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sins, crying and clamorous, into which if a Christian did fall after baptism, the church hath nothing to do with him, she could not absolve him,
14. This opinion of theirs, was a branch of the elder heresy of Montanus, which had abused Tertullian, who fiercely declaims against the decree of Pope Zephyrinus ", because, against the custom of his decessors, he admitted adulterers to repentance, while at the same time he refused idolaters and murderers. And this their severity did not seem to be put upon the account of a present necessity, or their own zeal, or for the avoiding scandal, or their love of holiness; but upon the nature of the thing itself, and the sentences of Scripture. An old man, of whom Irenæus? makes mention, said ; "Non debemus superbi esse, neque reprehendere veteres, ne fortè, post agnitionem Dei, agentes aliquid quod non placet Deo, remissionem non habeamus ultra delictorum, et excludamur à regno ejus :” “We must not be proud and reprove our fathers, lest, after the knowledge of God, we, doing something that does not please God, we may no more have remis-, sion of our sins, but be excluded from his kingdom.” To the same purpose is that canon made by the Gallic bishops against the false accusers of their brethren ; ut ad exitum ne communicent: 'that they should not be admitted to the communion or peace of the church, no, not at their deathAnd Pacianus, bishop of Barcinona, gives a severe account of the doctrine of the Spanish churches even in his time, and of their refusing to admit idolaters, murderers, and adulterers to repentance. “Other sins may be cured by the exercise of good works; but these three kill like the breath of a basilisk, and are to be feared like a deadly arrow. They that were guilty of such crimes, did despair. What have I done to you? Was it not in your power to have let it alone : Did no man admonish
you ? Did none foretell the event? Was the church silent? Did the Gospels say nothing ? Did the apostles threaten nothing ? Did the priest entreat nothing of you? Why do you seek for late comforts? Then you might have sought for them, when they were to be had. But they that pronounce such men happy, do but abuse you a."
15. This opinion, and the consequent practice, had its fate in several places to live longer or die sooner. And in
y De Pudic. c. 5. 9.
2 Lib. 4. c. 45.
a Paræn. ad Pænit.
Africa the decree of Zephyrinus, for the admission of penitent adulterers, was not admitted even by the orthodox and catholics; but they dissented placidly and modestly, and governed their own churches by the old severity. For there was then no thought of any necessity that other churches should obey the sanctions of the Pope, or the decrees of Rome, but they retained the old discipline. But yet the piety and the reasonableness of the decree of Zephyrinus prevailed by little and little, and adulterers were admitted; but the severity stuck longer upon idolaters or apostates : for they were not to be admitted to the peace of the church, although they should afterward suffer martyrdom for the name of Christ : and for this they pretended the words of St. Paul; “Non possunt admitti, secundum Apostolum,” as St. Cyprian expressly affirms d; and the same is the sentence of the first canon of the council of Eliberis.
16. When they began to remit of this rigour, which they did in or about St. Cyprian's time, they did admit these great criminals to repentance : once, but no more; as appears in Tertullian, the council of Eliberis, the synod at Syde in Pamphylia against the Messalians , St. Ambrose ", St. Austin, and Macedonius i; which makes it suspicious that the words of Origen are interpolated, saying, " In gravioribus criminibus, semel tantùm vel rard, poenitentiæ conceditur locus." But once or but seldom; so the words are now; but the practice of that age was not so remiss, for they gave once and no more : as appears in the foregoing authors, and in the eleventh canon of the third council of Toledo. For as St. Clemens of Alexandria affirms;“ Apparet, sed non est, pænitentia, sæpe petere de iis, quæ sæpe peccantur :" " It is but a seeming repentance, that falls often after a frequent return k.”
17. But this gentleness (for it was the greatest they then had) they ministered to such only as desired it in their health, and in the days in which they could live the lives of penitents, and make amends for their folly. For if men had lived wickedly, and on their death-beds desired to be admitted to repentance and pardon, they refused them utterly; as appears b St. Cyprian. ep. 52.
& Lib. 2. de Pænit. c. 10. Ep. 54.
Ep. 53. Hom. 15. in 25. cap. Levit. * Stromat. lib. 2.
d Ubi supra.
e De Pepit.
c Heb. vi. 4-6.
in that excellent epistle of St. Cyprian to Antonianus : “ Prde hibendos omnino censuimus à spe communionis et pacis, si in infirmitate atque periculo cæperint deprecari ;” “At no hand are those to be admitted to church-communion, who repent only in their danger and weakness," because" not repentance of their fault, but the hasty warning of instant or approaching death compelled them: neither is he worthy in death to receive the comfort, who did not think he was to die.” And consequently to this severity, in his sermonde Lapsis,' he advises that “ every man should confess his sin, while his confession can be admitted, while his satisfaction may be acceptable, and his pardon ratified by God.”The same was decreed by the fathers in the synod of Arles".
18. This was severe, if we judge of it by the manners and propositions of the present age. But iniquity did so abound, and was so far from being cured by this severe discipline, that it made this discipline to be intolerable and useless. And therefore even from this also they did quickly retire. For in the time of Innocentius and St. Austin, they began not only to impose penances on dying penitents, but even after a wicked life to reconcile them. They then first began to do it: but as it usually happens in first attempts, and insolent actions, they were fearful, and knew not the event, and would warrant nothing. “ To hinder them that are in peril of death, from the use of the last remedy, is hard and impious; but to promise any thing in so late a cure is temerarious :" so Salvian :-and St. Chrysostom to Theodorus would not have such persons despaired, so neither nourished up by hope: only it is better, ' nihil inexpertum relinquere quàm morientem nolle curare,"“ to try every way, rather than that the dying penitent should fail for want of help.” But Isidore said plainly, “ He who living wickedly, repents in the time of his death, as his damnation is uncertain, so his pardon is doubtful.”
19. This was the most dangerous indulgence, and easiness of doctrine, that had as yet entered into the church; but now it was tumbling, and therefore could not stop here, but presently, down went all severity. All sinners, and at all times, and as often as they would, might be admitted to repentance and pardon, whether they could or could not perEpist. 52.
n Innocent. epist. ad Esaper.
m Arelat. 1. c. 23.
form the stations and injunctions of the penitents; and this took off the edge of public and ecclesiastical repentance; and to this succeeded private repentance, where none but God and the priest were witnesses; and because this was a recession from the old discipline, and of itself an abuse, or but the relics of discipline at the best, and therefore not ne. cessary because it was but an imperfect supply of something that was better,—this also is in some places, laid aside; in others, too much abused. But of that in its place.
20. But now that I may give an account concerning the first severity: concerning their not admitting those three sorts of criminals to repentance, but denying it to none else, I consider, 1. That there is no place of Scripture, that was pretended to exclude those three capital sins from hopes of pardon. For one of them there was, of which I shall give account in the following periods: but for murder and adultery there were very many authorities of Scripture to prove them pardonable, but none to prove them unpardonable. 2. What can be pretended why idolatry, murder, and adultery, should be less pardonable, if repented of, than incest, treason, heresy, sodomy, or sacrilege? These were not denied ; and yet some of them are greater criminals than some that were : but the value is set upon crimes as men please. 3. That, even in these three cases, the church did allow repentance in the very beginning, appears beyond exception in Irenæus P, who writes concerning the women seduced by the heretic Mark, and so guilty of both adulteries, carnal and spiritual, that they were admitted to repentance. 4. St. Clemens of Alexandria affirms indefinitely, concerning all persons lapsed after baptism, that they may be restored and pardoned. Ιστέον μέν τοι τους μετά το λουτρόν τοίς αμαρτήμασι περιπίπτοντας, τούτους είναι τους παιδευομένους τα μεν γάρ προενεργηθέντα αφείθη, τα δε επιγινόμενα εκκαθαίρεται. « They that fall into sins after baptism, must be chastened : for those things which were committed before baptism, áre pardoned, but they which are committed afterward, are to be purged q.” For it is certain, that God did not shut up the fountain, which he opened in baptism: then he smote the
o Sect. 4.
P. Lib. 1. c. 9. Hæ sæpissime, conversæ ad ecclesiam Dei, confessæ sunt, et secundum corpus exterminatas se ab eo, velut cupidine, &c.
4 Strom. 4.
rock, and the stream flowed out, and it became a river, and ran in dry places. 5. It is more than probable, that, in Egypt, it was very ordinary to admit lapsed persons, and even idolaters, to repentance, because of the strange levity of the nation,—and that even the bishops did, at the coming of Adrianus the emperor, devote themselves to Serapis. “Illi qui Serapim colunt, Christiani sunt: et devoti sunt Serapi, qui se Christi episcopos dicunt:" so the Emperor testifies in his letters to Servianus". For it is not to be supposed that it was part of their persuasion that they might lawfully do it, or that it was solemn and usual so to do; but that, to avoid persecution, they did choose rather to seem inconstant and changeable than to be killed,—especially in that nation, which was
tota levis et pendula, et ad omnia famæ momenta volans' (as these letters say), 'light and inconstant, tossed about with every noise of fame and variety. These bishops, after the departure of Cæsar, without peradventure, did, many of them, return to their charges, and they and their priests pardoned each other; just as the · Libellatici' and the * Thurificati' did, in Carthage and all Africa, as St. Cyprian relates. 6. In Ephrem Syrus there is a form of confession and of prayer for the pardon of foul sins : Σπλαγχνίσθητι επί ταϊς αμαρτίαις μου, ταϊς αδικίαις, ταϊς πλεονεξίαις, ταϊς καταλαλίαις, Taís aio xpodoyíais: “Have mercy on my sins, my injustices, my covetousness (which some render unnatural lusts), my adulteries and fornications, my idle and filthy speakings.” -If these after baptism are pardonable, 'Quid non speremus?' the former severity must be understood not to be their doctrine but their discipline.
21. And the same is to be said concerning their giving repentance but to those, whom they did admit after baptism; --we find it expressly affirmed by the next ages, that the purpose of their fathers was only for discipline and caution. So St. Austin : “ The church did cautiously and healthfully provide, that penitents should but once be admitted, lest a frequent remedy should become contemptible; yet who dares say, Why do ye again spare this man, who, after his first repentance, is again entangled in the snares of sins?".
22. So that whereas some of them use to say of certain sins, that after baptism, or after the first relapse, they are r Apud Spartian.
s Epist. 54.