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Chapter XXII.—Of Martyrs, and Their Intercession on Behalf of Scandalous Offenders.

But you go so far as to lavish this “power” upon martyrs withal!  No sooner has any one, acting on a preconceived arrangement, put on the bonds—(bonds), moreover, which, in the nominal custody now in vogue,986986    Comp. de Je., c. xii. are soft ones—than adulterers beset him, fornicators gain access to him; instantly prayers echo around him; instantly pools of tears (from the eyes) of all the polluted surround him; nor are there any who are more diligent in purchasing entrance into the prison than they who have lost (the fellowship of) the Church!  Men and women are violated in the darkness with which the habitual indulgence of lusts has plainly familiarized them; and they seek peace at the hands of those who are risking their own!  Others betake them to the mines, and return, in the character of communicants, from thence, where by this time another “martyrdom” is necessary for sins committed after “martyrdom.”  “Well, who on earth and in the flesh is faultless?”  What “martyr” (continues to be) an inhabitant of the world987987    Sæculi. supplicating? pence in hand? subject to physician and usurer?  Suppose, now, (your “martyr”) beneath the glaive, with head already steadily poised; suppose him on the cross, with body already outstretched; suppose him at the stake, with the lion already let loose; suppose him on the axle, with the fire already heaped; in the very certainty, I say, and possession of martyrdom:  who permits man to condone (offences) which are to be reserved for God, by whom those (offences) have been condemned without discharge, which not even apostles (so far as I know)—martyrs withal themselves—have judged condonable?  In short, Paul had already “fought with beasts at Ephesus,” when he decreed “destruction” to the incestuous person.988988    See 1 Cor. xv. 32.  Let it suffice to the martyr to have purged his own sins:  it is the part of ingratitude or of pride to lavish upon others also what one has obtained at a high price.989989    See Acts xxii. 28.  Who has redeemed another’s death by his own, but the Son of God alone?  For even in His very passion He set the robber free.990990    Luke xxiii. 39–43.  For to this end had He come, that, being Himself pure from sin,991991    See 1 John iii. v. and in all respects holy,992992    See Heb. vii. 26–viii. 1. He might undergo death on behalf of sinners.993993    See 1 Pet. iii. 18.  Similarly, you who emulate Him in condoning sins, if you yourself have done no sin, plainly suffer in my stead.  If, however, you are a sinner, how will the oil of your puny torch be able to suffice for you and for me?994994    See Matt. xxv. 8, 9.

I have, even now, a test whereby to prove (the presence of) Christ (in you).  If Christ is in the martyr for this reason, that the martyr may absolve adulterers and fornicators, let Him tell publicly the secrets of the heart, that He may thus concede (pardon to) sins; and He is Christ.  For thus it was that the Lord Jesus Christ showed His power:  “Why think ye evil in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Thy sins are remitted thee; or, Rise and walk?  Therefore, that ye may know the Son of man to have the power upon earth of remitting sins, I say to thee, paralytic, Rise, and walk.”995995    See Mark ii. 9–11.  If the Lord set so much store by the proof of His power as to reveal thoughts, and so impart health by His command, lest He should not be believed to have the power of remitting sins; it is not lawful for me to believe the same power (to reside) in any one, whoever he be, without the same proofs.  In the act, however, of urgently entreating from a martyr pardon for adulterers and fornicators, you yourself confess that crimes of that nature are not to be washed away except by the martyrdom of the criminal himself, while you presume (they can be washed away) by another’s.  If this is so, then martyrdom will be another baptism.  For “I have withal,” saith He, “another baptism.”996996    Luke xii. 50.  Whence, too, it was that there flowed out of the wound in the Lord’s side water and blood, the materials of either baptism.997997    John xix. 33, 34.  I ought, then, by the first baptism too to (have the right of) setting another free if I can by the second:  and we must necessarily force upon the mind (of our opponents this conclusion):  Whatever authority, whatever reason, restores ecclesiastical peace to the adulterer and fornicator, the same will be bound to come to the aid of the murderer and idolater in their repentance,—at all events, of the apostate, and of course of him whom, in the battle of his confession, after hard struggling with torments, savagery has overthrown.  Besides, it were unworthy of God and of His mercy, who prefers the repentance of a sinner to his death, that they should have easier return into (the bosom of) the Church who have fallen in heat of passion, than they who have fallen in hand-to-101hand combat.998998    Comp. de Monog., c. xv.  Indignation urges us to speak.  Contaminated bodies you will recall rather than gory ones!  Which repentance is more pitiable—that which prostrates tickled flesh, or lacerated?  Which pardon is, in all causes, more justly concessible—that which a voluntary, or that which an involuntary, sinner implores?  No one is compelled with his will to apostatize; no one against his will commits fornication.  Lust is exposed to no violence, except itself:  it knows no coercion whatever.  Apostasy, on the contrary, what ingenuities of butchery and tribes of penal inflictions enforce!  Which has more truly apostatized—he who has lost Christ amid agonies, or (he who has done so) amid delights? he who when losing Him grieved, or he who when losing Him sported?  And yet those scars graven on the Christian combatant—scars, of course, enviable in the eyes of Christ, because they yearned after Conquest, and thus also glorious, because failing to conquer they yielded; (scars) after which even the devil himself yet sighs; (scars) with an infelicity of their own, but a chaste one, with a repentance that mourns, but blushes not, to the Lord for pardon—will anew be remitted to such, because their apostasy was expiable!  In their case alone is the “flesh weak.”  Nay, no flesh so strong as that which crushes out the Spirit!


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