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in which alone He can be discerned by a purified sense enlightened from above.
"I hear," he says, "of the body of CHRIST, the unbeliever understands this in one way, and I in another. He knows not what he sees, as children when they see a book and cannot read. He who can read will find laid up in the letters a great power, whole lives and histories. He who cannot will take it to be paper and ink. He who can read will hear a voice, and will converse with one at a distance, and again, by means of letters, will speak to whom he wishes. So it is with the mysteries, the unbelieving in hearing hear not; but the believers, by the experience which they derive from the HOLY SPIRIT, see the power laid up and contained in them."
The illustration which Chrysostom here makes use of is not unlike an expression of Origen's, who, in reply to Celsus, who says that he knew the Christian Religion, observes, as well might a person conversant with the common people of Egypt, and who knew the hieroglyphical figures, say he understood the wisdom of the Egyptians.
And it may bring the analogy more closely home to us to observe, that these Catholic writers, in thus speaking, will often introduce the very expression of it being our LORD Himself who is thus manifesting Himself therein to the eye of faith; or veiling His glories from us, and withdrawing Himself from the multitude, or the thoughtless and indifferent inquirer. "Is it not the case," says St. Ambrose (on Psalm 118. tom. i. p. 1035), "that when we think over a passage in Scripture, in vain endeavouring to find some explanation for it, while we are doubting and seeking, suddenly the most exalted doctrines seem to rise, as it were, over the mountains before us, then over the hills He (i. e. CHRIST) appears unto us, and enlightens our minds, and pours into our understanding the knowledge of that which it had appeared difficult to comprehend? Therefore the WORD which was absent now becomes present in our minds. And again, when any thing appears to us rather obscure, the WORD is, as it were, withdrawn, and we long and look for His return, as of one gone away." In like manner does
Augustine speak of the same great and all-extensive principle under a new analogy, that of the visible creation. Here also is it considered that we have "the presence of a God who hideth Himself," and indications that He is desirous to disclose Himself through that language, as far as we are able to bear it; in the same manner, as through the letter of the written Scriptures we behold Him as it were through a veil. "For we behold," He says, "the ample fabric of the universe containing the earth and heavens, and all things that are therein and from the greatness and beauty of this fabric the inestimable greatness and beauty of the Framer Himself, whom, although as yet we know not, yet even now we love. For inasmuch as we cannot now behold Him by the purity of our hearts, He hath not ceased to set before our eyes His works, that seeing what we can, we may love and may be thought worthy for that love itself at some time to behold that which we see not. But in all things that He hath spoken unto us (in His written Word) we must seek for the spiritual meaning, to ascertain which your desires in the name of CHRIST will assist us. By which, as by invisible hands, ye knock at the invisible gate, that invisibly it may open to us, and ye invisibly may enter in, and invisibly be healed." (Psalm 103. Enarratio.)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem carries on the same principle beyond the bounds of the visible creation, saying, that in the invisible world also the Godhead is withdrawn from sight, excepting so far as the Son may reveal it ; in a very beautiful and sublime passage',
1 Catechesis, p. 48. Cat. vi. His words preceding the passage here inserted "But some one will say, if the nature of GOD cannot be comprehended, why say so much of these things? Shall I not therefore, because I cannot draw up a whole stream, take in measure what is good for me? Because my eyes are not capable of containing the whole sun, shall I not behold as far as is needful for me? Were I to enter into a large garden, because I cannot eat of all the fruits, shall I come away hungry? I praise and glorify Him that made me, for it is His command, that every thing which hath breath shall praise the LORD.' I do not now undertake to speak His praise; but were I to do it, I know I should fall short of His merits: but I think it the work of piety to attempt to do what I can. And the LORD JESUS comforteth my infirmity by saying, No one hath seen GOD at any time for although it be written that the
He intimates that not only to different states of men, in exact proportion to a certain capability of receiving it, but to all created beings and the angels of Heaven, the Son reveals the Father kα0' EkαOTOS XwρET. He says that, "although it be written that the angels behold the face of my FATHER which is in heaven, yet even they see Him not as He is God, but only so far as they are capable of beholding Him. For JESUS Himself hath told us, 'No one hath seen the FATHER, but He who is of GOD, He hath seen the FATHER.' Angels therefore behold, as far as they can, and thrones and dominions more than they : yet see not all His Majesty; they see as far as they are able to do, and as far as for them is needful. Together with the Son the HOLY GHOST seeth also, for He searcheth and knoweth all things, even the deep things of GOD.' So that as the Son, so the HOLY SPIRIT also knoweth the FATHER. For no one knoweth the FATHER but the Son, and he to whom the SoN shall have revealed Him. He seeth as is meet, and revealeth together with the SPIRIT and through the SPIRIT, according as each can contain GOD."
So variously and extensively, in senses so vast and sublime, do the Fathers acknowledge all the principles that we maintain, of the law by which GoD imparts the knowledge of Himself.
11. Origen's mode of considering the subject, as moral, not intellectual.
If again we come to Origen, who dwells so much on the latent senses of Scripture, we shall find that he speaks of them as means which he considers that God has of trying and teaching us, by a sort of reserve and gradual disclosure. This he takes for granted in all his commentaries: his common allusion is of higher meanings being revealed unto the perfect: the Bible is, with him, the field in which the unsearchable riches which are in CHRIST are
angels," &c. In another place, the same writer says (Catechesis ix. 75.) "that from His great love to man, God hath set the heavens around Him as a covering, that we may not see Him and die. For it is written, (Exod. xxxiii. 20.) No man shall see my face and live."
the hidden treasure: its Divine precepts are the goodly pearls, but there is one of great price, and this is the secret knowledge of CHRIST. It is like an instrument in which the music is asleep, until it is brought out by a skilful hand, such as that of the Psalmist of Israel, when all Scripture is found in perfect harmony, at the sound of which the evil spirit flies: thus he speaks in his Commentaries. But we should do him injustice to suppose that he would consider Scripture, on that account, a sealed book to those unlearned in the school of CHRIST. In his letter to Gregory, he says, "that the chief means to enter into the secret sense of Scripture is to knock at the door by prayer." In another place, (in the Philocalia) he exhorts those who find difficulties in Scripture, not to despair or be weary in reading. "For," he says, 66 as incantations have a certain natural power, so that he that understands them not yet derives something from them, according to the character of the sounds, whether it be to his hurt, or the healing of his body or soul; so let him understand that more powerful than any incantations are the words of Divine Scripture '."
With observations of this kind respecting the secret sense of Scripture, he blends in other places some references to our LORD's own teaching. Thus, in another place, speaking of the depth of wisdom contained in St. Paul's teaching, he says, "I will say nothing at present on all those things which throughout
1 The passage thus proceeds: "For there are certain faculties of which the better part are sustained by these incantations as it were, from having within them some natural affinity: and though we do not seem to understand, yet these capabilities of good within are somehow strengthened thereby, and co-operate towards bettering our life." Afterwards, by another simile, he urges the same, we may be assured that we often derive benefit when we are not aware of it (i. e. in reading the Bible), as if we were recommended to take some particular kind of food for bad eyes, and yet while taking it we do not perceive any improvement in our sight; but after two or three days the same food being distributed through our constitution, may afford us sensible experience of the benefit. So also be assured, with regard to the Divine Scriptures, that the mind is profited, although the understanding doth not perceive the fruit from the bare reading. There are powers within, which are as it were charmed thereby, what is good is strengthened, and evil weakened and destroyed." (Philoc. p. 40.)
the Gospels are worthy of observation. Each of these passages contains much wisdom, such as is difficult of comprehension, not only to the multitude, but also to some persons of understanding, on account of the very profound meaning of the parables, which JESUS spake to those who were without: keeping the clear exposition of them for those who were more advanced in spiritual discernment, and who came to Him privately in the house. He who has perceived it, cannot but be full of admiration at the import of those expressions by which some are called those without, and others, those in the house. And again, who would not be astonished at the frequent transitions of JESUS, if he be able to follow them? how for certain discourses or actions, or in order to His own transfiguration, He went up into a mountain. And how below He healed the sick, and such as were not able to ascend to where His disciples were 1." (Contra Celsum, 1. iii. p. 122.)
And in another place, (p. 139,) where he is speaking to the same effect, viz. that JESUS explained all things privately to His disciples, such as He deemed more worthy than others of Heavenly wisdom, he remarks that “Paul, in the account of gifts which are bestowed of GOD, puts wisdom in the first place, and knowledge the next in order, and faith in the third and lower place." (1 Cor. xii. 13.) This principle, indeed, thoroughly imbues all the works of this great writer. Whatever may have been his errors, and however rash some of his speculations, yet one cannot but be impressed at the deep and broad views which he discloses to us in Scripture, although they may be such as it is beyond man to follow, and he may have erred in attempting it. Still, though we may not on some occasions approve of them in the particular, yet he leaves a general sacred impression, that in Scripture we are treading on holy ground.
From his very remarkable depth of thought and extensive insight into the wonders of nature and Revelation, he seems to have arrived at a sense of human ignorance. With the same vast and comprehensive view of the ways of Providence with our own great Butler, and a similar devotional piety, he seems to 1 Referred to in Part I. p. 9, note.