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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Donatist Controversy.: Chapter 9

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 9.—13.  By this patience of Christian love he not only endured the difference of opinion manifested in all kindliness by his good colleagues on an obscure point, as he also himself received toleration, till, in process of time, when it so pleased God, what had always been a most wholesome custom was further confirmed by a declaration of the truth in a plenary Council, but he even put up with those who were manifestly bad, as was very well known to himself, who did not entertain a different view in consequence of the obscurity of the question, but acted contrary to their preaching in the evil practices of an abandoned life, as the apostle says of them, "Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal?" 1379   For Cyprian says in his letter of such bishops of his own time, his own colleagues, and remaining in communion with him, "While they had brethren starving in the Church, they tried to amass large sums of money, they took possession of estates by fraudulent proceedings, they multiplied their gains by accumulated usuries." 1380   For here there is no obscure question.  Scripture declares openly, "Neither covetous nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God;" 1381 and "He that putteth out his money to usury," 1382 and "No whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." 1383   He therefore certainly would not, without knowledge, have brought accusations of such covetousness, that men not only greedily treasured up their own goods, but also fraudulently appropriated the goods of others, or of idolatry existing in such enormity as he understands and proves it to exist; nor assuredly would he bear false witness against his fellow-bishops.  And yet with the bowels of fatherly and motherly love he endured them, lest that, by rooting out the tares before their time, the wheat should also have been rooted up, 1384 imitating assuredly the Apostle Paul, who, with the same love towards the Church, endured those who were ill-disposed and envious towards him. 1385

14.  But yet because "by the envy of the devil death entered into the world, and they that do hold of his side do find it," 1386 not because they are created by God, but because they go astray of themselves, as Cyprian also says himself, seeing that the devil, before he was a devil, was an angel, and good, how can it be that they who are of the devil’s side are in the unity of Christ?  Beyond all doubt, as the Lord Himself says, "an enemy hath done this," who "sowed tares among the wheat." 1387   As therefore what is of the devil within the fold must be convicted, so what is of Christ without must be recognized.  Has the devil what is his within the unity of the Church, and shall Christ not have what is His without?  This, perhaps, might be said of individual men, that as the devil has none that are his among the holy angels, so God has none that are His outside the communion of the Church.  But though it may be allowed to the devil to mingle tares, that is, wicked men, with this Church which still wears the mortal nature of p. 453 flesh, so long as it is wandering far from God, he being allowed this just because of the pilgrimage of the Church herself, that men may desire more ardently the rest of that country which the angels enjoy, yet this cannot be said of the sacraments.  For, as the tares within the Church can have and handle them, though not for salvation, but for the destruction to which they are destined in the fire, so also can the tares without, which received them from seceders from within; for they did not lose them by seceding.  This, indeed, is made plain from the fact that baptism is not conferred again on their return, when any of the very men who seceded happen to come back again.  And let not any one say, Why, what fruit hath the tares?  For if this be so, their condition is the same, so far as this goes, both inside and without.  For it surely cannot be that grains of corn are found in the tares inside, and not in those without.  But when the question is of the sacrament, we do not consider whether the tares bear any fruit, but whether they have any share of heaven; for the tares, both within and without, share the rain with the wheat itself, which rain is in itself heavenly and sweet, even though under its influence the tares grow up in barrenness.  And so the sacrament, according to the gospel of Christ, is divine and pleasant; nor is it to be esteemed as naught because of the barrenness of those on whom its dew falls even without.


Footnotes

452:1379

Rom. ii. 21.

452:1380

Cypr. de Lapsis. c. vi.

452:1381

1 Cor. vi. 10.

452:1382

Ps. xv. 5.

452:1383

Eph. v. 5.

452:1384

Matt. xiii. 29.

452:1385

Phil. i. 15-18.

452:1386

Wis. 2:24, 25.

452:1387

Matt. 13:28, 25.


Next: Chapter 10

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