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In the same book we find Celsus reflecting against the Christians, and accusing them of inconsistency, for now, says he, "they cry out to those of clean hands and a pure heart, washed from all wickedness, to come and be initiated in their sacred purification; now, on the contrary, they call on the sinner, the foolish, the childish, the miserable—he shall receive the kingdom of God." To which Origen answers, that "it is one thing to invite the sick to be healed, and another those that are healthy to the knowledge of divine things."
Much more to this effect does Origen mention respecting the system then observed in the Church; and what is very ob. servable, he not only does occasionally fully bear testimony to our supposition that our LORD did in the days of His flesh reveal Himself only so far as men were able to bear it, but he speaks of our LORD Himself in expressions that might very well, by analogy and metaphor, be applied to the secret discipline he describes. In the treatise just quoted, he says, (contra Celsum, l. iv. p. 170,) that our SAVIOUR Condescended to come down to the level of him who was unable to look upon the excessive lustre and brightness of His divinity. He became flesh and spoke in a bodily manner until such a one having received Him as such, by little and little was lifted up by the WORD, and was able to behold His former person. For there are different forms of the WORD, according as the WORD appears to each of them who are being trained to knowledge, in accordance with their respective moral habit and spiritual advancement, and different progress in virtue. So that it is not in the manner that Celsus has supposed that our GoD became changed in form'. And when He went up into an high mountain, He showed Himself to them in another form, and far transcending that which they beheld, who remained below and were not able to follow Him to the height. For they who were below had not eyes capable of beholding the glorious and divine transfiguration of the WORD, but indeed were scarce able to comprehend such as He was among them, so that of them who could not perceive His Divine beauty it is said, "He hath no
1 Celsus had been saying that JESUS CHRIST in becoming Man had ceased to be God; had become other than He was before. (ix. v.)
The whole subject connected with a great religious principle. 19
form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him."
6. The whole subject connected with a great religious principle and rule of conduct.
From all that has been said it may, I think, be clearly seen with regard to the Disciplina Arcani, that it could not have been a system suggested by heathen mysteries, but that it is so closely connected with Scripture, that allusions to it naturally rise out of, and again fall into Scriptural allusions, or some account of our LORD and His Apostles; so much so, as that all relating to it is perfectly consistent, and all of a piece with what they evidently considered to be the teaching of Holy Scripture. If either of them is attacked, Origen seems in defending the one to pass imperceptibly into a defence of the other, as if the method of the Church and the method of Holy Scripture were one and the same, mutually implying each other; and as if the former gradually had its rise out of the latter, by means of an identity or similarity of conduct in the inspired Apostles or teachers in the early Churches; although the principle might have now assumed a more definite and marked character, from being formed into a system. And these remarks would be more fully seen were we to quote the numerous passages in which the expressions of St. Paul are cited in allusion to it, particularly by Clement of Alexandria and Origen. Besides this very high and Divine character with which Origen invests the practice, he at times refers it to a principle of natural modesty, such as nature has clearly given us in many instances for our protection. Nor is this incidental mode of connecting this system of the Church with our LORD's example at all confined to Origen, but frequent among other early writers; thus St. Augustin (in his Commentaries on St. John, p. 1804, Par. edit.) speaking of where it is said that many "believed in CHRIST, but He trusted not Himself to them," says that "it is the same with the catechumens; they believe, but are not admitted to the Eucharist." The practice is immediately applied as illustrating our SAVIOUR'S conduct. In another passage, St.
Augustine speaks of himself as doubting how to act up to this as a known and acknowledged duty. In his Enarration on Ps. 39, (tom. iv. 439,) he applies to himself the words, "I said, I will take heed to my ways that I offend not in my tongue. I will keep my mouth as it were with a bridle while the ungodly is in my sight. I held my tongue and spake nothing: I kept silence, yea, even from good words, but it was pain and grief to me." He applies this passage to his own great difficulties and perplexities on this subject of reserve; that, on the one hand, he might not offend by an undue display of holy things, so contrary both to Divine and Apostolic precept. For our LORD and St. Paul, he says, held back even from those who were exceedingly eager to learn, those spiritual truths which were beyond them; and his advice to his hearer is, "Be not hastening to hear what you cannot receive, but improve in holiness that you may receive it." On the other hand, he was anxious and struggling with the difficulty arising from the opposite duty, as one "set over the LORD's household to give them their meat in due season." "Positus," he says, " in hâc fluctuatione dicendi et tacendi; periclitans ne projiciat margaritas ante porcos; periclitans ne non eroget cibaria conservis."
If St. Augustine here speaks of this rule of reserve as a duty in individuals, Origen also speaks of it as a necessary circumstance in good men, inasmuch as the world cannot understand them. In the following passage he thus beautifully expresses it: "As the solar ray affects the countenance of him who looks to the sun, and it is not possible for any one to stand in the sun, and not himself to partake of its light; so must we suppose that he will become a partaker of GOD, who shall have meditated on the law of the Divine Word, and shall have given up his mind to become acquainted with God." "I suppose that this secret is declared in Exodus, when the countenance of Moses, after he had familiarly conversed with GOD, was so glorified, that the children. of Israel were not able stedfastly to look upon the glory of it, and on this account he who attended on GOD took a veil to converse with His people. Thus every soul which is given up to GOD, and hath entered into His truth, beyond what is known to the many, and hath partaken of His Divinity, surpasses the
comprehension of the multitude, so that it assumes a veil in order to direct inferiors, by discoursing on matters level to their comprehensions." (Selecta in Psalm. Quartum.)
7. Catholic mode of interpreting Scripture founded on this
Now the characteristic of truth is consistency and coherence, and mutual adaptation and relation in its various parts and developments; so that principles, which appear to have no immediate connexion in their origin and formation, are found when pursued to their consequences mutually to correspond with and imply each other as cause and effect, as concave and convex in a circle, or as dependent parts of one great whole. Besides this practice of the secret discipline, there is another principle, almost, if not quite, universal in the Ancient Church, which is also equally opposed to modern opinions. I allude to that general custom among the Fathers, of supposing that Scripture contains latent mysterious meaning beyond the letter, the apprehension of which is disclosed to a faithful life. And this practice, though in itself distinct, does in fact run up into that of the Disciplina Arcani, analogously to the way in which miracles and parables are found to run up into each other as indications of one law. Both may be considered as a different development of the same principle. In both we have, what has been observed in the former part, "Wisdom going about seeking those that are worthy of her, to whom she may reveal her secrets." And a circumstance which particularly bears upon the present inquiry is this, that in speaking on this subject, as well as on the system we have before spoken of, ancient writers do incidentally illustrate or enforce their observations by the example of our LORD's dealing with mankind.
Now this mode of interpretation is so general in the Ancient Church, that something of the kind may be considered as the characteristic difference between the interpretation of Catholic Christians and those of heretical teachers; that the latter lower and bring down the senses of Scripture as if they were mere
human words, while the former consider the words of Divine truth to contain greater meanings than we can fathom; and therefore amplify and extend their signification as if they were advancing onward, (like the interpretations and various fulfilments of prophecy,) into deeper and higher meanings, till lost in ever increasing and at length infinite light and greatness, beyond what the limited view of man is capable of pursuing.
8. High authority for this mode of Scriptural interpretation.
Nor does it appear at all unreasonable beforehand-before considering it as a matter of fact, that this should be the case: I mean that the Divine Word should be in its secret range thus vast and comprehensive, as the shadow of the heavens in still and deep waters. In things natural, God has not only disclosed to us, by experience and natural light, the mode of tilling the earth and all other things necessary for the support of our animal life and human comforts, but He has also afforded us some knowledge of the heavenly bodies; He has withdrawn the veil and opened something of the mysterious vastness, and ways, and order of things celestial. And in disclosing these, there is of course some great design of His Providence towards men; whether to humble them, by showing something of the vastness of His power, or to raise and spiritualize their minds by the contemplation of it. Why, therefore, may He not in like manner in His word, besides that knowledge and practical wisdom, information, and warning, which is more in the letter of Holy Scripture as a lantern unto our feet-why may there not be also concealed and laid up something of the vastness and infinity of His counsels, things Divine and spiritual, which He may also open and reveal to men to carry on the purposes of His wisdom, and of their probation? In attempting too far to dive into it, to illustrate and apprehend its meanings, fallible men may of course greatly err from time to time, though the general principle on which they set out may be nevertheless from the SPIRIT of truth. Thus fallible men have erred and do err in their attempts to explain the heavenly bodies; and yet they may be right in the notion of the order and the vastness of the material heavens, though wrong in their parti