The Treatises
S. Cęcilius Cyprian,
Bishop of Carthage, and Martyr,

with notes and indices

[Parker and Rivington, 1840]


{i} THE Treatises of St. Cyprian may suitably be preceded by the short Memoir of his life written by his Deacon Pontius, and the Proconsular Acts of his Martyrdom.

The Memoir is recommended to our attention, not so much by any special excellence in itself, as by the circumstance that it is written by one who was about the Bishop's person, who attended him in exile, and who was a witness of his death [Note 1]. The reader need scarcely be reminded, that the Deacon in St. Cyprian's age, as afterwards, was the personal attendant and minister of the Bishop; thus St. Laurence is celebrated as Deacon or Archdeacon to Sextus or Xystus, Bishop of Rome and Martyr, the contemporary of St. Cyprian; and St. Athanasius as Deacon to Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, in the Council of Nicęa.

The Proconsular Acts are considered to be the substance of the original, with the incidental additions of subsequent times [Note 2]. {ii}

What has further to be said of St. Cyprian is reserved for the second part of the Volume, which will contain his Letters. It shall only be added here, that he was converted to the Christian faith about A.D. 246, consecrated A.D. 248, and martyred A.D. 258.

The life of St. Cyprian, by Pontius his Deacon

CYPRIAN, that religious Priest and glorious Witness of God, composed many works, whereby may survive the memory of so worthy a name; the abundant fecundity of his eloquence, and of God's grace in him, so widely spread itself in copiousness and richness of speech, that perchance even to the end of the world he will speak on; and yet, forasmuch as his works and merits claim as a right that they should become an example to us in writing, it has seemed good to draw up this brief summary of it; not as if the life of so great a man were unknown to any of the heathen, but that even to our posterity may be handed on his singular and high example unto an immortal memory. Certainly it were hard, when even laymen and catechumens, who have obtained martyrdom, have been honoured by our forefathers for their very martyrdom's sake, with a record of many, nay of all details of their passion, in order to our acquaintance with it who were yet unborn, hard were it to pass over Cyprian's passion, so great a Priest and so great a Martyr, who even over and above his martyrdom had lessons to teach; and hard again to hide the deeds which he did in his life. Those in truth were such, so great and wonderful, as to deter me by the very contemplation of their greatness, and to urge me to a confession of my incapacity to do justice to my subject, or to represent his high deeds in correspondent terms, except that the multitude of his achievements tells its own tale without heralding from others. It has to be added, that you too are longing to hear much, or, if possible, the whole concerning him, having a burning desire at least to know his deeds, though his word of mouth be silent. In which respect to say that I am deficient in the resources of {iii} eloquence, is to say little. Eloquence itself fails of the means of fully satisfying your longing. Thus we are sorely pressed on either side; by the weight of his excellences, by the importunity of your entreaties.

A.D. 246.
2. From what shall I commence? where enter upon his excellences, but from faith as a first principle, and from his heavenly birth? considering that the deeds of a man of God should be reckoned from no other point than that of his being born of God. He might have employments before it, and a heart engaged and imbued with liberal arts; still I pass over all this, as up to this date tending merely to advantage of this life [Note 3]. But after he had learned sacred knowledge and had emerged out of the clouds of this world into the light of spiritual wisdom, whatever I was witness to, whatever I have discovered of his preferable works, I will relate; with the request that those deficiencies of my narrative, which I feel will occur, should be charged upon my ignorance rather than on his fame.

3. While he was yet in the rudiments of his faith [i.e. before  Baptism], he felt that nothing was more fitting towards God than the observance of continence; for the breast became what it should be, and the understanding reached the full capacity of truth, when the lust of the flesh was trampled on with the healthy and unimpaired vigour of sanctity. Who has ever recorded such a marvel? the second birth had not yet given eyes to the new man in the full radiance of divine light, yet he was now conquering the old and previous darkness by the mere outskirts of that light. Next, what is greater still, when he had gained from Scripture certain lessons not according to the measure of his noviciate but with the rapidity of faith, he at once {iv} appropriated to himself what he there read to be profitable in meriting of the Lord. Diverting his property to the maintenance of the indigent, and distributing whole estates in money, he secured two benefits at once, both renouncing the pursuit of this world, than which nothing is more pernicious, and observing mercy;—mercy, which God has preferred even to His sacrifices, in which even he failed who said that he had kept all the commandments of the law, and by which with an anticipating haste of piety [vid. infra i. 3], he arrived at perfection almost before he had learned how [Note 4]. Who, let me ask, of the ancients, has done this? who of the most esteemed elders in the faith, whose minds and ears have through ever so many years been assailed by the words divine, ventured any thing such as he, this man of an unformed faith and perchance unrecognized profession, did achieve, surpassing the old time by glorious and admirable works? No one reaps as soon as he has sowed. None treads out the vintage from a young plantation. None yet ever sought ripe fruit of bushes freshly planted. In him all things incredible met together. In him the threshing anticipated, (if it can be said, for the thing surpasses belief,) anticipated, I say, the sowing; the vintage the tendril; the fruit, the firm root.

4. The Epistle of the Apostle [1 Tim. 3, 6] says, that novices should be passed by; lest the drowsiness of heathenism hanging on the scarcely rallied senses, unlearned freshness might offend in aught against God. He was the first, and, I suppose, the sole instance, that greater progress is made by faith than by time. That Eunuch indeed in the Acts of the Apostles is described as being baptized at once by Philip, because he believed with his whole heart; but the parallel does not hold. For the one was both a Jew, and in his way from the Lord's Temple was reading the Prophet Isaiah, and had hope in Christ, though he thought Him not yet come; the other, coming of the unlearned heathen, had as ripe a faith at first, as few perhaps have at last. In a word, there was no delay in his case as to the grace of God [i.e. Baptism], no postponement. I have said too little: {v} he forthwith received the Presbyterate and Priesthood [A.D. 247]. Who indeed would not commit all the ranks of honour to such a mind believing? Many are the things he did when yet a layman, many when a Presbyter, many after the example of just men of old, with a close imitation, earning of the Lord, and surrendering himself to all the duties of religion. And whenever he read of any one who had been mentioned with praise by God, this was his ordinary advice, that we should inquire on account of what deeds he had pleased God. If Job, glorious by the testimony of God, is called a true worshipper of God, one to whom no one might be compared on earth, he taught that "one ought to do whatever Job had done before; that, while we too do the same, we may obtain the same testimony of God upon ourselves. Job, despising the ruin of his estate, was so strong in practised virtue, as not to feel even temporal losses of his benevolence. Penury broke him not, nor grief, neither his wife's prayers, nor his bodily sufferings shook his resolution. Virtue remained fixed in her own home; and resignation established upon deep foundations, was moved by no assault of the devil who tempted, from blessing his Lord with a thankful faith even amid adversity. His house was open to any one who came. No widow returned with her lap empty; nor blind, but was guided by him as a companion; nor feeble in step, but was lifted by him as by a carrier; nor helpless under the hand of the powerful, but had him for a champion. "These, things," he used to say, "must they do who would please God." [Note 5] And thus running through the specimens of all good men, while he ever imitated the best, he set forth himself also for imitation.

5. He had an intimacy with one among us, a just and memorable man, by name Cęcilius [Note 6], a Presbyter both by age and order, who had converted him from his wanderings in this world to the acknowledgment of the true divinity: him he loved with full honour and all observance, looking up to him with dutiful veneration, not merely as the friend and brother of his soul, but as though the parent of his new life. {vi} And so it was that Cęcilius, comforted by such attentions, was led, and reasonably, to such a fulness of affection, that, on departing from this world, when his summons was near, he commended to him his wife and children, and thus, from making him a member of his communion, in the event made him the heir of his affection [Note 7]. It were long to go through details; it were a toil to enumerate his holy deeds.

A.D. 248.
6. For evidence of his good works, I suppose this is enough, that by the judgment of God and the good will of the people, he was chosen for the office of the Priesthood, and the rank of the Episcopate, while yet a neophyte, and, as was considered, a novice [Note 8]. Although still in the first days of his faith, and in the rudimental season of his spiritual life, in such sort did his noble disposition shine out, that, resplendent in the brightness at least of hope, though not of office, he promised a full performance of the duties of the priesthood, which was coming on him. Nor will I pass over that special circumstance, how, while the whole people, God influencing, poured itself out in love and honour of him, he on the other hand humbly withdrew himself, yielding to older men, and deeming himself unworthy of the title of such honour, whereby he became the more worthy. For he is but made more worthy, who declines what he deserves. With such emotion was the excited people at that time agitated, longing with spiritual desire, as the event proves, not a Bishop merely; but in him who had hid himself, and whom it was by a divine presage so demanding, seeking, not a Priest only, but a Martyr to come. A numerous brotherhood had beset the doors of his house; solicitous love poured itself around all the approaches. What befel the Apostle might then perhaps have been granted to him, as he wished it, to be let down through a window; had he already shared with the Apostle the honour of ordination. One might see all others {vii} in anxious suspense waiting for his coming, and receiving him with excess of joy when he came. I say it unwillingly, but I must say it. Some resisted him [Note 9], even that he might obtain his wish. Whom however, how forbearingly, how patiently, how kindly he bore with! how indulgently he forgave, reckoning them afterwards among his most intimate and familiar friends, to the wonder of many! for who, but might count it miraculous that so retentive a memory should become so oblivious?

7. How henceforth he bore himself, who would suffice to relate! how great was his loving-kindness, his strength of mind! his mercy, his severity! Such sanctity and grace shone forth from his countenance as to confuse the gazer. His look was grave and glad; neither a sternness which was sad, nor overmuch good nature; but a just mixture of both; so that one might doubt whether he claimed more our reverence or our love, except that he claimed both. Nor did his dress belie his countenance, subdued, as it was, to the middle course. He was not the man to be inflated with the pride of the world's fashions; yet neither to grovel in a studious penury; in that the latter style of dress is as boastful, as that so ambitious frugality is ostentatious. How, when a Bishop, he acted towards the poor, whom he already loved as a catechumen, let the priests of mercifulness consider; whether taught in the office of good works by the discipline of their very order, or obliged to the duty of love by the general bond of the Gospel Sacrament. As for Cyprian, what he was, such his Bishop's seat found him ready made, and did not make him.

A.D. 250.
8. And so it was that for such merits he forthwith obtained also the glory of proscription. Nor was it other than fitting that one, who within the retreat of conscience so abounded in the full honours of religion and faith, should also have a public name among the Gentiles. Indeed he might even then, for the rapidity with which he developed into all things, have hastened to the appointed crown of Martyrdom; especially {viii} since the cries were frequent which called him "to the lion;" [Note 10] had it not been meet that he should pass through all degrees of glory before he came to the highest, and had not the ruin of the Church which then threatened needed the aid of so fertile a mind. For imagine him taken hence at that time
[vid. Treat. i.] by the high reward of Martyrdom; who was there to shew the gains of grace making progress by faith? who to curb the single women as it were with the bridle of the Lord's lessons into a congruous rule of chastity [vid. iv.], and a dress becoming their holiness [vid. vi.]? who to teach penitence to the Lapsed [vid. vii.]? truth to heretics, unity to schismatics? to the sons of God peace and the law of Gospel prayer? who to be the instrument of overthrowing blaspheming Gentiles, by retorting on them their charges on us [vid. ii. and viii.]? by whom were Christians, grieved at loss of friends with excess of fondness or (what is worse) defect of faith [vid. x.], by whom to be comforted with the hope of things to come [vid. x.]? from whom should we else learn mercy? from whom patience [vid. xi.]? who was there to repress the evil feeling springing from the malignity of poisonous envy [vid. xii.], with the sweetness of a salutary remedy [vid. xiii.]? who to cheer the host of Martyrs with the exhortation of a divine discourse,—who lastly to hasten with a stirring heavenly trumpet those many confessors, signed with a second inscription on their brow, and reserved as living examples of Martyrdom? Well surely it was ordered then, well and indeed divinely, that a man so necessary for so many and so good objects, was retarded from a Martyr's consummation [Note 11].

9. You wish to be sure that that retirement of his which now took place, was not from fear [Note 12]; not to allege other {ix} evidence, he did suffer afterwards; which suffering of course he would have shrunk from according to his wont, had he shrunk from it before. But in truth, fear it was, but right fear; fear of offending the Lord, fear which had rather be dutiful to God's precepts, than be crowned together with the breach of them. A mind surrendered in all things to God, and a faith enslaved to the divine directions, considered that it would be sinning in very suffering, unless it had obeyed the Lord who then ordered that retreat. Something more must here be said on the advantage of the postponement, though already I have touched on the subject. By what seems shortly to have taken place, we may prove, as follows, that that retirement did not issue from human pusillanimity, but, as is the case, was really divine. The people of God had been ravaged with the extraordinary and fierce assaults of a harrassing persecution; and, whereas the crafty enemy could not deceive all by one and the same artifice, therefore raging against them in manifold ways, wherever the incautious soldier exposed his side, there he worsted each by various overthrows. Some one was required who, when wounds had been received, and darts cast by the changeful art of the torturing enemy, had heavenly remedies at hand according to the nature of each, now to pierce and now to sooth; and then was preserved a man of a mind beyond all others divinely tempered, to steer the Church in a steady middle course between the rebounding waves of colliding schisms. Let me ask then, is not such design divine? could it have been without God's governance? Let them look to it who think that such things happen by chance. The Church answers to them with loud voice, declaring that she does not allow, does not believe, that these her necessary champions are reserved without the providence of God.

A.D. 252.
10. However, let me be allowed to run through the rest. A dreadful pestilence broke out afterwards [Note 13], and the extraordinary {x} ravages of a hateful sickness entered house after house of the trembling populace in succession, carrying off with sudden violence numberless people daily, each from his own home. There was a general panic, flight, shrinking from the infection, unnatural exposure of infected friends; as though to carry the dying out of doors, were to rid one's self of death itself. Meanwhile multitudes lay about the whole city, not bodies, but by this time corpses; and called on the pity of passers-by from the view of a fortune common to both parties. No one looked to aught beyond his cruel gain. No one was alarmed from the recollection of parallel instances. No one did to another what he wished done to himself. It were a crime to pass over what in such circumstances was the conduct of this Pontiff of Christ and God, who had surpassed the Pontiffs of this world as much in benevolence as in truth of doctrine. First he assembled the people in one place, urged on them the excellence of mercifulness, taught them by instances from holy Scripture how much the offices of benevolence avail to merit with God. Then he subjoined that there was nothing wonderful in cherishing our own with the fitting dutifulness of charity; that he became the perfect man, who did somewhat more than publican or heathen, who, overcoming evil with good and exercising what resembled a divine clemency, loved even his enemies, who prayed, as the Lord admonishes and exhorts, for the well-being of those who are persecuting him. He then makes His sun rise, and bestows rain from time to time to foster the seed, shewing forth all these benefits not only to His own, but to strangers also; and he, who professes himself even God's son, why follows he not the example of his Father? "We should answer to our birth," he says; "it is not fit that they should be degenerate who are known to have been born again by God; rather the seed of a good Father should be evidenced in the offspring, by our copying of His goodness." I pass over many other things and those important, which my limits will not allow me to detail; about which let it suffice to have noticed thus {xi} much. If the very Gentiles, had they heard them in the rostrum, would probably have believed forthwith, what should a Christian people do, whose very name begins in faith? Accordingly ministrations are divided among them at once, according to the ranks and circumstances of such. Many who from stress of poverty were unable to shew forth benefits of cost, shewed forth what was more than costliness; by their personal toil doing other services more precious than all riches. Who indeed under such a teacher but must haste to be occupied in some part of that warfare, by which he would be pleasing God the Father, and Christ the Judge, and so good a Priest besides? Accordingly they did good in the profusion of exuberant works to all, and not only to the household of faith. They did somewhat more than is recorded of the incomparable benevolence of Tobias. He must pardon the word, again pardon it, pardon it often; or, to speak more truly, he must in equity grant, that, although there was room for very much before Christ, yet after Him there has been room for somewhat more, since to Christ's times the fulness is ascribed. The slain of the king and the outcasts, whom Tobias gathered together, were of his own kin only.

A.D. 257.
11. To these so good and so merciful deeds banishment succeeded. For unbelief ever makes such return, recompensing the worse for the better. Nor need I mention what God's Priest answered the proconsul who questioned him, for there are Acts which relate it. Any how he is forbidden the city, he who had done some good towards its health; he who had toiled lest the eyes of the living should suffer the horrors of the infernal abode; he, I say, who sleepless in the watchings of benevolence had by a blameless kindness, (O the crime!) secured a deserted state and destitute country from the sight of many exiles, when all were flying from the loathsome look of the city. But this is the world's concern in it, with whom exile is a punishment. To us our country is less dear, who have a name in common, who abhor even our own parents if they would persuade us contrary to the Lord. To them it is a heavy punishment to live away from their city. To the Christian the whole world is our home. Wherefore, though he be sent away into ever so hidden and remote a {xii} place, having share in the things of his God, he cannot count it banishment. Besides, while he serves God entirely, even in his own city he is a stranger. For while he abstains from desires of the flesh by continence of the Holy Ghost, putting off the conversation of the old man, he is a foreigner even among his citizens, or, I may say, among the very parents of his earthly life. Moreover, though this might seem a punishment under other circumstances, yet in such causes and sentences which we suffer for trial of our virtue, it is not punishment, it is glory. But even suppose banishment to be a punishment to us. If so, they are guilty of the most extreme of crimes and the worst impiety, as their own conscience testifies, who bring themselves to visit the innocent with what they deem a punishment. I will not at present delineate a delightful spot; I say nothing at first of the addition of all kinds of beauties. Let us suppose the place offensive in its circumstances, wretched to look upon, without wholesome water, or pleasant green, or neighbouring shore; with vast rocks covered with forests, amid the inhospitable depths of an altogether desert solitude, far off in the world's trackless districts. Such a place might indeed bear the name of exile, had Cyprian, priest of God, come thither; to whom if man's ministrations failed, even the birds as to Elias, or the Angels as to Daniel, would minister. Far, far indeed be it from any one to believe, that even the least among us, provided he remained in the confession of the Holy Name, should want any thing; so far was he God's Pontiff, who had ever been urgent in matters of mercifulness, from wanting the aid of all these things.

12. Next let us recount with thanksgiving what I had put as the second supposition; namely, that there was divinely provided for the soul of such a man, a sunny and sufficient place, a place of sojourn, secret, as he could wish it, and whatever has been before promised as his portion who seeks the kingdom and righteousness of God [Note 14]. And, not to dwell upon the frequent visits of his brethren, nay, the love of the very {xiii} citizens, which afforded to him all things whereof he seemed to be despoiled, I will not pass over the wonderful visitation of God, by which He willed His Priest to be so sure in exile of his passion which was to follow, that from his more abundant assurance of the impending Martyrdom, Curubis possessed not an exile only, but even a Martyr. For on that day when first we remained in the place of banishment, (for me he chose out of his household in the condescension of his love to be a voluntary exile, which, O had I been also in his passion!) "there appeared to me," said he, "before I was yet sunk in slumber, a young man greater than the human stature, by whom being led as if to the prętorium, I seemed to myself to be brought near to the tribunal of the proconsul then sitting. He, on seeing me, forthwith began to write down upon a tablet a sentence, which I knew not, for he had not asked me questions in the usual form; however, that young man, who stood behind his back, with great anxiety read whatever had been set down. And, since he could not utter it in words, he intimated it by signs, which declared what was in the writing of that tablet. For opening his hand and flattening it like a blade, and imitating the blow of customary execution, he expressed what he would have signified as if in clear words. I understood the future sentence of my passion. I began at once to ask and seek, that the delay even of one day might be given me, in order to my settling my affairs in a regular way. After I had frequently repeated my prayer, he began again to set down something on the tablet. I perceived however, from the sereneness of his countenance, that the judge's mind was influenced by the request, as if reasonable. Moreover, that youth, who already had divulged somewhat by gesture, if not by word, concerning my passion, made haste to signify by secret signs from time to time, twisting his fingers one behind another, that the delay was granted which I asked until the morrow. For me, although the sentence was not read, while my heart exulted at the pleasant news of delay granted, yet such was my alarm, from the chance of mistaking the interpretation, that it was still all in flutter and agitation from the remains of apprehension."

13. What revelation could be more manifest? what condescending mercy more blessed? All that happened after in {xiv} due course, were announced to him beforehand. In nothing did the words of God come short; in nothing was the holy promise mutilated. Do but review each particular as it was shewn to him. He seeks a delay till the morrow when his sentence of suffering was under deliberation; alleging his wish to settle his affairs on the day which he had gained. His one day signified a year, which he was to pass in this world after the vision. For, to speak more distinctly, he was crowned, at the completion of the year, on that very day, on which this had been announced to him at its commencement. For the day of the Lord, though we do not find it used for year in divine Scripture, yet in making promise of things to come, we consider that that space of time ought to be given. Hence it matters not, if nothing short of a year be announced while a day was spoken of, since that would necessarily be more complete, which is greater. And whereas it was explained by gesture not by speech, express speech was reserved for the presence of the time itself. For it is usual then to set forth a thing in words, when what is set forth is actually fulfilled. For no one knew for certain wherefore this was shewn to him, till it turned out that he was crowned on the same day on which he had seen it. And yet in the interval his impending passion was known for certain by all; but as to the particular day of his passion all those very persons were silent, as if they were ignorant. And indeed I find some such thing in the Scriptures. For the Priest Zacharias, when a son was promised him by the Angel, because he believed not, became dumb; so that by signs he asked for a tablet, seeing he had, not to utter, but to write his son's name. Reasonably here too, when God's messenger signified the Bishop's impending passion mainly by signs, he both administered his faith and fortified his Priest. But again the reason for seeking delay was his arranging his affairs and settling his will. Now what affairs had he, what will to arrange, except Ecclesiastical matters? For this reason there is a final delay granted, that arrangements may be made as to whatever wants arrangement by a final determination concerning the maintenance of the poor. And I consider that for this sole end and for nothing else was he thus indulged by those who had banished and were to kill him, that while {xv} here he might relieve the poor who were here, with whatever remained to be given of his final bounty, or, to speak more exactly, with the total of his means. When then he had arranged matters so mercifully, and thus ordered them in his last wishes, tomorrow's day drew near.

14. And now a messenger came to him from the City from Xystus, that good and peace-making Priest, and therefore most blessed Martyr [From Rome. Sextus. A.D. 258.]. The executioner was expected every day, who was to strike through that devoted neck of our most holy victim; and by this daily expectation of dying, every day, as it came, became to him as though a day of crowning. Meanwhile there came to him numbers of eminent and illustrious persons, men of rank and family and secular distinction, who, for the sake of their old friendship with him, urged him many times to retire, backing their solicitations with the offer of suitable places. But he, with mind hanging upon heaven, had put the world out of sight, and did not assent to their persuasive solicitations. Perhaps he would have done then also, what was urged on him, and by many of the faithful too, if he had been bidden by divine command [Note 15]. Nor must we leave unheralded the sublime glory of such a man, in that, when the world was now raging and in reliance on its Rulers breathing out hatred of the sacred Name, he, as occasion was given, fortified God's servants with exhortations of the Lord, and animated them to tread under foot sufferings of the present time, on the contemplation of the glory which is to follow. In truth, there was in him so great a love of sacred discourse, that while he prayed for passion, he desired that it might be granted him while he was conversing concerning God.

15. And these were the daily acts of a Priest destined for a sacrifice, pleasing to God; when behold at the orders of the Proconsul, the Prętor's Official with his soldiers suddenly surprised his gardens, those gardens which in the beginnings of his faith he had sold, and, when God's kindness restored {xvi} them, would certainly have sold again for the benefit of the poor, but that he feared to raise the jealousy of his persecutors. The Official surprised him, or, I should more truly say, thought he had. For what is there to surprise, as though by unforeseen attack, the mind which is always ready? He went forward therefore, now certain that that would be accomplished, which had long been held back; he went forward with high and erect mind, with cheerfulness in his look, and constancy in his heart. But being remanded till the morrow, he turned from the Prętorium to the Official's house, when suddenly the report spreads throughout Carthage, that "Thascius was now brought out," whom all knew, not only by the reputation in which he was honourably held, but also from the recollection of his great achievement [viz. in the plague]. All men throng together to a sight, which for us was glorious from the self-sacrifice of his faith, but to the Gentiles deplorable. However, during his lodgment for one night in the house of the Official, his confinement was not rigorous, so that we his intimates and friends were in his company as usual. Meanwhile the whole people, conscious lest ought might be done in the night without its own knowledge, kept watch at the door of the house. The Divine goodness granted to him at that time, deserving as he was of it, that God's people should even then keep vigil to usher in the day of their Priest's Martyrdom. Some one, however, may perhaps ask, what was the reason why he returned from the Prętorium to the Official; and some think this, that on his part the Proconsul was then unwilling. Far be it from me in things divinely overruled to complain of indolence or caprice in the Proconsul. Far be it from me to allow such an evil within the thoughts of a scrupulous mind, as that the idle words of man should give sentence upon so blessed a Martyr. But that next day, which a year before God's condescension had predicted, was destined to be truly the morrow.

16. At length that other day dawned, that appointed, promised, divine day [Note 16]; which though the tyrant himself had desired to put off, he would not at all have been able; a day pleasant in the secret knowledge of the Martyr who was to {xvii} be, all clouds being dispersed throughout the world's circuit, and the sun shining brightly. He left the Official's house, he an Official of Christ and God, being hemmed in by the crowds of a mixed multitude on every side. So infinite an army joined his train, it seemed as though he was coming with troops in array to subdue death. As he went, he had to pass the race-course. Well did it happen, and as if with a meaning, that he should pass by the place of a corresponding contest, who was running for the crown of righteousness, and had just finished his labours. When he reached the Prętorium, the Proconsul not yet having arrived, a private room was allowed him. There, while he sate profusely perspiring after his long journey, (it so happened that his seat was covered with linen [Note 17], as if to secure to him the honours of the episcopate even under the very stroke of Martyrdom,) one of the officers [Note 18], who was formerly a Christian, offered him clothes of his own; thinking he might be willing to exchange his moist garments for his own dry ones, and for himself ambitious of nothing further in return for his gift, than to possess the now bloody sweat of the Martyr on his road to God. But he made answer, "That were seeking remedy for discomforts, which perchance may not last out the day." Is it surprising that he thought light of weariness in body, who in soul had made light of death? But, to be brief, suddenly the Proconsul is announced; and he is brought out, placed before him, asked his name; he says who he is, and no more.

17. Upon this the judge reads from the tablet the sentence, which before in the vision he had not read; a divine sentence, not lightly to be spoken; a sentence worthy of such a Bishop and such a Witness; a glorious sentence, in which he is called a "standard-bearer of the sect," and "an enemy of the gods," and one who should be made "an example to his followers," and whose blood should now be shed "in vindication of the law." [vid. infra Procons. Acts.] Most satisfactory, most true is this sentence; for every thing that was said, though said by a Gentile, is divine. Nor surely is it wonderful, that High Priests are apt to prophesy of the passion. He had been a {xviii} standard-bearer, who was in the practice of teaching concerning the bearing of Christ's cross; an enemy of the gods, who bade destroy idols; he was an example to his own, who unto the many who were about to follow in the same way, first of his province [Note 19] presented these first-fruits of Martyrdom. In his blood too "the law began to be ratified," but the law of Martyrs, who rivalling their teacher in an initiation of a like glory, themselves too ratified the law of his example in their own blood.

18. And when he passed out of the doors of the Prętorium, a crowd of soldiers accompanied him, and that nothing might be wanting in his passion, centurions and tribunes were at his side. The place where he was to suffer is level, surrounded with numerous trees so as to afford a sublime spectacle. But, whereas its exceeding breadth hindered the view amid that tumultuous crowd, persons who favoured him had climbed up the branches, that he might gain this distinction also, (as in Zacchęus's history,) of being seen from the trees. And now his eyes being bound with his own hands, he tried to hasten the delay of the executioner, whose business is the steel; and who with failing hand and trembling fingers scarce could grasp it, until, when the hour was ripe for his glorification, that centurion was granted strength to consummate the death of a rare man, his hand being nerved with power from above. O blessed people of the Church, who in eyes and other senses and in uplifted voice, suffered together with such a Bishop, and thus, as they had always heard him discourse, were crowned by God the Judge! For although it could not happen, as the common wish was, that the whole people at once should suffer in partnership of his glory, yet whoever had the hearty will to suffer under the eyes of Christ and in the ears of His Priest, did by the sufficient witness of his wish, send up his name God-wards, as if by a representative. And thus, his passion being consummated, it came about, that Cyprian, who had been an example to all good men, was moreover the first in Africa to dye his priestly diadems [Note 20] {xix} in blood. For from the time that the Episcopal Order is catalogued in Carthage, none is ever related, even of the holiest Priests, to have attained unto passion [Note 21], though service devoted to God is always counted in dedicated men as if a martyrdom. But Cyprian reached even unto the perfect crown the Lord consummating; so that in that very city in which he had so lived, and had been the first to do such noble deeds, he was the first also to decorate the ensigns of the heavenly priesthood with glorious bloodshed. What shall I here do? between joy at his passion, and grief at bereavement, my mind is divided, and two sorts of feelings oppress a breast too straitened for them. Shall I grieve that I was not his companion? but his triumph is to be celebrated. Shall I celebrate his triumph? but I am in grief that I am not his companion. To you, however, the truth is to be avowed, and simply, as you know it, that it was in my purpose to be so. In his glory I exult much and more than much, and yet I grieve more that I remain behind.

The Confession and Martyrdom of St. Cyprian, from the Proconsular Acts

A.D. 257. Aug 30.
HEN the Emperor Valerian was Consul for the fourth, and Gallienus for the third time, on the third of the Kalends of September, Paternus Proconsul at Carthage in his council-chamber thus spoke to Cyprian the Bishop. 'The most sacred Emperors Valerian and Gallienus have honoured me with letters, wherein they enjoin that all those who use not the religion of Rome, shall formally make profession of their return to the use of Roman rites; I have made accordingly enquiry of your name; what answer do you make to me?' {xx} Cyprian the Bishop spake, 'I am a Christian and Bishop; I know no other Gods besides the One and true God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all things therein; this God we Christians serve, to Him we pray day and night, for ourselves, for all mankind, for the health of the Emperors themselves.' [Note 22] Paternus Proconsul said, 'Do you persist in this purpose?' Cyprian Bishop answered, 'That good purpose, which hath once acknowledged God, cannot be changed.' Paternus Proconsul said, 'Will you then, obeying the mandate of the Emperors, depart into exile to the city of Curubis?' Cyprian Bishop said, 'I go.' Paternus Proconsul said, 'The letters, wherewith I have been honoured by the Emperors, speak of Presbyters as well as of Bishops; I would know of you therefore, who be they, who are Presbyters in this city?' Cyprian Bishop answered, 'By your laws you have righteously and with great benefit forbidden any to be informers [Note 23]; therefore they cannot be discovered and denounced by me; but they will be found in their own cities.' Paternus Proconsul said, 'I am accordingly inquisitor in this place.' Cyprian said, 'Our rules forbid any man to offer himself for punishment, and your ordinances discourage the same; they may not therefore offer themselves [Note 24], but they will be discovered by your inquisition.' Paternus Proconsul said, 'They shall be discovered by me;' and added, 'they further ordain, that no conventicles be held in any place, and that the Christians shall not enter their cemeteries; if any transgress this wholesome ordinance, it shall be capital.' Cyprian Bishop answered, 'Do as you have been instructed.'

Thcn Paternus the Proconsul bade them lead away the Bishop Cyprian into exile. During his long abode in this place, Aspasius Paternus was succeeded by Galerius Maximus, who bade the Bishop Cyprian be recalled from exile, and brought before him [A.D. 258.]. Cyprian, the holy Martyr, chosen of God, returned from Curubis, to which he had been exiled by order of Aspasius Paternus then Proconsul, and by sacred {xxi} command abode in his own gardens. There he was in daily expectation that he should be visited as it had been shewn him [vid. supra Life 12.]. While he dwelt there, suddenly on the Ides of September [Sept. 13.], in the consulship of Tuscus and Bassus, there came to him two chief officials [Note 25]; one the chief gaoler [Note 26] in the Proconsular court of Galerius, the other [Note 27] marshal of the guard in the same court; they placed him between them in a chariot, and carried him to Sexti [Note 28], whither the Proconsul had retired for the recovery of his health. By order of the Proconsul he was reserved for hearing on another day; so the blessed Cyprian was privately lodged in the house of the chief gaoler of the court of the most honourable [Note 29] Galerius Maximus, Proconsul, in the street which is called Saturn's, between the temples of Venus and of Salus. Thither flocked the whole multitude of the brethren; which when holy Cyprian knew, he bade that the young women should be protected, seeing they all continued in the open street before the gate of the officer's house. So on another day, the 18th of the Kalends of October [Sept.14.], a great crowd was collected early at Sexti, as the Proconsul commanded. And the same day Cyprian was brought before him as he sat for judgment in the court called Sauciolum [Note 30]. The Proconsul demanded, 'Are you Thascius Cyprianus?' Cyprian Bishop answered, 'I am he.' Galerius Maximus Proconsul said, "The most sacred Emperors have commanded you to conform to the Roman rites." Cyprian Bishop said, "I refuse to do so." Galerius: "Take heed for yourself." Cyprian; "Execute the Emperor's orders; in a matter so manifest I may not deliberate." Galerius, after briefly conferring with his judicial council, with much reluctance pronounced the following sentence. "You have long lived an irreligious life [sacrilega mente.], and have drawn together a number of men bound by an unlawful association [Note 31], and professed yourself an {xxii} open enemy to the gods and the religion of Rome; and the pious, most sacred, and august Emperors, Valerian and Gallienus, and the most noble Cęsar Valerian, have endeavoured in vain to bring you back to conformity with their religious observances;—whereas then you have been apprehended as principal and ringleader in these infamous crimes, you shall be made an example to those whom you have wickedly associated with you: the authority of law shall be ratified in your blood." He then read the sentence of the court from a written tablet. "It is the will of this court, that Thascius Cyprianus be immediately beheaded." Cyprian Bishop maid, "Thanks be to God." [Note 32] After sentence was pronounced, the whole assembled of the brethren cried out, "We will be beheaded with him." A great tumult arose among the brethren, and a crowd followed to the place of execution. He was brought forth into the field near Sexti, where having laid aside his upper garment [Note 33], he kneeled down, and addressed himself in prayer to the Lord. Then stripping himself of his dalmatic, and giving it to the Deacons, he stood in his linen tunic [Note 34], and awaited the executioner, to whom when he came Cyprian bade five and twenty pieces of gold be given. The brethren meanwhile spread linen cloths and napkins on the ground before him. Being unable to tie the sleeve of his robe at the wrist, Julian Presbyter and Julian Subdeacon performed this office for him. Then the blessed Cyprian covered his eyes with his hands, and so suffered. His body was exposed in a place hard by, to gratify the curiosity of the heathen. But in the course of the night it was removed, and transported with prayers and great pomp with wax tapers and funeral torches to the burying ground of Macrobius Candidianus the Procurator, near the fish ponds in the Mappalian Way. A few days after, Galerius Maximus the Proconsul died. {xxiii}

Thus suffered the most blessed Martyr Cyprian, on the eighteenth day of the Kalends of October [Sep. 14.], under Valerian and Gallienus Emperors; in the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.


Some such notice of St. Cyprian's life and death, as the above, was necessary to introduce the following Treatises; the force of which, as compositions, depends in no small degree on some previous knowledge of the character and history of the writer. They are the words of one who loved Christianity well enough to give up for it at a mature age secular engagements, settled habits and opinions, property, quiet, and at length life itself. While exhorting to alms giving, he is already an example of voluntary poverty; if he praises virginity, he has himself embraced the single life; he insists on the nothingness of things earthly, having first chosen contempt and reproach; he denounces the heathen magistrate, with the knowledge that he is braving his power; and he is severe with the Lapsed, because he himself is to be a Martyr. Without going into the details of his theological and ecclesiastical career, these facts are the great outlines of his history, and may suitably and profitably be set against the subjects treated in the following pages, and his mode of treating them. So much is there of pretence in the world; so easy is it to see truths which are hard to practise, so skilful is the intellect in simulating moral greatness, so quick to feel and admire the truth, and so dexterous in expressing and adorning it, that we naturally look out for some assurance, which professions seldom supply, that we are reading what is real and spontaneous, and not a mere semblance of high qualities.

As regards the Translation, for almost the whole of which {xxiv} the Editors are indebted to the Rev. CHARLES THORNTON, of Christ Church, it need only be stated, that neither the text of Baluzius nor of Fell has been followed implicitly, but, where they differed, one or other has been preferred according to the particular case. An attempt has been made, in one portion of the Scripture references, to mark S. Cyprian's variations from the present Vulgate version; but the differences between the latter and his own, though often considerable, are often so small, as to make it a matter of nice judgment when he should be said to agree or disagree with it. It would seem on the whole that the Vulgate and S. Cyprian's version differ from each other most in the Prophets, next in the rest of the Old Testament, and least in the Gospels and Epistles. The Psalms must be excepted from this comparison, in which there is very little difference of translation at all, perhaps from substitution of the Vulgate on the part of transcribers. Next to the Psalms, there is least difference in the books of the Apocrypha, and among these in Ecclesiasticus. This information and other assistance while the Volume has been in the press, have been kindly supplied by two friends of one of the Editors.

J. H. N.
Feast of St. Mark, 1839.

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1. S. Jerome (Script. De Vir. Illust. 68.) praises this life as an "egregium volumen." Ancient Martyrologies record that Pontius eventually followed his master in Martyrdom. The Bollandists, however, distinguish between him and the Martyr Pontius, who was a Priest, and suffered in Piedmont.
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2. The substantial authenticity of these Acts seems to be generally allowed; by the Benedictines, by Cave, Lit. Hist. art. Pontius, and by Gibbon, who says that they and Pontius' life "are consistent with each other and with probability." The Bollandists consider that the Confession and Martyrdom were "extracted by the faithful from the public Acts, and then a few words added in order to form them into a continuous narration. And that in like manner some additions were made at the end concerning the mode and circumstances of the Martyrdom, &c."
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3. S. Gregory Nazianzen, in his oration in praise of S. Cyprian, (Orat. 18.) states, that before his conversion he was addicted to magical arts, which he made use of against a Christian female, named Justina, of whom he was enamoured; that she however betook herself to Christ and St. Mary, and the attempt ended in his burning his books, and professing Christianity. Fell rejects the account altogether as a mere fiction, (Monit. in Conf. S. Cypr.); Maranus, the Benedictine Editor, (in vit.) and Tillemont refer it to a Cyprian, Bishop of Antioch in Phœnicia, who has a place in both the Roman and Greek calendars. S. Cyprian was a teacher of rhetoric, of great reputation; Jerom. de Vir. Illustr. 67. and before his conversion seems to have plunged into the usual excesses of heathenism. vid. Treatise i. 2, 3. He seems not to have been a native of Carthage. vid. Ep. 7. ed. Fell. St. Austin seems to speak of him as a Senator. Serm. 311. c. 7.
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4. S. Cyprian himself attributes his change of heart and life to his baptism; and while confessing with Pontius "to sin no more has come of faith," declares also, "after that lifegiving water succoured me, what was dark began to shine, what seemed impossible, now could be achieved," i. 3.
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5. This passage does not occur in any of S. Cyprian's extant Treatises; it resembles them in style.
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6. S. Cyprian, adopted as a Christian name, the name of the one to whom he owed so much; vid. Jerom. l. c. Hence his full names are Thascius Cęcilius Cyprianus.
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7. Clerics, however, "by the Canons of the African Church, could not become trustees to the property of their brethren, on the ground that they were bound to serve nought but the altar and the sacrifice, and to keep their time for supplications and prayers." Fell in Cypr. Epist. 1. vid. Conc. Carthag. A.D. 348. The same rule may be alluded to in Treatise vi. 4. infr. "Numerous Bishops, despising their sacred calling, engaged themselves in secular vocations," "divinā procuratione contemptā, procuratores rerum secularium fieri."
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8. Vid. 1 Tim. iii. 6. S. Ambrose, Nectarius, Eusebius of Cęsarea in Cappadocia, and others, were made Bishops under the same circumstances.
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9. Five priests opposed his consecration, one of them being Novatus; they afterwards fomented the disorders of which the confessors were made the instrument, (vid. infra Introd, to Treatise v.) and joined the patty of Felicissimus. This they did when S. Cyprian was in concealment during the persecution. vid. Ep. 43. init. ed. Fell.
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10. "Christianos ad Leonem." Tertullian Apol. 40. de Spect. 26.
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11. S. Jerome relates, that he had seen an old man, who professed to have seen in his youth an amanuensis of S. Cyprian's, who was in the habit of relating that the latter never passed a day without reading Tertullian, continually saying to him, Da Magistrum; Hand me my Master. vid. Jerom. de Vir. Illustr. 53. also Introd. to Treatise iv. That S. Cyprian however did not follow Tertullian implicitly is plain from his retiring from the persecution, not to mention other points of difference.
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12. "On the subject of flight in persecution, vid. infra note g, on vi. 8. vid. also Ep. 34. fin. ed. Fell. Tertullian in his Montanistic Tract De fugā in Persecutione maintains that flight is unlawful. The Roman Clergy (Ep. 8.) find fault with S. Cyprian's flight: he defends himself, (Ep. 20.) saying he withdrew to hinder a riot. His warrant for doing so was a divine direction. vid. Ep. 16. "When a persecution impended, the Bishops used to assemble the people, and exhort them to constancy. Then they baptized infants and catechumens, and divided the Eucharist among the faithful." Vales. In Euseb. Hist. viii. 11. S. Dionysius was accused of having retired without first attending to these necessary duties. ibid.
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13. For a description of the pestilence, vid. infra ix. 9. vid. also the letters of Dionysius of Alexandria (Euseb. Hist. vii. 22.) and S. Gregory Nyssen's life of Gregory of Neo-Cęsarea, in fin. In the year 262 it was especially destructive in Rome and in the cities of Greece, carrying of in Rome as many as 5000 persons daily. Half the population of Alexandria perished in it, according to Gibbon, who says that it "raged without interruption in every province, every city, and almost every family of the Roman empire, from 250 to 265." Hist. x. fin. Its duration is variously estimated.
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14. Curubis, the place of S. Cyprian's exile, was "a free and maritime city of Zeugitania, in a pleasant situation, a fertile territory, and at a distance of about forty miles from Carthage." Gibbon, Hist. ch. 16.
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15. He did at first retire and conceal himself at the advice of his friends. This was on the Proconsul's coming to Utica; on the latter's returning to Carthage, he came back to his gardens, and remained there, without moving farther, till the officers arrested him. He had sold his gardens on his conversion, but they had come back to him, perhaps (as Gibbon supposes) by the kindness of his friends. vid. Pontius infr. 15. The opening of Treatise i. may stand for a description of them.
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16. S. Cyprian suffered on the same day as Cornelius of Rome, and six years after him.
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17. "The Bishop's seat used anciently to be covered with linen." Ed. Ben.
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18. tesserariis; those who communicated the tessera through the century.
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19. i.e. in the province so called, the Eastern or Proconsular Africa.
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20. i.e. his crowns of sanctity and priesthood become a crown of martyrdom. The Romanists would make such passages as this allude to the tonsure. The African Bishops cut their hair in a circle. Vallars. in Hieron. Ep. 142. vid. also August. Ep. 33. §. 5. Bingham does not dissent; though he is "not confident that this was the reason of the name coronati." Antiqu. vi. 4. §. 17.
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21. S. Cyprian himself seems to say that African Bishops had already been martyred. Ep. 66. ed. Fell. Accordingly, Tillemont suggested that Pontius speaks only of Africa in a restricted sense, or the Carthaginian territory, which was called especially "the Province," vid, supra 17. Baronius, Lumper, and others interpret it of Carthage only, referring to the words which follow in Pontius' text. Others understand Pontius to speak only of the Valerian Persecution. Gibbon eagerly seizes on Pontius' assertion in its broadest sense, and uses it for his own purpose.
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22. Vid. in like manner Polycarp. ad Phil. 12. Just. M. Apol. l. i. 17. Athenag. Leg. 37. Tertullian, Apol. 30. Origen, in Cels. viii. 73. Euseb. Hist. vii. 11.
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23. For this law vid. Justinian Cod. x. 11.
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24. Vid. August. Contr. Gaudent. i. 40. (31.) where this passage is referred to. vid. also Cypr. Ep. 81. ed. Fell. Those who studiously exposed themselves to persecution were called Professors. vid. Lumper in Vit. Cypr.
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25. Principes; they were the chief officers of the Prętorian court.
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26. Strator officii. al. stator vid. Ducange in verb.
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27. Equistrator.
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28. Sexti, as it is written by Tillemont and Lumper, was a place according to some authorities six miles, according to others, four miles from Carthage. Morcelli writes it Sextum.
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29. Clarissimi. vid. Gibbon Hist. ch. 17, who says that in the reigns of the Antonines this title was the ordinary and legal style of senators. Afterwards it was given to the governors of provinces.
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30. i.e. the criminal court. vid. Ducange, and Fell in loc.
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31. Nefarię conspirationis. Christianity was not recognized as a religio licita till the next year, 259, by Gallienus. vid. Neander Hist. (Rose) vol. i. Sect. i. 2. A.
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32. Vid. S. Augustin. Serm. 309. §. 6. which in several points illustrates and confirms this narrative.
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33. Lacerna or byrrus, a cloke, anciently, of a red colour. Ducange. Baronius would interpret it of the episcopal dress of his day; but the passage in the Acts is an addition. vid, Bingham Antiqu. vi. 4. §. 18.
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34. The tunicle or dalmatic "was used in the earliest ages of the Christian Church. Originally it had no sleeves … It is said that wide sleeves were added … about the fourth century in the West … The English Ritual directs it to be used by the assistant ministers in the Holy Communion." Palmer's Origines. Appendix §. 4.
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