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The Seventh Council of Carthage Under Cyprian.
Concerning the Baptism of Heretics. The Judgment of Eighty-Seven Bishops on the Baptism of Heretics.
Prooemium.— When Stephen, Bishop of Rome, Had by His Letters Condemned the Decrees of the African Council on the Baptism of Heretics, Cyprian Lost No Time in Holding Another Council at Carthage with a Greater Number of Bishops. Having Therefore Summoned Eighty-Seven Bishops from Africa, Numidia, and Mauritania, Who Assembled at Carthage in the Kalends of September, a.d. 258, This Third Council on the Same Matter of Baptism Was Then Celebrated; At the Beginning of Which, After, the Letters on Either Side Had Been Read, Cyprian, by Implication, Condemns the Assumption of Stephen.
When, in the kalends of September, a great many bishops from the provinces of Africa, Numidia, and Mauritania, had met together at Carthage, together with the presbyters and deacons, and a considerable part of the congregation who were also present; and when the letter of Jubaianus written to Cyprian had been read, as also the reply of Cyprian to Jubaianus, about baptizing heretics, and what the same Jubaianus had subsequently rejoined to Cyprian — Cyprian said: You have heard, my dearly beloved colleagues, what Jubaianus our co-bishop has written to me, taking counsel of my poor intelligence concerning the unlawful and profane baptism of heretics, as well as what I wrote in answer to him, decreeing, to wit, what we have once and again and frequently determined, that heretics who come to the Church must be baptized and sanctified by the baptism of the Church. Moreover, another letter of Jubaianus has also been read to you, wherein, replying, in accordance with his sincere and religious devotion, to my letter, he not only acquiesced in what I had said, but, confessing that he had been instructed thereby, he returned thanks for it. It remains, that upon this same matter each of us should bring forward what we think, judging no man, nor rejecting any one from the right of communion, if he should think differently from us. For neither does any of us set himself up as a bishop of bishops, nor by tyrannical terror does any compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience; since every bishop, according to the allowance of his liberty and power, has his own proper right of judgment, and can no more be judged by another than he himself can judge another. But let us all wait for the judgment of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only one that has the power both of preferring us in the government of His Church, and of judging us in our conduct there.
Caecilius of Bilta said: I know only one baptism in the Church, and none out of the Church. This one will be here, where there is the true hope and the certain faith. For thus it is written: Ephesians 4:5 not among heretics, where there is no hope, and the faith is false, where all things are carried on by lying; where a demoniac exorcises; where one whose mouth and words send forth a cancer puts the sacramental interrogation; the faithless gives faith; the wicked bestows pardon of sins; and Antichrist baptizes in the name of Christ; he who is cursed of God blesses; he who is dead promises life; he who is unpeaceful gives peace; the blasphemer calls upon God; the profane person administers the office of the priesthood; the sacrilegious person establishes an altar. In addition to all these things, there is also this evil, that the priests of the devil dare to celebrate the Eucharist; or else let those who stand by them say that all these things concerning heretics are false. Behold to what kind of things the Church is compelled to consent, and is constrained without baptism, without pardon of sins, to hold communion. And this thing, brethren, we ought to flee from and avoid, and to separate ourselves from so great a wickedness, and to hold one baptism, which is granted by the Lord to the Church alone.
Primus of Misgirpa said: I decide, that every man who comes to us from heresy must be baptized. For in vain does he think that he has been baptized there, seeing that there is no baptism save the one and true baptism in the Church; because not only is God one, but the faith is one, and the Church is one, wherein stands the one baptism, and holiness, and the rest. For whatever is done without, has no effect of salvation.
Novatus of Thamugada said: Although we know that all the Scriptures give witness concerning the saving baptism, still we ought to declare our faith, that heretics and schismatics who come to the Church, and appear to have been falsely baptized, ought to be baptized in the everlasting fountain; and therefore, according to the testimony of the Scriptures, and according to the decree of our colleagues, men of most holy memory, that all schismatics and heretics who are converted to the Church must be baptized; and moreover, that those who appeared to have been ordained must be received among lay people.
Nemesianus of Thubunae said: That the baptism which heretics and schismatics bestow is not the true one, is everywhere declared in the Holy Scriptures, since their very leading men are false Christs and false prophets, as the Lord says by Solomon:
He who trusts in that which is false, he feeds the winds; and the very same, moreover, follows the flight of birds. For he forsakes the ways of his own vineyard, he has wandered from the paths of his own little field. But he walks through pathless places, and dry, and a land destined for thirst; moreover, he gathers together fruitless things in his hands. And again:
Abstain from strange water, and from the fountain of another do not drink, that you may live a long time; also that the years of life may be added to you. Proverbs 9:19 And in the Gospel our Lord Jesus Christ spoke with His divine voice, saying,
Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. John 3:5 This is the Spirit which from the beginning was borne over the waters; for neither can the Spirit operate without the water, nor the water without the Spirit. Certain people therefore interpret for themselves ill, when they say that by imposition of the hand they receive the Holy Ghost, and are thus received, when it is manifest that they ought to be born again in the Catholic Church by both sacraments. Then indeed they will be able to be sons of God, as says the apostle:
Taking care to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, as you have been called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. Ephesians 4:3-6 All these things speaks the Catholic Church. And again, in the Gospel the Lord says:
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; because God is a Spirit, and he is born of God. John 3:6 Therefore, whatsoever things all heretics and schismatics do are carnal, as the apostle says:
For the works of the flesh are manifest, which are, fornications, uncleannesses, incest, idolatries, witchcrafts, hatreds, contentions, jealousy, anger, divisions, heresies, and the like to these; concerning which have told you before, as I also foretell you now, that whoever do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 And thus the apostle condemns, with all the wicked, those also who cause division, that is, schismatics and heretics. Unless therefore they receive saving baptism in the Catholic Church, which is one, they cannot be saved, but will be condemned with the carnal in the judgment of the Lord Christ.
Lucius of Castra Galbae said: Since the Lord in His Gospel said,
You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt should have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out of doors, and to be trodden under foot of men. Matthew 5:13 And again, after His resurrection, sending His apostles, He gave them charge, saying,
All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth. Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:18-19 Since, therefore, it is manifest that heretics— that is, the enemies of Christ — have not the sound confession of the sacrament; moreover, that schismatics cannot season others with spiritual wisdom, since they themselves, by departing from the Church, which is one, having lost the savour, have become contrary to it — let it be done as it is written,
The house of those that are contrary to the law owes a cleansing. And it is a consequence that those who, having been baptized by people who are contrary to the Church, are polluted, must first be cleansed, and then at length be baptized.
Crescens of Cirta said: In such an assembly of most holy fellow priests, as the letters of our most beloved Cyprian to Jubaianus and also to Stephen have been read, containing in them so much of the holy testimonies which descend from the divinely made Scriptures, that with reason we ought, all being made one by the grace of God, to consent to them; I judge that all heretics and schismatics who wish to come to the Catholic Church, shall not be allowed to enter without they have first been exorcised and baptized; with the exception of those indeed who may previously have been baptized in the Catholic Church, and these in such a way that they may be reconciled to the penitence of the Church by the imposition of hands.
Munnulus of Girba said: The truth of our Mother the Catholic Church, brethren, has always remained and still remains with us, and even especially in the Trinity of baptism, as our Lord says,
Go and baptize the nations, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19 Since, then, we manifestly know that heretics have not either Father, or Son, or Holy Spirit, they ought, when they come to the Church our Mother, truly to be born again and to be baptized; that the cancer which they had, and the anger of damnation, and the witchery of error, may be sanctified by the holy and heavenly layer.
Secundinus of Cedias said: Since our Lord Christ says,
He who is not with me is against me; Matthew 12:30 and John the apostle calls those who depart from the Church Antichrists — undoubtedly enemies of Christ — any such as are called Antichrists cannot minister the grace of saving baptism. And therefore I think that those who flee from the snares of the heretics to the Church must be baptized by us, who are called friends of God, of His condescension.
Felix of Bagai said: As, when the blind leads the blind, they fall together into the ditch; so, when the heretic baptizes a heretic, they fall together into death. And therefore a heretic must be baptized and made alive, lest we who are alive should hold communion with the dead.
Successus of Abbir Germaniciana said: Heretics can either do nothing, or they can do all. If they can baptize, they can also bestow the Holy Spirit. But if they cannot give the Holy Spirit, because they have not the Holy Spirit, neither can they spiritually baptize. Therefore we judge that heretics must be baptized.
Fortunatus of Tuccaboris said: Jesus Christ our Lord and God, Son of God the Father and Creator, built His Church upon a rock, not upon heresy; and gave the power of baptizing to bishops, not to heretics. Wherefore they who are without the Church, and, standing in opposition to Christ, disperse His sheep and flock, cannot baptize, being without.
Sedatus of Tuburbo said: In the degree in which water sanctified in the Church by the prayer of the priest, washes away sins; in that degree, if infected with heretical discourse as with a cancer, it heaps up sins. Wherefore we must endeavour with all peaceful powers, that no one infected and stained with heretical error refuse to receive the single and true baptism of the Church, by which whosoever is not baptized, shall become an alien from the kingdom of heaven. Privatianus of Sufetula said: Let him who says that heretics have the power of baptizing, say first who founded heresy. For if heresy is of God, it also may have the divine indulgence. But if it is not from God, how can it either have the grace of God, or confer it upon any one?
Hortensianus of Lares said: Let either these presumptuous ones, or those who favour heretics, consider how many baptisms there are. We claim for the Church one baptism, which we know not except in the Church. Or how can they baptize any one in the name of Christ, whom Christ Himself declares to be His adversaries?
Cassius of Macomadae said: Since there cannot be two baptisms, he who yields baptism to the heretics takes it away from himself. I judge therefore that heretics, lamentable and corrupt, must be baptized when they begin to come to the Church; and that when washed by the sacred and divine washing, and illuminated by the light of life, they may be received into the Church, not as enemies, but as made peaceful; not as foreigners, but as of the household of the faith of the Lord; not as children of adultery, but as sons of God; not of error, but of salvation; except those who once faithful have been supplanted, and have passed over from the Church to the darkness of heresy, but that these must be restored by the imposition of hands.
Another Januarius of Vicus Caesaris said: If error does not obey truth, much more truth does not consent to error; and therefore we stand by the Church in which we preside, that, claiming her baptism for herself alone, we should baptize those whom the Church has not baptized.
Another Secundinus of Carpi said: Are heretics Christians or not? If they are Christians, why are they not in the Church of God? If they are not Christians, how come they to make Christians? Or whither will tend the Lord's discourse, when He says,
He that is not with me is against me, and he who gathers not with me scatters? Matthew 12:30 Whence it appears plain that upon strange children, and on the offspring of Antichrist, the Holy Ghost cannot descend only by imposition of hands, since it is manifest that heretics have not baptism.
Another Felix of Uthina said: Nobody doubts, most holy fellow priests, that human presumption is not able to do so much as the adorable and venerable majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, remembering the danger, we ought not only to observe this also, but moreover to confirm it by the voice of all of us, that all heretics who come to the bosom of Mother Church should be baptized, that thus the heretical mind that has been polluted by a long decay, purged by the sanctification of the layer, may be reformed for the better.
Quietus of Baruch said: We who live by faith ought to obey with careful observance those things which before have been foretold for our instruction. For it is written in Solomon:
He that is baptized from the dead, (and again touches the dead, ) what avails his washing? Sirach 34:25 which certainly speaks of those who are washed by heretics, and of those that wash them. For if those who are baptized among them obtain by remission of their sins life eternal, why do they come to the Church? But if from a dead person no salvation is received, and therefore, acknowledging their previous error, they return to the truth with penitence, they ought to be sanctified with the one vital baptism which is in the Catholic Church.
Castus of Sicca said: He who with contempt of the truth presumes to follow custom, is either envious and malignant in respect of his brethren to whom the truth is revealed, or is ungrateful in respect of God, by whose inspiration His Church is instructed.
Euchratius of Thenae said: God and our Lord Jesus Christ, teaching the apostles with His own mouth, has entirely completed our faith, and the grace of baptism, and the rule of the ecclesiastical law, saying:
Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:18 Thus the false and wicked baptism of heretics must be rejected by us, and refuted with all detestation, from whose month is expressed poison, not life, not celestial grace, but blasphemy of the Trinity. And therefore it is manifest that heretics who come to the Church ought to be baptized with the sound and Catholic baptism, in order that, being purified from the blasphemy of their presumption, they may be reformed by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Libosus of Vaga said: In the Gospel the Lord says,
I am the truth. John 14:6 He said not, I am the custom. Therefore the truth being manifest, let custom yield to truth; so that, although for the past any one was not in the habit of baptizing heretics in the Church, let him now begin to baptize them.
Lucius of Thebeste said: I determine that blasphemous and unrighteous heretics, who with various words tear asunder the holy and adorable words of the Scriptures, are to be accursed, and therefore that they must be exorcised and baptized.
Also another Felix of Amaccora said: And I myself, following the authority of the divine Scriptures, judge that heretics must be baptized; and, moreover, those also who contend that they have been baptized among the schismatics. For if, according to Christ's warning, our font is private to us, let all the adversaries of our Church understand that it cannot be for another. Nor can He who is the Shepherd of the one flock give the saving water to two peoples. And therefore it is plain that neither heretics nor schismatics can receive anything heavenly, seeing that they dare to receive from men who are sinners, and from those who are external to the Church. When there is no place for the giver, assuredly there is no profit for the receiver.
Also another Januarius of Muzzuli said: I am surprised, since all confess that there is one baptism, that all do not perceive the unity of the same baptism. For the Church and heresy are two things, and different things. If heretics have baptism, we have it not; but if we have it, heretics cannot have it. But there is no doubt that the Church alone possesses the baptism of Christ, since she alone possesses both the grace and the truth of Christ.
Demetrius of Leptiminus said: We maintain one baptism, because we demand for the Church Catholic alone her own property. But they who say that heretics truly and legitimately baptize, are themselves the people who make not one, but many baptisms. For since heresies are many, according to their number will be reckoned baptisms.
Vincentius of Thibaris said: We know that heretics are worse than Gentiles. If, therefore, being converted, they should wish to come to the Lord, we have assuredly the rule of truth which the Lord by His divine precept commanded to His apostles, saying,
Go, lay on hands in my name, expel demons. And in another place:
Go and teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Matthew 28:19 Therefore first of all by imposition of hands in exorcism, secondly by the regeneration of baptism, they may then come to the promise of Christ. Otherwise I think it ought not to be done.
Marcus of Mactaris said: It is not to be wondered at if heretics, enemies, and impugners of the truth claim to themselves a matter in the power and condescension of others. But it is to be wondered at, that some of us, prevaricators of the truth, support heretics and oppose themselves to Christians. Therefore we decree that heretics must be baptized.
Sattius of Sicilibba said: If to heretics in baptism their sins are remitted, they come to the Church without reason. For since, in the day of judgment, they are sins which are punished, there is nothing which the heretics can fear from Christ's judgment, if they have already obtained remission of their sins.
Victor of Gor said: Since sins are not remitted save in the baptism of the Church, he who admits a heretic to communion without baptism does two things against reason: he does not cleanse the heretics, and he befouls the Christians.
Aurelius of Utica said: Since the apostle says that we are not to communicate with other people's sins, what else does he do but communicate with other people's sins, who holds communion with heretics without the Church's baptism? And therefore I judge that heretics must be baptized, that they may receive forgiveness of their sins; and thus communion may be had with them.
Iambus of Germaniciana said: They who approve of the baptism of heretics, disapprove of ours, in denying that they who are, I will not say washed, but befouled, outside the Church, ought to be baptized in the Church.
Lucianus of Rucuma said: It is written,
And God saw the light, that it was good, and divided between the light and the darkness. Genesis 1:4 If there can be agreement between light and darkness, there may be something in common between us and heretics. Therefore I determine that heretics must be baptized.
Pelagianus of Luperciana said: It is written, 1 Kings 18:21 Therefore in the present case also, either the Church is the Church, or heresy is the Church. On the other hand, if heresy is not the Church, how can the Church's baptism be among heretics?
Jader of Midila said: We know that there is but one baptism in the Catholic Church, and therefore we ought not to receive a heretic unless he has been baptized among us; lest he should think that he has been baptized out of the Catholic Church.
Paulus of Obba said: It does not disturb me if any man does not assert the faith and truth of the Church, since the apostle says,
For what if some of them have fallen away from the faith? Has their unbelief made the faith of God of no effect? By no means. For God is true, but every man a liar. Romans 3:3-4 But if God is true, how can the truth of baptism be among the heretics, among whom God is not?
Venantius of Timisa said: If a husband, going into foreign parts, had commended his wife to the guardianship of his friend, that friend would take care of her who was commended to him with all possible diligence, that her chastity and holiness should not be corrupted by any one. Christ the Lord and our God, going to His Father, has commended to us His bride. Shall we guard her incorrupt and inviolate, or shall we betray her integrity and chastity to adulterers and corrupters? For he who makes the Church's baptism common to heretics, betrays the spouse of Christ to adulterers.
Saturninus of Victoriana said: If heretics may baptize, they who do unlawful things are excused and defended; nor do I see why either Christ should have called them adversaries, or the apostle should have called them Antichrists.
Saturninus of Thucca said: The Gentiles, although they worship idols, do yet know and confess a supreme God as Father and Creator. Against Him Marcion blasphemes, and some persons do not blush to approve the baptism of Marcion. How do such priests either observe or vindicate God's priesthood, who do not baptize God's enemies, and hold communion with them as they are!
Faustus of Timida Regia said: Let not them who are in favour of heretics flatter themselves. He who interferes with the baptism of the Church on behalf of heretics, makes them Christians, and us heretics.
Geminius of Furni said: Some of our colleagues may prefer heretics to themselves, they cannot to us: and therefore what we have once determined we maintain — that we baptize those who come to us from the heretics.
Also another Felix of Bussacene said: In the matter of receiving heretics without the baptism of the Church, let no one prefer custom to reason and truth, because reason and truth always exclude custom.
Quintus of Aggya: He can give something who has something. But what can heretics give, who, it is plain, have nothing?
Another Victor of Assuri said: It is written, that baptized there, where God, and Christ, and the one Church is not?
Verulus of Rusiccada said: A man who is a heretic cannot give what he has not; much more a schismatic, who has lost what he once had.
Pudentianus of Cuiculis said: The novelty of my episcopal office, beloved brethren, has caused me to await what my elders should judge. For it is manifest that heresies have nothing, nor can have anything. And thus, if any one comes from them, it is most justly decreed that they must be baptized.
Peter of Hippo Diarrhytus said: Since there is one baptism in the Catholic Church, it is manifest that one cannot be baptized outside the Church. And therefore I judge that those who have been dipped in heresy or in schism, when they come to the Church, should be baptized.
Also another Lucius of Ausafa said: According to the direction of my mind, and of the Holy Spirit, as there is one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one Christ, and one hope, and one Spirit, and one Church, there ought also to be one baptism. And therefore I say, that if anything had been set on foot or accomplished by heretics, it ought to be rescinded, and that those who come thence must be baptized in the Church.
Also another Felix of Gurgites said: I judge that, according to the precepts of the holy Scriptures, he who is unlawfully baptized by heretics outside the Church, when he wishes to take refuge in the Church, should obtain the grace of baptism where it is lawfully given.
Salvianus of Gazaufala said: It is certain that heretics have nothing, and therefore they come to us that they may receive what they have not.
Honoratus of Thucca said: Since Christ is the Truth, we ought rather to follow truth than custom; so that we should sanctify heretics with the Church's baptism, seeing that they come to us for the reason that they could receive nothing without.
Victor of Octavum said: As yourselves also know, I have not long been appointed a bishop, and I therefore waited for the decision of my predecessors. I therefore think this, that as many as come from heresy should undoubtedly be baptized.
Clarus of Mascula said: The sentence of our Lord Jesus Christ is plain, when He sent His apostles, and accorded to them alone the power given to Him by His Father; and to them we have succeeded, governing the Lord's Church with the same power, and baptizing the faith of believers. And therefore heretics, who neither have power without, nor have the Church of Christ, are able to baptize no one with His baptism.
Secundianus of Thambei said: We ought not to deceive heretics by our presumption; so that they who have not been baptized in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and have not obtained by this means remissions of their sins, when the day of judgment shall come, should impute to us that through us they were not baptized, and did not obtain the indulgence of divine grace. On which account, since there is one Church and one baptism, when they are converted to us they should obtain, together with the Church, the Church's baptism also.
Also another Aurelius of Chullabi said: John the apostle laid it down in his epistle, saying:
If any one come unto you, and have not the doctrine of Christ, receive him not into your house, and say not to him, Hail. For he that says to him, Hail, partakes with his evil deeds. How can such be rashly admitted into God's house, who are prohibited from being admitted into our private dwelling? Or how can we hold communion with them without the Church's baptism, to whom, if we should only say Hail, we are partakers of their evil deeds?
Litteus of Gemelli said: If the blind lead the blind, both fall into the ditch, Since, then, it is manifest that heretics cannot give light to any, as being themselves blind, their baptism does not avail.
Natalis of Oëa said: As well I who am present, as Pompey of Sabrata, as also Dioga of Leptis Magna — who, absent indeed in body, but present in spirit, have given me charge — judge the same as our colleagues, that heretics cannot hold communion with us, unless they shall be baptized with ecclesiastical baptism.
Cyprian of Carthage said: The letter which was written to our colleague Jubaianus very fully expresses my opinion, that, according to evangelical and apostolic testimony, heretics, who are called adversaries of Christ and Antichrists, when they come to the Church, must be baptized with the one baptism of the Church, that they may be made of adversaries, friends, and of Antichrists, Christians.
Source. Translated by Robert Ernest Wallis. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0508.htm>.
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