St. Cyprian (210-258) vs. “Faith Alone” (Sola Fide)

St. Cyprian (210-258) vs. “Faith Alone” (Sola Fide) April 8, 2024

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. . . we do not keep the way of the Lord, nor observe the heavenly commandments given to us for our salvation. (Epistle 7, 1)

For this it is which especially pleases God; it is this wherein our works with greater deserts are successful in earning God’s good-will; this it is which alone the obedience of our faith and devotion can render to the Lord for His great and saving benefits, . . . (Epistle 76:4)

Confession is the beginning of glory, not the full desert of the crown; nor does it perfect our praise, but it initiates our dignity; and since it is written, He that endures to the end, the same shall be saved, [Matthew 10:22] whatever has been before the end is a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation, not a terminus wherein the full result of the ascent is already gained. He is a confessor; but after confession his peril is greater, because the adversary is more provoked. (Treatise 1: On the Unity of the Church, 21)

Let our light shine in good works, and glow in such wise as to lead us from the night of this world to the daylight of eternal brightness. Let us always with solicitude and caution wait for the sudden coming of the Lord, that when He shall knock, our faith may be on the watch, and receive from the Lord the reward of our vigilance. If these commands be observed, if these warnings and precepts be kept, we cannot be overtaken in slumber by the deceit of the devil; but we shall reign with Christ in His kingdom as servants that watch. (Treatise 1: On the Unity of the Church, 27)

We believe, indeed, that the merits of martyrs and the works of the righteous are of great avail with the Judge; but that will be when the day of judgment shall come; when, after the conclusion of this life and the world, His people shall stand before the tribunal of Christ. (Treatise 3: On the Lapsed, 17)

For He who will give us in the day of judgment a reward for our labours and alms, is even in this life a merciful hearer of one who comes to Him in prayer associated with good works. Thus, for instance, Cornelius the centurion, when he prayed, had a claim to be heard. For he was in the habit of doing many almsdeeds towards the people, and of ever praying to God. (Treatise 4: On the Lord’s Prayer, 32)

What Christ is, we Christians shall be, if we imitate Christ. (Treatise 6: On the Vanity of Idols, 15)

But, moreover, what is that providence, and how great the clemency, that by a plan of salvation it is provided for us, that more abundant care should be taken for preserving man after he is already redeemed! For when the Lord at His advent had cured those wounds which Adam had borne, and had healed the old poisons of the serpent, He gave a law to the sound man and bade him sin no more, lest a worse thing should befall the sinner. . . . the divine mercy, coming once more in aid, should open some way of securing salvation by pointing out works of justice and mercy, so that by almsgiving we may wash away whatever foulness we subsequently contract. (Treatise 8: On Works and Alms, 1)

For if Abraham believed in God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness, certainly he who gives alms according to God’s precept believes in God, and he who has the truth of faith maintains the fear of God; moreover, he who maintains the fear of God considers God in showing mercy to the poor. For he labours thus because he believes . . . that unfruitful trees, that is, unproductive men, are cut off and cast into the fire, but that the merciful are called into the kingdom. He also, in another place [cites Lk 16:11-12], calls laborious and fruitful men faithful . . . (Treatise 8: On Works and Alms, 8)

. . . that you may be able to attain to see God, by deserving well of God, both by good works and character. (Treatise 8: On Works and Alms, 14)

Let us, while there is time, take thought for our security and eternal salvation, according to the admonition of the Apostle Paul, [cites Gal 6:9-10, which exhorts us to do good works] (Treatise 8: On Works and Alms, 24)

What, dearest brethren, will be that glory of those who labour charitably — how great and high the joy when the Lord begins to number His people, and, distributing to our merits and good works the promised rewards, to give heavenly things for earthly, eternal things for temporal, great things for small; to present us to the Father, to whom He has restored us by His sanctification; to bestow upon us immortality and eternity, . . . (Treatise 8: On Works and Alms, 26)

To put on the name of Christ, and not to go in the way of Christ, what else is it but a mockery of the divine name, but a desertion of the way of salvation; since He Himself teaches and says that he shall come unto life who keeps His commandments, and that he is wise who hears and does His words; that he, moreover, is called the greatest doctor in the kingdom of heaven who thus does and teaches; . . . (Treatise 10: On Jealousy and Envy, 12)

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Photo credit: Russian icon of St. Cyprian [source] [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

Summary: Cyprian (210-258), like all of the Church fathers (as Protestant historians tell us), denied the 16th century novel Protestant doctrine of “faith alone” or “sola fide.”

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