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Epistle VII.—To Philemon, a Presbyter.843843    Of Sixtus, bishop of Rome. [a.d. 257].

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I indeed gave attention to reading the books and carefully studying the traditions of heretics, to the extent indeed of corrupting my soul with their execrable opinions; yet receiving from them this advantage, that I could refute them in my own mind, and detested them more heartily than ever. And when a certain brother of the order of presbyters sought to deter me, and feared lest I should be involved in the same wicked filthiness, because he said that my mind would be contaminated, and indeed with truth, as I myself perceived, I was strengthened by a vision that was sent me from God. And a word 103spoken to me, expressly commanded me, saying, Read everything which shall come into thy hands, for thou art fit to do so, who correctest and provest each one; and from them to thee first of all has appeared the cause and the occasion of believing. I received this vision as being what was in accordance with the apostolic word, which thus urges all who are endowed with greater virtue, “Be ye skilful money-changers.”844844    1 Thess. v. 21. [Euseb., vi. 7. The apostle is supposed to refer to one of the reputed sayings of our Lord, γινεσθε δόκιμοι τραπεζῖται = examinatores, i.e., of coins, rejecting the base, and laying up in store the precious. Compare Jer. xv. 19.]

Then, says Eusebius, he subjoins some things parenthetically about all heresies:—

This rule and form I have received from our blessed Father Heraclus: For thou, who came from heresies, even if they had fallen away from the Church, much rather if they had not fallen away, but when they were seen to frequent the assemblies of the faithful, were charged with going to hear the teachers of perverse doctrine, and ejected from the Church, he did not admit after many prayers, before they had openly and publicly narrated whatever things they had heard from their adversaries. Then he received them at length to the assemblies of the faithful, by no means asking of them to receive baptism anew. Because they had already previously received the Holy Spirit from that very baptism.

Once more, this question being thoroughly ventilated, he adds:—

I learned this besides, that this custom is not now first of all imported among the Africans845845    [I find that it is necessary to say that the “Africans” of Egypt and Carthage were no more negroes than we “Americans” are redmen. The Carthaginians were Canaanites and the Alexandrians Greeks. I have seen Cyprian’s portrait representing him as a Moor.] alone; but moreover, long before, in the times of former bishops, among most populous churches, and that when synods of the brethren of Iconium and Synades were held, it also pleased as many as possible, I should be unwilling, by overturning their judgments, to throw them into strifes and contentious. For it is written, “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which thy fathers have placed.”846846    Deut. xix. 14.


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