by Pontius, his deacon, p. 390. Stephen had broken communion with him. (see p. 390 note 445) and the African provinces, which had no effect upon his Catholic status. (See letter of Firmillian, p. 391  note 448.) But, on the Roman theory, this glorious martyr died in schism. He is, nevertheless, a canonized saint in the Roman Calendar. Elucidation XXII.]

516 Revised version, margin. rather. “ministering hierurgically.”

517 For which, see vol. 7., this series.

518 See the Trent Catechism, cap. iv. quaestt. 73, 75.

519 Proposals, etc., by the Reverend Ministers of the Presbyterian Persuasion, London, 1661. An extract may be found in Leighton’s Works, p. 637, Edinburgh, 1840.

520 Catechism of the Council of Trent, cap. vii. quaest. 12.

521 See the said work, p. 41.

522 Bishop Whittingham quotes the edition of Gerard Vossius, pp. 286-291.

523 Church Review, vol. xi. 1859, pp. 88-127.

524 Consult Epistles xxv. (sec. 6, p. 304) and xxx. (sec. 5, p. 310), supra. It is interesting to note how the primitive clergy of Rome recognise this free principle, with no suspicion that their own cathedra is not only their sufficient resource, but the Oracle of God to all mankind.

525 Cyprian facetiously remarks (see Ep. xlviii. p. 325) that Novatus reserved his greater crimes for the greater city; “since Rome, from her magnitude, ought to take precedence of Carthage.”

526 Lombard., Sentences, p. 394, ed. Migne. Compare Aquinas.

527 Macarius, Théologie Orthodoxe, vol. iii. p. 244.

528 Catechism of the Council of Trent, cap. vii. quaest. 2.

529 A monstrous statement. See Ignatius passim.

530 L’Union Chrétienne, p. 69, 1870.

531 A Letter to Pius the Ninth, Bishop of Rome, etc., published by Parker, London, 1870. It also appeared in most of the languages of Europe, and was circulated by the Greeks in their own tongue.

532 Same epistle, and section, farther on. It seems needless to say that these Punic “Africans” were Asiatics, in fact.

533 This canon of the Council of Milevis (A.D.402), at a much later date, maintains the ancient principle.

534 Calvin, De necessitate reformandae ecclesiae, Works, vol. viii. p. 60. Amstelodami, 1667.

535 Bingham, Antiquities, book iii., capp. ii., iii.

536 Eusebius, H. E., book vi., cap. xliii.

537 Consult Cave, Dissertation on the Ancient Church Government, appended to his Primitive Christianity, p. 366.

538 Burgon, Letters from Rome, p. 34. London, 1862.

539 Introduction to Criticism, etc., p. 453, also 564. Compare the Treatise on Unity, sec. 6, p. 423, infra.

540 Calling attention to evidence that 1Jo_5:8 is a sort of apodosis implying the protasis of 1Jo_5:7, as read in the Vulgate and the English Received.

541 See illustrations in Faber’s Difficulties of Romanism, cap. iii. pp. 46-88, London, 1830. This work is a succinct reply to Berington and Kirk lately reprinted in New York. It refutes itself. Compare vol. i. pp. ix. and x., with the new dogmas, vol. iii. pp. 443-460.

542 See Eusebius, H. E., vi. cap. lxiii.