Carthage, Councils of

Carthage, Councils Of.

Among the most important are the following:

1. In 218-22 (?), under Agrippinus, on the baptism of heretics.

2. In 251, on the election of Cornelius as bishop of Rome, and the disputes of Novatian and Felicissimus.

3. In 252, on early baptism.

4. In 203, on the baptism of infants and heretics.

Cyprian presided, and 66 bishops are said to have been present. On the question whether baptism should be administered to infants before the eighth day, in view of the rite of circumcision, the council decided unanimously that God had no respect either to persons or ages; that circumcision was but the figure of the mystery of Jesus Christ, and that no one may be shut out from the grace of God. Cyprian, who wrote this decision to Fidus in his own name and in that of his colleagues, gives the reason for it in these words: "If the greatest sinners coming to the faith receive remission of sin and baptism, how much less can we reject a little infant just born into the world, free from actual sin, and only so far a sinner as being born of Adam after the flesh, and by its first birth having contracted the pollution of the former death; it ought to have so much the easier access to the remission of sins, inasmuch as not its own sins, but those of others, are remitted." These words are quoted by Jerome in his dialogues against the Pelagians, and by Augustine in his 294th sermon, in order to prove that belief in original sin has always been the faith of the Church. — Cyprian, Epist. 55, Labbe et Cossart, Concilia, t. 1, p. 740; Landon, Manual of Councils, 101.

5. Held in 254 (?), when the Spanish bishops Martialis and Basilides were deposed as Libellatici.

6. Held in 255 and 256, under Cyprian, on the necessity of rebaptizing heretics — attended by 71 bishops.

They decided that there can be no valid baptism out of the Catholic Church, and addressed a synodical letter to Stephen of Rome upon the subject, informing him of their decision upon this and other matters. Stephen refused to admit the decision, and separated himself from the communion of Cyprian and the other bishops who acted with him in the council. The conflict lasted until the pontificate of Sixtus, when the African bishops gave up their theory of the invalidity of heretical baptism. — Labbe et Cossart, Concil. t. 1, p. 793; Landon, Manual of Councils, p. 102.

7. Held in 330, in favor of those who were steadfast in the persecution.

8. Held in 397 and 398, on discipline and the baptism of children.

9. Two in 401, in which numerous canons were made on receiving converted children of Donatists among the clergy.

10. Two in 408, on pagans, heretics, and Donatists.

11. Commencing June 1, 411, in which conferences were held with the Donatists, with a view to their reunion with the Church. Augustine was present, and argued the case from the side of the Church. At the close of the conference, Marcellinus, who represented the emperor Honorius in the council, gave sentence to the effect that the Donatists had been entirely refuted by the Catholics; and that, accordingly, those of the Donatists who should refuse to unite themselves to the Church should be punished as the laws directed. From this sentence the Donatists appealed to the emperor, but in vain. Honorius confirmed the acts of the Conference of Carthage by a law, bearing date Aug. 30, 414. This conference and the severe measures which followed it gave the death-blow to Donatism. — Labbe et Cossart, Concil. t. 3, p. 107; Neander, Church History, 2:203 sq.; Landon, Manual of Councils, p. 111.

12. Held in 411 or 412, against Ccelestius, disciple of Pelagius. Coelestius was accused by Paulinus, among other things, of teaching that the sin of Adam only injured himself, and that its effects have not descended to his posterity, and that every child is born into the world in the same condition in which Adam was before the Fall. Coelestius did not deny the accusation; for, although he agreed that children must of necessity receive redemption by baptism, yet he refused to acknowledge that the sin of Adam had passed upon them; nor would he confess, unequivocally, that, they receive therein remission of any sin: accordingly he was condemned and excommunicated. — Labbe et Cossart, Concil. t. 3, p. 347 sq.; Landen, Manual of Councils, p. 111; Mansi, Concil. 4:289.

13. Held in 416, against Pelagius and Ccelestius. The doctrines of Pelagius were condemned by this council in a decree which was approved by Innocent I, bishop of Rome.

14. Held in 418, at which more than 200 bishops took part, under the presidency of Aurelius. Augustine styles it "the Council of Africa." Its decrees against Pelagianism were the triumph of Augustinism, and finally received the general approval of the Church. Prosper has preserved one of these decrees, in which the council declares that the grace of God given to us through Jesus Christ not only assists us to know what is right, but also to practice it in each particular action, so that without it we can neither have, nor think, nor say, nor do anything which appertains to holiness and true piety. The council agreed upon a letter to Zosimus, bishop of Rome, demanding that the sentence of condemnation passed by Innocent I against Pelagius and Ccelestius should be enforced until they should abjure their errors. — Mansi, Concil. 3, 810; 4:377; Landon, Manual of Councils, p. 112; Schaff, Ch. Hist. 3:798.

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