Epistle XII — To the Clergy, Concerning the Lapsed and Catechumens, that They Should not be Left Without Superintendence.
Argument. — The burden of this letter, as of the succeeding one, is found below in the XIVth epistle. “But afterwards,” he says, “when some of the lapsed, whether of their own accord, or by the suggestion of any other, broke forth with a daring demand, as though they would endeavour, by a violent effort, to extort the peace that had been promised to them by the martyrs and confessors,” etc.
1. Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons, his brethren, greeting. I marvel, beloved brethren, that you have answered nothing to me in reply to my many letters which I have frequently written to you, although as well the advantage as the need of our brotherhood would certainly be best provided for if, receiving information from you, I could accurately investigate and advise upon the management of affairs. Since, however, I see that there is not yet any Opportunity of coming to you, and that the summer has already begun–a season that is disturbed with continual and heavy sicknesses,–I think that our brethren must be dealt with;–that they who have received certificates from the martyrs, and may be assisted by their privilege with God, if they should be seized with any misfortune and peril of sickness, should, without waiting for my presence, before any presbyter who might be present, or if a presbyter should not be found and death begins to be imminent, before even a deacon, be able to make confession of their sin, that, with the imposition of hands upon them for repentance, they should come to the Lord with the peace which the martyrs have desired, by their letters to us, to be granted to them.
2. Cherish also by your presence the rest of the people who are lapsed, and cheer them by your consolation, that they may not fail of the faith and of God’s mercy. For those shall not be forsaken by the aid and assistance of the Lord, who meekly, humbly, and with true penitence have persevered in good works; but the divine, remedy will be granted to them also. To the hearers also, if there are any overtaken by danger, and placed near to death, let your vigilance not be wanting; let not the mercy of the Lord be denied to those that are imploring the divine favour. I bid you, beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell; and remember me. Greet the whole brotherhood in my name, and remind them and ask them to be mindful of me. Fare ye well.
Epistle XIII — To the Clergy, Concerning Those Who are in Haste to Receive Peace.
Argument. — Peace must be attained through penitence, and penitence is realized by keeping the commandments. They who are oppressed with sickness, if they are relieved by the suffrages of the martyrs, may be admitted to peace; but others are to be kept back until the peace of the Church is secured.
1. Cyprian to the presbyters and deacons, his brethren, greeting. I have read your letter, beloved brethren, wherein you wrote that your wholesome counsel was not wanting to our brethren, that, laying aside all rash haste, they should manifest a religious patience to God, so that when by His mercy we come together, we may debate upon all kinds of things, according to the discipline of the Church, especially since it is written, “Remember from whence thou hast fallen, and repent.” Now he repents, who, remembering the divine precept, with meekness and patience, and obeying the priests of God, deserves well of the Lord by his obedience and his righteous works.
2. Since, however, you intimate that some are petulant, and eagerly urge their being received to communion, and have desired in this matter that some rule should be given by me to you, I think I have sufficiently written on this subject in the last letter that was sent to you, that they who have received a certificate froth the martyrs, and can be assisted by their help with the Lord in respect of their sins, if they begin to be oppressed with any sickness or risk; when they have made confession, and have received the imposition of hands on them by you in acknowledgement of their penitence, should be remitted to the Lord with the peace promised to them by the martyrs. But others who, without having received any certificate from the martyrs, are envious (since this is the cause not of a few, nor of one church, nor of one province, but of the whole world), must wait, in dependence on the protection of the Lord, for the public peace of the Church itself. For this is suitable to the modesty and the discipline, and even the life of all of us, that the chief officers meeting together with the clergy in the presence also of the people who stand fast, to whom themselves, moreover, honour is to be shown for their faith and fear, we may be able to order all things with the religiousness of a common consultation. But how irreligious is it, and mischievous, even to those themselves who are eager, that while such as are exiles, and driven from their country, and spoiled of all their property, have not yet returned to the Church, some of the lapsed should be hasty to anticipate even confessors themselves, and to enter into the Church before them! If they are so over-anxious, they have what they require in their own power, the times themselves offering them freely more than they ask. The struggle is still going forward, and the strife is daily celebrated. If they truly and with constancy repent of what they have done, and the fervour of their faith prevails, he who cannot be delayed may be crowned. I bid you, beloved brethren, ever heartily farewell; and have me in remembrance. Greet all the brotherhood in my name, and tell them to be mindful of me. Fare ye well.