Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

deposit committed to thee;' and again,' what thou hast heard from me by many exhortations, commit these to faithful men, &c.' If therefore that blessed Saint delivered these truths which were easily accessible to all, with religious caution, seeing by the Spirit that all have not faith; how much more shall we be in danger, if, at random and without distinction, we impart the oracles of GOD to profane and unworthy men 1?"

This testimony not only sanctions the evidence of the preceding extract, but inculcates the same as a moral duty incumbent on teachers of the truth. We have, again, the very high authority of St. Athanasius for knowing, that the disciples themselves did observe precisely a similar caution from the beginning to that which our LORD had observed towards them, and this testimony connects this reserve of the Ancient Church by an unbroken chain with our LoRD Himself.

St. Basil bears testimony also to this having been the practice of the early disciples, and that it was founded on our LORD's example. He mentions (in the 27th c. of his work on the HOLY SPIRIT) that there were "many things which they had received, not from Scripture but from Apostolical tradition, communicated," he says, "in mystery and secrecy, and which their fathers had preserved in unobtrusive and modest silence, knowing rightly that this sacred reverence to mysteries was their best protection." He then alludes to the same having been the intention, when Moses allowed not the holy things in the temple to be seen by all, but kept the profane without, and admitted the more pure into the outer courts. After stating some circumstances of this kind in the law of Moses', such as the Levites set apart for sacred things, and the entering into the Holy of Holies with such circumstances of solemnity and awe; "in the same manner," he says, "the Apostles and Fathers, who prescribed the first rites of the Church, preserved the dignity of their mysteries in secrecy and silence.

And even that

1 See Part i. p. 26.

2 As for instance in Numbers iv. 20, " They shall not go in to see when the And Numb. xviii. 21, 22. 37.

holy things are covered, lest they die."

Exod.

xxx. 10.

Lev. xvi.

obscurity which the Scripture makes use of is," he adds, "a species of the same reserve, rendering the understanding of its doctrines difficult of apprehension, and that for the benefit of ordinary readers."

5. The Disciplina a rule of a moral nature.

The evidence of these passages has been partly historical, and suggests the probability that the early system of reserve may have had some connexion with our LORD's example and authority; and partly as adducing the testimony of the Fathers respecting the practical wisdom of the rule. To the latter we may add the authority of Tertullian, in a passage before alluded to '; and it is important as proving that, where he had occasion incidentally to allude to the Disciplina, he speaks of it as a rule of a moral He strongly condemns the heretics for having no discipline whatever, or distinction observed in their assemblies and worship, even, he says, if heathen were present, they would

nature.

cast that which is holy to dogs, and pearls before swine." And this utter subversion of all discipline they called simplicity, and accused the care of the orthodox Christians as a mode of enticement. In the same passage he adds, that " discipline is an index of doctrine: they say that GoD ought not to be feared; therefore, every thing with them is free and open. But where is God not feared, but where He is not? and where GoD is not, truth is not; where there is no truth, of course there is no discipline. But where GOD is, there is the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom "."

The next person whose agreement with us we may mention is St. Chrysostom. His authority is of the more weight, as he himself was so eloquent and bold a preacher, and not a mere student so as to prove that the practice which this reserve implies is in no way opposed to the most earnest teaching of the truth. He speaks of it frequently as a rule important to be observed in communicating religious knowledge. He mentions

[ocr errors]

1 Tract No. 80, page 56.

2 De Præscriptione Hæreticorum, p. 247.

it as his own practice (in his preface to St. Matthew). "Those that I perceive awake, and desirous to learn, I will endeavour to teach. Those that sleep and attend not, I will neither tell the difficulties nor their answers, in obedience to the Divine law : for it is written' Give not that which is holy to the dogs.'" He speaks of this law in another place, as similar to that of human friendship, which imparts secrets only to the most intimate friends'. "Let them attend to this," he adds, "who make a sort of triumphal show of the secrets of the Gospel, and unto all indiscriminately display the pearls and the doctrine, and who cast the holy things unto dogs and swine by useless reasonings "." He often speaks of it as St. Paul's practice; in his Commentary on the words of not casting pearls before swine, he says, "Paul intimates the same thing in saying (1 Cor. ii. 14), the natural man receiveth not the things of the SPIRIT, for they are foolishness unto him, and in many other places he speaks of a corrupt life being the cause of their not receiving the more perfect doctrines, therefore he commands us not to open our doors to them." He has much more to the same effect on the teaching of St. Paul. And not to dwell on various passages in which St. Chrysostom incidentally alludes to the principle, one may be mentioned in which he speaks clearly of the Discipline in the very connexion we have supposed, as a mode of acting which had a reference to our LORD's own example. "We close the doors," he says, "before we perform the mysteries, and keep out the uninitiated; not from any weakness we apprehend in them, but because the generality are not yet sufficiently advanced to be rightly disposed towards them. It was upon this very account that He Himself said many things unto the Jews in parables, because seeing they did not perceive. For this reason also Paul hath commanded us to know how we ought to answer each individual.”

In the Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, we may, of course, expect to find much on this subject; all that is requisite is to show that he considered this system, not as one

1 This idea he has more than once, and he refers it to the expression in St. John xv. 15.

2 See the whole of this Homily, 1 Cor. ii. 6, 7, and 16. Hom. vii.

intended merely for the self-defence of Christians, but as one intended for and contributing to the good of all parties, as a practical rule; and this he does most fully. In a passage more than once quoted of late years with reference to the Disciplina, he forbids the catechumens to communicate the knowledge which he says to those who are unprepared for it is highly injurious. He forbids those whom he is instructing to communicate to catechumens the things which were revealed to them. "If any should ask and say, What harm will there be in my being acquainted?" he adds, "They who are sick ask for wine; but if it be unseasonably afforded them, it occasions frenzy; and from this two bad consequences ensue, the sick man dies, and the physician is blamed."

In another place he speaks of the secret discipline as closely connected with our LORD's own teaching, as the example and authority on which it was formed. After speaking of the Gospel being hid from those that are lost, and saying that the God of the New as well as of the Old Testament concealed things in parables, he adds, "The sun renders blind the weak-sighted; not that it is the nature of the sun to make persons blind, but that the state of their eyes cannot bear its light. Thus it is that they whose hearts are diseased from unbelief, are not able to look upon the bright rays of Godhead. The LORD spake to those who were able to hear in parables, and those parables He explained privately to His disciples. The brightness of His glory was for those who were enlightened, the blinding for the unbelieving. These mysteries the Church now declares to one who ceases to be of the catechumens. It is not her custom to declare them to heathens. We often speak of many things covertly, that the faithful who know may understand, and others be not injured."

Origen, in like manner, speaks of the discipline then observed among Christians as a moral system, which was considered as best calculated to do good. And so far from its having any connexion with heathen practices, he speaks of it as opposed to them. Against Celsus, (p. 142,) speaking of some heathen philosopher he proceeds: "Let us see if the Christians have not a much

wiser way of leading people to what is good and virtuous. For these ancient philosophers speak publicly, and make no discrimination of their hearers, but whosoever pleases may stand by and hear. But the Christians, as far as they are able, make a trial of the souls of those who wish to hear them; and first having privately brought their minds in tune, when they appear to have been sufficiently advanced by some evidence they have given of their desire to lead a good life, they then introduce them; and make a private distinction between those lately introduced, who have not yet received the sign of their purification, and those who, as far as in them lies, have indicated their determination to have no other principles of life but those of a Christian. And they have persons among them appointed to inquire into the lives and conduct of those who come to them, that they may prevent those who do things that are forbidden from coming into the common assembly; but those who are not such, they receive with their whole heart, and take pains daily to make them better."

And a little after he proceeds, (p. 143,) "For we endeavour, as far as we can, that our assemblies should be formed of serious persons; and things which are especially of a divine character we then venture to bring forward in our public discourses, when we have no want of understanding hearers; but we conceal and pass over in silence things which are more deep, from an audience who are figuratively said to require milk. For thus Paul writes to the Corinthians, who were not yet sufficiently recovered in their morals from their former heathen state: I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able,' &c. (1 Cor. iii. 2.) And the same Apostle, well aware of the more perfect food of the soul, and that that of new converts might be compared to milk, says, (Heb. v. 12,) 'Ye are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat; for every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belo geth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.'”

VOL. V.-87.

с

« VorigeDoorgaan »