The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4



Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus was born of a wealthy patrician family about 200 A. D. While yet a young man he was a brilliant teacher of rhetoric at Carthage, and during that period seems to have disputed with members of the rising Christian Church. Their arguments or evidence must have been too strong for his disbelief, for he became converted and at once assumed an influential position among the Christians of the city.

He spent most of his wealth on the poor and grew to be so popular that the whole Christian populace called him to the head of the Carthaginian church. This made him a buffer against the imperial persecutions. Several times he was driven into hiding or exile, and at last he was brought before the magistrate and condemned to death in accordance with the decree of Valerian, because he would not sacrifice to the emperor. This it must be remembered was at the time considered a form of treason against the Roman state.

His letters show the feelings of the period, and his address on the Unity of the Church illustrates the beginning of the movement toward organization that finally made a world empire of the Church.

The Unity of the Church

Forasmuch as the Lord warns us, saying, Ye are the salt of the earth, and bids us to possess an innocent simplicity, yet being simple, to be also prudent, is it not befitting, dearest brethren, to hold ourselves in wariness, and by keeping watch with an anxious heart, to become forewarned and withal forearmed, against the snares of our subtle enemy? lest we, who have put on Christ, the Wisdom of God the Father, should yet be found to lack wisdom, for the making sure of our salvation. That persecution is, not the only one to be feared, which advances by open assault to the ruin and downfall of God’s servants; caution is easy, where the danger is manifest; and the mind is in readiness for the battle, when the enemy makes himself known. Moreto be feared and more to be watched is a foe, who creeps upon us unawares, who deceives under the image of peace, and glides forward with the hidden movements, which have given him the name of Serpent. Such always is his deceitfulness; such the dark and backward artifices, by which he compasses man; thus in the first beginning of the world he wrought his deceit, and by lying words of flattery, led away unformed souls in their incautious credulity. Thus when he would tempt the Lord Himself, he came unawares upon Him, as if to creep on him a second time and deceive; yet was he seen through and driven back; beaten down was he, by reason that he was discovered and exposed. Herein is the example given us, to flee from the way of the old man, and to tread in the footsteps of Christ who conquered; lest we slide back by incaution into the toils of death, instead of, through foresight of danger, partaking the immortality that has been gained for us. Yet how can we partake immortality, unless we keep those commandments of Chris, by which death is taken prisoner and overcome? For Himself admonishes us, and says, If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments; and again, If ye do the things I command you, henceforth I call you not servants but friends. It is such persons, in fine, that He declares to be stable and enduring; rounded in massive strength upon a rock, and settled with firmness untroubled and untouched, amidst all the storms and winds of this world. Whosoever, said He, heareth these sayings of Mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, that built his house upon a rock; the rain descended, the floods came, the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. We ought therefore to have our footing in His words, to learn and to do all that He taught and did. But how can he say he believes in Christ, who does not that which Christ has bade him do? or how come to the reward of faith, who will keep no faith with the commandment? Needs must he totter and fall astray; caught by a spirit of terror, he will be wafted up like dust in a whirlwind; nor will his walk lead forward to salvation, who does not hold the truth of the saving way.

2. We must be warned then, dearest brethren, not only against things open and manifest, but also against those which deceive us, through the guile of craft and fraud. What now can be more crafty, or what mere artful, than for this enemy, detected and downfallen by the advent of Christ, now that light is come to the nations, and the beams of salvation shine forth unto the health of man, that the deaf may hear the sound of spiritual grace, the blind may open theireyes upon God, the sick regain the strength of an eternal healing, the lame run to church, the dumb lift on high their voices to speak and worship, for him, thus seeing his idols left, his seats and temples deserted by the manifold congregation of believers, to invent the new deceit, whereby to carry the incautious into error, while retaining the name of the Christian profession? He has made heresies and schisms, wherewith to subvert faith, to corrupt truth, and rend unity. Those whom he cannot detain in the blindness of the old way, he compasses and deceives by misleading them on their new journey. He snatches men from out the Church itself, and while they think themselves come to the light, and escaped from the night of this world, he secretly gathers fresh shadows upon them; so that standing neither with the Gospel of Christ, nor with His ordinances, nor with His law, they yet call themselves Christians, walking among darkness, and thinking that they have light; while the foe flatters and misleads, transforms himself, according to the word of the Apostle, into an Angel of light, and garbs his ministers like ministers of righteousness: these are the maintainers of night for day, of death for salvation, giving despair while they proffer hope, faithlessness clothed as faith, Antichrist under the name of Christ; that by putting false things under an appearance of true, they may with subtilty impede the truth.

3. This will be, most dear brethren, so long as there is no regard to the source of truth no looking to the Head, nor keeping to the doctrine of our heavenly Master. If any one consider and weigh this, he will not need length of comment or argument. It is easy to offer proofs to a faithful mind, because in that case the truth may be quickly stated. The Lord saith unto Peter, I say unto thee, (saith He) that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will 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 shall bind on earth, shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven. To him again, after His resurrection, He says, Feed My sheep. Upon him being one He builds His Church; and though He gives to all the Apostles an equal power and says, As My Father sent Me, even so send I you; receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted to him, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they shall be retained;—yet in order to manifest unity, He has by His own authority so placed the source of the same unity, as to begin from one. Certainly the other Apostles also were what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship both of honour andpower; but a commencement is made from unity, that the Church may be set before us as one; which one Church, in the Song of Songs, doth the Holy Spirit design and name in the Person of our Lord: My dove, My spotless one, is but one; she is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her.

4. He who holds not this unity of the Church, does he think he holds the faith? He who strives against and resists the Church, is he assured that he is in the Church? For the blessed Apostle Paul teaches this same thing, and manifests the sacrament of unity thus speaking; There is One Body, and One Spirit, even as ye are called in One Hope of your calling; One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God. This unity firmly should we hold and maintain, especially we Bishops, presiding in the Church, in order that we may approve the Episcopate itself to be one and undivided. Let no one deceive the Brotherhood by falsehood; no one corrupt the truth of our faith, by a faithless treachery. The Episcopate is one; it is a whole, in which each enjoys full possession. The Church is likewise one, though she be spread abroad, and multiplies with the increase of her progeny: even as the sun has rays many, yet one light; and the tree boughs many, yet its strength is one, seated in the deep-lodged root; and as, when many streams flow down from one source, though a multiplicity of waters seem to be diffused from the bountifulness of the overflowing abundance, unity is preserved in the source itself. Part a ray of the sun from its orb, and its unity forbids this division of light; break a branch from the tree, once broken it can bud no more; cut the stream from its fountain, the remnant will be dried up. Thus the Church, flooded with the light of the Lord, puts forth her rays through the whole world, with yet one light, which is spread upon all places, while its unity of body is not infringed. She stretches forth her branches over the universal earth, in the riches of plenty, and pours abroad her bountiful and onward streams; yet is there one head, one source, one Mother, abundant in the results of her fruitfulness.

5. It is of her womb that we are born; our nourishing is from her milk, our quickening from her breath. The spouse of Christ cannot become adulterate, she is undefiled and chaste; owning but one home, and guarding with virtuous modesty the sanctity of one chamber. She it is who keeps for God, and appoints unto the kingdom the sons she has borne. Whosoever parts company with the Church, and joins himself to an adulteress, is estranged from the promises of the Church. He who leaves the Church of Christ, attains not toChrist’s rewards. He is an alien, an outcast, an enemy. He can no longer have God for a Father, who has not the Church for a Mother. If any man was able to escape, who remained without the ark of Noah, then will that man escape who is out of doors beyond the Church. The Lord warns us, and says, He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who gathereth not with Me, scattereth. He who breaks the peace and concord of Christ, sets himself against Christ. He who gathers elsewhere but in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord saith, I and the Father are one; and again of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, it is written, and these three are one; and does any think, that oneness, thus proceeding from the divine immutability, and cohering in heavenly sacraments, admits of being sundered in the Church, and split by the divorce of antagonistic wills? He who holds not this unity; holds not the law of God, holds not the faith of Father and Son, holds not the truth unto salvation.

6. This sacrament of unity, this bond of concord inseparably cohering, is signified in the place in the Gospel, where the coat of our Lord Jesus Christ is in no-wise parted nor cut, but is received a whole garment, by them who cast lots who should rather wear it, and is possessed as an inviolate and individual robe. The divine Scripture thus speaks, But for the coat, because it was not sewed, but woven from the top throughout, they said one to another, Let us not rend it, but cast lots whose it shall be. It has with it a unity descending from above, as coming, that is, from heaven and from the Father; which it was not for the receiver and owner in any wise to sunder, but which he received once for all and indivisibly as one unbroken whole. He cannot own Christ’s garment; who splits and divides Christ’s Church. On the other hand, when, on Solomon’s death, his kingdom and people were split in parts, Ahijah the Prophet, meeting king Jereboam in the field, rent his garment into twelve pieces, saying, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee; and two tribes shall be to him for My servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen, to place My Name there. When the twelve tribes of Israel were torn asunder, the Prophet Ahijah rent his garment. But because Christ’s people cannot be rent, His coat, woven and conjoined throughout, was not divided by those it fell to. Individual, conjoined, coentwined, it shews the coherent concord of our people who put on Christ. In the sacrament and sign of His garment, He has declared the unity of His Church.

7. Who then is the criminal and traitor, who so inflamed by the madness of discord, as to think aught can rend, or to venture on rending, God’s unity, the Lord’s garment, Christ’s Church? He Himself warns us in His Gospel, and teaches, saying, And there shall be one flock, and one Shepherd. And does any think that there can be one place be either many shepherds, or many flocks? The Apostle Paul likewise, intimating the same unity, solemnly exhorts, I beseech you, brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that ye be joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. And again he says, Forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Think you that any can stand and live, who withdraws from the Church, and forms himself a new home, and a different dwelling? Whereas it was said to Rahab, in whom was prefigured the Church, Thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all the house of thy father, thou shall gather unto thee into this house; and it shall come to pass; whosoever shall go abroad beyond the door of thine house, his blood shall be on his own head. And likewise the sacrament of the Passover doth require just this in the law of Exodus, that the lamb which is slain for a figure of Christ, should be eaten in one house. God speaks and says, In one house shall ye eat it; ye shall not send its flesh abroad from the house. The Flesh of Christ, and the Holy Thing of the Lord, cannot be sent aboard; and believers have not any dwelling but the Church only. This dwelling, this hostelry of unanimity, the Holy Spirit designs and betokens in the Psalms, thus saying, God who maketh men to dwell with one mind in an house. In the house of God, in the Church of Christ, men dwell with one mind, in concord and singleness enduring.

8. For this cause the Holy Spirit came in the form of a dove: a simple and pleasant creature, with no bitterness of gall, no fierceness of bite, no violence of rending talons: loving the houses of men, consorting within one home, each pair nurturing their young together, when they fly abroad hanging side by side upon the wing, leading their life in mutual intercourse, giving with the bill the kiss of peace in agreement, and fulfilling a law of unanimity, in every way. This singleness of heart must be found, this habit of love be attained to in the Church; brotherly affection must make doves its pattern, gentleness and kindness must emulate lambs and sheep. What doth the savageness of wolves, in a Christian breast? or the fierceness of dogs, or the deadly poison of serpents or the cruel fury of wild beasts? Wemust be thankful when such become separate from the Church, that so their fierce and poisoned contagion may not cause a havoc among the doves and sheep of Christ; there cannot be fellowship and union of bitter with sweet, darkness with light, foul weather with fair, war with peace, famine with plenty, drought with fountains, or storm with calm.

9. Let no one think that they can be good men, who leave the Church. Wind does not take the wheat, nor do storms overthrow the tree that has a solid root to rest on. It is the light straw that the tempest tosses, it is trees emptied of their strength that the blow of the whirlwind strikes down. These the Apostle John curses and smites, saying, They went forth from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, surely they would have remained with us. Thus is it that heresies both often have been caused, and still continue; while the perverted mind is estranged from peace, and unity is lost amongst faithless discord. Nevertheless, the Lord permits and suffers these things to be, preserving the power of choice to individual free-will, in order that while the discrimination of truth is a test of our hearts and minds, the perfect faith of them that are approved may shine forth in the manifest light. The Holy Spirit admonishes us by the Apostle and says, It is needful also that heresies should be, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. Thus are the faithful approved, thus the false detected; thus even here, before the day of judgment, the souls of the righteous and unrighteous are divided, the chaff separated from the wheat.

10. These are they who, with no appointment from God, take upon them of their own will to preside over their venturesome companions, establish themselves as rulers without any lawful rite of ordination, and assume the name of Bishop, though no man gives them a Bishopric. These the Holy Spirit in the Psalms describes, as sitting in the seat of pestilence, a plague and infection of the faith, deceiving with the mouth of a serpent, cunning to corrupt truth, vomiting out deadly poisons from pestilential tongues. Whose words spread as doth a canker: whose writings pour a deadly poison into men’s breasts and hearts. Against such the Lord cries out; from these he curbs and recalls His straying people, saying, Hearken not unto the words of the Prophets which prophesy falsely, for the vision of their heart maketh them vain. They speak, but not out of the mouth of the Lord; they say to those who cast away the word of God, Ye shall have peace; and every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, no evil shall come upon him. I have not spoken tothem, yet they prophesied; if they had stood in My substance and heard My words, and taught My people, I would have turned them from their evil thoughts. These same persons the Lord designs and signifies, saying, They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and hewed them out broken cisterns, than can hold no water. While there can be no Baptism save one only, they think that they can baptize. They forsake the fountain of life, yet promise the gift of a vital and saving water. Men are not cleansed by them, but rather made foul; nor their sins purged away, but even heaped up: it is a birth that gives children not to God, but to the Devil. Born by a lie, they cannot receive the promises of truth. Gendered of misbelief, they lose the grace of faith. They cannot come to the reward of peace, because they have destroyed the peace of the Lord, in reckless discord.

11. Neither let certain persons beguile themselves by a vain interpretation, in that the Lord hath said, Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in My Name, I am with them. Those who corrupt and falsely interpret the Gospel, lay down what follows, but omit what goes before; giving heed to part, while part they deceitfully suppress; as themselves are sundered from the Church, so they divide the purport of what is one passage. For when the Lord was impressing agreement and peace upon His Disciples, He said, I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth, touching any thing that ye shall ask, it shall be given you by My Father which is in heaven. For wheresoever two or three shall be gathered together in My Name, I am with them. Shewing that most is given, not to the many in number when they pray, but to oneness of heart. If He saith, two of you shall agree together on earth; He places agreement first; hearts at peace are the first condition; He teaches that we must agree together faithfully and firmly. Yet how can he be said to agree with the others, who is at disagreement with the body of the Church itself, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be gathered together in Christ’s name, who are manifestly separate from Christ and from His Gospel? We did not go out from them, but they went out from us. And whereas heresies and schisms have a later rise, from men’s setting up separate meetings for worship, they have left the fountain head and origin of truth. But it is of His Church, that the Lord is speaking; and in respect of those who are in His Church, He says, that if they are of one mind, if according to what He bade and admonished, two or three though they be, they gather together with agreement of the heart; then (though but two or three) they will be ableto obtain from the majesty of God the thing which they ask for. Wherever two or three are gathered together in My Name, I, saith He, am with them: that is, with the single-hearted, and them that live in peace, fearing God, and keeping His commandments. With these, though they be two or three, He has said that He is. So was He with the Three Children in the fiery furnace: and because they continued in singleness of heart toward God, and at unity with themselves, He refreshed them in the midst of the encircling flames with the breath of dew. So too was He present with the two Apostles who were shut in prison, because they continued in singleness and agreement of heart; and undoing the prison-bolts, He placed them again in the market-place, that they might deliver to the multitude that Word which they were faithfully preaching. When therefore He sets it forth in His commandment, and says, Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, I am with them, He does not divide men from the Church, Himself the institutor and make of it, but rebuking the faithless for their discord, He shews that he is more present with two or three which pray with one heart, than with many persons disunited from one another; and that more can be obtained by the agreeing prayer of a few persons, than from the petitioning of many where discord is among them. For this cause when He gave the rule of prayer, He added, When ye stand praying, forgive if ye have ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespass; and one who comes to the Sacrifice with a quarrel He calls back from the altar, and commands Him first to be reconciled with his brother, and then, when he is at peace, to return, and offer his gift to God; for neither had God respect unto Cain’s offering; for he could not have God at peace with him, who through envy and discord was not at peace with his brother.

12. Of what peace then are they to assure themselves, who are at enmity with the brethren? What Sacrifice do they believe they celebrate, who are rivals of the Priests? Think they Christ is still in the midst of them when gathered together, though gathered beyond Christ’s Church? If such men were even killed for confession of the Christian Name, not even by their blood is this stain washed out. Inexplicable and heavy is the sin of discord, and is purged by no suffering. He cannot be a Martyr, who is not in the Church; he can never attain to the kingdom, who leaves her, with whom the kingdom shall be. Christ gave us peace; He bade us be of one heart and one mind; He commanded that the covenant of affection and charity shouldbe kept unbroken and inviolate; he cannot shew himself as a Martyr who has not kept the love of the brotherhood. The Apostle Paul teaches this, thus witnessing; And though I have faith, so that I can remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing: and though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not, charity acteth not vainly, is not puffed up, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, is pleased with all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; charity never faileth. Charity, he saith, never faileth; for she will reign for ever, she will abide evermore in the unity of a brotherhood which entwines itself around her. In the kingdom of heaven discord cannot enter; it cannot gain the reward of Christ who said, This is My commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. It will never be his to belong to Christ, who has violated the love of Christ by unfaithful dissension. He who has not love, has not God. It is the word of the blessed Apostle John, God, saith he, islove; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. They cannot dwell with God, who have refused to be of one mind in God’s Church; though they be given over to be burnt in flame and fire, or yield their lives a prey to wild beasts, theirs will not be the crown of faith, but the penalty of unfaithfulness; not the glorious issue of dutiful valour, but the death of despair. A man of such sort may indeed be killed, crowned he cannot be.

He professes himself a Christian after the manner in which the Devil oftentimes feigns himself to be Christ, as the Lord Himself forewarns us, saying, Many shall come in My Name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many. No more than he is Christ, though he deceive beneath His Name, can he be looked upon as a Christian, who does not abide in the truth of His Gospel and of faith. To prophesy, to cast out devils, to perform great miracles on earth, is a high, doubtless, and a wonderful thing; yet the man who is found in all these things attains not to the heavenly kingdom, unless he walk in an observance of the straight and righteous way. The Lord speaks this denunciation; Many shall say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name? and in Thy Name have cast out devils? and in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity. Righteousness is the thing needful, before any one can find grace with God the Judge. We must obey His instructions andwarnings, in order that our deserts may receive their reward. When the Lord in the Gospel would direct the path of our hope and faith in a summary of words; The Lord thy God, He said, is one: and thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. This is the first commandment; and the Second is like unto it; Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Unity and love together is the instruction which He teaches us; in two commandments He has included all the Prophets and the Law. Yet what unity does he keep, what love does he either maintain, or have a thought for, who, maddened by the heart of discord, rends the Church, pulls down faith, troubles peace, scatters charity, profanes the sacrament?

14. This mischief, dearest brethren, had long before begun, but in these very days the dire havoc of this same evil has been gaining growth, and the unvenomed pest of heretical perverseness and of schisms is shooting up and sprouting afresh; for thus must it be in the end of the world, the Holy Spirit having forespoken by the Apostle, and forewarned us. In the last days, saith He, perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of their own selves, proud, boasters, covetous, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of the good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts; ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth; men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith; but they shall proceed no further, for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. Whatever things were predicted, are in fulfilment; and, as the end of time draws nigh, they have come to us in trial both of men and times. As the adversary rages more and more, error deceives, haughtiness lifts aloft, envy inflames, covetousness blinds, unholiness depraves, pride puffs up, quarrels embitter, and anger hurries men headlong. Let not however the extreme and sudden faithlessness of many move and disturb us, but rather let it give support to our faith, as the event was declared to us beforehand. As some have become such, because this was foretold beforehand, so (because this too was foretold beforehand) let the other brethren take heed againstthem, according as the Lord instructs us and says, But take ye heed; behold, I have told you all things. Do ye avoid such men, I beseech you, and put away from beside you, and from your hearing, their pernicious converse, as though a deadly contagion; as it is written, Hedge thine ears about with thorns, and refuse to hear a wicked tongue. And again, Evil communications corrupt good morals. The Lord teaches and warns us, that we must withdraw ourselves from such. They be blind, saith He, leaders of the blind; and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Whosoever is separated from the Church, such a man is to be avoided and fled from. Such an one is subverted and sinneth, bring condemned of himself. Thinks he that he is with Christ, who does counter to the Priests of Christ? who separates himself from the fellowship of His clergy and people? That man bears arms against the Church, he withstands God’s appointment: an enemy to the altar, a rebel against the Sacrifice of Christ, for faith perfidious, for religion sacrilegious, a servant not obedient, a son not pious, a brother not loving, setting Bishops at nought, and deserting the Priests of God, he dares to build another altar, to offer another prayer with unlicensed words, to profane by false sacrifices the truth of the Lord’s Sacrifice. He is not permitted to a knowledge of what he does, since he who strives against the appointment of God, is punished by the divine censure, for the boldness of his daring.

15. Thus Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who endeavoured to maintain to themselves the privilege of sacrificing, in opposition to Moses and Aaron the Priest, forthwith paid penalty for their attempts. The earth burst its fastenings, and opened the depth of its bosom; standing and alive, the grill of the parting ground swallowed them. Nor those only who had been movers, did the wrath of an angered God strike; but the two hundred and fifty besides, partakers and companions of the same madness, who had mixed with them in their bold work, a fire going out from the Lord with speedy vengeance consumed; warning and manifesting, that that is done against God, whatsoever evil men of human will endeavour, for the pulling down of God’s ordinance. Thus also Uzziah the king who bare the censer, and contrary to God’s law, did by violence take to himself to sacrifice, refusing to be obedient and to give way when Azariah the Priest withstood him, he being confounded by the wrath of God, was polluted by the spot of leprosy upon his forehead; in that part of his body was marked by his offended Lord, where they are marked, who have the grace of the Lord assigned them The sons of Aaron also who put strange fire upon the altar, which theLord had not commanded, were speedily consumed in the presence of their avenging Lord. All such are imitated and followed by them, who, despising God’s tradition, lust for strange doctrines, and give inlet to ordinances of human imposition; these the Lord rebukes and reproves in His Gospel, thus saying, Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may establish your own tradition.

16. This crime is worse, than that which the lapsed appear to commit; who, at least, when in the condition of penitents for their offence, seek their peace with God, by full satisfactions. In this case the Church is enquired after and applied to; in the other the Church is resisted: here there may have been compulsion in guilt; there free choice is involved: the lapsed harms only himself, but one who undertakes to raise heresy and schism, is a deceiver of many, by leading them along with him. The one both understands that he has sinned, and laments and mourns it; the other, puffed up in his wickedness, and finding pleasure in his own offences, separates sons from the Mother, entices sheep from their shepherd, and disturbs the Sacraments of God. And whereas the lapsed has committed the offence, the other is an offender every day: lastly, the lapsed, if he be admitted to martyrdom afterwards, may reap the promises of the kingdom; the other, if he be killed out of the Church, cannot attain to the Church’s rewards.

17. Neither let any one wonder, dearest brethren, that some, even from among Confessors, adventure thus far: that even from among them there are those who sin thus greatly, and thus grievously. Confession does not make a man safe from the crafts of the Devil, nor, while he is still placed in this world encompass him with perpetual security against its temptations, and dangers, and assaults, and shocks; were it so, we should never witness in Confessors those after-commissions of fraud, fornication, and adultery, which we now groan and grieve at seeing in some of them. Whosoever any Confessor may be, he is not a greater man than Solomon, nor a better, nor one more dear to God: who nevertheless, so long as he walked in the ways of the Lord, continued to be gifted with that grace which from the Lord he obtained; but when he deserted the way of the Lord, he lost the Lord’s grace; as it is written, And the Lord raised up the Adversary against Solomon. It is for this cause written, Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. This the Lord would not threaten, that the crown of righteousness can be taken away, except because when righteousness goes from us, the crown must go from us also. Confession is the beginning of glory, not the full price of the crown; it isnot the perfection of our praise, but the entrance upon our honours; and whereas it is written, He that endureth to the end shall be saved, all that is before the end, is the stepping whereby one mounts toward the height of salvation, not the close at where the full summit is gained. If any is a Confessor, then his danger is the greater after confession, because the Adversary is more provoked; if he is a Confessor, then surely, being such a Confessor, he ought the more truly to stand with the Gospel of the Lord since through the Gospel he has gained his glory from the Lord: for the Lord says, To whom much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom more dignity is ascribed, of him more service is exacted. Let none ever perish through a Confessor’s example; let none learn injustice, insolence, or misbelief, from the manners of a Confessor. If he is a Confessor, let him be humble and quiet; let him exercise in his conduct the modesty of a disciplined state, and being called a Confessor of Christ, let him imitate Christ whom he confesses. For since He says, Whosoever shall exact himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted; and since Himself has been exalted by the Father, because being the Word, and Power, and Wisdom of God the Father, He humbled Himself upon earth, how can He love exaltation, having both commanded humility from us by His law, and Himself received from the Father a most excellent Name, as the reward of His humiliation? If any is a Confessor of Christ, he is such no more, if the majesty and dignity of Christ is afterwards blasphemed through him. The tongue that has confessed Christ, must not speak evil only, not be clamorous, not be heard dinning with reproaches and quarrels, nor, after words of worship, dart serpent’s poison against the Brethren and the Priests of God. But if a man afterwards becomes guilty and hateful, if he is wasteful of his confession by an evil conversation, and blots his life by a vile unholiness; if, in fine, deserting that Church in which he had become a Confessor, and rending the concord of unity, he transforms what was faith before, into faithlessness afterwards, he must not flatter himself on the score of his Confession, that he is one elected to the reward of glory, since the desert of punishment is rendered greater on this ground; for the Lord chose Judas among the Apostles, and yet Judas afterwards betrayed the Lord.

18. The faith and firmness of the Apostles did not thereupon fall, because the traitor Judas was a deserter from their fellowship; and thus neither here is the sanctity and dignity of Confessors forthwith impaired, because the faith of certain of them is broken. Theblessed Apostle in his Epistle thus speaks; For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar. The larger and better part of the Confessors stands in the strength of their faith, and in the truth of the law and discipline of the Lord. Neither do they depart from the peace of the Church, who bear in mind that in the Church they gained grace from God’s bounty; but hereby they reach a higher praise of faith, because that separating from the faithlessness of persons, who were fellows with them in Confession, they withdrew from the contagion of guilt; and illuminated by the true light of the Gospel, overshone with pure and white brightness of the Lord, they have praise in keeping Christ’s peace, not less than their victory, in combating the Devil.

19. It is my desire, dearest brethren, it is the end both of my endeavours and exhortations, that, if it be possible, no one of the Brethren may perish, but our rejoicing Mother may fold within her bosom the one body of a people agreeing together: but if saving counsel cannot recall to the way of salvation certain leaders of schisms and authors of dissensions, who abide on in their blind and obstinate madness, yet do the rest of you who are either betrayed through simplicity, or drawn on by error, or deceived through some artfulness of a cunning craftiness, release yourselves from the toils of deceitfulness, free your wayward steps from their wanderings, submit to that straight path which leads to heaven! It is the word of the Apostle uttering witness; We command you, he says, inthe Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition that he hath received from us. And again he says, Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. We must withdraw from them that go astray, nay rather must flee from them, lest any joining himself with those who walk evilly, and going in ways of error and guilt, should himself lose the true path, and be found in an equal guilt. There is One God, and One Christ, and His Church One, and his Faith One, and a people joined in solid oneness of body by a cementing concord. Unity cannot be sundered, nor can one body be divided by a dissolution of its structure, nor be cast piecemeal abroad with vitals torn and lacerated. Parted from the womb, nothing can live and breathe in its separated state; it loses its principle of health.The Holy Spirit Warns us and says, What man is he that lusteth to live, and would fain see good days? Refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile. Eschew evil and do good, seek peace and ensue it. Peace ought the son of peace to seek and to ensue; he who understands and cherishes the bond of charity, should refrain his tongue from the evil of dissent. Amongst His divine commands and saving instructions, the Lord now nigh to passion spoke this beside; Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you. This is the legacy which Christ has given us; all the gifts and rewards which He foretokens to us, He promises to the preserving of peace. If we are Christ’s heirs, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are sons of God we ought to be peacemakers; Blessed, He says, are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. The sons of God ought to be peacemakers, mild in heart, simple in word, agreed in feelings, faithfully entwining one with another in links of unanimity. Under the Apostles of old there was this oneness of mind; it was thus that the new congregation of believers, keeping the commandments of the Lord, preserved its charity. Divine Scripture proves it, which says, The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: and again; These all continued with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. Therefore they prayed with effectual prayers, and were with confidence enabled to obtain whatsoever they required of the Lord’s mercy.

20. But in us unanimity has as greatly fallen away, as has bountifulness in works of charity decayed. Then they gave houses and lands for sale, and laying up for themselves treasures in heaven, offered the price to the Apostles to be distributed for the uses of the needy. But now we give not even the tithes from our property, and while the Lord bids us to sell, we rather buy and heap up. It is thus that the vigour of our faith has waxed faint, and the strength of the believers has languished; and hence the lord, looking to our times, says in His Gospel, When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth? We see come to pass that which He foretold. In the fear of God, in the law of righteousness, in love, in good works, our faith is nought. No man from fear of things to come, gives heed to the day of the Lord and the anger of God; none considers the punishments which will come on the unbelieving, and the eternal torments appointed to the faithless. What our conscience would fear if it believed, that, because nowise believing, it fears not: if it believed, it would take heed; if it took heed, it would escape. Let us awaken ourselves, dearest brethren,what we can, and breaking off the slumber of our old slothfulness, let us be watching, for observance and fulfilment of the Lord’s commands. Let us be such as He bade us be when He said, Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord, when He will return from the wedding, ’that when He cometh and knocketh, they may open unto Him: blessed are those servants, whom their Lord, when He cometh, shall find watching. We need to be girded about, lest when the day of march cometh, He find us hindered and impeded. Let our light shine in good works, let it so beam forth, as to be our guide out of this night below, into the brightness of eternal day. Let us ever in anxiety and cautiousness be awaiting the sudden advent of the Lord, that when He knocketh our faith may be on the watch, and gain from the Lord the reward of its watchfulness. If these commandments are observed, if these warnings and precepts are kept, we can never be overtaken in slumber by the deceit of the Devil, but shall reign, as servants who watch, in the kingdom of Christ.



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Chicago: "Cyprian," The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4 in The Library of Original Sources, ed. Oliver J. Thatcher (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University Research Extension Co., 1907), 36–48. Original Sources, accessed February 25, 2024,

MLA: . "Cyprian." The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4, in The Library of Original Sources, edited by Oliver J. Thatcher, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, University Research Extension Co., 1907, pp. 36–48. Original Sources. 25 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: , 'Cyprian' in The Library of Original Sources, Vol 4. cited in 1907, The Library of Original Sources, ed. , University Research Extension Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pp.36–48. Original Sources, retrieved 25 February 2024, from