Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

pure all things are pure.' Nor onght any of us to shudder at that which God hath condescended to make. For although the infant is still fresh from its birth, yet it is not such that any one should shudder at kissing it in giving grace and in making peace; since in the kiss of an infant every one of us ought, for his very religion's sake, to consider the still recent hands of God themselves, which in some sort we are kissing, in the man lately formed and freshly born, when we are embracing that which God has made.....

..In respect of the observance of the eighth day in the Jewish circumcision of the flesh.... we think that no one is to be hindered from obtaining grace by that law which was already ordained, and that spiritual circumcision ought not to be hindered by carnal circumcision, but that absolutely every man is to be admitted to the grace of Christ, since Peter also in the Acts of the Apostles speaks, and says: “The Lord hath said to me that I should cail no man common or unclean. But if anything could hinder men from obtaining grace, their more heinous sins might rather hinder those who are mature and grown up and older. But, again, if even to the greatest sinners, and to those who had sinned much against God, when they subsequently believed, remission of sins is granted, and nobody is hindered from baptism and from grace; how much rather ought we to shrink from hindering an infant, who, being lately born, has not sinned, except in that, being born after the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of the ancient death at its earliest birth, who approaches the more easily on this very account to the reception of the forgiveness of sins, that to him are remitted, not his own sins, but the sins of another.

“And, therefore, dearest brother, this was our opinion in Council, that by us no one ought to be hindered from baptism and from the grace of God, who is merciful and kind and loving to all. Which, since it is to be observed and maintained in respect of all, we think is to be even more observed in respect of infants and newly-born persons, who on this very account, deserve more from our help and from the Divine mercy, that immediately, on the very beginning of their birth, lamenting and weeping, they do nothing else bnt entreat."

The same practical earnestness which led Cyprian to perceive so clearly and affirm so unhesitatingly the absolute necessity of baptism, led him to contend with equally uncompromising zeal for the unity of the Church. His language on this subject is perfectly clear and vigorously

hatic. He affirms the unity of the Church over and over again, in many forins, by many figures, with much quotation more or less relevant from the Holy Scriptures, both of the Old Testament and the New. Aud in addition to multiplied allusions and assertions elsewhere, he has written a treatise on this subject with special reference to the schism of Novatian. “The spouse of Christ,” he says, in the treatise, “cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch; she keeps us for God; she duly orders the sons whom she has born for the king. dom. Whoever is separated from the Church and joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can be who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his Mother. If anyone could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside the Church... Christ Himself, in His gospel warns us, and teaches, saying, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd,' and does anyone believe that in one place there can be either many shepherds or many flocks ?.. .... Such an one is to be turned away from and avoided, whosoever he may be, that is separated from the Church. Such an one is perverted and sins, and is condemned of his own self. Does he think that he has Christ, who acts in opposition to Christ's priests, who separates himself from the company of His

clergy and people? He bears arms against the Church, he contends against God's appointment. An enemy of the altar, a rebel against Christ's sacrifice, faithless instead of believing, profane instead of religious, a disobedient servant, a son without affection, a hostile brother, despising the Bishops and forsaking God's priests, he dares to set up another altar, to make another prayer with unauthorized words, to profane the truth of the Lord's offering by false sacrifices, and not to know that he who strives against the appointments of God, is punished on account of the daring of his temerity hy Divine visitation.”

No one can misunderstand what this means; and it is obvious that here St. Cyprian is elaborating no mere theory of Church authority, or priesthood, or episcopacy; he is thoroughly practical. It would have seemed to him monstrons and absurd to call men to the Church if he could not have told them precisely where and what the Church was. A man's home is far more spiritual than material. There can be no true home without affection and self-sacrifice. It does not consist merely in the four walls of a particular habitation. But none the less for that is each man's homne in some particular house; and if he wishes to introduce a stranger to his mother and his brothers he knows exactly where to find them. In like manner to doubt that, in the most real sense, the Church of Christ was visible, would have seemed to Cyprian mere insanity. To make it visible and unmistakeable, a city set on a hill which could not be hid, a city at unity with itself, was the very purpose of the sacraments and of an Apostolic ministry. The people of God might be scattered over the face of the earth, but the Church herself was one; and whether in Syria or Egypt, Carthage or Rome, men might find the very same Church by the very same signs, the same ministry, the same doctrine, the same sacraments, the same Lord, the same Spirit, and a carefully protected but most generous and brotherly communion.

I need not remind you how very far removed is the public opinion of the modern“religious world” from the simplicity of Cyprian. But we must not suffer our widely-altered, our violently contrasted circumstances and habits of thought to prevent our appreciating the single-hearted courage and practical wisdom of Cyprian. For him the task was not to restore the unity of the Church, but to preserve it.

He was elevated by acclamation, and even by a kind of loving compulsion, both to the priesthood and the episcopate, within one or two years after his conversion. We need not be surprised to learn that there were some who resented his elevation and iesisted his authority. They were probably not so bad as he thought they were, and Cyprian himself was not withcuit his faults. But his opponents produced great confusion in his diocese and province, and encouraged to the utmost, later on, the schism of Novatian in the Church of Rome. They did all they could to relax the discipline of the Church of Carthage, and are accused by Cyprian of the grossest immoralities, drunkenness, for instance, and adultery. Even in the midst of persecution by the heathen they weakened by their insubordination and inconsistencies, the tone of Christian character. They divided the forces which, even when united, were barely strong enough to resist the powers that were combined for their destruction. In his own diocese and province Cyprian found that schism meant false doctrine and bad life. And we must remember that, in the middle of the third century, Christianity was still young. The Apostolic tradition had to le guarded with the most anxious care. Only by united effort could the original truth and discipline of the Gospel be either ascertained or transmitted. We know not what may be possible to Almighiy God, but so far as we can learn of the ordinary methods of human action, nothing could bave preserved Christianity through the perils of its early bistory and through the disintegration of the Roman Empire, but precisely that solid and uncompromising organization that Unity of the Church-for which Cyprian contended so hervically, and which found its completest expression in the supremacy of the See of Rome.

“ The great triumph of Cyprian," says Dr. Lightfoot, in his Dissertation on the Christian Ministry, in his most valuable edition of St. Paul's "Epistle to the Philippians,"

was the triumph of this principle, that the existence of the Episcopal Office was not a matter of practical advantage or ecclesiastical rule or even of Apostolic sanction, but an absolute incontrovertible decree of God

Of his conception of the Episcopal Office generally this much may be said here, that he regards the Bishop as exclusively the representative of God to the congregation, and hardly, if at all, as the representative of the congregation before God. The Bishop is the indispensable channel of Divine grace, the indispensable bond of the Christian brotherhood. The episcopate is not so much the roof as the foundationstone of the ecclesiastical edifice; not so much the legitimate development as the primary condition of a Church. The Bishop is appointed directly by God, is responsible directly to God, is inspired directly from God... For all practical ends the independent supremacy of the episcopate was completely established by the principles and the measures of Cyprian.”

We must not forget that it was upon this independent supremacy of the episcopate and not upon any monarchical supremacy of the Bishop of Rome that St. Cyprian believed the Unity of the Church was built. He allowed, of course, that St. Peter had received a sort of primacy ainong the Apostles themselves, and he sometimes speaks of the Bishop of Rome as if by virtue of his office he inherited a similar primacy among his brother Bishops. Moreover, he confounds the Imperial with the Ecclesiastical dignity of Rome, and can scarcely help regarding as the very centre of the Church that august city which was also the centre of the world. To that great city Christian people flocked from every corner of the Roman Empire, bringing with

Lightfoot, " Phillippians." pp. 238–242. Second London Edition.

« ZurückWeiter »