Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter XLIII
Chapter XLIII.—Novatus, 2105 his Manner of Life and his Heresy.
1. After this, Novatus, a presbyter of the church at Rome, being lifted up with arrogance against these persons, as if there was no longer for them a hope of salvation, not even if they should do all things pertaining to a genuine and pure conversion, became leader of the heresy of those who, in the pride of their imagination, call themselves Cathari. 2106
2. There upon a very large synod assembled at Rome, 2107 of bishops in number sixty, and a great many more presbyters and deacons; while the pastors of the remaining provinces deliberated in their places privately concerning what ought to be done. A decree was confirmed by all, that Novatus and those who joined with him, and those who adopted his brother-hating and inhuman opinion, should be considered by the church as strangers; but that they should heal such of the brethren as had fallen into misfortune, 2108 and should minister to them with the medicines of repentance.
3. There have reached us epistles 2109 of Cornelius, bishop of Rome, to Fabius, of the church at Antioch, which show what was done at the synod at Rome, and what seemed best to all those in Italy and Africa and the regions thereabout. 2110 Also other epistles, written in the p. 287 Latin language, of Cyprian and those with him in Africa, 2111 which show that they agreed as to the necessity of succoring those who had been tempted, and of cutting off from the Catholic Church the leader of the heresy and all that joined with him.
4. Another epistle of Cornelius, concerning the resolutions of the synod, is attached to these; and yet others, 2112 on the conduct of Novatus, from which it is proper for us to make selections, that any one who sees this work may know about him.
5. Cornelius informs Fabius what sort of a man Novatus was, in the following words:
“But that you may know that a long time ago this remarkable man desired the episcopate, but kept this ambitious desire to himself and concealed it,—using as a cloak for his rebellion those confessors who had adhered to him from the beginning,—I desire to speak.
6. Maximus, 2113 one of our presbyters, and Urbanus, 2114 who twice gained the highest honor by confession, with Sidonius, 2115 and Celerinus, 2116 a man who by the grace of God most heroically endured all kinds of torture, and by the strength of his faith overcame the weakness of the flesh, and mightily conquered the adversary,—these men found him out and detected his craft and duplicity, his perjuries and falsehoods, his unsociability and cruel friendship. And they returned to the holy church and proclaimed in the presence of many, both bishops and presbyters and a large number of the laity, all his craft and wickedness, which for a long time he had concealed. And this they did with lamentations and repentance, because through the persuasions of the crafty and malicious beast they had left the church for the time.” A little farther on he says:
7. “How remarkable, beloved brother, the change and transformation which we have seen take place in him in a short time. For this most illustrious man, who bound himself with terrible oaths in nowise to seek the bishopric, 2117 suddenp. 288 ly appears a bishop as if thrown among us by some machine. 2118
8. For this dogmatist, this defender of the doctrine of the Church, 2119 attempting to grasp and seize the episcopate, which had not been given him from above, chose two of his companions who had given up their own salvation. And he sent them to a small and insignificant corner of Italy, that there by some counterfeit argument he might deceive three bishops, who were rustic and very simple men. And they asserted positively and strongly that it was necessary that they should come quickly to Rome, in order that all the dissension which had arisen there might be appeased through their mediation, jointly with other bishops.
9. When they had come, being, as we have stated, very simple in the craft and artifice of the wicked, they were shut up with certain selected men like himself. And by the tenth hour, when they had become drunk and sick, he compelled them by force to confer on him the episcopate through a counterfeit and vain imposition of hands. Because it had not come to him, he avenged himself by craft and treachery.
10. One of these bishops shortly after came back to the church, lamenting and confessing his transgression. And we communed with him as with a layman, all the people present interceding for him. And we ordained successors of the other bishops, and sent them to the places where they were.
11. This avenger of the Gospel 2120 then did not know that there should be one bishop in a catholic church; 2121 yet he was not ignorant (for how could he be?) that in it there were forty-six presbyters, seven 2122 deacons, seven sub-deacons, 2123 forty-two acolyths, 2124 fifty-two exorcists, 2125 readers, 2126 and janitors, 2127 and over fifteen hundred widows and persons in distress, all of whom the grace and kindness of the Master nourish.
12. But not even this great multitude, so necessary in the church, nor those who, through Gods providence, were rich and full, together with the very many, even innumerable people, could turn him from such desperation and presumption and recall him to the Church.”
13. Again, farther on, he adds these words: “Permit us to say further: On account of what works or conduct had he the assurance to contend for the episcopate? Was it that he had been brought up in the Church from the beginning, and had endured many conflicts in her behalf, and had passed through many and great dangers for religion? Truly this is not the fact.
14. But Satan, who entered and dwelt in him for a long time, became the occasion of his believing. Being delivered by the exorcists, he fell into a severe sickness; and as he seemed about to die, he received baptism by affusion, p. 289 on the bed where he lay; 2128 if indeed we can say that such a one did receive it.
15. And when he was healed of his sickness he did not receive the other things which it is necessary to have according to the canon of the Church, even the being sealed by the bishop. 2129 And as he did not receive this, 2130 how could he receive the Holy Spirit?”
16. Shortly after he says again:
“In the time of persecution, through cowardice and love of life, he denied that he was a presbyter. For when he was requested and entreated by the deacons to come out of the chamber in which he had imprisoned himself and give aid to the brethren as far as was lawful and possible for a presbyter to assist those of the brethren who were in danger and needed help, he paid so little respect to the entreaties of the deacons that he went away and departed in anger. For he said that he no longer desired to be a presbyter, as he was an admirer of another philosophy.” 2131
17. Passing by a few things, he adds the following:
“For this illustrious man forsook the Church of God, in which, when he believed, he was judged worthy of the presbyterate through the favor of the bishop who ordained him to the presbyterial office. This had been resisted by all the clergy and many of the laity; because it was unlawful that one who had been affused on his bed on account of sickness as he had been should enter into any clerical office; 2132 but the bishop requested that he might be permitted to ordain this one only.”
18. He adds to these yet another, the worst of all the mans offenses, as follows:
“For when he has made the offerings, and distributed a part to each man, as he gives it he compels the wretched man to swear in place of the blessing. Holding his hands in both of his own, he will not release him until he has sworn in this manner (for I will give his own words):
Swear to me by the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that you will never forsake me and turn to Cornelius.
19. And the unhappy man does not taste until he has called down imprecations on himself; and instead of saying Amen, as he takes the bread, he says, I will never return to Cornelius.” Farther on he says again:
20. “But know that he has now been made bare and desolate; as the brethren leave him every day and return to the church. Moses 2133 p. 290 also, the blessed martyr, who lately suffered among us a glorious and admirable martyrdom, while he was yet alive, beholding his boldness and folly, refused to commune with him and with the five presbyters who with him had separated themselves from the church.”
21. At the close of his letter he gives a list of the bishops who had come to Rome and condemned the silliness of Novatus, with their names and the parish over which each of them presided.
22. He mentions also those who did not come to Rome, but who expressed by letters their agreement with the vote of these bishops, giving their names and the cities from which they severally sent them.” 2134 Cornelius wrote these things to Fabius, bishop of Antioch.
Eusebius, and the Greeks in general, write the name Νοου€τος (though in Bk. VII. chap. 8, below, Dionysius writes Νοουατι€νος). Socrates has the form Ναυ€τος, which appears also in some mss. of Eusebius. Cyprian and the Latins write the name Novatianus. Lardner, in a note on chap. 47 of his Credibility, argues with great force for the correctness of the name Novatus, while Heinichen and others maintain that Novatianus is the right form. The name Novatiani, Νοουατιανοί, which was given to his followers, is urged with some reason by Lardner as an argument for the shorter form of the name. But even if his opinion is correct, the name Novatian is too long established to be displaced, and serves to distinguish him from the Carthaginian presbyter Novatus. The schism of Novatian was only one of the outcrops of the old strife between lax and strict discipline in the Church, the strife which had shown itself in connection with Montanism and also between Callistus and Hippolytus (see above, chap. 21, note 3). But in the present case the immediate cause of the trouble was the treatment of the lapsed. The terrible Decian persecution had naturally caused many to deny the faith, but afterward, when the stress was past, they repented and desired to be readmitted to the Church. The question became a very serious one, and opinions were divided, some advocating their acceptance after certain prescribed penances, others their continued exclusion. The matter caused a great deal of discussion, especially in Rome and Carthage. The trouble came to a head in Rome, when Cornelius, who belonged to the lax party, was chosen bishop in the year 251, after the see had been vacant for more than a year. The stricter party at once aroused to action and chose Novatian, the leader of the party, opposition bishop. He had been made a presbyter by the bishop Fabian, and occupied a very prominent position in the Roman Church. He seems originally to have held less rigid notions in regard to the treatment of the lapsed, but before the end of the persecution he became very decided in his opposition to their absolution and restoration. His position, as well as his ability and piety, made him the natural leader of the party and the rival candidate for the bishopric. He does not, however, seem to have desired to accept consecration as an opposition bishop, but his party insisted. He immediately sent the usual letters announcing the fact to the bishops of the principal sees, to Carthage, Alexandria, and Rome. Cyprian at once refused to recognize his appointment. Dionysius wrote to him advising him to withdraw (see his epistle, quoted in chap. 45). But Fabius of Antioch was inclined to take his side (see chap. 44, §1). Novatian was excommunicated by the council mentioned just below, and then founded an independent church, baptizing all who came over to his side. We know nothing of his subsequent career (according to the tradition of his followers, and also Socrates, H. E. IV. 28, he suffered martyrdom under Valerian), but his sect spread throughout the East and West, and continued in existence until the sixth century. Novatian was not at all heretical in doctrine. His work upon the Trinity is both able and orthodox. His character was austere and of unblemished purity (the account given by Cornelius below is a gross misrepresentation, from the pen of an enemy) and his talents were of a high order. But the tendency of the Church was toward a more merciful treatment of the lapsed and of other sinners, and the stricter methods advocated by him fell more and more into disfavor. Novatian was quite a prolific writer. According to Jerome, de vir. ill. chap. 10, he wrote de Pascha, de Sabbato, de Circumcisione, de Sacerdote, de Oratione, de Cibis Judaicis, de Instantia, de Attalo Multaque alia, et de Trinitate grande Volumen. The de Cibis Judaicis and the de Trinitate are still extant. The best edition of his works is that of Jackson (London, 1728). An English translation is given in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, V. 611–650. Novatian was the author also of one of the epistles of the Roman clergy to Cyprian (Ep. 30). Our contemporaneous sources for a knowledge of Novatian and his schism are the epistles of Cyprian (some ten of them), and the epistles of Dionysius and Cornelius, quoted by Eusebius in this chapter and in chaps. 44 and 45.286:2106
This council is undoubtedly identical with the one mentioned in Cyprians epistle to Antonianus (Ep. 51, §6; al. 55). It was held, according to Cyprian, soon after the Carthaginian synod, in which the treatment of the lapsi was first discussed, and accepted the decisions of that council. The Carthaginian synod met in the spring of 251 (see Hefele, Conciliengesch. I. p. 112). The Roman synod must, therefore, have been held before the end of the same year; Hefele thinks about October (ibid. p. 114). Cornelius would not, of course, have waited long before procuring the official condemnation of the opposition bishop. We know nothing more about the constitution of the council than is told us here. It was, of course, only a local synod. The pastors of the remaining provinces were the other Italian bishops who could not be present at the council. Cornelius solicits their opinion, in order that the decree passed by the council may represent as large a number of bishops as possible.286:2108
τοὺς δὲ τῇ συμφορŽ περιπεπτοκότας. The Carthaginian synod had decided that no offenses are beyond the regular power of the Church to remit.286:2109
Jerome (de vir. ill. chap. 66) gives the singular instead of the plural (epistolam ad Fabium); so also Rufinus; but there is no reason for doubting the integrity of the Greek text of Eusebius, which runs, ἦλθον δ᾽ οὖν εἰς ἡμᾶς ἐπιστολαὶ Κορνηλίου. Valesius, although translating epistolæ Cornelii, yet follows Jerome and Rufinus in believing that only one epistle is meant here. Neither Rufinus nor, apparently, Jerome knew anything about the epistle, except what they read in Eusebius, and therefore it is more probable that Eusebius was correct in using the plural than that they were correct in using the singular. It is easy to understand the change of Eusebius indefinite plural into their definite singular. They were evidently written in Greek; for in speaking of Cyprians epistles immediately afterward, Eusebius especially mentions the fact that they were written in Latin. The epistle from which Eusebius quotes just below was also written in Greek, for Eusebius would otherwise, as is his custom have mentioned the fact that he gives only a translation of it. This has been pointed out by Valesius; but, as Routh remarks, we can certainly go further, and say that the other epistle mentioned by Eusebius must have been in Greek, too, since it was written by the same Cornelius, and addressed to the same Fabius. These epistles are no longer extant.286:2110
Eusebius says, τὰ περὶ τῆς ῾Ρωμαίων συνόδου καὶ τὰ δόξαντα πᾶσι τοῖς κατὰ τὴν ᾽Ιταλίαν κ.τ.λ., which Jerome has transformed or compressed into de Synodo Romana, Italica, Africana, another instance of the careless way in which his de vir. ill. was composed.287:2111
These epistles from Cyprian and the African bishops Jerome transforms into a single epistle from Cornelius to Fabius, de Novatiano, et de his qui lapsi sunt. At least, it seems impossible to explain this epistle mentioned by Jerome in any other way. Knowing the slovenly way in which he put his work together, it is not surprising that he should attribute these epistles to the same person who wrote the ones mentioned just before and after. Since the first epistles mentioned are said to have been addressed to Fabius and also the last one, from which Eusebius quotes, it is reasonable to conclude that all mentioned in this connection were addressed to him; and it would of course be quite natural for Cyprian, too, to write to Fabius (who was known to be inclined to favor Novatian), in order to confirm the account of Cornelius, and to announce that he agreed with the latter in regard to the treatment of the lapsed. No epistle, however, of Cyprian or of other African bishops to Fabius are extant, though the same subject is discussed in many epistles of Cyprian addressed to the people.287:2112
Rufinus mentions only two epistles of Cornelius in this connection, apparently confounding this one on the deeds of the Novatians with the one mentioned just before on the Decrees of the Council. Jerome, on the other hand, making Cornelius, as already mentioned, the author of the epistles of Cyprian and the African bishops, assigns four epistles to Cornelius. None of the epistles mentioned in this section are extant, except the long fragment of the last one quoted just below. As mentioned in the next chapter, Fabius inclined to take the side of Novatian over against the laxer party; and it was on this account that Cornelius wrote him so many epistles (compare also the epistle of Dionysius of Alexandria, quoted in chaps. 41 and 42, and see note 1 on the former chapter), and endeavored to blacken the character of Novatian as he does in the passages quoted.287:2113
This Maximus was a presbyter, and one of a party of Roman confessors who played a prominent part in the controversy about the lapsed. He and his companions were imprisoned at the very beginning of the Decian persecution (Cyprian, Ep. 24; al. 28), i.e. early in the year 250, and while in prison they adopted rigoristic views and wrote to some Carthaginian confessors, urging strict methods in dealing with the lapsed (see Cyprian, Ep. 22; al. 27). Early in the year 251, after eleven months in prison, the presbyter Moses, the leading spirit of the party, died, and Maximus became the chief one among them. Moses before his death, in spite of his rigoristic principles, refused to commune with Novatian and his five presbyters (as we learn from §20 of this chapter), apparently because he saw that his insistence upon strict discipline was tending toward schism, and that such discipline could not be maintained without sacrificing the Church. But Maximus and those mentioned with him here, together with some others (see Cyprian, Ep. 45; al. 49), became even stricter than at first, and finally went over to the party of Novatian (which took its rise after the election of Cornelius in 251), but were at length reconciled to Cornelius and the rest of the Church, and received back with rejoicing (see Cyprian, Ep. 43, 45, 46, 49, 50; al. 46, 49, 51, 53, 54). The notices of Maximus and Urbanus in Cyprians epistles, which with the epistle of Cornelius constitute our only source for a knowledge of their lives, do not mention a second confession made by these two men, so that we cannot tell when it took place, but it must of course have been during the persecution of Decius.287:2114
Urbanus was a confessor only, not a presbyter or deacon as we learn from the notices of him in Cyprians epistles, in connection with the party referred to in the previous note.287:2115
Sidonius likewise was a confessor simply, and is mentioned with the others in the epistles of Cornelius and Cyprian.287:2116
Celerinus was also one of this party of Roman confessors (as we learn from Cyprian, Ep. 15, al. 87), who, upon his release from prison, went to Carthage, and was there ordained a reader by Cyprian (Ep. 33, al. 39). His release from prison and departure for Carthage took place before the release of the others and before the death of Moses (as we learn from Ep. 15), that is, before the end of the year 250. He was still in Rome, however, at Easter of that year, as we learn from his epistle to Lucian, mentioned below. He came of a family of martyrs (Ep. 33), and was himself one of the most celebrated confessors of his time. There is extant an epistle written by him to Lucian, the Carthaginian confessor (Cyprian, Ep. 21), in which he begs absolution for his sisters, who had denied the faith. The epistle (as we learn from its own statements) was written at Easter time and in the year 250, for there was no bishop of Rome at the time of its composition. As we learn from this passage, Celerinus went over with these other Roman confessors to the party of Novatian, and returned with them to the Church. He is, however, mentioned neither by Cyprian nor by Cornelius (in his epistle to Cyprian) in connection with the schism of these confessors. This is very remarkable, especially since Celerinus was quite a prominent character. It is possible that he was in Carthage the greater part of the time, and did not return to Rome until shortly before the confessors returned to the Church. He might then have thrown in his lot with them, and have returned with them to the orthodox church; and yet, not having been mentioned by Cornelius earlier epistle to Cyprian, announcing the schismatic position of the confessors, he was omitted also in the later letters announcing their return (which in fact only mentions the three leaders), and in Cyprians reply, which of course would only mention those of whom he had been told in Cornelius first epistle. Of the subsequent career of Celerinus and of these other confessors we know nothing.287:2117
There is no reason to doubt, as Cornelius does, Novatians sincerity in declaring that he did not seek the office of bishop. Both Cornelius and Cyprian make his ambition and his jealousy of Cornelius, the successful candidate, the cause of his schism. But such an accusation was made against every schismatic, even when there was not a shadow of support for it, and there is no reason to suppose it nearer the truth in this than in other cases. In fact, his own protestation, as recorded here by Cornelius, and as testified to by Dionysius in chap. 45, as well as the character of the man as revealed in his life previous to his episcopal ordination (as certified to even by his enemies), and in his writings, are entirely opposed to the supposition that he sought the episcopal office and that his schism was a result of his defeat. We shall do much better to reject entirely this exceedingly hostile and slanderous account of his enemy Cornelius, and to accept his own account of the matter as reported by Dionysius in chap. 25. He was the natural head of the rigoristic party, made such by his commanding ability, his deep piety, and his ascetic principles of living; and when Cornelius, the head of the lax party, was made bishop (in March, 251), the strict party revolted, and it could not be otherwise than that Novatian should be elected bishop, and that even if reluctant he should feel compelled to accept the office in order to assert the principles which he believed vital, and to prevent the complete ruin of the Church. Cornelius gives a sad story of his ordination to the episcopate. But one thing is certain, he had with him for some time a large portion of the best people in the Roman church, among them Maximus and others of the most influential confessors, who seem at length to have returned to the Church only because they saw that the schism was injuring it. Certainly if Novatian had been a self-seeker, as Cornelius describes him, and if his ordination had been of such a nature as Cornelius reports, he could never have had the support of so many earnest and prominent men. It is doubtless true, as Cornelius states, that Novatian was ordained by three Italian bishops, very likely bishops of rural and comparatively insignificant sees, and it is quite possible that one of them, as he also records, afterwards repented of his act as schismatic, and returned to the Church and received absolution. But all this does not imply that these three bishops were deceived by false pretenses on the part of Novatian, or that they were intoxicated when they performed the service. This, in fact, may be looked upon as baseless calumny. Novatus, the Carthaginian agitator who had caused Cyprian so much trouble, took a prominent part in the Novatian schism, though to make him the author of it, as Cyprian does, is undoubtedly incorrect (see Lardner, Works, III. p. 94 sq.; London ed. 1829). It was perhaps he (as reported by Eulogius, according to Photius, Cod. 182, and by Theodoret, Hær. Fab. III. 5) that found these three bishops to ordain Novatian. It is not at all improbable, when so many prominent men in the Roman church favored the stricter principles and supported Novatian, that bishops could be found in Italy who held the same principles and would be glad to ordain Novatian as bishop of Rome.288:2118
As Closs remarks, these words are evidently an allusion to Novatians work, de Trinitate.288:2120
ἐκδικητἡς τοῦ εὐαγγελίου. Possibly another sarcastic reference to Novatians work in defense of the doctrine of the Church; possibly only an allusion to the fact that he prided himself on his orthodoxy.288:2121
The principle, that there should be only one bishop in a city, was not clearly enunciated and forcibly emphasized until the third century. Cyprians writings are full of it (cf. his treatise On the Unity of the Church), and in connection with this Novatian schism, which showed so plainly the disintegrating effects of a division of the church under two bishops, the principle was established so firmly as never again to be questioned. I do not mean to assert here that the principle so clearly and conclusively established at this time was a new principle. We find it enunciated even by Ignatius at the beginning of the second century, and it was the common opinion of Christendom, or otherwise Cyprian could not have appealed to universal custom as he does in discussing the matter. I mean simply that the principle had never before been brought to such a test as to require its formal enunciation and public recognition by the clergy and the Church at large. The emergency which now arose compelled such formal statement of it; and the Council of Nicæa made it canon law (cf. Binghams Antiquities, I. p. 160 sq.).288:2122
The limitation of the deacons to seven in number was due to the fact that the appointment of the Seven by the apostles (Acts vi.) was commonly looked upon as the institution of the office of the diaconate. But upon this matter, see above, Bk. II. chap. 1, note 2a. The practice of limiting the number of the deacons to seven was quite a common one, and was enacted as a law in the fifteenth canon of the Council of Neo-Cæsarea (held early in the third century). The practice, however, was by no means universal, as we are informed by Sozomen (H. E. VII. 19). Indeed, at least in Alexandria and in Constantinople, their number was much greater (see Binghams Ant. I. p. 286).288:2123
The sub-deacons (the highest of the inferior orders of the clergy) are first mentioned in this epistle of Cornelius and in various epistles of Cyprian. At what time they arose we cannot tell, but they seem to have appeared in the East later than in the West, at least the first references we have to them in the Orient are in the fourth century, e.g. in the Apost. Const. VIII. 21. They acted as deacons assistants, preparing the sacred vessels for use at the altar, attended the doors during communion service, and were often employed by the bishops for the conveyance of letters or messages to distant churches. See Binghams Ant. Bk. III. chap. 2.288:2124
The Acolyths (ἀκόλουθοι), another of the inferior orders of the clergy, are likewise first mentioned here and in Cyprians epistles. They seem to have been of much later institution in the East, for we first hear of them there in the time of Justinian (Justin. Novel. 59). Their duties seem to have been to attend to the lights of the church and to procure the wine for communion service. See Bingham, ibid. chap. 3.288:2125
The Exorcists likewise constituted one of the inferior orders of the clergy; but although we find exorcism very frequently referred to by the Fathers of the second century, there seems to have been no such office until the third century, the present being the earliest distinct reference to it. In the fourth century we find the office in all parts of the Church East and West. Their duty was to take charge of those supposed to be possessed of an evil spirit; to pray with them, care for them, and exorcise the demon when possible. See Bingham, ibid. chap. 4.288:2126
The Readers, or Lectors (Greek, ἀναγνῶσται; Latin, Lectores), constituted still another of the inferior orders, and were already a distinct office in the time of Tertullian (cf. de Præscrip. chap. 41). From the third century on the order seems to have been universal. Their duty was to read the Scriptures in the public services of the sanctuary. See Bingham, ibid. chap. 5.288:2127
The Janitors, or Doorkeepers (Greek, πυλωροί or θυρωροί; Latin, ostiarii or janitores), are first mentioned in this passage. In the fourth century, however, we find them frequently referred to. Their office seems to have been about the same as that of the modern janitor or sexton. See Bingham, ibid. chap. 6.289:2128
There is no reason to doubt that Novatian received clinical baptism, as here stated by Cornelius. This does not imply, as is commonly supposed, that he was of heathen parentage, for many Christians postponed baptism as long as possible, in order not to sacrifice baptismal grace by sins committed after baptism. We do not know whether his parents were heathen or Christians. Upon the objection to Novatians ordination, based upon his irregular baptism, see below, §17.289:2129
τοῦ τε σφραγισθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ ἐπισκόπου σφραγισθῆναι here means confirmation or consignation (as it was commonly called among the Latins); that is, the imposition of the hands of the bishop which regularly followed baptism, immediately if the bishop were on the ground, in other cases at as early a date as possible. The imposition of hands was for the purpose of conveying the Holy Spirit, who should supply the newly baptized Christian with the necessary grace to fit him for the Christian life. Confirmation was thus looked upon as completing the baptism and as a necessary pre-condition of receiving the eucharist. At the same time, if a person died after baptism, before it was possible to receive imposition of hands, the baptism was not regarded as rendered invalid by the omission, for in the baptism itself the full remission of sins was supposed to be granted. The confirmation was not necessary for such remission, but was necessary for the bestowal of the requisite sustaining grace for the Christian life. Cornelius in the present paragraph does not intend to imply that regenerating grace was not given in Novatians baptism. He means simply that the Holy Spirit was not given in that full measure in which it was given by the laying on of hands, and which was necessary for growth in grace and Christian living. The baptism was looked on in ordinary cases as in a sense negative,—effecting the washing away of sin, the laying on of hands as positive, confirming the gift of the Spirit. The former, therefore, was sufficient to save the man who died immediately thereafter; the latter was necessary to sustain the man who still remained in the world. Compare with these words of Cornelius Tertullians de Baptism. chap. 6. The earliest extant canon on this subject is the thirty-eighth of the synod of Elvira (306 a.d.), which decrees that a sick person may in case of necessity be baptized by a layman, but that he is afterward, if he recovers, to be taken to the bishop that the baptism may be perfected by the laying on of hands. The seventy-seventh canon decrees the same thing for those baptized by deacons, but expressly declares that if the baptized person die before the imposition of hands, he is to be regarded as saved in virtue of the faith which he confessed in his baptism. It is not necessary to give other references in connection with this matter. For further particulars, see Bingham, ibid. Bk. XII.
On the signification of the verb σθραγίζω, see Suicers Thesaurus. We can hardly believe that Novatian failed to receive imposition of hands from the bishop, for it is inconceivable that the latter would have omitted what was regarded as such an important prerequisite to church communion in the case of one whom he ordained to the presbyterate. Novatian may not have received confirmation immediately after his recovery, but he must have received it before his ordination. As seen in §17, it is not the omission of confirmation that causes the objections on the part of the clergy, but the clinical baptism.289:2130
The majority of the mss., followed by Schwegler, Laemmer, and Heinichen, read τούτων. But some of the best mss., followed by all the other editors, read τούτου.289:2131
This is certainly a calumny. It is possible, as Neander suggests, that Novatian, although a presbyter, withdrew somewhat from active duty and lived the life of an ascetic, and that it is this to which Cornelius refers in speaking of his admiration for “another philosophy.” But however that may be, Cornelius interpretation of his conduct as cowardly or unworthy is quite false. See above, note 1.289:2132
Clinic baptism (so-called from κλίνη, “a bed”) was ordinarily looked upon in the early Church, in which immersion was the common mode of baptism, as permanently debarring a person from the presbyterate, and by many persons it was denied that such baptism was baptism at all. The latter opinion, however, the Church refused to sustain (cf. Cyprian, Ep. 75; al. 19). The twelfth canon of the Council of Neo-Cæsarea (held early in the fourth century) says, “If any man is baptized only in time of sickness, he shall not be ordained a presbyter; because his faith was not voluntary, but as it were of constraint; except his subsequent faith and diligence recommend him, or else the scarcity of men make it necessary to ordain him.” It is clear that this canon meant to apply only to persons whose baptism was delayed by their own fault. It was common for catechumens to postpone the rite as long as possible in order not to forfeit baptismal grace by their post-baptismal sins, and it was to discourage this practice that such canons as this of Neo-Cæsarea were passed. Even this canon, however, provided for exceptional cases, and the fact that Novatian was ordained in spite of his irregular baptism is a proof that he must have been an exceptionally pious and zealous man.289:2133
On Moses (or Moyses, as he is called by Cyprian), see note 9, above.
Lipsius (Chron. der röm. Bischöfe, p. 202, note) maintains that Cornelius is referring, at this point, not to Novatian, but to Novatus, the Carthaginian presbyter, and that Eusebius has confounded the two men. He bases this opinion upon the mention of the five presbyters, whom he identifies with those who, with Novatus, separated from the Carthaginian church in connection with the schism of Felicissimus (see Cyprian, Ep. 39; al. 43), and also upon the fact that Moses died before the election of Novatian as opposition bishop. In regard to the first point, it must be noticed that, in an epistle to Cyprian upon the schism of Novatian (Cyprian, Ep. 47; al. 50), Cornelius mentions five presbyters (including Novatus) as connected with Novatian in his schism. Certainly it is most natural to refer Cornelius words in this paragraph to the same five men. Indeed, to speak of Novatus and the five presbyters with him would be very peculiar, for Novatus himself was one of the five, and therefore there were but four with him. As to the second point, it may simply be said that Moses might well have refused to commune with Novatian, before the election of the latter, seeing that his position would inevitably lead to schism. There remains, therefore, no reason for supposing Eusebius mistaken, and for referring these words to Novatus of Carthage, instead of Novatian of Rome.290:2134
These lists of the bishops present at the council, and of those who expressed their agreement with the decision of the synod, are no longer extant.
Next: Chapter XLIV
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