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TREATISE I.

ON THE GRACE OF GOD.

ADDRESSED TO DONATUS.

[S. Cyprian addressed the following composition to his intimate friend

Donatus shortly after his baptism, that is, about A.D. 246. S. Augustine thus remarks concerning it; (De Doctr. Christ. iv. 14.) “No pleasure is imparted by that sweetness of style, which, though keeping clear of what is exceptionable, dresses

up its small and fugitive excellences in a frothiness of language, which could not be applied with propriety or judgment even to what is great and standard. An instance of this occurs in an Epistle of S. Cyprian, which, whether the author intended it or not, shews posterity, as I think, how his style was pruned of its redundance by the soundness of Christian doctrine, and subdued into a more grave and sober eloquence; such as in his later Epistles delights without drawback, is imitated without reserve, and is equalled only with great difficulty.” After quoting a passage from the opening of this work, he proeeeds : “ Such writing is wonderful, and argues an overflowing exuberance of eloquence, yet it displeases a correct taste by its excess. Those however who like it, consider forsooth a person who avoids it, and speaks more soberly, to be unable to use it, not to avoid it from judgment. Accordingly that holy man shews both that he can so speak, for he has in one place done so, and to be averse to it, since he has never afterwards.”]

1. You rightly remind me, most dear Donatus: I remember my promise, and this is of a truth fit season for performing it, when the vintage gives holiday“, and the mind, abandoning itself to repose, enjoys the recurring and appointed resting-time of the wearied year. The place too suits the day; and the

· The Church, while abolishing hea- vid. Cod. Theod. II. Tit. 8. and Fell's then feasts, retained that of the vintage, note in loc. as really belonging to natural religion.

B

2

Grace does the work of habit and experience.

1.

Treat. fair face of the gardens joins with the mild airs of gentle

autumn, in soothing and cheering the senses. It is pleasant here to lead on the day in talk, and to form the heart toward a knowledge of the revealed will, by edifying narratives. And that no profane intruder may induce restraint on our converse, or the ill-ruled tongues of a loud family out-talk it, pass we unto this seat. 'Tis a secret spot made for retirement, and the vines, whose gadding and vagrant shoots form festoons among the canes which support them, have framed for us a portico of tendrills with a roof of leaves. Fitly here shall we tell the tales of wisdom; and while we refresh the eye with a delightful gaze upon the trees and vines, the mind will be gathering at once instruction from what is said, and refreshment from what is seen; though you indeed have neither pleasure nor purpose now in any thing but conversation. Despising the enchantments of this delicious scene, your eye rests upon me; in look, in thought, you have given your whole self to listen, and with that love for me, which you feel. Yet what in sum or substance can be any thoughts, imparted by me to you? The poor worth of my narrow wit puts out but a sorry harvest, no weighty generous stalks give wealth to the herbage; still, with what power I can, I will make the endeavour. I have indeed a support in my subject. In courts of justice, in political speaking, a fertile genius may toss its fluent efforts aloft; but when we speak concerning the Lord our God, the pure sincerity of our words rests for convincing, not on powers of eloquence, but on things. Accept then what, without talent, is still substantial; no tinselled art of words to catch the common ear, but simple things, in their rude truth, which go to preach God's mercy. Accept what is felt, before it is learnt; not gathered by a slow discovery through the train of years, but brought into me in one short act of an undelaying grace.

2. For me, while I yet lay in darkness and bewildering night, and was tossed to and fro on the billows of this troublesome world, ignorant of my true life, an outcast from light and truth, I used to think that second birth, which Divine Mercy promised for my salvation, a hard saying according to the life I then led: as if a man could be so quickened to a new life in the Laver of healing water, as to Baptismal grace does what is impossible to nature. 3 put off his natural self; and keep his former tabernacle, yet be changed in heart and soul! How is it possible, said I, for so great a conversion to be accomplished, so that both the obstinate defilement of our natural substance, and old and ingrained habits, should suddenly and rapidly be put off; evils, whose roots are deeply seated within? When does he learn frugality, to whom fine feasts and rich banquets have become a habit? or he who in gay sumptuous robes glisters with gold and purple, when does he reduce himself to ordinary and simple raiment? Another, whose bent is among public distinctions and honours, cannot bear to become a private and unnoticed man; while one who is thronged by a phalanx of dependents, and retinued by the overflowing attendance of an obsequious host, thinks it punishment to be alone. The temptation still unrelaxed, need is it that, as before, wine should entice, pride inflate, anger inflame, covetousness disquiet, cruelty stimulate, ambition delight, and lust lead headlong.

3. Such were my frequent musings; for whereas I was encumbered with the many sins of my past life, which it seemed impossible to be rid of, so I had used myself to give way to my clinging infirmities, and, from despair of better things, to humour the evils of my heart, as slaves born in my house, and my proper offspring. But after that life-giving Water succoured me, washing away the stain of former years, and pouring into my cleansed and hallowed breast the light which comes from heaven, after that I drank in the Heavenly Spirit, and was created into a new man by a second birth,then marvellously what before was doubtful became plain to me,--what was hidden was revealed,—what was dark began to shine,—what was before difficult now had a way and means,—what had seemed impossible now could be achieved,—what was in me of the guilty flesh now confessed that it was earthy,--what was quickened in me by the Holy Ghost now had a growth according to God. Thou knowest well, thou canst recollect as well as I, what was then taken from me, and what was given by that death of sin, that quickening power of holiness. Thou knowest, I name it not, over my own praises it were unwelcome to boast; though that is ground, never for boasting but for gratitude, which is not ascribed to man's virtue, but is confessed to be God's

1.

4 The gift in Baptism perfect, and all-sufficient for after needs. Treat. bounty; so that to sin no more has come of faith, as hereto

fore to sin had come of human error. From God, I say, from God is all we can be; from Him we live, from Him we grow, and by that strength which is from Him accepted and ingathered, we learn beforehand, even in this present state, the foretokens of what is yet to be. Let only fear be a guard upon innocency, that that Lord, who by the influence of His heavenly mercy has graciously shone into our hearts, may be detained by righteous obedience in the hostelry of a mind that pleases Him; that the security imparted to us may not beget slothfulness, nor the former enemy steal upon us anew.

4. But if you would keep the path of innocency and of righteousness, and walk with a firm unfailing step, hanging upon God in all your strength and with all your heart, you have but to be that, which this beginning has made you; your power to do will be according to the increase of spiritual grace. For there is no measure or rule, as is the way of earthly gifts, in dispensing of the gift from heaven; the spirit is poured forth liberally, not confined by limits, not hindered in its course by the restraint of barriers or by definitely measured goal. It flows on without stop, it flows over without stint. We have only to present to it a thirsting and opened breast; what measure we bring thither of faith to hold, so much do we drink in of grace to inundate. Hereby is the strength given, with sober chastity, uncorrupt mind, pure voice, and virtue undefiled, to cure the sick by staunching the poisonous work within them, to cleanse the defilement of unwise souls by restoring to them health, to bid enemies be at peace, to give gentleness to the violent, and calmness to the excited; to force to confession by sharp threatening the unclean and wandering spirits, who have of violence effected lodgment in men, till they fly, to inflict on them severe stripes, while they struggle, shriek, and groan, to stretch them out in pains increasing and renewed, to smite them with rods, and scorch with fire". A work is wrought there, but is not seen; the blow is secret, but the punishment is manifest. Thus in so far as we are what we have begun to be, the Spirit which we have received enjoys its state of freedom;

b Vid. notes on Treatise ii. §. 3. 4.

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