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The treatises of S. Caecilius Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, and martyr online

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out of this world; and do you doubt? This is altogether
not to know God ; this is to offend with the sin of unbelief,
against Christ who is the Lord and Master of believers ; it is
after being placed in the Church, to be without faith within
the House of faith. What profit it is to depart out of this
world, Christ Himself reveals, who is the Teacher of salvation
and beneficence to us; who when His Disciples became sad,
because He said that He should presently depart, spoke unto
them and said, Jf ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because /joimH
go unto the Fa liter ; teaching, that is, and manifesting, that - '•
when those we love and cherish depart out of this world, we
ought rather to rejoice than grieve. In remembrance of
which thing, the blessed Apostle Paul sets it down in his
Epistle, and says, To me to live is Christ, arid to die gain ; pi,j]_ ]
accounting it the greatest gain, to be no longer holden of the 21.
chains of this life ; no more exposed to all sins and vices of

the flesh ; redeemed from poignant tribulations, and delivered
from the poisoned jaws of the Devil, to pass at the call of
Christ into the joy of everlasting salvation.

5. Some however there are, who are moved in thought,
because the influences of this disease have made their attack
on ourselves, as much as on the heatlien ; as if the end of a
Christian's faith was this, to enjoy in happiness the world
and life, unliable to contact of evil ; not as one, who, enduring

220 The Christian suffers mure than other men,

Treat. here all adverse things, is reserved unto the future joy. It
— !iil_ moves some, tluit tliis mortality should be common to us as
to others. Yet what is there in this world, which is not
common to us with others, so long as this common flesh is
ours, according to the law of the first nativity ? Even so
long as here we are in the world, we arc in equality of the
flesh joined with the race of man, but in spirit separate. Where-
lCor.15, fore, until this corrujitible ]iut on iiicorrup/io/i, and this
^^' mortal obtain immortality , and the Spirit guide us unto God
the Father, whatsoever are the troubles of the flesh, are our
common portion \\\\h. the race of man. When therefore the
earth pines in an unfruitful baiTenness, famine makes no
diflerence of one from another ; when any city is occupied by
a hostile assault, the capture lays its desolation equally upon
all. And when the becalmed atmosphere suspends tlie rain,
there is equal drought to all; and when the abrupt rocks
dash a vessel in pieces, the voyagers suffer together an
unexcepted shipwreck. Disease of the eyes, attacks of fever,
ailment of any of the limbs, is as common to us as to others,
so long as the common flesh remains in this world upon us.
Nay, if the Christian recognizes and masters on ^^•hat con-
dition, on what law he has become a believer, he will fnid,
that he has more to endure in this world than otlier men,
because he is to be struggling more with the assaults of the
Devil. The divine Scripture teaches and forewarns us,
Ecclus. saying, My so?/, uhcn thou comest to the service of God,
^' '• ^" stand in riyhteousness and fear, and j)repare thy soul for
tempialion. And again; In pain endure, and in thy low
estate have patience ; for gold and silver is tried in the Jire,
and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.

C. Thus Job, after the loss of estate, after the death of his
children, grievously also afliicted with woimds and worms,
was not overcome, but proved; for even in his very wrest-
lings and sufferings, he manifested the patience of a religious
Job 1, mind, and said. Naked catne I out of my mothers icomb,
2*- and naked shall I depart tinder the earth ; the Lord gave,
the Lord hath taken auay ; as it seemed good to the L^ord, so
it hath been done ; blessed be the Xante of the Lord. And
when his wife also urged him, impatient under the strength
of his pains, to speak against God some word in the tone of

and praises and blesses God under his sufferings. 22 1

complaint and envy, be answered and said, Thou hast upoken Job 2,
as one of the foolish fcoinen. If ice have received good at the
hand of the Lord, nlierefore shall ue not endure evils? In
all these things which happened unto him, Job sinned not
nith his lips in the sight of the Lord. Therefore the Lord
God gives unto hiui a testimony, saying, LJast thou cow- Job 1.8,
sidered My servant Job? For there is none like him in
the earth, a man icithont complaint, a true worshipper of

7. And Tobias, after his noble works, after the many and
glorious praises of his mercifulness, under the suffering of
blindness, fearing and blessing God in his adversity, did
through bodily calamity obtain the more increase of praise ;
and him also his wife endeavoured to coiTupt, saying,
Where are thy righteous deeds? Behold ichat things thouToh.2.
sufferest. But he, stedfast and rooted in the fear of God,
and armed by a religious faith unto all endurance of suffering,
yielded not in pain to the tempting of his unstcdfast
wife, but wrought the more favour with God, by a moreDeum
abounding patience. Him afterward the Angel Raphael f^^j']'^'
approves, and says. For when thou didst pray, and Sara thy juh. 12.
daughter in law, I did offer the remeinbrance of your prayer, ^2-
in the presence of the glory of God; and when thou didst
bury the dead likewise; and because that thou didst not
delay to rise up and leave thy dinner, and wentest and didst
bury the dead, I was sent to make proof of thee. And God
again hath sent me, to heal thee and Sara thy daughter-in-
law ; for I am Raphael, one of the seven holy Angels, who
are present, and go in and out, before the glory of God.

8. This exercise of patience righteous men have ever
manifested, this lesson the Apostles themselves observed,
according to the commandment of the Lord ; not to miu-mur
in adversity, but whatsoever things occur in this world, to
receive them in strength and patience. For the people of
the Jews herein ever offended, by their manifold murnnu-ings
against God. Thus, in Numbers, the Lord God bears wit-
ness, saying. Let their murmuring cease from Me, and they lS!umb.
shall not die. Dearest brethren, we must not murmur in '
adversity, but in patience and strength endure whatsoever
befals, since it is written, The sacrifice to God is a broken i'^. (>i.

■2*22 Loss (>ftcealth, disease, hereavementj try our faith.

Tnr.AT. spirit ; a contrite and humhled heart God doth not despi-^e :
' ' and since in Deuteronomy also the Holy Spirit counsels by

Deut. 8, Moses, and says, The Lord thy God nill vex thee, and will
lay hunger upon thee, and it shall be knon-n in thine heart,
if thou hast ticll kept His commandments, or not. And

Deut. again ; The Lord your God proveth you, that He may know
' ' whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and
tiith all your soul. Herein Abraham pleased God, because,
to the end that he might please Him, he neither feared to
lose his son, nor refused the burden of slaying him. You,
who cannot bear to lose a son, by the law and portion
of mortality, what would you do, if you were commanded to
slay your son ?

9. Fear of God, and faith, ought to make you of ready
mind unto all things. Though loss of wealth be your lot,
though your limbs be harrassed by the fixed and painful
ravage of diseases, though the removal of wife, of children,
and of friends, bring its gloomy and painful separation, be these
things not offences to you, but combats ; let them not impair
or break the faith of the Christian, but rather manifest his
valour in the struggle; since all injury of present evils is to
be despised in the confidence of the good things that are to
be. Unless the fight have first come, there cannot be the
victory ; when victory has in the striib of battle been attained,
then is given to the conquerors their crown. The pilot is
discerned in the tempest, the soldier is approved in the field.
It is a trial without endurance, when danger is not ; the com-
batting of adversity gives approval of what is real. A tree
which rests in dejith of root, is unmoved by winds when they
descend upon it ; the ship which firmly rests upon its cable,
is struck but not broken by the waves; an 1 when the corn
is wrought in a threshing-floor, the strong and heavy grains
despise the wind, while empty chaff is wafted off upon its
blast. Thus moreover the Apostle Paul, after shipwrecks
after stripes, after tortures many and giievous of the flesh and
body, says that he is not worn but bettered by evil things,
inasmuch as in his being the rather afflicted he was more

2 Cor. certainly ])roved. There nas yiren to me, saith he, a thorn

'2' 7- of my Jlcsli, the angel of Satan, to buffet vie, that I should
not be e.ralted ; far trhirh thing I brsoiighf the Lord thrice,

No Christian need/ear to die. 223

ihat it miyht depart from me. And He said vnto me, My
grace ift sujficicnt for Ihee ; for strength is made perfect in
weakness. When therefore weakness and insufRcicney and
any desolation lays hold upon us, then our strength is being
made perfect; then faith, if it have stood fast in the trial, is
crowned; as it is written, The furnace proveih the jiotler's Ec lus.

• • 27 ft

vessels; and just men the trial of trihuhil ion. This, in fme, '
lies between us, and others who know not God, that they in
adverse things complain and murmur ; while adversity calls
us not away from the truth of virtue and faith, but makes us
strong amidst suffering. This present visitation, of the
strength of the body drained by an inward flux, of fire in
the marrow breaking out in wounds upon the jaws; the
entrails shaken by continual vomiting, the eyes made
bloodshot by fever, the feet of some or other parts of
the body removed through access of putrid disease, while
from the debility occasioned in this maiming and waste of the
body, either motion is impeded, or hearing obstructed, or
sight lost, is a profitable instancing of faith. What greatness
is it of spirit, to battle, in strength of soul unshaken, against
these assaults of desolation and death ! How glorious, to
stand, unbending, among ruins of the human race, instead of
lying prostrate with those who are void of a hope in God!
It becomes us best, to be joyful, and to embrace with gladness
that which the occasion grants us, namely, that in the stedfast
eliciting of our faith, and the going on unto Christ, through
labour borne, in Christ's narrow way, we are accepting that
reward of His life and faith, which Himself will adjudge.

10. Doubtless, let him fear to die, and only him, who,
unborn of water and of the Spirit, is the property of hell-fire ;
let him fear to die, who is without title in the Cross and
passion of Christ ; let him fear to die, who is to pass from
death here into the second death ; let him fear to die, on whom
at his going away from life, an eternal flame will lay pains
that never cease ; let him fear to die, on whom the longer
delay confers this boon, that his tortures and groans will
begin later. There are many among ourselves, who die in
this pestilence ; that is, there are many among us, who are
set at liberty from the life below. This pestilence, as to
Jews and heathens and Christ's enemies it is a plague, so


224 Tlie pestilence brought men to serious thoughts.

Treat, to the servants of God is it departure to their salvation.

— liL That without distinction between man and man, the just and
the unjust die alike, think not, because of this, that the good
and the wicked pass to the same end ; the ri^^diteous are

refrige- called to their refreshing, the unrighteous hurried into
punishment; the faitliful obtain a speedier deliverance, the
unbelieving a speedier retribution. We are inconsiderate and
ungi'atcful, dearest brethren, concerning the divine bounties,
and account not of that which they bestow upon us. Behold,
virgins depart peaceably and securely in their full honours,
unfearing the threats and coiTuptions and polluted places of
coming Anti-Christ ; boys, escaped the peril of their unsafe
years, happily arrive at the reward of continence and inno-
cency ; the delicate matron is no longer in dread of torture,
obtaining ransom, by an early death, from fear of persecution,
and from the hands and torments of tlie slaughterer. By the
terrors of mortality and of the times, lukewarm men are heart-
ened, the listless nerved, the sluggish awakened ; deserters are
compelled to return ; heathens brought to believe; the congre-
gation of established believers is called to rest; fresh and
numerous champions are banded in heartier strength for the
conflict, and having come into warfare in the season of death,
will fight without fear of death, when the battle comes.

II. This further effect, dearest brethren, how suitable,
how necessary is it ; that this pestilence and plague, which
appears full of terrors and gloom, is a trial of the righteousness
of each, and puts the minds of mortal men into a balance ;
trying whether those that arc in health tend them that are
sick; whether relatives are dutifully affected towards their
kindred; whether masters feel pitifully towards servants who
are languishing ; whether physicians keep from leaving the
sick who entreat their aid; whether the passionate reduce
their violence of temper ; whether the avaricious can quench
even by fear of death the insatiable heats of their feverish
covetousncss ; whether the ]noud bend the neck ; whether
the reprobate remit their daring; whetlier, their dear ones
being canned oil", the rich even then do any wise dispense and
give when they are to die without heirs. Were it that none
other boon were brought by this mortality, herein greatly has
it been of profit to Christians and the servants of God. that

Martyrdom in will a substitute for Martyrdom in deed. 2*25

learning to be not afraid of death, we begin to look on
martyrdom with desire. Trainings are these for us, not losses ;
they give to the mind the praise of courage, and by contempt
of death prepare it for the crown.

12. But some one may here in opposition say, ' It is for
this cause that I have sorrow in the present mortality, in that
having made myself ready for confession, and having devoted
myself to bear my passion with my whole heart and in fulness
of virtue, I am robbed of my Martyrdom, being anticipated
by death.' But in the first place. Martyrdom is not in your
control, but in the condescension of God ; nor can you say
that you have lost, what you know not that you merit to
obtain. And, besides this, God the Searcher of reins and
heart, beholder and inspector of hidden things, sees thee, and
praises and approves ; and He who perceives that the virtue
was ready in you, will measure to your virtue its reward. Had
Cain, when he brought the offering to God, already slain his
brother .' And yet God foreseeing already condemned the
fratricide which he conceived in his heart. As in him the
evil intention and purj)ose of wickedness was anticipated by
a foreseeing God, so also in the scnants of God, in whom
confession is intended, and Martyrdom conceived in mind,
a will devoted to what is good is crowned by God the
Judge. It is one thing for will to be wanting when
Martyrdom is offered; another, in absence of the Martyrdom,
for will to be present. As the Lord finds when He calls
you, so also He judges of you; since Himself bears wit-
ness and says, And all the Churches shall know, that I am Rev. 2,
Searcher of the reins and heart. For neither doth God
require our bloodshedding, but our faith ; since neither
Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, were slain, yet merited
they to be honoured first among the Patriarchs, for the merits
of faith and righteou.sness; into whose feast is gathered who-
soever is found faithful and righteous and laudable.

13. We should remember that we ought to do, not our
own will, but the will of God ; according as the Lord has
commanded us daily to pray. How misplaced is it, and
how perverse, while we make it our prayer that the will of
God may be done, yet when God calls and withdraws us
fiom this world, not at once to obey the requirement of His


•226 A vision granted to a dying Priest.

Treat, will ! We oppose and withstand, and after the manner of

'— contumacious servants we are carried into the presence of our

Lord with reluctance and sadness, departing hence under
the constraint of necessity, not the obedience of choice;
and desire we to be honoured of Him with heavenly rewards,
whom we approach against our will ? ^^^ly then do we pray
and beseech that the kingdom of heaven may come, if bondage
on earth delights us ? ^^^ly in oft-repeated prayers do we
enquire and ask that the day of the kingdom may hasten,
when we desire and have it rather in our wish, to serve the
Devil here, than to be reigning with Christ ?

14. Moreover, that the marks of a divine Providence might
more clearly be manifest, that the Lord to whom future things
are known, counsels for the true salvation of them who are
His, when one of our colleagues and fellow-Priests, worn
now with infirmity, and under the anxiety of approaching
death, made prayer that longer time might be granted him ;
there stood beside him, in his entreaty, and while as he was
well nigh dying, a youth of venerable honour and majesty, of
a lofty stature, and shining presence, and on whom the face of
man could scarcely look with fleshly eyes, as he stood by him,
were it not that now he was able to see him, in this near time
of his departure from the world. He, not ^^-ithout a displeasure
both of feeling and tone, rebuked him thus, " Are ye afraid to
suffer.^ Are ye unwilling to depart.^ What shall I do to you?"
It was the word of rebuke and warning, from One who, when
men are solicitous about persecution, and careless of their
summons, concedes not to their present desire, but consults for
hereafter. Om* brother and colleague heard in his death, that
which he was to say to others. In death he heard, what hearing
he should but repeat ; not for himself he heard it, but for us.
For wherefore the lesson given, to one who was now in de-
parting? Yea, he was taught it for us who remain; that
witnessing a Priest of God rebuked, when he petitioned for his
longer leave, we might learn what to all men is their true


15. To ourselves also, (who are the least and last,) how

many times has it been revealed, how frequently and mani-
festly, by God's pleasure, have I been directed, assiduously
to protest, and publicly doclavo. that we ought not to sorrow

We must not mourn at the loss of friends. 2'27

for those our brethren, who by the Lord's summons have
been set at Hberty from the life below ; assured that they are
not gone away, but gone forward ; that in departing from us ^[^, sa?-
they are but leading tlie way, as is men's wont in a journey '-'"'°-
or upon a voyage ; that we owe them our affection, rather than
our lamentations; and ought not to put on the garb of black
here, while they have already taken on them white raiment
there ; since occasion must not be given to the Gentiles,
for the deserved and just reproach, that while we say of men,
they are alive with God, we mourn for them as extinct and
perished; and that a faith which we manifest by language
and utterance, is disjiroved in the testimony of our feeling and

16. So doing, we play false to our hope and faith ; unreal,
counterfeit, fictitious, do those things appear which we
affirm. It nothing profits to set out virtue in our words, in
our acts to undo the truth. In a word, the Apostle Paul con-
demns and rebukes and blames any, who soitow at the
departing of them who are dear to them. / uould not, says i iiiess.
he, /lave you ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are^' ^^'
asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others icliich have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even
so them uhich are asleep in Jesns, will God bring with Him.
They, he says, sorrow in the departing of their friends, which
have no hope. But we who live by hope, and believe in God,
and are assured that Christ suffered for us, and that He rose
again, abiding in Christ, and having resurrection by Him and
in Him, wherefore do we either ourselves unwillingly depart
forth from life, or lament and grieve for those of us who do
depart, as tliough they perished.? Christ Himself, our Lord
and God, cautions us, and says, I am lite resurrection «??f^joiin ii,
the life : he that believeth in Me, though he die, shall live; and'-^-
whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall not die eternally. If
we believe in Christ, let us put faith in His words and promises ;
and since we shall not die eternally, let us pass in joyful as-
surance unto Christ, with whom for ever we shall both live
and reign. In dying at this present, by death gain the transit to
immortality ; eternal life cannot follow, unless it has been given
us to depart hence ; nor is this departure, but transition ;
when the journey of time is concluded, a transit unto


228 To he taken hence in a special privilege.

Treat, things eternal. Who will not make speed unto the better
things ? Who does not long to be changed, and made anew

nnto the likeness of Christ, and to gain an earlier entrance to

the dignity of heavenly grace ? It is the spoken word of Paul

Phil. 3, the Apostle; Our conrersalion, saith he, is in heaven ; from

^^' whence also we look for the Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall

change the body of our humility, conforming it to the body of

His glory. That such we shall be, Christ the Lord also

promises, when in these words He prays the Father for us,

that we may be with Him, and live with Him in the etenial

.'oiin 17, seats, and be joyful in the realms of heaven ; Father, I will

'^■*- that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me vhere

I am : and may see the glory which Thou gavest Me, before

the world began.

17. He who is going to the seat of Christ, to the brightness

of the heavenly kingdoms, ought not to weep and lament, but

rather, according to the promise of the Lord, according to his

belief of the tnith, to be joj-ful in this his departure and

translation. Thus accordingly we find Enoch was translated,

who pleased God ; as divine Scripture bears 'witness, and

Cii I). 5, speaks in Genesis : And Enoch pleased God, and he was not

f, -^ 'found after, because God translated him. His having been

ro^ruif. fouud well-plcasiug in the sight of God, wrought for him a

translation out of this infectious world. Thus also the

Holy Spirit teacheth by Solomon, that they who please

God are earlier taken hence, more speedily set free;

lest abiding longer in this world they be polluted by

wi^. 4 its contact with them. He was taken away, saith he, lest

^'- that wickedness should alter his tinder standing, for his soul

pleased God; wherefore hasted He to take him away from

the midst of wickedness. Thus also in the Psalms, the soul

devoted in spiritual faith unto its God, makes haste imto the

1^3 g4 Lord, saying. How amiable are T7iy tabernacles, O God of

'• hosts! My soul Inngeth and hasteth unto the courts of God.

It is for him to wish to remain long below, who finds below

his enjoyment; whom a flattering and deceiving world, attracts

by the enticements of earthly i:)leasure.

18. Furthcnnore, whereas the world hates the Christian,
wherefore love that which hates thee } and not rather follow
Christ, who both redeemed and loves thee ? John in his

It is good to be taken from a decoying and ruinous u-orkl. 229

Epistle cries out and says, warning us lest we be not made
lovers of the world, while we indulge in carnal desires ;
Love not, says he, the world, neitlter the things that^''^'''^'
are in the uorld; if any ma?i love the world, the love of
the Father is not in him ; for all that is in the world is hist
of the Jlesh, and lust of the eyes, and pride of life, which is
not of the Father, but of the lust of the tcorld; and the uorld
will pass away and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the
will of God ahidelh for ever, even as God abideth for ever.
Rather, dearest brethren, in Mness of spirit, firm faith, and
hearty courage, let us be prepared unto all the will of God ;
shutting out our dread of death, and thinking of the deathless-
ness which comes beyond it. Herein let us manifest that we
live as we believe; — on the one hand, by not lamenting the
departure of tliem we love ; and on the other, when the day of
our o\^Ti summons comes, by going without delay and with a
ready mind, unto the Lord who calls us.

Online LibrarySaint CyprianThe treatises of S. Caecilius Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, and martyr → online text (page 25 of 34)