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Chapter VII.

How Heretics, craftily cite obscure passages in ancient writers in support of their own novelties.

[19.] This condemnation, indeed,443443    The condemnation of St. Cyprian’s practice of rebaptism. seems to have been providentially promulgated as though with a special view to the fraud of those who, contriving to dress up a heresy under a name other than its own, get hold often of the works of some ancient writer, not very clearly expressed, which, owing to the very obscurity of their own doctrine, have the appearance of agreeing with it, so that they get the credit of being neither the first nor the only persons who have held it. This wickedness of theirs, in my judgment, is doubly hateful: first, because they are not afraid to invite others to drink of the poison of heresy; and secondly, because with profane breath, as though fanning smouldering embers into flame, they blow upon the memory of each holy man, and spread an evil report of what ought to be buried in silence by bringing it again under notice, thus treading in the footsteps of their father Ham, who not only forebore to cover the nakedness of the venerable Noah, but told it to the others that they might laugh at it, offending thereby so grievously against the duty of filial piety, that even his descendants were involved with him in the curse which he drew down, widely differing from those blessed brothers of his, who would neither pollute their own eyes by looking upon the nakedness of their revered father, nor would suffer others to do so, but went backwards, as the Scripture says, and covered him, that is, they neither approved nor betrayed the fault of the holy man, for which cause they were rewarded with a benediction on themselves and their posterity.444444    Gen. ix. 22.

[20.] But to return to the matter in hand: It behoves us then to have a great dread of the crime of perverting the faith and adulterating religion, a crime from which we are deterred not only by the Church’s discipline, but also by the censure of apostolical authority. For every one knows how gravely, how severely, how vehemently, the blessed apostle Paul inveighs against certain, who, with marvellous levity, had “been so soon removed from him who had called them to the grace of Christ to another Gospel, which was not another;”445445    Gal. i. 6. “who had heaped to themselves teachers after their own lusts, turning away their ears from the truth, and being turned aside unto fables;”446446    2 Tim. iv. 3, 4. “having damnation because they had cast off their first faith;”447447    1 Tim. v. 12. who had been deceived by those of whom the same apostle writes to the Roman Christians, “Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not the Lord Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple,”448448    Rom. xvi. 17, 18. “who enter into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth;”449449    2 Tim. iii. 6. “vain talkers and deceivers, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake;”450450    Tit. i. 10. “men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith;”451451    2 Tim. iii. 8. “proud knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, destitute of the truth, supposing that godliness is gain,”452452    1 Tim. vi. 4. “withal learning to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not only idle, but tattlers also and busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not,”453453    1 Tim. v. 13. “who having put away a good conscience have made shipwreck concerning the faith;”454454    1 Tim. i. 19. “whose profane and vain babblings increase unto more ungodliness, and their word doth eat as doth a cancer.”455455    2 Tim. ii. 16, 17. Well, also, is it written of them: “But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”456456    2 Tim. iii. 9.

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