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ward all whom he deemed heretics; but the bishops regarded him as a tower of strength, and he was greatly admired and beloved by his people, toward whom he discharged his pastoral duties in a conscientious and paternal
Such a man was, of course, a conspicuous mark for persecution. He had always discountenanced rashness in incurring unnecessary danger, and, at the commencement of the Decian persecution, he prudently withdrew from the city, till the storm blew over. Extreme zealots blamed him for this, and accused him of setting a cowardly example; but the motives he assigns are such as would naturally actuate a man careful of the welfare of those over whom he presided. He says: “On the first commencement of the troubles, when the populace, with furious clamours, had frequently demanded my death, I retired for a while, not so much out of regard for my own safety, as for the public peace of the brethren ; lest the disturbance which had begun might be increased by my obstinate presence.” From his retreat, he wrote thus to his clergy: “I beg of you to use all prudence and care for the preservation of quiet. If our brethren, in their love, are anxious to visit those worthy Confessors, whom divine grace has already honoured by a glorious beginning, this must be done with caution, and not in crowds, lest suspicion should be excited, and our access to them wholly prohibited. Be careful then, that for the greater safety, this matter be managed with due moderation. Indeed, we must in all things, with meekness and humility, as becomes the servants of God, accommodate ourselves to the times, and seek for the preservation of peace, and the best good of the people.”
Soon after he returned to Carthage, a pestilence began to spread through the empire. Everybody was commanded to sacrifice to the gods, and those who refrained from so doing were again cruelly persecuted. Cyprian, being summoned before the tribunal, declared his determination to worship no other than the God of the Christians, "the true and only God.” He was accordingly banished to the city of Curubis, where he remained in exile eleven months. But though absent in the body, he kept up an active correspondence with the Christian churches, to whom he wrote as follows: “My dearest brethren, let no one be disturbed because our people are scattered by the fear of persecution; because he can no longer see the brethren together, nor hear the bishops preach. We, who may not shed the blood of others, but must be ready to pour out our own, cannot, at such a time, all meet together. Wherever it may happen that a brother is separated from the church a while, in body, not in spirit, by the necessity of the times, let him not be appalled by the solitude of the desert, where he may be obliged to take refuge. He who has Christ for a companion is not alone. If robbers, or wild beasts, fall upon the fugitive, if hunger or cold destroy him, if the stormy waves of the sea overwhelm him, still Christ is present to witness the conduct of his soldier, wheresoever he fights."
To those Christians who were imprisoned, or labouring in the mines, he sent money from the church treasury, and from his own income, accompanied with letters full of sympathy and affectionate encouragement. “What triumph," says he, "when you can walk through the mines with imprisoned body, but with a heart conscious of mastery over itself! When you know that Christ is with you, rejoicing over the patience of his servants, who in his own footsteps, and by his own way, are entering into the eternal kingdom."
When new governors were appointed, at the accession of Valerian, the banished bishops were recalled, and ordered to wait in retirement till the commands of the emperor decided their fate. Cyprian took up his residence at a secluded villa in the neighbourhood of Carthage, where he gave instruction and advice to such as could privately resort to him. Hearing that he was to be conveyed to Utica for trial, he yielded to the persuasions of friends, who urged him to hide himself for a time, till the governor, who was then absent, returned to Carthage; for being aware that he was soon likely to join the band of martyrs, he chose to give his last testimony to the truth of Christianity in the presence of those who had long looked up to him for example. From his place of concealment, he wrote thus to his flock: “It becomes the bishop to confess the Lord in the place where he presides over the church of the Lord; so that the whole church may be honoured by the confession of their bishop. For whatever proceeds from the lips of the confessing bishop, under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, comes from the mouths of all. Let me then await the return of the Proconsul to Carthage, that I may learn from him the commands of the emperor, and speak whatever the Lord, in that hour, may cause me to speak. But do you, my dearest brethren, study to preserve quiet, in conformity to the directions, which, according to the doctrine of the Lord, you have often received from me. Let no one of you lead the brethren into tumults, or voluntarily give himself up. The only time for any one to speak is after he has been apprehended. In that hour, the Lord, who dwells in us, speaks in us."
Soon after the governor's return he was arrested on the charge of continuing to teach Christianity, contrary to the orders of the government. During the day that he was detained in prison, to await his trial, the keepers treated him respectfully, and a multitude of Christians thronged round the building to catch a glimpse of their beloved bishop, knowing it might be for the last time. The examination was very brief. The magistrate said: “Art thou Cyprian, , the bishop of so many impious men? The most sacred emperor commands thee to sacrifice.” Cyprian calmly replied: "I will not sacrifice.” The magistrate bade him consider well. “Execute your orders,” answered the bishop; "it is a case that admits of no consideration.” After a preamble, reminding him how pious emperors had vainly tried to reclaim him from his evil ways, he was sentenced to be beheaded; to wbich he quietly replied: "God be thanked." As soon as the mournful tidings reached the multitude of Christians thronging round the palace gates, a general cry
arose: "We will die with him." He was carried to a
OPINIONS AND CUSTOMS OF THE EARLY FATHERS.
From this brief sketoh of a few of the early Fathers of the church, it may be inferred that some of the wisest and best men of the time were in their ranks. But, like all other men, they bore the impress of the age in which they lived. They were credulous to an extreme degree; but it was not peculiar to them; for all the world was credulous. They believed that angels, who had fallen from their high estate by disobedience, were permitted to roam about the earth, producing diseases by entering the bodies of men, and endangering their souls by tempting them to idolatry; that it was their greatest delight to induce men to worship their own images, instead of the true God; that they resided in the temples, entered the statues, pronounced oracles, and performed miracles. Tertullian exults in the torments they endured, when Christians exorcised them in the name of Jesus. Some instances are recorded where the demon, being expelled from human bodies, and commanded to acknowledge his name, confessed that he was Jupiter, or Apollo, or some other god of antiquity, who had impiously induced men to adore him. Justin Martyr says that all the saints and the prophets had fallen under the power of Evil Spirits, like Python, at the time of Christ's coming; and that was the reason why, when he
These subdued mankind to their power; partly by magical writings, partly by terrors and punishments, and partly by the institution of sacrifices, fumes, and libations, of which they soon began to stand in need, after, they had enslaved themselves to their lusts and passions.” Again he says: “The truth shall come out. Evil Demons of old debauched women, corrupted boys, and spread terrors among men, who did not examine things by reason.
Seized with fear, and not knowing they were Evil Spirits, they called them Gods, and gave each one the name he had taken to himself. When Socrates endeavoured to expose their prac. tices, and by true reason draw men away from their worship, the Demons, by the help of wicked men, caused him to be put to death, as an atheist, and an impious person.”
Clement of Alexandria declares that the love of the Angels for women transported them so far beyond all prudence, that they revealed to them many secrets, which they ought to have kept concealed. The knowledge of alchemy and magic was supposed to have been obtained in this way. Some maintained that all ideas of a Supreme Being, and the immortality of the soul, except those revealed to Hebrews and Christians, came from conversation with these fallen Angels. Tertullian traced rouge, powder for the eye-lashes, bracelets, necklaces, and other ornaments of women's dress, to the researches of their celestial lovers into the hidden mysteries of nature, to find whatever might adorn the objects of their passion. He supposed Paul's injunction to women to wear veils had reference to the fatal effects their beauty once had on the Spirits above. He therefore strongly urges upon young women the duty of covering their heads. In the course of an elaborate argument upon this subject he says: “We read that Angels fell from God and heaven, because they lusted after women. Therefore, faces so dangerous that heaven itself may be scandalized by them, ought to be shaded. When in the presence of God, before whom they have been guilty of the extermination of Angels, they ought