Assembly of a Council in Rome Against Benates (Novatus) the Priest
Also on this day, of the year 249 A.D., a holy Council was assembled in the city of Rome. This was in the first year of the reign of Decius, the infidel, and during the days of Cornelius, Pope of Rome, Dionysius, Pope of Alexandria, Flavianus, Patriarch of Antioch, and Germanus, Archbishop of Jerusalem.
They assembled to judge Novatus (Benates), a priest who said that whoever denied Christ and forsook the faith in the time of persecution, will not be accepted when he repents. Those who committed fornication shall not be accepted when they repent. Abba Cornelius rebuked him for what he was saying, but he did not hearken. Abba Cornelius gathered a Council of 60 bishops and 18 learned priests and deacons of Rome to debate with Novatus his teachings.
These, he said were based on the words of St. Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews, "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame." (Hebrews 6:4-6)
The fathers replied and explained to him that the Apostle did not say this concerning the man who repents but concerning the man who intends to be baptized every time he is fallen into sin, for baptism can be carried on only once. Therefore, the Apostle went on saying, "They crucify again for themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame." The Apostle here explains that since the crucifixion happened only once, so it is for baptism. As for the door to repentance, it is open to every repentant, otherwise everyone who falls in the sin of denying Christ or sins again will not be accepted even if he repents.
That would mean then that David's repentance was not accepted, and when Peter denied the Lord Jesus, his repentance also was not accepted. Therefore, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon St. Peter would be worthless also, setting him to shepherd His flock, invalid, and that would nullify every baptism he performed. On the whole, according to Novatus' opinion, everyone would have perished and that is extreme ignorance.
Christ the Lord came to the world to save sinners and to lead them to repentance for He said, "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3)
All those who gathered against Novatus advised him to abandon his erroneous opinion and repent for it. They told him, "Do not be an enemy of God, yourself and of all mankind." Since Novatus did not relinquish his opinion, the Council exiled him, and excommunicated him and all those who believed in his word.
The prayers of those saints be with us and Glory be to our God forever. Amen.
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