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Chapter 20.—Disgraceful Conduct Discovered at Rome.

74.  What more shall I say of your customs?  I have mentioned what I found myself when I was in the city when the things were done.  To go through all that happened at Rome in my absence would take a long time.  I will, however, give a short account of it; for the matter became so notorious, that even the absent could not remain in ignorance of it.  And when I was afterwards in Rome, I ascertained the truth of all I had heard, although the story was told me by an eye-witness whom I knew so well and esteemed so highly, that I could not feel any doubt about it.  One of your followers, then, quite equal to the elect in their far-famed abstinence, for he was both liberally educated, and was in the habit of defending your sect with great zeal, took it very ill that he had cast in his teeth the vile conduct of the elect, who lived in all kinds of places, and went hither and thither for lodging of the worst description.  He therefore desired, if possible, to assemble all who were willing to live according to the precepts into his own house, and to maintain them at his own expense; for he was above the average in carelessness as to spending money, besides being above the average in the amount he had to spend.  He complained that his efforts were hindered by the remissness of the bishops, whose assistance he required for success.  At last one of your bishops was found,—a man, as I know, very rude and unpolished, but somehow, from his very moroseness, the more inclined to strict observance of morality.  The follower eagerly lays hold of this man as the person he had long wished for and found at last, and relates his whole plan.  He approves and assents, and agrees to be the first to take up his abode in the house.  When this was done, all the elect who could be at Rome were assembled there.  The rule of life in the epistle of Manichæus was laid before them.  Many thought it intolerable, and left; not a few felt ashamed, and stayed.  They began to live as they had agreed, and as this high authority enjoined.  The follower all the time was zealously enforcing everything on everybody, though never, in any case, what he did not undertake himself.  Meanwhile quarrels constantly arose among the elect.  They charged one another with crimes, all which he lamented to hear, and managed to make them unintentionally expose one another in their altercations.  The revelations were vile beyond description.  Thus appeared the true character of those who were unlike the rest in being willing to bend to the yoke of the precepts.  What then is to be suspected, or rather, concluded, of the others?  To come to a close, they gathered together on one occasion and complained that they could not keep the regulations.  Then came rebellion.  The follower stated his case most concisely, that either all must be kept, or the man who had given such a sanction to such precepts, which no one could fulfill, must be thought a great fool.  But, as was inevitable, the wild clamor of the mob prevailed over the opinion of one man.  The bishop himself gave way at last, and took to flight with great disgrace; and he was said to have got in provisions by stealth, contrary to rule, which were often discovered.  He had a supply of money from his private purse, which he carefully kept concealed.

75.  If you say these things are false, you contradict what is too clear and public.  But you may say so if you like.  For, as the things are certain, and easily known by those who wish to know them, those who deny that they are true show what their habit of telling the truth is.  But you have other replies with which I do not find fault.  For you either say that some do keep your precepts, and that they should not be mixed up with the guilty in condemning the others; or that the whole inquiry into the character of the members of your sect is wrong, for the question is of the character of the profession.  Should I grant both of these (although you can neither point out those faithful observers of the precepts, nor clear your heresy of all those frivolities and iniquities), still I must insist on knowing why you heap reproaches on Christians of the Catholic name on seeing the immoral life of some, while you either have the effrontery to repel inquiry about your members, or the still greater effrontery not to repel it, wishing it to be understood that in your scanty membership there are some unknown individuals who keep the precepts they profess, but that among the multitudes in the Catholic Church there are none.

Next: On Two Souls, Against the Manichæans.