The effects of the grace of Baptism on St. Cyprian, in his own words

October 17, 2021 • 4 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 286

St. Cyprian, already mentioned, who was for a time a prey to the illusions of the world, gives, while writing to his friend Donatus [c. 250 AD], some beautiful and forcible thoughts on this subject:

When I walked in darkness, when I was tossed about by the tempests of this world, I knew not what my life was, because I was deprived of light and truth.

I regarded as impossible all that God’s grace promised to do for my conversion and salvation.

I would not believe that man could be born again [St. John iii. 5.], and by virtue of Baptism receive a new life and spirit, which, while leaving his exterior untouched, would entirely reform him within.

I urged that it was impossible to uproot vices implanted in us by our corrupt nature and confirmed by the habits of years.

Is temperance possible, I asked, to one long accustomed to a sumptuous table?

Will he who has been clothed in purple willingly put on a plain and modest dress?

Will he who found all his happiness in honors and dignities willingly forego them and be content to lead a quiet and obscure life?

Will he who was accustomed to travel with a grand retinue now be content to travel unattended?

Former habits will cling to him and struggle for mastery. Intemperance will solicit him, pride will inflate him, honors will allure him, anger will inflame him, and sensuality will blind and overpower him.

These were the reflections in which I frequently indulged. I was bound by numerous habits of vice from which I felt I never could be freed, and which I encouraged and strengthened by this very distrust.

But my sins were no sooner washed away in the waters of Baptism than a new light shone upon my soul, now purified from all stains.

By the reception of the Holy Spirit I was born to a new life. Suddenly, as if by a miracle, doubt gave place to certainty; my darkness was dissipated; what heretofore appeared difficult had now become easy; the insurmountable obstacles I feared had vanished completely.

I clearly saw that the life of the flesh with all its failings was of man, and that the new life to which I had come was of God.

You know, dear Donatus, from what the Holy Spirit has delivered me, and what He has bestowed upon me. He has delivered me from the slavery of vice and has restored me to the true liberty of virtue.

You know all this, and that, so far from boasting, I am only publishing the glory of God. It is not pride but a sentiment of gratitude which prompts me to speak of this wonderful transformation, which is due only to God. For it is evident that the power to abandon sin is no less the effect of divine grace than the will to commit it is the effect of human frailty.

These words of St. Cyprian perfectly describe the illusion which paralyzes the efforts of many Christians.

They measure the difficulties of virtue according to their own strength, and thus deem its acquisition impossible.

They do not consider that if they firmly resolve to abandon sin, and cast themselves into the strong arms of God’s mercy, His grace will smooth the roughness of their way and remove all the obstacles which formerly alarmed them.

The example of St. Cyprian proves this, for the truth of what he relates is incontestable. If you imitate his sincere return to God, the grace which was given him will not be denied to you.

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