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for what arrogance is this, to call pastors to your cognizance, and unless they be acquitted at your bar, behold now for fix years the brethren have been without a bishop?
You say your scruples must be solved; but why did not those martyrs, full of the Holy Ghost, who suffered for God and his Christ, indulge those scruples? Why so many of my colleagues, and so many of the people, illustrious for their sufferings? Muft all who communicated with me be polluted, according to what you have written, and have lost the hope of eternal life? Pupian, alone upright, inviolable, holy, and chaste, who will not mix with us, will dwell folitary in paradise.”
He then exhorts him to return to the bofom of the church; at the same time informs him, that in the matter of receiving him he shall be guided by intimations from the Lord communicated to him, it may be by visions and dreams. - This is a language not unusual with Cyprian. He repeatedly speaks of instructions communicated to him in this way. We know too little of the mode of dispensation the church at that time was under to judge accurately concerning this language; certainly the age of miracles had not then ceased. Instruction by dreams was very much the method of God in scripture, and it would be an inexcusable temerity to censure a man of such wisdom and veracity, as Cyprian was, by tying him down to our modes of judging. If some expressions in the letter savour of episcopal haughtiness, which was then growing in the church, the main tenor of it contains nothing but what Pupian ought to have attended to. A readiness to believe stories, tending to calumniate the worthiest pastors, is a fnare which Satan has too successfully laid for the church in all ages. Much greater circumspection is doubtless due on
this head than many are disposed to pay. The brotherly fellowship of churches much depends on this point, their endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Cyprian concludes in this nervous manner: "I have written these things with a pure conscience, and in the confidence of my God. You have my letters, I have yours, both will be recited in the day of judgment before the tribunal of Christ*.”
A controversy now arose in the church, while the pacific spirit of Valerian continued to protect it, which reflects no honour on any of the parties concerned in it. The question was, whether perfons returning from heresies into the church ought to be re-baptized. The active spirit of Cyprian was employed, partly by a council in Africa, and partly by his letters, in maintaining that the baptism of herecics was null and void, that even Novatian baptism ought to be looked upon in the fame light, Stephen of Rome maintained that if they were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, it was sufficient to receive them into the church by impolition of hands; and though nothing was at present decided, because no party had power to compel others, yet most christians have agreed long since with Stephen. That the efficacy of a facrament, rightly administered, depends not on the character of hini that administers it, is the voice of good sense as well as of the church of England. But the cha. racter which Cyprian had not undeservedly acquired by his labours and sufferings, procured him a much greater degree of strength than either the importance of his caufe or the weight of his arguments merited. Even Firmilian of Cappadocia in a long letter supported his side of the question. He occasionally mentions in it a story of a woman, about twenty-two years before the date of this letter, who professed herself a prophetess, and for a long time deceived the brethren with her extatic raptures, till one of the exorcists confuted her pretensions. It is worth while just to have mentioned this to shew that delusions have ever been raised by Satan to disgrace the work of God. It appears by his letter * that Stephen behaved with much violence and afperity in the contest, not even admitting to a conference the brethren who came to him from diftant parts, who were of Cyprian's opinion, and denying to them the common rights of hospitality. Another circumstance which turns out in the course of this controversy is, that Cyprian juftly enough decides that those | whose weak state of health did not permit them to be washed in water, were yet sufficiently baptized by being sprinkled, and observes that the virtue of baptism ought not to be estimated, in a carnal manner, by the quantity of external apparatus.
question. * Epif. 69.
How weak alas is man! A peace of three years lias set the church in a fame among themselves for a trifle ! and one of the best and wisest of men, in his day, by his zeal for unity and his care against innovations, is betrayed into the support of an indefensible point of mere ceremony, which tends to the encouragement of superstition and the weakening of brotherly love. How foon do we forget that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost !” with what difficulty is any thing of the real love of Jesus and the fruits of it preserved in the church. All this proves in the ftrongest manner how mighty and gracious the Lord is in still preserving a church in the earth, how dark and corrupt man is, how active and subtil Satan is, how precious is that blood which cleanses from all fin, and how true is that book which contains such falutary doctrine and so faithfully describes the misery of man ! How safely may its account of the way of salvation be rested on! How pleasing the prospect it exhibits of the church above!
how * Epif. 75.0
| Epif. 76.
The reader would justly think my time and his own ill spent in unravelling the niceties of this trifling controversy. God has a scourge for his froward children ; persecution lowers again with recollected strength, and christians are called on to forget their idle internal squabbles, to humble themselves before him, and prepare for scenes of horror and desolation.
THE LAST ACTS AND MARTYRDOM OF CYPRIAN.
THE change in the disposition of Valerian to
wards the christians, which now took place, is one of the most memorable instances of the instability of human characters. More than all his predecessors he was disposed to kindness towards the christians. Not even Philip was so courteous and friendly towards them. His palace was full of the friends of Jesus, and was looked on as a sanctuary. But now, after he had reigned three years, he was induced by his favourite Macrianus to commence a deadly persecution. This man dealt largely in magical enchantments and abominable sacrifices, he Naughtered children, and
fcattered the entrails of new-born babes. The persecution of christians was an exploit worthy of à mind so fascinated with diabolical wickedness and folly. He found in Valerian but too ready a disciple. The persecution began in the year two hundred and fifty-seven, and continued the remainder of his reign, three years and a half. Stephen of Rome appears to have died a natural death about the beginning of it. For there is no evider.ce of his martyrdom, and we want the proofs which might there be afforded, whether his turbulent and aspiring spirit was combined with any thing of genuine christianity. He was succeeded by Sixtus.
Cyprian, who had escaped two persecutions, was now made the victim of the third, though by flow degrees, and attended with circumstances of comparative lenity. Every thing relating to him is so interesting, that it may not be amiss to profecute his story in a connected manner to his cieath, and to reserve the narrative of other objects of this persecution till afterwards.
He was seized by the servants of Paternus the proconíul of Carthage, and brought into his council-chamber. “ The sacred emperors, Valerian and Gallienus," says Paternus, “ have done me. the honour to direct lecters to me, in which they have decreed, that all men ought to adore the gods whom the Romans adore, and on pain of being Nain with the sword. I have heard that you despite the worlhip of the gods, whence I advise you to consult for yourself and honour them.” "I am a chriftian,” replied the prelate, “ and know no god but the one true God, who created heaven and earth, the fea, and all things in them. This God we christians ferve; to him wę pray
Dyonyfius of Alex.-Eufeb. B. 7. C. 9.