Part 4
Chapter 3—Of Original Sin

Section 10—Cyprian. A.D. 250.

Cyprian was a strenuous assertor of original sin, as Austin[1] has proved by a considerable number of testimonies cited from him; he, and not only, but the rest of his colleagues, who were present at the African synod, to the number of sixty-six bishops, affirm, “that a new-born infant has not sinned at all, unless that after Adam, being born in a carnal manner, it has contracted by its first birth the contagion of the ancient death; upon which account it is more easily admitted to receive the remission of sins, because not his own, sed aliena peccata, ‘but another's sins,' are remitted to it.” Yea, he asserted[2] that Adam by sinning lost the image and likeness of God, and consequently the moral liberty of the will, which was one part of that image, must be lost, and is what we contend for. The weakness and disability of man is frequently inculcated by him, and that all our strength and power to do that which is good comes from God, who should be applied to for it “Whatsoever,” says he[3] “is grateful, non wrtuti hominis ascribitur, sed de Dei munere praedicatur, ‘ is to be ascribed not to man's power, but to God's gift.' Dei est, inquam, Dei est omne quod possumus, ‘it is God's, I say, all is God's that we can do;' hence we live, hence we excel, etc.” Yea, he says,[4] “that in nothing must we glory, quando nostrum nihil sit, since nothing is ours.” For the proof of which he mentions (John 3:27; 1 Cor. 4:7), and “that no man ought to be lifted up with his own works;” which he proves[5] from Luke 17:7-10. And upon those words in the Lord's prayer, Lead us not into temptation, he makes this remark,[6] “When we pray that we may not come into temptation, admonemur infirmitatis el imbecillitalis nostrae, ‘we are put in mind of our infirmity and weakness, whilst we so pray;” lest any one should insolently lift up himself, lest any one should proudly and arrogantly assume to himself, lest any one should reckon the glory either of confession or suffering his own; when the Lord himself, teaching humility, said, Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak. Thus while an humble and low confession goes before, and the whole is ascribed to God, whatsoever is asked in a supplicating manner, with the fear and honor of God, ipsius pietate praestetur, “through his tenderness may be given.” And, says he, in another place,[7] or his contemporary Cornelius, “We not only produce words which come from the holy fountains of the Scriptures, but with these words we join our prayers and vows to the Lord, that he would open both to us and you the treasure of his mysteries, et vires ad implenda qua cognoscimus tribuat, and that he would give strength to fulfill what we know,” Who also in the same treatise observes,[8] “that among these things he had been speaking of, yea, and before them, de divinis castris auxilium petendum est, ‘help is to be asked of God,' for God only is powerful, who vouchsafes to make men, et plena hominibus auxilia praestare, and to give sufficient helps to men.” Cyprian does indeed in one place say,[9] “that the liberty of believing, or not believing, is placed in man's free will.” Which is very true of the natural liberty of the will, which always continues, whether a man believes or does not believe, since no man believes against his will, or disbelieves contrary to it; but is not true of the moral liberty and power of the will, for no man by the strength of nature, without the grace of God, has a power to believe to the saving of the soul. Nor could this be Cyprian's meaning, who in the very same tract says, that “nothing is ours.”' Besides this passage, Doctor Whitby[10] has cited another, from this writer,[11] in favor of man's free will, in which he observes, that Christ said to his disciple, “Will you go away? Preserving the law, by which man being left to his liberty, and put in the power of his own will, desires for himself either death or salvation.” But this is not to be understood, as though Cyprian thought that the real disciples of Christ were in such a situation, and so left to the freedom of their wills, that they might totally and finally depart from Christ, for his next words are, “Notwithstanding Peter, upon whom the church was built by the same Lord, speaking, one for all, and answering in the church's voice, said, Lord, whither should we go, thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and know that thou art the Son of the living God; signifying and showing, that those who depart from Christ perish, through their own fault, but the church which believes in Christ, and which holds that which it hath once known, never at all departs from him, and they are the church who abide in the house of God.”


[1] Contr. Duss Ep. Pelag. 1. 4, c. 8.

[2] Cyprian de Bouo Patientiae, p. 314.

[3] Ep. 2, ad Donat. p. 6.

[4] Test. ad Quirin. 1. 3, c. 4, p. 373.

[5] Ibid. c. 51, p. 382.

[6] De Orat. Dominica, p. 270.

[7] De Bono Pudicitiae. p. 417.

[8] Ibid. p. 421.

[9] Test. ad Quirin. 1. 3, c. 52, p. 82.

[10] Postscript, p.561; ed. 2, 538.

[11] Ep. 55, ad Cornel. p. 116.