Part 4
Chapter 5—Of Perseverance

Section 9—Cyprian. A.D. 250.

Cyprian must be reckoned among the assertors of the final perseverance of the saints, and of the indefectibility of true believers, as will appear from the following passages[1] in his writings. He makes this observation on Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us etc. Nihil horum potest separare credentes, ‘none of these things can separate believers;' nothing can pull them away that cleave to his body and blood.” And to the same purpose he speaks in another place,[2] “The church, that is, the people fixed in the church faithfully and firmly persevering in that which they have believed, nothing can separate from Christ, quo minus haereat semper et maneat in individua dilectione, that they should not always continue and remain in individual love.” Again he observes,[3] that “the Lord, the protector and defender of his people, will not suffer, triticum de area sua diripi, ‘the wheat to be taken from off his floor,' but the chaff only can be separated from the church.” Agreeable to which he elsewhere says,[4] “He that is not planted in the precepts and admonitions of God the Father, solus poterit de ecclesia ille discedere, he only can depart from the church.” And again,[5] “The church which believes in Christ, and which holds that which it has once known, never departs from him at all; and they are the church who remain in the house of God; but there is a plantation which is not planted by God the Father, whom we see are not made firm and solid with the stability of wheat, but are winnowed like chaff with the breath of the scattering enemy; of whom John in hi, epistle says, They went out from us,” etc. Here presents faith[6] as inexpugnable, and says,[7] that “the strength of believers remains immoveable, and that integrity continues stable and strong with those who fear and love God with their whole heart.” To which may be added the following expressions of his,[8] “The strength of hope, and firmness of faith, are vigorous with us, and we have a mind erect, virtue immoveable, patience ever joyful, and a soul secure of its own God, amidst the ruins of a decaying age; as the Holy Ghost, by the prophet, speaks and exhorts, strengthening with a heavenly voice the firmness of our faith and hope, Although, says he, the fig-tree shall not blossom,” etc. He denies, “that a man of God, and a worshipper of him, leaning on the truth of hope, and founded on the stability of faith, can be moved by the troubles of this world and age.” Once more he says,[9] “To whom remission of sins is given, to them the name of children is ascribed, and to them eternity is promised, according to John 8:34, 35. Now this perseverance of the saints, Cyprian considered as the gift of God's grace, and owing to his almighty power; hence, says he,[10] “This we desire and entreat, that we who are sanctified in baptism, might persevere in that which we have begun to be.” And a little after, “This we request night and day', that sanctification and vivification which proceeds from the grace of God, ipsius protectione servetur, might be preserved by his protection.”

Which passages, with others, are cited by Austin[11] for the same purpose to show the sense of this great and good man, who not only held the doctrine, but had the grace of perseverance unto the end; for when the proconsul put the question to him, “Dost thou then persevere in this mind, that thou wilt not sacrifice?” he answered, Bona voluntas, quae Deum novit mutari non potest, “A good mind which knows God cannot be changed.'” which were some of his last words, as Pontius his deacon relates.[12] Vossius[13] refers to three places in Cyprian, showing that the saints may lose the true grace of God, and finally and totally perish. The two[14] first of them regard one of the same case, that of Solomon's, of whom he says, that “while he walked in the ways of the Lord, he enjoyed the grace of the Lord, but when he left them he lost it.” Where, by the grace of the Lord, I apprehend he means the discoveries of the love and favor of God to him, which he enjoyed whilst he walked in his ways, and lost when he departed from them; since he adds, “and the Lord raised up Satan, or an enemy, to Solomon.” Which may be the case of a true believer, and yet not fall from grace, as in the heart of God, or as implanted in his own heart, much less finally and totally perish; nor does Cyprian suggest any such thing concerning Solomon. Besides, in one of the places where this case is mentioned, he says many things which confirm the doctrine we plead for. Thus speaking of the saints, he observes,[15] that “He (Christ) says, that they are strong and stable, and founded upon a rock of a mighty bulk, and that they are solidly settled with an immoveable and unshaken firmness against all the storms and tempests of the world.”

Again,[16] says he, “Let no man think, bonos de ecclesia posse discedere, ‘that good men can depart from the church.' The wind does not take away the wheat, nor does a storm root up the tree that is founded with a solid root; empty chaff is carried away with a tempest; weak trees are overturned at meeting a whirlwind; these the apostle John curses and strikes at, first epistle, (1 John 2:19).” Once more, “The Lord chose Judas,” says he,[17] “though Judas afterwards betrayed the Lord, non tamen ideireo apostolorum fides et firmitas cecidit, ‘yet the faith and firmness of the apostles did not fall,' because Judas, the betrayer, fell from their society; so here, the holiness and dignity of confessors are not immediately broke to pieces, because the faith of some is broken. The blessed apostle in his epistle speaks, saying, “For what if some of them fell from the faith?” etc. Now, supposing that in the case before us, Cyprian had expressed himself a little incautiously, must this instance prevail against so many testimonies which have been produced to the contrary? In the other place,[18] referred to by Vossius, are these words, “And on the  contrary oftentimes, some of those who are baptized in health, if afterwards they begin to sin, are shaken by the unclean spirit returning; so that it is manifest, that the devil, who is excluded in baptism by the faith of the believer, returns, si fides postmodum defecerit, if faith should afterwards fail.” But then let it be observed, that Cyprian does not assert, only supposes the failing of faith after baptism; and had he asserted it, Vossius[19] himself has taught us how to understand the fathers, when they say that faith may fail, and sometimes really does; by which they mean, not the habit or seed of faith, but the acts which flow from it; and that true faith, as to the acts and exercise of it, may fail, is not denied by us.


[1] Cyprian. Ep.8, ad Clerum, p, 24.

[2] Ibid. Ep. 63, ad Caecilium, p. 149.

[3] Ibid. Epist. 69, ad Florentium, p. 172.

[4] Cyprian. Ep. 49, ad Cornelium, p. 91.

[5] Ibid. Epist. 55, ad eundem, p. 116; vida etiam ep. 69, ad Florentium, p. 172.

[6] Ibid. Epist. 9, ad Martyres, p. 26.

[7] Ibid..Epist. 52, ad Antonianum, p. 94.

[8] Ibid. ad Demetrianum, 282, 283.

[9] Ibid. de Oratione Dominica, p. 266.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Aug. de Corrupt. et Gratia, c. 6, de Bono Perseverantia, 1. 2, c. 2 and 21.

[12] In Vita Cypriani.

[13] Hist. Pelag. 1. 6, thes. 12, p. 567.

[14] Ep. 7, ad Rogatianam, p. 20 D; et de Unitate Ecclesiae, p. 259.

[15] De Unitate Ecclesiae, p. 235.

[16] Ibid. p. 256.

[17] Ibid. 259.

[18] Ep. 76, ad Magnum, p. 213.

[19] Hist. Pelag 1. 6, thes.13, p. 575.