Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume V/Cyprian/The Treatises of Cyprian/Exhortation to Martyrdom/Part 11

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10. That injuries and penalties of persecutions are not to be feared by us, because greater is the Lord to protect than the devil to assault.

John, in his epistle, proves this, saying:  “Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world.”[1] Also in the cxviith Psalm: “I will not fear what man can do unto me; the Lord is my helper.”[2] And again: “These in chariots, and those in horses; but we will glory in the name of the Lord our God. They themselves are bound,[3] and they have fallen; but we have risen up, and stand upright.”[4] And even more strongly the Holy Spirit, teaching and showing that the army of the devil is not to be feared, and that, if the foe should declare war against us, our hope consists rather in that war itself; and that by that conflict the righteous attain to the reward of the divine abode and eternal salvation,—lays down in the twenty-sixth Psalm, and says:  “Though an host should be arrayed against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise up against me, in that will I put my hope. One hope have I sought of the Lord, this will I require; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”[5] Also in Exodus, the Holy Scripture declares that we are rather multiplied and increased by afflictions, saying: “And the more they afflicted them, so much the more they became greater, and waxed stronger.”[6] And in the Apocalypse, divine protection is promised to our sufferings. “Fear nothing of these things,” it says, “which thou shalt suffer.”[7] Nor does any one else promise to us security and protection, than He who also speaks by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Fear not; for I have redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name: thou art mine. And if thou passest through the water, I am with thee, and the rivers shall not overflow thee. And if thou passest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, and[8] the flame shall not burn thee; for I, the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, am He who maketh thee safe.”[9] Who also promises in the Gospel that divine help shall not be wanting to God’s servants in persecutions, saying: “But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak. For it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaketh in you.”[10] And again: “Settle it in your hearts not to meditate before how to answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which your adversaries shall not be able to resist.”[11] As in Exodus God speaks to Moses when he delayed and trembled to go to the people, saying:  “Who hath given a mouth to man? and who hath made the stammerer? and who the deaf man? and who the seeing, and the blind man? Have not I, the Lord God? And now go, and I will open thy mouth, and will instruct thee what thou shalt say.”[12] Nor is it difficult for God to open the mouth of a man devoted to Himself, and to inspire constancy and confidence in speech to His confessor; since in the book of Numbers He made even a she-ass to speak against the prophet Balaam.[13]  Wherefore in persecutions let no one think what danger the devil is bringing in, but let him indeed consider what help God affords; nor let human mischief overpower the mind, but let divine protection strengthen the faith; since every one, according to the Lord’s promises and the deservings of his faith, receives so much from God’s help as he thinks that he receives. Nor is there anything which the Almighty is not able to grant, unless the failing faith of the receiver be deficient and give way.


Footnotes[edit]

  1. 1 John iv. 4.
  2. Ps. cxviii. 6. [The text adopts the old Latin numbering.]
  3. The Oxford editor reads, “Their feet are bound.”
  4. Ps. xx. 7, 8.
  5. Ps. xxvii. 3, 4. [The text is numbered by the old Latin.]
  6. Ex. i. 12.
  7. Rev. ii. 10.
  8. The common reading is, “through the fire, the flame,” etc.
  9. Isa. xliii. 1–3.
  10. Matt. x. 19, 20.
  11. Luke xxi. 14, 15.
  12. Ex. vi. 11, 12.
  13. [Confirmed in the New Testament, as if on purpose to silence unbelief (2 Pet. ii. 16). Cyprian is one of the few divines who note the light thrown on Balaam’s inspiration by the fact that even a dumb beast might be made to speak words, not of his own will.]