The Ancient Library

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discord waxed hot within. The never ending dis­cussions with regard to the Lapsi were vexatiously and bitterly revived under a thousand embarrass­ing forms; next arose a dispute with regard to the age at which infants might receive baptism; and lastly the important controversy concerning the rebaptizing of those who had been admitted to the rite by heretics and schismatics, which first arose in Asia, now began to call forth a storm of angry feeling in all the provinces of the West. In this case, Cyprian was no longer the advocate of moderate opinions. He steadfastly and sternly maintained that the unity of the visible church was essential to Christianity ; that no Christianity could exist beyond the pale of that church ; that no sacrament was efficacious if administered by those who had violated this principle by disobedi­ence to episcopal authority; and that consequently the baptism performed by heretics and schismatics was in itself null and void—doctrines confirmed by the acts of a numerous council held at Carthage in the autumn of a. d. 255, and unhesitatingly repudiated by Stephen, at that time bishop of Rome. The tempest thus aroused was stilled for awhile by the unlooked-for persecution of Valerian, hitherto considered the friend and protector of the Christian cause. Cyprian being at once pointed out by his high character and conspicuous station, was banished by Paternus the proconsul to the maritime city of Curubis, whither he proceeded in September, a, i>, 257, attended by his friend and constant companion, the deacon Pontius, to whom he communicated that he had received a revelation of approaching martyrdom. After having lived in this agreeable residence for eleven months, treated with the greatest indulgence and surrounded by every comfort, he was recalled by the new go­vernor, Galerius Maximus, and returned to his villa in the neighbourhood of the city, from whence he was soon summoned to appear before the pro­consul at Utica. Conscious of his approaching fate, he withdrew for a time into concealment, in consequence, say his enemies, of his courage having failed him, or, according to his own declaration, because he considered it more becoming to die in the midst of his own people than in the diocese of another prelate. It is certain that, upon the re­turn of Maximus, Cyprian reappeared, resisted all the entreaties of his friends to seek safety in flight, made a bold and firm profession of his faith in the praetorium before the magistrate, and was be­headed in a spacious plain without the walls in the presence of a vast multitude of his sorrowing followers, who were freely permitted to remove the corpse and to pay the last honours to his me­mory with mingled demonstrations of grief and triumph.

While Cyprian possessed an amount of learning, eloquence, and earnestness, which gained for him the admiration and respectful love of those among whom he laboured, his zeal was tempered with moderation and charity to an extent of which we find but few examples among the ecclesiastics of that age and country, and was combined with an amount of prudence and knowledge of human nature which enabled him to restrain and guide the fiery spirits by whom he was surrounded, and to maintain unshaken to the close of his life that influence, stretching far beyond the limits of his own diocese, which he had established almost at the outset of his career. His correspondence pre-


sehts us with a very lively picture both of the man and of the times; and while we sometimes remark and regret a certain want of candour and decision, and a disinclination to enunciate boldly any great principles save such as were likely to flatter the prejudices of his clergy, we at the same time feel grateful in being relieved from the head­strong violence, the overbearing spiritual pride, and the arrogant impiety which disgrace the works of so many early controversialists. His character, indeed, and opinions were evidently, in no small degree, formed by the events of his own life. The clemency uniformly exhibited towards the Lapsi was such as might have been expected from a good man who must have been conscious that he had himself, on one occasion at least, considered it more expedient to avoid than to invite persecution, while the extreme views which he advocated with regard to the powers of the church were not sur­prising in a prelate whose authority had been so long and so fiercely assailed by a body of factious schismatics. On one point only is his conduct open to painful suspicion. He more than once alleged that he had received communications and direc­tions direct from heaven, precisely too with re­ference to those transactions of his life which ap­peared most calculated to excite distrust or censure. Those who are not disposed to believe that such revelations were really vouchsafed, cannot fail to observe that the tone and temper of Cyprian's mind were so far removed from fanaticism, that it is impossible to imagine that he could have been deceived by the vain visions of a heated imagina­tion.

In his style, which is avowedly formed upon the model of Tertullian, he exhibits much of the masculine vigour and power of his master, while he skilfully avoids his harshness and extravagance both of thought and diction. The fruits of his early training and practice as a rhetorician are manifested in the lucid arrangement of his matter, and in the copious, flowing, and sonorous periods in which he gives expression to his ideas; but we may here and there justly complain, that loose reasoning and hollow declamation are substituted for the precise logic and pregnant terseness which we demand from a great polemical divine.

The following is a list of Cyprian's works :—

1. De Gratia Dei liber, addressed in the form of a letter to his friend Donatus, who appears to have followed in early life the same profession with himself, and to have been converted at the same time. This work was probably composed in a. d. 246, very soon after the admission of its author into the church. It depicts in glowing colours the happy condition of those who, enlight­ened by the grace of God, have turned aside from Paganism to Christianity ; dwells upon the mercy and beneficence by which this change is effected, and upon the importance of the baptismal rite; and draws a striking parallel between the purity and holiness of the true faith as contrasted with the grossness and vice of the vulgar belief. Al­though frequently placed among the Epistles of Cyprian, it deserves to be considered in the light of a formal treatise.

2. De Idolorum Vanitate liber, written in A. d, 247, the year in which he was ordained a presby­ter, is imitated from the early Christian Apologies, especially that of Tertullian. Three points are chiefly insisted upon. 1. The folly of raising

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