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which was endangered about A.D. 198 by the attempt of Victor, bishop of Rome, to oblige the Asiatic Churches to forsake their rule concerning Easter; and having assembled a synod? of clergy in France, he wrote to Victor exhorting him not to separate the brethren of Asia from his communion for such a cause as mere attachment to their own customs. “ This dispute,” he says, 6 relates not only to the day of Easter, but to the manner of fasting also. For some believe that they ought not to fast above one day (before Easter), others two, others more; some reckon for their fast forty hours, day and night included. And this difference of observances has not begun in our times; it has existed long under our predecessors, who seem not to have transmitted to posterity customs introduced by simplicity or ignorance. Nevertheless they have all preserved peace, and we continue to keep it amongst us; so that the difference of fasting confirms the unity of faith.” St. Irenæus was diligent in spreading the gospel in France; and at length his great services to the Church were crowned by martyrdom.
CLEMENT, a most learned presbyter of the Church of Alexandria, flourished about A.D. 194. He was a disciple of Patænus, a man of eminent piety and learning, who presided over the Christian school at Alexandria, and preached to the heathens in India. Clement became the successor of Patænus, and composed many works in defence of Christianity, and on the duties of believers, which shew the vast extent of his knowledge, and the sincerity of his devotion. Clement pointed out to believers the duty of moderation in all things, especially in the indulgence of the appetites. He wished them to eat only what was necessary for health, to sleep but sparingly,
to abstain from gay and expensive clothing, to be bountiful to the poor. He forbad all luxury, expensive furniture, perfumes, attendance on public exhibitions and theatres. His object was to model Christians after the likeness of Christ, dead to this world, and devoted only to the duties, the hopes, and the pleasures of spiritual religion.
TERTULLIAN, a presbyter of the Church at Carthage in Africa, was contemporary with Clement of Alexandria, and had been originally a pagan, but after his baptism he devoted himself to the service of the Church, and wrote many useful books on the duties of Christians, and in defence of the truth against pagans and heretics. He addressed a book to his wife, in which he pointed out the duty of Christians not to contract marriages with unbelievers. But it is lamentable to add, that after many and great services to the cause of religion, he was at length deceived by the imposture of Montanus, who had professed himself to be “the Comforter” promised by our Lord to his disciples. Tertullian now fell away from the Church, and died in separation from its communion.
Amongst the most remarkable men in the Church after this time was ORIGEN, who having succeeded Clement in the government of the school of Alexandria, made himself renowned in the Christian Church by his commentaries on Scripture, and his versions and editions of the sacred volume. He also defended the Christian faith against the objections of the heathen Celsus, and converted many unbelievers to Christianity. Narcissus and GREGORY, bishops of Jerusalem and Cæsarea, are said to have had the gift of miracles; and Origen says that many miracles continued to be wrought in his time for the conversion of the heathen.
St. CYPRIAN, bishop of Carthage, was a native of
Africa ; and having applied himself to the study of philosophy and eloquence, he became eminently distinguished among his contemporaries. He was still a pagan, and the self-denial and purity exacted by the law of Christ appeared to him difficult, if not impossible. “It appeared to me extremely hard," he said, “ to be born again to a new life, and to become another man, still keeping the same body. How can one at once get rid of rooted and hardened habits, which arise either from nature itself, or from long custom ? How can one learn frugality, when accustomed to an abundant and delicate table? How shall he who has been clothed in rich garments, shining with gold and purple, humble himself to a simple and plain attire ? When one is accustomed to dignities, honours, and a crowd of friends and clients, it is impossible to resolve on living in privacy; one regards solitude as a punishment. I often held converse thus with myself; but when the life-giving water (baptism) had washed away the sins of my past life, and my cleansed heart had received light from on high and the heavenly Spirit, I was amazed how my doubts vanished away; all was open; all was clear; and I found easy what had appeared to me impossible; so as to acknowledge, that whatsoever is born according to the flesh, and lives in crime, is of the earth; and that whatsoever is enlivened by the Holy Spirit, cometh from God.” The conversion of St. Cyprian to the Christian religion, was a subject of great annoyance to the pagans, and his exhaustless zeal soon drew down on him a storm of persecution, which terminated in his martyrdom. His first act was to sell all his goods and distribute them among
poor; thus at once manifesting his little value for the things of this world, and shewing that mercy which God preferred even before sacrifice. He was presently made a presbyter of the Church of
Carthage, and soon after, on the death of Donatus in 248, he was elected bishop. His great desire was now to exhort the brethren to holiness of life; and he availed himself of all the examples of piety in the Holy Scriptures, to urge on his people the imitation of such virtues. He would point out to them the example of Job, “ who cared so little for his temporal possessions, and made such advances in piety, that even his calamities made no change in it: neither want nor pain overcame him; the persuasions of his wife, the bitter pains of his body, did not subdue him. Virtue and deeply-rooted devotion remained fixed in their seat, nor yielded to the violence of the devil's temptations, so that even in his adversity he blessed his God.” Such were the examples which the holy Cyprian in those days of persecution and affliction held out to the brethren. He had a particular friendship with Cæcilius, an aged presbyter and a just man, who had brought him from the errors of faise religion to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Cyprian always honoured, venerated, and loved this presbyter, not merely as an ordinary friend, but as a parent, from whom he had derived new life; and when the time was near in which Cæcilius was to be called away from this world, he commended to Cyprian the care of his wife and children; and thus made him the heir of his affection, whom he had formerly made partaker of the communion of his Church.
Cyprian had been exceedingly reluctant to undertake the sacred and responsible office of a bishop, considering himself unworthy of so great an honour, but was overcome at last by the entreaties of the people. Some persons had opposed his election; but he dealt with them with such gentleness, patience, and benevolence, that, to the surprise of many, they became some of the most attached and closest of his friends. “Who,” says his affectionate
deacon, Pontius, “ who can sufficiently describe his conduct — what piety, what vigour, what mercy, what discipline! So much sanctity and grace was resplendent in his countenance, that they who beheld him were amazed. His look was at once serious and joyful, neither severely sad, nor overmuch mild and gentle, but a mingling together of both ; so that one might have doubted whether he were more to be loved or feared, had he not deserved to be both one and the other. His dress was not unsuitable to his countenance, moderate and temperate. No worldly pride inflated him: nor did
affected penury in dress render his appearance mean; for this sort of clothing, no less than an ostentatious and ambitious frugality, arises from vain-glory.” St. Cyprian devoted himself especially to the care of
While Cyprian was thus engaged, the persecution under the Emperor Decius commenced with great severity in Africa, as well as in all other parts of the Roman empire. The heathen populace at Carthage cried out in the theatre, demanding that Cyprian should be thrown to the lions. essential for his safety to retire into the country, which he did for a time. During his absence, a discontented presbyter, named Novatus, formed a party in the Church of Carthage, and after a time separated from its communion. A similar calamity occurred to the Roman Church after Cyprian had returned to Carthage;— for, when Cornelius had been lawfully constituted bishop of Rome, Novatian caused himself to be ordained as a rival bishop, and established a distinct sect. Cyprian, full of charity and zeal, wrote a treatise on the Unity of the Church, in which he exposed the wickedness of those who separated from the communion of the bishop, and caused division in the Church where nothing but