1. His fifth epistle 2202 was written to Xystus, 2203 bishop of Rome. In this, after saying much against the heretics, he relates a certain occurrence of his time as follows: “For truly, brother, I am in need of counsel, and I ask thy judgment concerning a certain matter which has come to me, fearing that I may be in error.
2. For one of the brethren that assemble, who has long been considered a believer, and who, before my ordination, and I think before the appointment of the blessed Heraclas, 2204 was a member of the congregation, was present with those who were recently baptized. And when he heard the questions and answers, 2205 he came to me weeping, and bewailing himself; and falling at my feet he acknowledged and protested that the baptism with which he had been baptized among the heretics was not of this character, nor in any respect like this, because it was full of impiety and blasphemy. 2206
3. And he said that his soul was now pierced with sorrow, and that he had not confidence to lift his eyes to God, because he had set out from those impious words and deeds. And on this account he besought that he might receive this most perfect purification, and reception and grace.
4. But I did not dare to do this; and said that his long communion was sufficient for this. For I should not dare to renew from the beginning one who had heard the giving of thanks and joined in repeating the Amen; who had stood by the table and had stretched forth his hands to receive the blessed food; and who had received it, and partaken for a long while of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. But I exhorted him to be of good courage, and to approach the partaking of the saints with firm faith and good hope.
5. But he does not cease lamenting, and he shudders to approach the table, and scarcely, though entreated, does he dare to be present at the prayers.” 2207
p. 298 6. Besides these there is also extant another epistle of the same man on baptism, addressed by him and his parish to Xystus and the church at Rome. In this he considers the question then agitated with extended argument. And there is extant yet another after these, addressed to Dionysius of Rome, 2208 concerning Lucian. 2209 So much with reference to these.
The reference here, of course, is not to the Novatians, because this old man, who had been a regular attendant upon the orthodox Church since the time of Heraclas, if not before, had been baptized by the heretics long before Novatian arose. The epistle seems to contain no reference to Novatian; at least, the fragment which we have is dealing with an entirely different subject.297:2207
Dittrich finds in this epistle an evidence that Dionysius was not fully convinced of the advisability of re-baptizing converts from heretical bodies, that he wavered in fact between the Eastern and the Roman practices, but I am unable to see that the epistle implies anything of the kind. It is not that he doubts the necessity of re-baptism in ordinary cases,—he is not discussing that subject at all,—the question is, does long communion itself take the place of baptism; does not a man, unwittingly baptized, gain through such communion the grace from the Spirit which is ordinarily conveyed in baptism, and might not the rite of baptism at so late a date be an insult to the Spirit, who might have been working through the sacrament of the eucharist during all these years? It is this question which Dionysius desires to have Xystus assist him in answering—a question which has nothing to do, in Dionysius mind, with the validity or non-validity of heretical baptism, for it will be noticed that he does not base his refusal to baptize the man upon the fact that he has already been baptized, partially, or imperfectly, or in any other way, but solely upon the fact that he has for so long been partaking of the eucharist.298:2208 298:2209
So many Lucians of this time are known to us that we cannot speak with certainty as to the identity of the one referred to here. But it may perhaps be suggested that the well-known Carthaginian Confessor is meant, who caused Cyprian so much trouble by granting letters of pardon indiscriminately to the lapsed, in defiance of regular custom and of Cyprians authority (see Cypriani Ep. 16, 17, 20, 21, 22; al. 23, 26, 21, 22, 27). If this be the Lucian referred to, the epistle must have discussed the lapsi, and the conditions upon which they were to be received again into the Church. That the epistle did not, like the one mentioned just before, have to do with the subject of baptism, seems clear from the fact that it is not numbered among the epistles on that subject, as six others are.