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with their crowns of victory. To this delightful society, and to Christ who is at the head of it, let us hasten, my brethren, upon the wings of desire, and of a holy love, and let God and Christ observe, that this is the main bent of our wishes, and the sum of our most ardent hopes.
THE LETTER TO THE GOVERNOR
The Pestilence which had raged in Africa was succeeded by Famine: and as Demetrian often urged that these judgments were owing to the contempt which the Christians had shewn for the gods, Cyprian, in a powerful reply, both defended the Christians from the injurious imputations of their persecutors, and also pointed out the causes of all national afflictions.
1. As you have often visited me, Demetrian, rather with the design of disputing and contradicting every thing, than of learning any thing; and as you always chose to obtrude upon me boldly your own sense, rather than to hear mine with patience and attention, I judged it impertinent and insignificant to maintain a dispute with you; since I could as easily silence the noise of the roaring sea, as put a stop to any clamour by reason or discourse. Upon these considerations, I have often held my peace, and have only opposed my patience to your fury; as knowing well it would be in vain to attempt instructing the unteachable, restraining impiety by any persuasives of religion, or controlling your mad excursions by mild and gentle treatment. But since you suggest a general complaint against us, and charge upon us the wars, the distempers, and the famine, wherewith the world is at present distressed; it is no longer fit to be silent under such imputations; lest our backwardness in defending our cause should be construed into a distrust of its goodness; and our contempt of false accusations should pass among some for a confession of their truth. Wherefore I answer, Demetrian, to you, and to the rest, whom you perhaps, by your injurious insinuations, have joined to your party, and made our enemies.
2. You place to our account those misfortunes and distresses under which the world at present labours; because, forsooth, we will not worship your gods. But, as to what may be objected, from the frequency and long continuance of wars amongst us; from the melancholy views which scarcity and famine give us; from the waste of our health and spirits, by the increase of various distempers; and more particularly from that consuming illness which makes at present such a dreadful havock; to all these objections take this one answer; that they have, each of them, been foretold; and that we therefore expect, in the latter days, all sorts of evil to befal us; as well as that the wrath of God should more and more be kindled against mankind, and discover itself in various kinds and forms of punishment. These are mischiefs which do not befal the world, as you with great ignorance and falsehood complain they do, because your gods are not worshipped by us; but because, indeed, the true and only God is
not worshipped by you. For since he is really the Lord and governor of the universe, and every thing in it proceeds by his appointment and direction, and nothing can come to pass without his agency, or at least his permission; whatsoever tokens appear of his anger, can never be occasioned by us who worship him; but should rather be considered as the punishment of your wickedness, who neither seek after, nor fear him, nor can by any means be prevailed with to leave your idolatrous and superstitious worship, and come in to the acknowledgment of the one true God, who is so justly entitled to all our adorations. Hear him therefore speaking with his own mouth, admonishing and instructing you to this purpose, and saying, "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name." And again: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." And again: "Go not after other gods to serve them, and to worship them, and provoke me not to anger with the works of your hands." And hear one of his prophets, being full of the Holy Ghost, denounce his wrath in the following terms: "Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands." Another prophet hath repeated these menaces, and said, "And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord." Here you may observe yourselves threatened with the wrath of God, for not returning to him; and yet, whilst you thus continue in your obstinate neglect of his authority, you pretend to complain and wonder at his judgments.
3. You have the confidence to complain, that fountains of water do not flow at this time to your mind and liking, nor the rain descend as you would have it; that the air is not quite so wholesome, the earth not altogether so fruitful; that the elements are not so perfectly obsequious to your advantage and pleasure as you would desire of them severally to be: meanwhile you forget putting the question to your own heart, whether you serve, as you ought, that God by whom, and through whom,