THE TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.
1. No argument adduced against the principle: history of the subject in the writer's mind.
2. Testimony of the early Church full and extensive.
3. The existence of what has been termed the Disciplina Arcani.
4. Indications of the principle independent of any known definite system.
5. The Disciplina a rule of moral nature.
6. The whole subject connected with a great religious principle and rule of conduct.
7. Catholic mode of interpreting Scripture founded on the same.
8. High authority for this mode of Scriptural interpretation.
9. Reverence and caution observable in the Fathers.
10. Reserve in revelation not confined to GOD'S word.
11. Origen's mode of considering the subject as moral not intellectual.
12. The same discussed at length by St. Clement of Alexandria.
13. The testimony of the Ancient Church to the doctrine of Christ Crucified.
14. The practice and principle of the Ancient Church perfectly analogous to our LORD'S example.
THE PRINCIPLE OPPOSED TO CERTAIN MODERN RELIGIOUS OPINIONS.
1. The nature of the objections which have been made.
2. On preaching the word most effectually.
3. On teaching the doctrine of the Atonement.
4. Danger in forming a plan of our own different from that of Scripture.
5. Statement of the case from plain moral principles.
6. All Scripture in perfect harmony as opposed to this modern system.
7. On eloquent preaching and delivery.
8. This peculiar system a worldly system.
THE SYSTEM OF THE CHURCH, ONE OF RESERVE.
1. The principle considered with reference to ourselves.
2. The holiness of GOD'S House of Prayer.
3. Sacraments, Church Ordinances, and practices.
4. The Church realizes its kingdom is secret.
5. This Reserve the best preservative of sound Church principles.
6. Caution necessary with respect to the latent senses of Scripture.
7. Secret religious duties, conversation, and controversy.
8. Untenable objections on the ground of our present position.
9. This sacred principle more than ever needed.
10. Want of reverence now prevailing.
11. Summary of the whole subject.
PART IV. THE TESTIMONY OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH. 1. No Argument adduced against the principle: history of the subject in the writer's mind.
THE writer made every inquiry of friends before the late Tract on this subject was published, to ascertain to what objections it was liable; and since the publication, he has looked out with great interest for everything that has issued against it, with the expectation of finding either arguments adduced, which would militate against the principle itself, or such as would be calculated to show that, allowing the principle to be true, it was not capable of bearing out the conclusions to which it has been applied: for, by means of such objections, the writer had hoped either, by answering and explaining them, to draw out and establish more clearly his main principle; or else to be assisted in seeing that the case should not be proved; under which circumstance he trusts he should be ready to acknowledge it. But to his great disappointment he has found nothing of this kind; he is not aware of one single argument adduced that touches the question; but much vague declamation, and strong alarms expressed, because the view interferes with certain peculiar religious opinions, or on account of some motives attributed to the writer's friends, or on other similar grounds, which in fact (even were they true) in no way affect him or this principle. That those who will not afford the subject a patient consideration should not agree with him, does in truth only confirm the argument which the writer wishes to maintain; which is mainly this, that religious truth cannot be known without serious attention. If there is something sacred and divine in this rule of reverential forebearance it cannot be thus controverted; nor has it in any way been put forth with any party feeling, nor will any one say it has been treated by us in a spirit of controversy: the sole object being to know, by what means we may best arrive at truth, and promote religion in the world.
But independently of these objections, the writer has himself felt that there was much in the subject that needed explanation, and which was liable to misconstruction. He felt it at the time of publishing the former treatise, and has done so ever since. And some friendly notices, which have mentioned this, have not expressed it more strongly than he has been himself impressed with it: partly from not fully seeing how far the inferences might lead him, which were deducible from a principle that he considered as true; and partly from some of his original observations on the subject having been mislaid and lost at the time of the publication, comprising the whole of the proof from antiquity which is here given; and as the inquiry has from its very nature occasioned some unavoidable misapprehensions, perhaps he could not better explain his sentiments than by recording the history of them in his own mind.
The opinion was not at first formed from a knowledge of any system of the kind in sacred antiquity, nor from observing that the principle was so fully maintained throughout the whole of the Holy Scriptures as he has since found it to be, much less from any speculative theory adopted in the study; but from his own dealings with mankind in the care of a parish, and his observation of the conduct of others who, he thought, had most experience and good sense and singleness of heart in winning men to the truth. Much pain was occasioned him, and much injury he thought was done to the cause of the Gospel, in those who, from habit or want of consideration, acted otherwise. It appeared to him that, though his mode of proceeding was contrary to that which such persons require, yet it was according to the maxims of Scripture: and often oppressed, as we cannot but feel, while thus acting, at being considered by some almost without the pale of the Christian covenant, yet his own natural sense of right, delicacy, and even Christian expediency, and much more his notion of the Gospel itself, could never allow him to act differently; considering that in the care of himself he had more to guard against insincere profession, and unreal systems of thought and feeling in religion than any thing else; and that in others also he had nothing so much to seek for as true honesty and seriousness of mind, respecting a state so awful as that which Christianity represents ours to be. It appeared to him that there was no subject upon which we were so much and so earnestly cautioned throughout the Gospels as this (especially through all the Sermon on the Mount, and in our LORD'S last discourses in St. John,) and that in the world at present the standard of things was so external, that there was more than ever danger of false pretension,-of an unreality, a want of thorough simplicity and seriousness, a secret looking to the world, such as would eat out the very heart of religion. Thoughts of this kind were constantly in his mind: not that he had any notion whatever of a system, or indeed of any great and extensive principle, nor even did his feelings assume any definite shape so as to support themselves by arguments and decisive reasons why his sentiments and practice were unlike those of certain others; but he only felt that in acting otherwise in occasional instances of various kinds, he was doing violence to something sacred and to natural modesty; and that the obloquy he was subject to he shared with those of whose fidelity he could not doubt, such as Bishop Butler and Bishop Wilson. And indeed when continually engaged in these and the like thoughts, he had felt inexpressibly relieved and comforted at finding those whom he could most value not only quite free from all this, but watchful against it in themselves and others. Perfectly one and of a piece with this appeared to him the uniform tendency of Holy Scripture, when viewed with a reference to this subject, as has been shown in the previous part of this treatise. And in reading the ancient writers with this view he found throughout, if they did not fully explain the whole of our LORD'S conduct on this principle, yet they incidentally allowed it, and bore the fullest evidence to the opinions he has stated. So much so indeed that the doctrine, which appears new and strange to many of us in the present day, would have been one with which they were quite familiar. The inferences implied, and the practices recommended, would have been considered by the Ancient Church as a matter of course, and this it is our present object to show.
2. Testimony of the early Church full and extensive.
But before entering on this part of the subject, which was before accidentally omitted, let us be understood in our appeal to antiquity. The principle has not been founded, as some have stated, on the primitive practice, but on Scripture alone. And our appeal to Catholic antiquity would be sufficient were it only to prove that it is not opposed to our opinion; but so far is this from being the case, that, on the contrary, we shall find that it fully supports it in a variety of ways. We shall find scattered intimations of this kind pervade all primitive writings: but that more particularly there were two customs which embody and strongly put forth the principle. The first an external system of discipline, designated by the Latins the Discipline of the Secret, according to which they kept back in reserve the higher doctrines of our Faith until persons were rendered fit to receive them by a long previous preparation. The other an universal rule in the explanations of GOD'S Word, which is founded on the supposition that it contains mystical meanings disclosed only to the faithful.
To these two points therefore we would especially draw attention in our appeal to Catholic Antiquity; first of all that not only what we have supposed respecting our LORD'S concealing His Divine presence is confirmed both by the express allusions of the Fathers, but also by their adopting into the Church a mode of acting, which appears to us extraordinary, and which either took its rise from this circumstance (i. e. of Scriptural example), or was founded upon a great religious principle. Secondly, that they universally seem to suppose that there is in Holy Scripture something which is throughout analogous to what we have traced out in the history of our LORD'S life, so that there is an unity of action and manner of a very remarkable kind in the two cases. They suppose that our blessed LORD is as it were, throughout the inspired writings, hiding and concealing Himself, and going about (if I may so speak reverently) seeking to whom He may disclose Himself: that there are many things in Scripture which might appear common and ordinary accounts, relating to passing events, or words which appear to speak only of temporal wisdom; that our LORD is walking therein and concealing His divinity: in the same manner that we have supposed that in our LORD'S ordinary walk and mode of life among men He very studiously and remarkably concealed His ineffable majesty under the appearance of common humanity, accompanied with great goodness. Though these two points are different yet they involve one common principle.
But when we come to produce the proof from the ancient Church that we are putting forth no new doctrine, we find it a task really very difficult, from the very abundance of the matter; the principle is thoroughly and entirely infused into their whole system; their words, their notions, their practices, thoroughly breathe of it, so as to indicate a state of thought and feeling perfectly at variance with those modern systems, whether that (improperly) called Evangelical, or the cold and barren (equally miscalled) orthodoxy of the last age; so as to show an entire and essential difference in tone and spirit. The proof is difficult, for one hardly knows how to produce it; if we were to bring forward, generally, sentiments from the Fathers which imply it, it would occupy volumes; and besides this, the testimony is so varied in its nature that it makes an attempt appear desultory. It is like attempting to describe some strong impression of the mind, which is shown in the body in every part; every limb, and every gesture may be indicative of it, and yet it may be rather expressed by the whole than by any part, and to select one, would not adequately serve the purpose. So does the principle pervade the body of the Church, appearing now in one part, and then in another; now in action, now in demeanour, now in expression, and often in all together, and yet in so subtle a manner as to defy description. The Fathers speak of it as our LORD'S mode of conduct; they speak of it still more, as St. Paul's in all his teaching; they speak of it as a rule of Scripture, as a principle in morals; their practice with regard to others, and their studies, both alike imply it. There is, perhaps, not one among the Fathers with whom one would not find, on this subject, that sympathy and understanding which it is in vain to seek for among moderns, at least, among those who are imbued with a spirit alien to the Church.
The spirit and practice of the Ancient Church is like the genuine and retiring modesty of first love in contrast with the feeble loudness and noisy display of a counterfeit, which would fain renew feelings it has lost: "with their mouth they show much love."
The instances we have to adduce, must therefore necessarily be various in their character, and may appear to allude to things in themselves distinct; one to a secret sense in Scripture, another to a moral rule of action, another to a rule of Church discipline, and another to an historical fact respecting our LORD or His Apostles. But it must be observed, that it is this very diversity which most establishes the point in question; namely, that it is a great moral and religious principle, or which these are incidental manifestations: for either of these points proved singly, might be supposed to be only the effect of imagination, or a train of circumstances that might be otherwise accounted for: but a concurrence of the whole in points, each of which is contrary to our at present received notions, can only be referred to a general principle. Besides which, this very variety opens to us a subject of exceeding interest, namely, our blessed LORD acting towards mankind through the whole of His Church, in a manner strikingly in harmony with His personal conduct in the days of His Incarnation.
3. The existence of what has been termed the Disciplina Arcani.
Now first of all with regard to the Disciplina Arcani: what has been said would naturally lead one to conclude that it owed its origin to a most sacred source. It seems so perfectly in accordance with all that has been noticed of our LORD'S conduct, (in Tract No. 80. Part I.) that His example and mode of teaching will constantly account for its origin in a manner that nothing else will. And moreover, that alone will suggest a reason why the principle should have become so universal, without any apparent reference to that definite system of Church discipline.
But even were we to suppose, as some have imagined, that the practice of the Disciplina had its origin in religious or philosophic mysteries among the heathen: even this by no means destroys our argument respecting the principle itself as a rule in religion or morals; for the very existence of those mysteries themselves remains to be accounted for. If the principle we maintain is a truth of GOD, and strongly stamped on His revelation, such a principle must be founded on our moral and spiritual nature, and therefore of course may be expected to be found among mankind; this would account for its existence in Egypt and early Greece. But there is great reason to believe that the pagan mysteries took their rise from something more holy than themselves. One cannot seriously reflect on Herodotus' account of Egypt, and the mysterious awe with which he forbears to speak of certain things in religion, without apprehending that there is much more in it than any system of man's invention; that amidst the extensive corruption of primitive religion which took place in that country, there still remained an indefinable fear, which would only find its correspondence in the sense handed down of the awfulness of the true GOD. So that at all events, were we to allow for a momentary supposition that this Disciplina had an heathen origin, the very existence of these pagan mysteries would serve greatly to establish the principle as a law in our moral nature.
But it has been well said, that to suppose the doctrines of the Holy Catholic Church owed their origin to the practices of heathen philosophy, is as if a person were to imagine that the sun owed its light to a reflection of the moon in the waters; and this we should be doing, if we allowed the secret discipline of the early Church to have owed its origin to any heathen custom. But the principle of reserve on which it is founded, is thoroughly consistent throughout with all the methods of revelation, and quite consistent in itself in all its extensive developments in the Church. If we grant it to be true that there are no proofs for the existence of the Disciplina itself before the middle or the end of the second century, this would only prove that it might not have appeared as a definite system; it may have been wrong, as is the case of other institutions, that it should have assumed a precise form and name at all; or the circumstances of the Church preceding it may not have required it should do so, from the Christians being necessarily of a strong and marked character to be Christians at all, while the Church was herself struggling into existence.
Yet had we a close and accurate account of the manner in which the Apostles dealt with individuals as we have of our LORD Himself, we might have found in them a continuation of His own mode of teaching, as there remarked by the close attention which the narrative admits of. Some indications of it are at once obvious in the Acts of the Apostles; for instance, the great danger we have supposed to accompany the revelation and acknowledgment of the Presence of GOD, is at once exemplified in the fate of Ananias and Sapphira, and the awful rebuke addressed to Simon Magus.
But the very obscurity which hangs about the practices of the early Church, the silence in which many things are left, seems to indicate something of this principle. How little from the Epistles of St. Paul, or any other records of the first ages, do we learn of any of the forms of discipline which the Church doubtless then observed? and afterwards the mention of the Secret Discipline seems to be often but incidental. Indeed, it is by no means evident that even Justin Martyr does not allude to it, it is well known that he applies the word fwtismoV or illumination, to Baptism, a word afterwards used with reference to the instruction in Christian doctrine imparted at that Sacrament, and the light then bestowed. Add to which we know our LORD was for forty days conversing with His disciples of the things concerning the kingdom, of which nothing is publicly written or declared: in these things it was, as St. Peter says of the Resurrection, they were disclosed, "not unto all the people, but to certain witnesses chosen of GOD." We find, moreover, that the heretics of the first age maintained that their doctrines were of that more sacred kind which our LORD and His Apostles had divulged to certain favoured disciples. Although there was no truth in these allegations, and no proof of a divine authority for the Disciplina, yet is it not likely that the false assumption of the former, as well as the latter system, may have taken their rise in some great truth, viz. our LORD'S mode of communicating knowledge to His disciples, and a certain reserve in disclosing Himself?
Add to this the extraordinary ignorance of the heathen writers respecting Christianity, and the strong indications which all must have noticed throughout St. Paul's Epistles, that he discloses and withholds Christian knowledge and mysteries, according to the meetness of those to whom he was writing to receive them.
If intimations of these things are but faint in the first age of Christianity, yet in the next they derive the most ample confirmation throughout the works of St. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, and most of the succeeding Fathers; their mode of speaking of religion, of interpreting Scripture, always seems to imply this principle of reserve. The Disciplina Arcani is spoken of, not as some ecclesiastical system founded on motives of expediency, as is now often supposed, or arising from the circumstances of the times, or as merely directed towards the heathens; it is implied that this reserve is an universal principle in morals; that its assuming a strong and definite shape in the Disciplina Arcani is only an accidental development of it; that it is founded deep in our nature; that the system is to be traced throughout the heathen world in some shape or other, proving it to be of divine origin or arising out of some common principle; that it has the authority of our LORD Himself and His disciples; that it was practised by our LORD, not from the immediate and necessary exigencies of the occasion, but as a great law and rule of religious wisdom; that an awful and reverential sense of His thus disclosing Himself only according to the state of man's heart is the only key to the knowledge of His ways, either in His moral providences or His more direct revelations.
4. Indications of the principle independent of any known definite system.
The very silence of the first ages is on this subject in our favour; and a few passages that do allude to it, are themselves so interesting, and so much tend to confirm the view we have taken, that we cannot withhold a fuller reference to them, though they have already been alluded to. The Author of the Epistle to Diognetus, which has been ascribed to Justin Martyr, says incidentally in the passages before spoken of, "having been myself a disciple of the Apostles, I am become a teacher of the Gentiles. The things which were delivered to me, I am the means to convey to those who are worthy, who have become disciples of the truth. For who is there that has a love for the Word, who does not seek clearly to know those things which were by the Word shown openly to the disciples, to whom He declared them, being Himself manifested to them, speaking with all freedom, not understood by the unbeliever, but conversing and explaining to the disciples. And they who were by Him esteemed faithful have become acquainted with these mysteries of the Father."
This simple and undersigned but distinct allusion to the teaching of our LORD Himself is much to be observed, and seems by the mention of the disciples to carry on, and connect with the system of the Church that reserve which has been noticed in the Gospels, and serves to explain in some degree that silence, so remarkable in the New Testament, of the things concerning the Church delivered to faithful men.
The passage quoted by Mr. Keble on the subject of tradition from the bishop Hippolytus bears an undesigned testimony to this principle also at an early period. "Take care," says that holy Father, "that these things be not delivered to unbelieving and blasphemous tongues. For the danger is not inconsiderable. But impart them to serious and faithful men who wish to live holily and justly with fear. For it is not without a purpose that the blessed Paul in his exhortation to Timothy says . . . . 'Keep the 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."
This testimony not only sanctions the evidence of the pre-ceding extract, but inculcates the same as a moral duty incum-bent on teachers of the truth. We have, again, the very high authority of St. Athanasius for knowing, that the disciples them-selves 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 that there were "many things which they had re-ceived not from Scripture but from Apostolical tradition, com-municated," he says, "in mystery and secrecy, and which their fathers had preserved in unobtrusive and modest silence, know-ing rightly that this sacred reverence to mysteries was their best protection." He then alludes to the same having been the inten-tion, 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 circum-stances 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 pre-scribed the first rites of the Church, preserved the dignity of their mysteries in secrecy and silence. And even that 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 connection 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 nature. 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 "'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 dis-cipline. 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 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 indiscri-minately 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, 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 connection 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 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 cate-chumens the things which were revealed to them. "If any should ask and say, What harm will there be in my being ac-quainted?" 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 con-nexion with heathen practices, he speaks of it as opposed to them. Against Celsus, 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, "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. 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, "Ye are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat; for every one that useth meat is unskilful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and vile."
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 observable, 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 last quoted, he says, that our SAVIOUR condescended to come down to the level of him who was unable to look upon the excessive luster 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 to 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 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, 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. Augustine 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 this as a known and acknowledged duty. In his Enarration on Psalm 39, 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; perclitans 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.
7. Catholic mode of interpreting Scripture founded on this principle.
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 opinion. 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 significations 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 particular explanations; and if they have erred, it has been in the littleness and unworthiness of their conceptions; the higher their conceptions have been, the more have they approached to the sublimity and infinity of GOD'S works.
But it might be said, that this mode of interpretation has arisen from the nature of the Hebrew language, in which each word contains many deep and ulterior meanings, which may be considered as types of each other. But this observation will, in fact, lead us to the same conclusion of its Divine character; it is indeed only going further into the subject, sending us back one step more in tracing the chain which reaches from GOD'S throne. For if the sacred language which the Almighty has chosen in order to reveal Himself to mankind is of this typical nature, it proves that such is the language of GOD; that in numerous analogies and resemblances, differing in time, importance and extent, but with one drift and scope, He is used to speak to us, blending figure with word spoken.
But when we come to the matter of fact as proved by the Scriptures themselves, the principle itself must be allowed as right, whatever limitations men may prescribe to the application or use of it. It is very evident how much our blessed LORD has Himself pointed out to us these deep and latent meanings, where we could not otherwise have ventured to suppose them to exist; as, for instance, in the sign of the prophet Jonah, and the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness. And in almost all His references to the Old Testament, our LORD has led us to seek for mines of secret information disclosed to the eye of Faith beyond the letter.
And it is to be observed that Scripture has not generally pointed out to us those instances in which an allegorical interpretation is most obvious and important, but often those in which it is less so; as if thereby, it rather suggested to us a general law, than afforded any direction respecting its limit and extent. If from our LORD'S own example we pass to the writings of St. Paul, it is needless to mention the numerous striking instances in which he has unfolded to us the spiritual and high senses of the Old Testament. And passing from Apostles to Apostolical writers, we find the same system acknowledged, as it were incidentally, but almost universally. To say nothing of Barnabas's Epistle, and its peculiar character in this respect, which must have great weight as being the testimony of primitive antiquity, even though it be not apostolical, nor written by the companion of St. Paul, who has been called the great mustagwgoV. Even Clement of Rome, though his Epistle does not much admit of such allusions, yet has at least one remarkable instance of the kind, where he speaks of the scarlet thread held out by the harlot Rahab, as conveying a sign of "the blood of our LORD, by which there is redemption to all who trust and hope in GOD."
With regard therefore to this system of interpretation, we have in many instances Divine authority for it; and beyond where we have this authority, it might be thought that we have no sanction for such applications and explanations: in which case, it would be similar to the moral principles or doctrines that are deduced from Holy Scripture, which may be said to flow more or less clearly from the Word itself, and to be supported by analogy, natural consequence, or agreement with other passages; and these to be decided by the judgment of individuals, and that natural weight of authority which we allow to be due to the opinions of great and good men. But further than this, as with regard to moral principles of doctrine, so also with respect to such particular interpretations, it is perhaps the case, (as it has been well observed,) that for some of them there may be such a concurrent testimony in early and distinct Churches as to amount to a Catholic consent, which consent would of course have the same kind of sacred authority as would attend a similar agreement with respect to doctrine.
But all that is here required to be proved is, first that such a mode of interpretation is that of the Universal Church, and secondly, that it is implied thereby that it is GOD'S mode of dealing with mankind. And here again, as in the case of the Disciplina, the argument does not depend upon any vindication of the manner in which it may have been pursued in some cases. Even were it granted that the interpretations of Origen, Ambrose, and others were fanciful and untenable, as perhaps they sometimes are, yet it cannot be supposed that they were wrong in the general principle of interpretation, but in the effort of human understanding to fathom the depths of Divine wisdom in the particular instance. There may be much beyond the letter, but it may be presumption in uninspired man to say what it is,-"Let GOD be true but every man a liar." Sufficient for our purpose it is that such a method of considering Holy Writ is Catholic, not to say Apostolical and Divine.
9. Reverence and caution observable in the Fathers.
The mode in which it is spoken of by so early a writer as St. Irenæus, is important; he is condemning fanciful expositions of the parables, proving thereby that it was an error that age was liable to, and, in so doing, thoroughly acknowledges the principle in the light in which we consider it, viz., that this knowledge is not to be attained by mere natural acuteness or critical sagacity, that GOD is throughout the teacher, that man is to wait on and reverently learn of Him. "Those things," he says, "in being most fully assured that the Scriptures are perfect, for they are spoken of by the WORD of GOD and His SPIRIT, but we as the last and the least in His Word and in His SPIRIT, must need His help for the knowledge of those mysteries. And it is not to be wondered as it in things spiritual and heavenly, and which are the subjects of Revelation, this should be the case, since even in those things which are before our feet (such as are in the natural creation, which are handled and seen by us and dwell about us) many things escape our knowledge, and these we commit to GOD." After mentioning some particulars of this kind in the natural world, he says, "If therefore in the natural creation some things are laid up with GOD, and some come to our knowledge, where is the difficulty in supposing this to be the case, in those things which we seek to know in Scripture, since all the Scriptures are spiritual, and that some things according to the grace of GOD we should explain, and that others should be laid up with Him. So that GOD should be throughout the teacher, and man throughout should be learning of Him." "If therefore in the manner which I have mentioned we will lay up some of our questions with GOD, we shall persevere in maintaining our faith, and continue without danger, and find all Scripture which GOD has given us, to be in harmony. The parables will harmonize with things spoken openly, and things spoken openly explain the parables, and in variety of statements we shall perceive within us but a multiplicity of voices, combining together to form one accordant and harmonious melody."
This passage serves very admirably to set before us the very reverent and holy manner in which the Fathers looked on this principle of interpretation: and St. Augustine may speak for another age, in thoughts very similar, and alike expressive of the general tone of feeling in the Ancient Church on this subject. "Expect not," he says, "to hear from us those things which the LORD was then unwilling to say to His disciples, for as yet they could not bear them: but rather advance in charity, which is diffused in your hearts through the HOLY SPIRIT which is given you; that, being fervent in spirit and loving spiritual things, ye may be able to discern the spiritual light and spiritual voice which men cannot bear; not by any sign appearing unto your bodily eyes, nor by any sound which is heard by bodily ears, but by the inward sight and hearing. For that is not loved which is altogether unknown. But when that is loved which is known in howsoever small a part, then by that very love itself it is effected, that it should be better and more fully known. If therefore ye advance in charity, which the HOLY SPIRIT sheds in your heart, He will teach you all truth:" "not altogether in this life," he afterwards adds, "but so far in this life as shall be a pledge of fulness hereafter." Thus, it is well known, St. Augustine and others often speak. All imply a certain reverential sobriety to be most needful in approaching GOD'S word, lest we obtain harm instead of benefit thereby. In another passage, the same writer has occasion to condemn, like St. Irenæus, those who otherwise attempted that knowledge. "The Evangelical Sacraments," he says, "which are signified in the sayings and actions of our LORD JESUS CHRIST, are not open to all, and some by interpreting them with too little diligence, and too little soberness, obtain oftentimes destruction instead of safety, and error instead of the knowledge of truth." In another place St. Augustine speaks to the same effect. "By many," he says, "and manifold obscurities and ambiguities are they deceived who read carelessly, conceiving one thing for another; but in some places they find not enough even to suggest false surmises: so obscurely do some things envelop themselves in thickest darkness. All of which, I doubt not, is a Divine provision, in order to subdue pride by labour, and to recall the intellect from its fastidiousness, to which those things generally appear mean which are easily investigated." And again, "Now no one doubts that both objects become known to us with greater delight by means of similitudes, and things that are sought for with some difficulty are discovered with more pleasure. Magnificently therefore, and healthfully for us hath the HOLY SPIRIT so adapted the sacred Scriptures, as to satisfy our hunger by passages more manifest, and by those that are more obscure to prevent fastidiousness. For generally out of those obscurities nothing is elicited but is elsewhere more plainly spoken."
10. Reserve in revelation not confined to GOD'S Word.
But the principle upon which ancient writers explain Scripture they do not apply to that alone, but to all the ways of GOD, and frequently connect this also with our LORD'S conduct. It is not Holy Writ only with them, but the visible creation also, and natural providence, and sacramental mysteries, which are the veils of Divinity, through which and by which the ALMIGHTY speaks darkly to His creatures, concealing or disclosing Himself as they are found worthy. The words, by which they speak of these, might be applied also to what has been stated of our SAVIOUR'S conduct when manifested in the flesh.
Thus Chrysostom, in speaking of the Christian mysteries, applies to them words which he might at another time use of Holy Scripture, or of our LORD as seen through the veil of the flesh, 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 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 as 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 "that when we think over a passage in Scripture, in vain endeavouring to gain 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 know at the invisible gate, that invisibly it may open to us, and ye invisibly may enter in, and invisibly be healed."
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; in a very beautiful and sublime passage, 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, kaq o ekastoV cwrei. 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, 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 sense 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 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, he exhorts those who find difficulties in Scripture, not to despair, or be weary in reading. "For," he says, "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 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 houses. 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 where His disciples were."
And in another place, 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." 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 have wanted his practical sense and sobriety of judgment, and by a keen imagination to have been tempted to venture on those depths, which perhaps neither man nor angel is permitted to explore: yet, perhaps there is no writer who more constantly reminds us of the incompetency of the natural man to understand the mysteries of GOD. Thus, to use his own words, he says in his work against Celsus, "In the 17th Psalm it is said of God, after the Hebrew manner of speaking, that 'He hath made darkness His secret place,' to signify how unknown are worthy conceptions of GOD, who hath concealed Himself as it were in darkness, from those who are unable to bear the brightness of His knowledge, nor able to behold Him. Partly on account of the impurity of men's minds who are encompassed with infirmity, and partly from a natural incapability of understanding GOD. And to signify how few among mankind are found capable of the knowledge of GOD, Moses is described to have entered into the darkness in which GOD was. And again, Moses also shall approach unto GOD, and the rest shall not approach. And the Prophet, that he might set forth how deep are the doctrines which are concerning GOD, and which cannot be penetrated by them who have not that SPIRIT of GOD, which searcheth all things, even the deep things of GOD, hath spoken of His being "covered with the deep like as with a garment." And moreover, our SAVIOUR and LORD, the WORD of GOD, hath signified the greatness of the knowledge of the FATHER, that first of all it is worthily apprehended by Himself alone: secondly, by those whom the WORD shall illuminate with His guidance: when He says, 'No one knoweth the FATHER, but the SON, and he to whom the SON shall reveal Him.' He it is that dispelleth the darkness which the FATHER hath made His hiding place."
The same extraordinary writer in another passage opens a very sublime and valuable sentiment, by introducing the analogy of GOD'S natural Providence to explain this law of the Scriptures, which so often wraps up mysterious wisdom in difficulties of thought of expression.
"If," says he, speaking of the earnest and attentive reading of Scripture, "if, in particular places, to the unlearned there may occur sentiments which do not seem to surpass the wisdom of man, this is nothing to be wondered at: for thus in the works of that Providence which embraces all the world, some things appear more evidently the works of Divine superintendence, but in others this forethought is so concealed, as to afford occasion for unbelief in that GOD who governs all things by an unspeakable contrivance and power. For the hand and design of an all-disposing Governor is not so apparent in things on the earth, as it is in the sun, and the moon, and the stars. And it is not so manifest in human contingencies, as it is in the souls and bodies of living creatures; the object and design being strongly discernible to those who trace these things, concerning the impulses, instincts, and natures of animals, and the structure of their bodies. But, as in the case of those who have once rightly perceived this Providence, their faith in that Providence is not lessened on account of things which they understand not; so neither should the just sense of that Divinity, which extends throughout the whole of Scripture, suffer any diminution in our regard, on account of our not being able, from our own weakness, to perceive the hidden lustre of its doctrines in some particular passages, where it is concealed by homely and despised phrase."
12. The subject discussed at length by St. Clement of Alexandria.
Nothing has been yet said of Clement of Alexandria, and indeed little of the Alexandrian school, as the object has been rather to show the general consent of the Fathers than to bring forward the agreement of any one in particular with ourselves. Nor, indeed, was the writer at all aware till he had fully drawn out this subject himself, and finished the Scripture proof, that St. Clement of Alexandria, had philosophically discussed the same at great length in the fifth and sixth chapters of his Stromata. He alludes to it as the Scriptural mode of instruction throughout, and maintains, by many curious instances, that this reserve in communicating moral and religious truth was observed by all the heathen philosophers. He speaks of sacred knowledge progressively disclosing itself in this manner. "The violent," he says, "take the kingdom by force, offering violence not in contentious disputations, but by the persevering power of an upright life, and prayers 'without ceasing,' having worn out the stains of their former sins. To him," he says, "who walks according to the word, the first step towards discipline is the perception of his own ignorance. One who hath been ignorant, hath sought, and seeking, hath found the teacher; having found, he hath believed; and believing, hath hoped; and hoping in Him he loves Him; and loving, becomes assimilated into the object of his love; labouring to become that which he first hath loved."
In the same book he says, that, "as the generality of people are not taken by the intrinsic lustre of wisdom and justice, nor value them according to truth, but to some accidental pleasure they may derive;" "therefore by some mode of concealment, truly divine and needful for us, the purely sacred Word is laid up in the secret shrine of truth. Such the Egyptians indicated by the adyta, and the Hebrews signified by the veil, which they alone might enter into who were consecrated to GOD, who were to have their hearts circumcised from other affections on account of the love of GOD alone."
He then shows in numerous instances, how at all times the truth had been concealed, by enigmas, by signs and symbols, by allegories and metaphors, by dubious oracles, and to all this he applies the words of Isaiah, "I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of the secret places, that they may know that I am the LORD;" after showing many instances in which he thinks there was secret knowledge in the laws of the Old Testament, he shows it was so in the hieroglyphics of Egypt, in many expressions of Plato, in the Pythagorean mysteries, in the Platonic and Epicurean secrets, in the esoteric and exoteric doctrines of Aristotle, in the fictions of ancient poets. He says that the philosophers tried the sincerity of their hearers in their lives before they communicated divine knowledge to them. And besides, he says that, "through some sort of a veil truth itself appears greater and more venerable, like fruits which shine through water, and forms which are half concealed. Moreover when different modes of apprehension are held forth, the ignorant is deceived, the wise only understands."
Of our own Scripture, he says in another place, it is plainly declared in the Psalms, that it is written in parables: "I will open my mouth in a parable," &c. And the illustrious Apostle speaks to the same effect: "but we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, but not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, which come to naught, but we speak in a mystery the hidden wisdom of GOD. Which none of the princes of this world knew; for, had they known it, they would not have crucified the LORD of Glory."
He often alludes to St. Paul as observing this rule of reserve, keeping, he says, to the prophetical and truly ancient mode of concealment (as in 1 Cor. ii. 6, 7; iii. 1, 2, 3): and he shows that St. Paul has, in numerous places, spoken of its being usual in Scripture thus to veil the truth (as in Eph. iii. 3, 4, 5; Col i. 9, 10, 11 and 25, 26, 27; 1 Cor. iii. 10; viii. 7; and where he says to the Hebrews that, for the time, they ought to have known, considering how long they had had the Old Testament.
It is difficult to do more than barely allude to what St. Clement says on a subject which he enters into so fully. In the sixth book, he applies the same, in some degree, to our SAVIOUR'S teaching: "Neither prophecy," he says, "nor our SAVIOUR Himself, promulgated the divine mysteries in a manner that they might be easily apprehended by all persons, but discoursed in parables. Certainly, the Apostles say concerning the LORD, 'that He spake all things in parables, and without a parable spake He not unto them;' and even in the Law and Prophets," he adds, "it was He that spake to them in parables."
He thus explains the reason of this reserve in Scripture, and continues, "For many causes, therefore, the Scripture conceals its full import. First of all, that we may be given to inquiry, and watchful in the discovery of saving words. In the next place, because it was not good for all to understand the saving truths of the HOLY GHOST, lest they should be injured thereby,
if they received otherwise what was intended for their salvation. Therefore it is, that those holy mysteries which are reserved for the elect, and for those who are from their faith judged worthy of knowledge, are concealed by parables. For such is the style of Scripture; wherefore our LORD also, being not of this world, yet came among men as if He were of this world; for He sustained the whole of (human) virtue, and was about to raise man, who had his dwelling here, to things high and spiritual, on from one world to another. Therefore, He hath made use of a metaphorical mode of Scripture, for such is a parable. A saying which is not itself the thing intended, but like it, and leading to it, and to the truth, him that understands it. Or, as some say, a mode of speech, which, by means of other subjects, brings forward the thing intended with power and effect. The whole economy of GOD, as it is exists in the Prophecies concerning our LORD, is a parable to those who did not know the truth." He then proceeds to say, that not the prophets only, but the disciples of our LORD, who preached the word after His death, used proverbs. And he afterwards adds to these observations: "For, as truth does not belong to all, it is concealed in various ways, and makes the light to arise on those only who are initiated in the mysteries of knowledge, and, on account of the love of it, seek the truth."
13. The Testimony of the Ancient Church to the doctrine of Christ crucified.
Now, all that has been adduced from the Fathers goes to establish this point, (independently of others,) that all Divine and saving knowledge is derived by pains on the part of man, and requires of preparation of the heart; this is implied by both the two subjects which have been discussed, the systematic discipline of the reserve, and also that of the secret senses of Scripture revealed only to good men. It is implied by all their modes of speaking of it. All these things suppose some method of discipline necessary to ascertain the truth: so that the will and the understanding should both be exercised at once. "The very method of all doctrine," says St. Augustine, "being partly most open, and partly by similitudes, in words, in deed, in sacraments, adapted to all the instruction, and all the exercise of the soul, serves as a method of discipline for the reason. For both is the unfolding of mysteries directed to those things which are spoken most openly; and, if these were only such things as are most easily understood, truth would neither be sought for with study, nor be discovered with delight. If in the Scriptures there were no sacraments, and if in the sacraments there were not symbols of truth, action and knowledge would not be sufficiently united. But now piety begins in fear, and is perfected in love."
And the whole of this subject, respecting the difficulty of arriving at Divine knowledge, will also bear upon another great and essential principle, which has been alluded to in the former treatise; although it be but one and a partial development of it, viz. that CHRIST crucified is the first doctrine taught,-the knowledge of our LORD'S Divinity, the last men come to learn; that the study of the Cross of CHRIST, implying the humiliation of the natural man, leads to the living and practical sense of His Atonement; that through the humanity and sufferings of our LORD, men are brought to an union with the Godhead; that we cannot come to CHRIST but by bearing the Cross after Him, by which, as St. Bernard says, we are made to partake of that anointing which goeth forth from Him. The Fathers seem always to imply that the secrets of CHRIST'S kingdom are obtained only by a consistent course of self-denying obedience; that a knowledge of these things is not conveyed by mere words, nor is a matter of excited emotion, but is a practical knowledge of the heart, obtained more and more by self-renouncing duties of prayer and the like; and thus it is, that, by the Cross of CHRIST, we are brought to Him, and led on to the knowledge of GOD. So that this higher degree of faith "goeth not forth but by prayer and fasting." This is often either explicitly stated, or incidentally implied by Origen and others. St. Augustine sets it forth in the following beautiful and figurative passage. He compares the world to a sea that we must cross before we can arrive at the stable shore. He says, that "GOD has afforded the plank or wood by which we may reach the shore, and that wood is the Cross of CHRIST. For no one can pass over this sea, unless carried on the Cross of CHRIST. One who has no eyes to see embraces this Cross; and while from afar he knows not whither he is to go, if he looses not his hold on this wood, He will bear him to it." "This," he says, "I would wish to instil into your hearts, that, if you will live piously, and as a Christian cling to CHRIST in that which He has been made for us, you may arrive at Him in what he is and hath been in Himself." "It were better not to perceive in the understanding that which He is, if notwithstanding we adhere to the Cross of CHRIST, than to see Him in the understanding, and to despise the Cross of CHRIST. It were, indeed, best of all that that might be beheld to which we are going, and that he goeth might cling to that which should bear him thither." "And this hath been the case with those who are enlightened with higher degrees of faith. They have seen the shore from afar, and, in order to arrive at it, have loosed not their hold of the Cross of CHRIST, nor despised His humility. But those little ones who cannot understand this, if they depart not from the Cross of CHRIST, His Passion, and His Resurrection, they are carried by this ship to that which they behold not; and they who behold it arrive also thither in the same ship." "And why was He crucified? because the wood of His humility was necessary for thee. Thou wert swollen with pride, and cast far away from thy country. Thy way was intercepted by the waves of this world, and thou hadst no means to pass over to thy country, unless carried by the wood. Be carried in the ship, on this wood; believe in the Crucified, and thou shalt arrive thither. He was crucified for thee, that He might teach thee humility; and because if He had come as GOD, He would not have been acknowledged. For He neither cometh nor goeth in that He is GOD, inasmuch as He is every where present, and contained by no place. What, therefore, was His coming, but His appearing as Man."
Such is the doctrine of the cross as taught by the Ancient Church, and confirmed by the according testimony of all Scripture; so far as we are able to trace a principle, which must be inconceivably vast, and incomprehensible in its nature and extent.
14. The practice and principle of the Ancient Church perfectly analogous to our LORD'S example.
The evidence therefore of Catholic Antiquity affords the fullest and most complete confirmation, in every point of principle and detail, to all that has been said in the former treatise respecting the conduct of our LORD when seen in the flesh. And as our LORD has vouchsafed His presence to be with His Church, and the condition of that His presence is union and agreement; therefore in this concurrent acknowledgment to this principle we have again in the eyes of Faith our LORD'S presence, His spiritual as before His bodily presence. There is a wonderful analogy in all GOD'S dealings with mankind; in the conclusion of Part II. (Tract No. 80.) it was observed that a perfect parallel might be found throughout our moral nature, wherein He who is "the light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" discloses Himself. The same exact parallel may now be shown as He is revealed in His Church. (And that independently of the occasional testimony which the foregoing extracts bear to the conduct of our LORD having been as we describe, in the way of historical allusion to the fact.)
First of all, as our LORD in the flesh concealed His divinity and His miracles, so did the Disciplina Arcani of the early Church do the same. It was that high doctrine that this system concealed, and the nature of those Sacraments, which are as it were a continued miracle in His Church.
Secondly, it appears that, as our LORD spake by parable things hard to be understood t o the multitude, and explained them to His chosen disciples, so does the Catholic and Primitive mode of interpreting Scripture imply that all the Holy Word is like a parable, containing within it Divine wisdom, such as is disclosed to the faithful and good Christian.-That, if we are inclined to feel surprised at our LORD'S not making Himself publicly known to His enemies in His power and wisdom, the early Church suffered herself to be under the same obloquy and misinterpretation among heathens, who were singularly ignorant of the nature of Christianity.-That, as our LORD implied that there was great and increasing danger to those who knew His will, so, in a manner quite different to our modern notions, do the Ancients imply, that great danger is to be apprehended from knowing the Gospels, and not acting suitably to that knowledge.-That, as the Gospels indicate throughout that the benefit conferred on every individual was exactly according to his faith, to the effort he made to ask, or to touch the hem of our SAVIOUR'S garment, so do the Fathers also teach that exactly according to the advancement of holiness of life, or the effort to advance, does CHRIST disclose the Eternal FATHER. That, as our LORD continually pointed out to natural objects, as conveying spiritual instruction and the Wisdom of GOD,-the birds as teaching filial confidence, the lilies of the field humility, the seed sown the nature of the eternal kingdom,-so do the Fathers speak of nature itself being also but a clothing, by which the ALMIGHTY was concealed from us, and revealed to those who read His works with faith. Finally, it would appear that, as the mortification of the Cross, and keeping the commandments, was our LORD'S teaching to all indiscriminately, and to those who were thus brought to Him that He made known His Divinity; so the object of the Disciplina Arcani was to effect this purpose, to procure a preparation of the heart previous to the imparting of the highest knowledge. That such is throughout the teaching of the Fathers, that the Doctrine of the Cross is among them one of extensive meaning, containing both the humiliation of the natural man, and in conjunction with it the knowledge of our LORD'S Divinity and Atonement.
The Principle opposed to certain modern religious opinions.
1. The nature of the objections which have been made.
IT is very evident that the mere mention of such a principle as this subject indicates would immediately be met with the very strongest objections, before it is at all considered what is really meant by it. For let it be only suggested that Holy Scripture observes a rule of reserve, it may be answered at once by the strong and distinct contradiction, that the very word Revelation, directly declares the contrary; for is it not the very purpose of Scripture to communicate knowledge, not to conceal it? Does not, it may be said, its very graciousness depend on this very circumstance, that it reveals GOD'S goodness to His creatures, sitting in darkness and the shadow of death; as well might it be said that the very object of light is to darken, of communication to conceal. And this argument, when not thus stated, might be put at great length, by adducing passages of Holy Writ which declare expressly their very object,-that its purpose is to reveal. But all these texts, thus adduced, need not be separately referred to, or answered, as the whole argument which they are brought to prove runs up into, and is contained in, this very simple statement, viz., that Scripture is a system of revelation; to imply therefore that it is a system of reserve, is at once a palpable contradiction.
And it is curious that the very texts, adduced in this mode of treating the subject, often imply or suggest all that we maintain. To refer to figurative language, it is said, does not GOD "deck Himself with light, like as with a garment?" Whereas this very expression conveys it; for does not a garment veil in some measure that which it clothes? is not that very light concealment? The revelations of GOD must ever be to mankind in one sense mysteries; whatever He makes known opens to view far more which we know not. Not light only, but the "cloud" also, is the especial emblem of the SPIRIT'S presence. "GOD is light," but "clouds and darkness," also "are round about Him;" "His pavilion is in dark waters, with thick clouds to cover Him." The comings and goings of our LORD are often significantly said to be with clouds; of Wisdom, that hath made her dwelling in Jacob, it is said, that she "dwells in high places, and her throne is in a cloudy pillar. She alone compasses the circuit of the heaven, and walks in the bottom of the deep."
In the same manner of considering the subject, which we have spoken of, it might be said, that St. Paul, a person of all others the most laborious in preaching, had no other object than that of declaring the Gospel to the world; and what did the Gospel contain of good tidings, but the Atonement? It might further be stated, (though I am not aware it has been,) that a certain parrhsia, or openness in confessing the truth, was the very characteristic of St. Paul; it was the very object of his prayers; and his request, that it might be that of others for him, that this free utterance and boldness of speech might be given him. It was his boasting that he had thus spoken; he appealed to his converts that he had kept back nothing from them that it was expedient for them to know. "With great boldness to speak the truth," is one of the first gifts of the SPIRIT, as bestowed on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost; and "utterance" is numbered among the highest Christian graces. Now all this is not only granted, but also that if any thing here maintained would imply conduct different from that of the Apostle, would in any way derogate from the necessity of that parrhsia, it would of course be to be condemned in the strongest manner: of this there could be no doubt. It is needless to observe, that to withhold the truth from fear or false shame or pride is to be ashamed of CHRIST, to which that awful warning is denounced. Let it therefore, if necessary, be explicitly stated that if any conduct is supposed to be here taught different from that which would have been practised by St. Paul, among inspired Apostles, by St. Chrysostom, among Ancient Fathers, and by the earnest and single-hearted Bishop Wilson, in our own Church, such is far from being the intention of this treatise.
With regard to that mode of argument alluded to, it is evident that in this manner Holy Scripture might be quoted against itself, and a principle based on one command utterly repudiated without consideration, on account of its supposed discrepancy with another apparently opposed to it. But in such cases, it is by reconciling and explaining such apparent contradictions that we obtain the most life-giving principles contained within them, and the most important rules of conduct; thus we derive them best and most safely. These difficulties are like the hardness of an external covering, which preserves and guards the most precious fruits of nature, and affords trouble at arriving at them. That this reserve is not incompatible with such a declaration of the truth is evident from this, that the two persons whom we should select as most remarkable for fulness and freedom of speech, St. Paul and St. Chrysostom, are equally as much so for their reserve. For the Fathers speak of its being most observable in St. Paul; and it is evident how it marks his writings, especially when he touches on the subject of mysteries. Perhaps the most obvious passage that could be adduced, which seems at first against this supposition, is that in which St. Paul says, he "had kept back nothing that was profitable;" and it is remarkable of this text, so often quoted against us, first of all, that it was spoken to the Ephesians, to whom we know that St. Paul beyond all others revealed spiritual knowledge; secondly, that they were not the Church at large, but the elders of Ephesus; and, thirdly, to show how differently the ancients viewed these things, on referring to St. Chrysostom, we find he marks as emphatic the word "that was profitable, twn sumferontwn; for there were some things," he says, "which it was not expedient for them to learn; to speak every thing would have been folly." And as to St. Chrysostom himself, he often refers to this reserve, as an acknowledged principle, and it is observable that though he sometimes shows he is fully impressed with the secret senses of Scripture, yet in his Homilies he seldom alludes to them.
2. On preaching the word most effectually.
But with regard to that short and summary manner in which the whole subject may be got rid of by saying, that, notwithstanding all such speculative and abstract principles, it is nevertheless our duty to "preach the WORD" (i.e. CHRIST Crucified) "in season, and out of season," and woe be to us, if we do it not. Doubtless it is so; a "dispensation is committed" unto us, a talent which it would be death to hide. And to this it must be said, that the principle of Reserve which we mention is so far from being in any way inconsistent with this duty, that it is but the more effectual way of fulfilling it. And this may be shown by another case very similar. It is our bounden duty to "let our light shine before men," to set a good example, that they "may see our good works:" but nevertheless it is true notwithstanding, that the great Christian rule of conduct, as the very foundation of all holiness, is that our religious actions should be in secret as much as possible. These two therefore are perfectly compatible. And unless we do act upon this latter principle, that of hiding our good works, our example will be quite empty and valueless. So also may it not be the case, that our "preaching CHRIST Crucified" may be in vain and hollow, unless it be founded on this principle of natural modesty, which we have maintained will always accompany the preaching of a good man under the teaching of GOD?
But without considering the subject in the light of a holy and religious principle, if we put it on the very lowest ground, why, it may be asked, in religion are all truths to be taught at once? in all other matters there is a gradual inculcation, something must be withheld, something taught first; and is not the knowledge of religion as much a matter of degrees as any human science? But we have rather treated it here in the higher point of view, in order to show that our efforts to do good will be worse than fruitless, unless in doing so we act on this principle, to sanctify and strengthen our intentions, that the contrary mode of proceeding is not an indifferent matter, but very injurious. If any one acts on the pure love of GOD, there is no occasion to command this secrecy; for GOD will doubtless "reveal even this unto him:" and if we preach CHRIST from the highest motives there is no occasion to teach this reserve; but if we are liable to be influenced by new religious schemes, and indirect motives, we have great need of the warning.
And the fact is, that all we say is so natural, so obvious to natural modesty, if men would but seriously consider it, that those who are most opposed to all that we maintain, do in themselves practise it unconsciously in other points. But when they hear of this Tract, without waiting to know what it intends, they hasten to the attack: like the hasty servant in Aristotle, akouei men ti tou logou, parakouei de, and akousaV men, ouk epitagma de akousaV, orma proV thn timwrian.
It is asked with some degree of impatience, "Is not knowledge good for man?" Doubtless we have maintained it most especially by making it the highest of all things, as a talent of exquisite work, the very jewel of great price, infinitely divine and sacred. We do not lower the doctrine of the Atonement, but heighten and exalt it, and all we say is, that it should be looked upon and spoken of with reverential holiness. If it is the name of Reserve only which is objectionable, then let the substance of this article be expressed by any other which may be found equally to serve the purpose, whether it be forbearance, or reverence, or seriousness, or religious caution, as long as the full intention of it is equally preserved.
A rule of moral and religious teaching of such a nature as this of course requires a little attention: there is no subject with which the generality of persons are so little acquainted, or which they have so little considered, as that of practical moral principles. And there often may be something in their mode of life, which peculiarly indisposes them to enter into the one now under discussion. If a person has never been engaged in religious teaching, where his object has been to bring men to a serious consideration of the truth; if he is known to look upon theology rather in a political than a religious point of view; if he is much used to popular speaking, and the applause that accompanies it; if he allows himself to discuss the most sacred subjects in the daily periodical; if he has never been trained to any reverence for holy places; if he considers Christianity as a mere popular system; if he disparages sacraments: then of course we cannot consider such an one as an adequate and fair judge on a subject the very nature of which is opposed to his own practice; for the discernment of every moral principle depends on conduct regulated with regard to it.
3. On teaching the doctrine of the Atonement.
But there is another reason, more pervading and deeply rooted than any of these, although in various ways connected with them, which remains to be considered. All the objections are made without reference to the case we adduce, and without attention to the arguments, on account of a previously conceived strong bias against it; which makes it necessary that we inquire more at length into that system of the day which has claimed for itself the inmost sanctuary of religion, and at once predisposes men so strongly to be so thoroughly opposed to all that we can urge. All the arguments adduced, and the principle maintained, are at once looked upon with respect to that system; all other matters to which it applies, and all the circumstances on which it is founded, are immediately set aside as unworthy of consideration, because this system of late years and of human invention is through all its branches thoroughly opposed to it: and many, and more than are aware of it, have taken up their position in these opinions, and consider it so impregnable, that whatever opposes it must necessarily be false. The system of which I speak is characterized by these circumstances, an opinion that it is necessary to obtrude and "bring forward prominently and explicitly on all occasions the doctrine of the Atonement." This one thing it puts in the place of all the principles held by the Church Catholic, dropping all proportion of the faith. It disparages comparatively, nay, in some cases has even blasphemed, the most blessed Sacraments. It is very jealously afraid of Church authority, of fasting and mortification being recommended, of works of holiness being insisted on, of the doctrine of the universal judgment. It is marked by an unreserved discourse on the holiest subjects. To this system all that we have said is thoroughly opposed.
Now it is evident that this system is throughout peculiar, in distinction from what is Catholic: by the term Catholic we of course mean a combination of what the Universal Church and the Holy Scripture teach conjointly, the former as interpreting the latter. It is a plan thoroughly un-Scriptural, un-Catholic, unreal: we will therefore at once allow that this maxim of Reserve is directly opposed to it throughout, in its tone and spirit, in its tendencies and effects, in its principles and practices. Where Christians so thoroughly differ, what appeal can there be? When inspired Apostles, when even Paul and Barnabas, had a dissension and disputation between them, they were sent up to Jerusalem unto the Apostles and Elders about the question, to decide the point in dispute. We appeal to Scripture and the Church. Now those who hold these opinions will allow that the Church Catholic holds them not. Neither does Scripture warrant them; which may be easily shown, even though we allow not the Church as its interpreter. Nor, indeed, are they grounded on Holy Scripture, but on a supposed expediency. For in fact the advocates of these opinions will not allow an unreserved appeal to the written WORD, but they maintain, that then only, when the HOLY SPIRIT was given, did Holy Scripture set forth the Atonement with that fullness which they require. Thus have the contrived to take a position which sets aside almost the whole of Holy Writ, including the Gospels themselves, from any appeal on this subject. In fact, this system is nothing else but a method of human device, which is able to quote a part of Scripture for its purpose. It is not according to the general tenor or the analogy of Scripture, nor is it founded or based on Scripture as its origin. They consider, like the Romanists, that they infallibly hold the truth, which must therefore be a fuller development of Scripture in a later age; thus, in fact, do they make the Word of GOD of none effect through their tradition. These opinions indeed, are grounded on nothing else but certain effects, which this system is thought to produce.
It is supposed that there is something particularly life-giving and heart-searching in these modes of teaching, which thrust forth exclusively and indiscriminately the doctrine of the ever blessed Atonement, and inculcate loudly the necessity of our dependence on the good SPIRIT of GOD: and these are so considered in distinction from those, which in connexion with them inculcate also practical duties, and the various departments of public and private religious worship. In which opinion there is indeed something true, but not so in the mode in which it is put forward and understood. There is indeed a great truth, of which these peculiar statements catch at the shadow, and it is their connexion with this great truth itself, which has caused them to be received as the whole of Religion. And perhaps many, who have appeared to themselves and others to have been embracing these popular opinions, have, in fact, by GOD'S mercy thought of, and practically embraced, nothing else but that great truth itself. For that a more adequate sense of the Atonement, broader, and higher, and deeper views of the mystery which is "hid in CHRIST," is indeed the perfection of the Christian character, that which grows with its growth, and is strengthened together with it more and more, so that advancement in holiness is a continual progress in self-abasement and self-renunciation towards that repose which is in GOD "manifested in JESUS CHRIST;" this is indeed most true. And the same is the case with respect to that other opinion of it being needful to name always the ever blessed SPIRIT of GOD; that the same gradual perfection of a Christian will consist in a deeper and continually increasing sense of his utter inability to support himself in spiritual life, and a confidence that he can do all things through CHRIST strengthening him: a feeling consciousness of thorough dependence on GOD every moment of his existence, not only in sustaining his natural, but much more his new and regenerate life.-That all the differences in the heart of men, from the worst to the most perfect, will consist in the different mode in which they have instilled and thoroughly infused into their hearts these great principles: this is indeed most true. But how is this state to be obtained? These peculiar opinions are formed on the supposition, that it is by declaring these truths aloud to all we meet. This is the point on which we are at issue. For this we think there is no sanction in all the laws of our moral nature and religious philosophy; that there is none for it in the Catholic Church, none in Holy Scripture; and any manner of bringing forward GOD'S truth as differing from these, we suppose highly dangerous. If we are to look out for some practical guide to know in what way we are to hold and declare Scriptural doctrine, surely it is our duty to bring forward "the faith once for all delivered unto the saints," in the fulness of that creed into which we are baptized; is not this the divinely appointed guardian, by which we may keep what is contained in Holy Scripture in its due proportions, which has been afforded us as a key to the right understanding of Scripture, and also an authoritative annunciation of what in doctrine we are to hold and teach. For of course if we put forth one truth to the suppression or disparagement of others, the effect of our teaching may be equivalent to falsehood, and not truth. That the preparations of the heart which can alone receive the faith in its fullness, are by other means than those which this system supposes, we cannot but be assured; Scripture and reason both would imply that it is by insisting first of all, if need be, on natural piety, on the necessity of common honesty, on repentance, on judgment to come, and without any mode of expression that excepts ourselves from that judgment; by urging those assistances to poverty of spirit, which Scripture recommends and the Church prescribes, such as fasting and alms, and the necessity of reverent and habitual prayer. These may be means of bringing persons to the truth as it is in JESUS CHRIST, with that awe and fear, which our LORD'S own teaching and that of His Apostles would inspire; surely above all things should we be careful not to be deceiving ourselves and others by an irreverent handling of GOD'S most sacred consolations. For otherwise are we not going against what our LORD declared to be His own teaching? Are we not putting "new wine into old bottles," the Gospel blessings into the corruptions of the old man, of which we know the consequence? Are we not putting "new cloth on an old garment;" the new cloth of the Christian Church on the old garment of the Jewish legal Church? Are we not exposing the sacred thing of God committed to our charge, the secret treasures of His house, to our own great injury, and in a way to have evil effects on others also? May not such a mode of exposing all the riches of our Christian inheritance be likened to the conduct of King Hezekiah, when he showed all his treasures to the king of Babylon, "all that is in mine house," said he, "have they seen; there is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them;" and for this the sentence was declared, that to Babylon his children and his treasures should be taken. In like manner, the world will take captive those who thus lose their secret strength by a vain display; and this is, in effect, the same as our LORD has said in those words, "They will trample them under foot, and turn again and rend you."
With regard to the notion that it is necessary to "bring forward the doctrine of the Atonement on all occasions, prominently and exclusively," it is really difficult to say any thing in answer to an opinion, however popular, when one is quite at a loss to know on what grounds the opinion is maintained. Is it from its supposed effects? Pious frauds might be supported on the same principle: but let us observe these effects as they become more fully developed: the fruits of the system have shown themselves in the disobedience of ministers to their ecclesiastical superiors, of individuals to their appointed ministers, of whole bodies of Christians to the Church. Is it the popularity of the opinion? this is not a test of truth, but an argument of the contrary; Christian truth is in itself essentially unpopular; and even were it otherwise, what is popularity when it is opposed to Catholic antiquity? Is it from Scripture? we have shown that the tone and Spirit of Holy Scripture is quite opposed to it.
Do we then maintain that it is to be intentionally and designedly withdrawn from all public mention? nothing of this kind has been ever suggested or practised by us; this would of course be as unnatural as the other. Why should we not be content to act naturally, with the Church and Divine Scripture for our guides? why should not a conscience exercised therein, and practised in the discernment of good and evil, be content to act as our common sense and judgment, or, if we may reverently use such words, as the HOLY SPIRIT, ever enlightening the path of obedience, dictates, without shaping our conduct into this mould? Why should one who thus acts be thought unworthy of the Christian name? Why should it be thought necessary to bring proof and induction, and, as it were by a stretch of charity, to obtain some indication that such an one denies not the doctrine of the Atonement? which has been done in the case of the Fathers and Saints of old, and of Bishop Butler and others in our own Church.
It may be said, are we not saved by faith alone in CHRIST, and if so, what else have we to preach? It may be answered by another question, was it not the very office of the Baptist to be the herald of CHRIST, and yet, so little did he publicly make a practice of declaring this, that there was a doubt whether he was not himself the CHRIST: but instead of proclaiming Him aloud, he taught Repentance, and to each individual amendment of life. The Baptist declared, "I came that He might be manifested, but how was He to be manifested, excepting, as our LORD said, that He would manifest Himself unto him that kept His commandments." Therefore the Forerunner preached repentance. When he did allude to the Atonement, in the expression of "the LAMB of GOD," it was secretly and obscurely, and probably only to a few chosen and favoured disciples, who themselves could not have understood the clear meaning of the allusion, to whom it must have been a dark saying. Doubtless, we are saved by faith in CHRIST alone; but to come to know this in all its power, if the very perfection of the Christian; not to be instilled or obtained by lifting up the voice in the street, but by obedience and penitence, so that, as each man advances in holiness of life, and comes the more to know what GOD is, the more does he feel himself, with the Saints of all ages, to be the chief of sinners. But as for that assurance and sensible confidence, with which it is thought necessary that the doctrine should be preached and received, it would seem as if there was scarcely any thing against the subtle effect of which we are so much guarded in Holy Scripture as this: all those who are recorded as being most approved, were remarkable for the absence of it; as in the case of the Centurion, the Canaanitish woman, and others; above all, of those who at the last day shall be surprised with the welcome tidings that they are accepted: on the contrary, those who are rejected shall come with that plea of confidence, because they have prophesied in CHRIST'S name, and He has taught in their street, and will be condemned with emphatic words, as they that work iniquity; whereby the whole stress is thrown on that single point, which those who hold these opinions are most studious to make of secondary importance, the necessity of working righteousness.
Surely the doctrine of the Atonement may be taught in all its fulness, on all occasions, and all seasons, more effectually, more really, and truly, according to the proportion of the faith, or the need of circumstances, without being brought out from the context of Holy Scripture into prominent and explicit mention. Did not St. James preach the Gospel most effectually under the guidance of GOD'S good SPIRIT? Did not St. Paul preach the Gospel to the Thessalonians, when he spoke of the day of Judgment, as well as to the Galatians, when in answer to certain Jewish prejudices, he set forth the only remission of sins to be found in the Cross of CHRIST? May not we regulate our teaching according to the case of the persons we address, as they did? But above all, did not our LORD preach the Gospel? Did He not say to the two disciples who came from St. John the Baptist, "To the poor the Gospel is preached?" But how was it preached? We know what His preaching was; He taught the Atonement always, but never openly: He taught it always, but never openly: He taught it always; He taught it in the Beatitudes, in the parables, in His miracles, in His commands, in His warnings, in His promises; He taught it always, but always covertly, never at all in the manner now required, but quite the opposite. And as it pervaded all our LORD'S teaching; and ought to do, as we have stated, the teaching of every good Christian; so surely it may do so in a way to be more effectually impressed on others, and to indicate its thorough reception into the character of the speaker, by one who might have never prominently and explicitly declared it, any more than our LORD does in His own teaching. It may be impressed on others by the tone of a person's whole thoughts, by the silent instruction of his penitent and merciful demeanour, by immediate inference and implication from his sayings, by the only interpretation which his words will bear; but above all things, by the doctrine of the Sacraments ever influencing his life; He may thus ever bear about in the body the marks of the LORD JESUS, and preach CHRIST Crucified. Whereas, on the contrary, another who expressed this doctrine with all the fulness which is now required, might in all the tone of his disposition, his teaching, his whole bearing and observation, be as far from it as one who had never heard of it; and adopt this tone to the great injury of himself and others. The important thing needed consists in those preparations of the heart, which may lead men to humiliation and contrition; when this is done, He who "dwells with the humble and contrite," will never fail to lead them to all the consolations of Religion. Let us consider the case of a friend who consulted us on a matter that afflicted his conscience, how tender and careful should we be in such a case for fear of administering consolation too speedily, lest by so doing we check the workings of GOD'S good SPIRIT, and heal too slightly His wounds to our friend's great detriment: and shall we do this to all indiscriminately?
But besides this, the awful name of the blessed SPIRIT, without whom we can neither think nor do any thing that is right, is, as is supposed, ever in like manner to be proclaimed as it were in the market-place, and those who do not do so, are supposed to deny His power, the power of the ever blessed SPIRIT of GOD, in whose Name we were baptized, Whom in the doxology we confess daily, in Whom we live and move. Let these sacred words be introduced in our teaching, as they are in Holy Scripture. But even from this we almost shrink at feeling that they have been used in an unreal manner, and "taken in vain;" for these holiest of words may be constantly used by us, when we are not at all affected and influenced by so concerning a doctrine, which may be seen by the whole of our character in daily life, and tone of our teaching; by self-confidence, and an absence of that fear and trembling, which ever follows the consciousness, that it is GOD that worketh in us both to will and to do. And what is done in such a case? Is the effect merely nugatory? Surely not: great injury is done by this irreverence to that most sacred Name. There is far less chance of real repentance in such a case.
Surely this great and life-giving doctrine might be taught more truly by one who practised no obtrusive system of this sort; to say nothing of his practical instructions, every word of which might be calculated to teach a person dependence on GOD; but even by his silence. For instance, might not one like holy Simeon, (whom sacred Scripture has so strongly marked as one under the gracious guidance of the good SPIRIT, by the expression, thrice repeated, that "the HOLY SPIRIT was upon him," that it was "revealed unto him of the HOLY SPIRIT," that "he came by the SPIRIT into the temple;" ) might not such a one, by daily frequenting "the House of Prayer," with that earnestness and assiduity which showed that he felt himself unable to stand for a day without assistance from above, learn and teach so affecting a truth, as well as by set declarations concerning it? Might he not, by these habitual practices, be rendered meet to find CHRIST in His Temple, and to prophesy in His name?
4. Danger in forming a plan of our different from that of Scripture.
Surely we know not what we do, when we venture to make a scheme and system of our own respecting the revelations of GOD. His ways are so vast and mysterious, that there may be some great presumption in our taking one truth, and forming around it a scheme from notions of our own. It may not be the way to arrive at even that truth; and also it may counteract some others, which it is equally important that we should be impressed with. The very idea of forming such a scheme, arises from a want of a due sense of the depth and vastness of the Divine counsels, as if we could comprehend them. It is with states of society as with individuals; those whose thoughts and knowledge are most superficial, are most apt to systematize; and it is very little considered what awful things in the economy of GOD may be thus habitually kept out of sight,-kept out of sight, perhaps, by many quite unconsciously; for the secret influence of these opinions is more extensive than they are aware of, who are subject to them. It is not an uncommon thing to hear sermons which are throughout specious and plausible, which seem at first sight Scriptural, and are received as such without hesitation, and yet, on a little consideration, it will appear that they are but partial views of the truth, that they are quite inconsistent with the much forgotten doctrine of a future judgment. What effect, therefore, must this system have upon an age and whole nation?
Nor is it only in its not supporting the analogy of faith, that this system is opposed to Scripture; but its spirit and mode of teaching is quite different. It may be observed in this, that this scheme puts knowledge first, and obedience afterwards: let this doctrine, they say, be received, and good works will necessarily follow. Holy Scripture throughout adopts the opposite course. In many and extensive senses, the language it adopts, and the plan it pursues, is on the principle that "the law is the schoolmaster, to bring us to CHRIST;" "that he who will do the will shall know of the doctrine;" whereas this teaching is, "receive only this doctrine and you will do the will." The kind of secondary way, and as it were in the back ground, in which the necessity of obedience is put in this system, is the very opposite to Scriptural teaching. Scripture ever introduces the warning clause, "If ye keep the commandments;" they, on the contrary, "If ye do not think of them too much."
And again, is there not an extraordinary confusion and perplexity raised, which has the effect of entangling men's minds with words and phrases? Are there not frequently logical fallacies, couched in verbal inaccuracies, which will appear, on a little consideration, to be mere confusions of expression, yet ever leave a false impression? Christian repentance is spoken of as something not only separate from, but opposed to CHRIST. The effect of Christian good works is treated as having a tendency to puff us up with pride and selfishness: works, that is of humility and charity, exercised in secret, purely with the desire of pleasing GOD, for of course such only are good works which could be insisted on (though of course what they mean must be bad works, those of hypocrisy). Or again, that religious services weaken our dependence on the good SPIRIT; or, in other words, that frequent and constant prayers to GOD for His assistance, diminish our reliance on GOD. Or again, that the deep and awful sense of judgment to come derogates from CHRIST'S atonement, as if the most earnest consideration of the former did not most impress the unspeakable worth of the latter. Or again, that to insist on the value of the Sacraments, is to derogate from CHRIST; for when it is considered that there is no value whatever supposed in those Sacraments, excepting from CHRIST'S presence in them, and His atoning blood communicated through them, this is precisely the same as if the same charge were brought against attaching too high a value to the Holy Scriptures; for it might be said that we put the Scriptures in the place of CHRIST. It is very painful to be obliged to speak of these things. To answer them, we must come to plain first axioms in morals, such as the following.
5. Statement of the case from plain moral principles.
Religious doctrines and articles of faith can only be received according to certain dispositions of the heart; these dispositions can only be formed by a repetition of certain actions. And therefore a certain course of action can alone dispose us to receive certain doctrines; and hence it is evident that these doctrines are in vain preached, unless these actions are at the same time practised and insisted on as most essential.
For instance, charitable works alone will make a man charitable, and the more any one does charitable works, the more charitable he will become; that is to say, the more will he love his neighbour and love GOD; for a charitable work is a work that proceeds from charity or the love of GOD, and which can only be done by the good SPIRIT of GOD: and the more he does these works therefore, the more will he love his neighbour and love GOD: and he who does not (in heart and intention at least) perform these works, will not be a charitable man, i.e., will not love GOD or his neighbour: and those are not charitable works which have not this effect; for no external act, such as the giving away of money, is necessarily a work of charity, but only such as consists in the exercise of the principle of charity. He therefore will, most of all, love GOD and love CHRIST, who does these works most; and he will most bring men to CHRIST, who most effectually, with GOD'S blessing, induces them to do these works in the way that GOD hath required them to be the same.
Or again, he will only be humble in heart who does humble actions; and no action is (morally speaking) an humble action but such as proceeds from the spirit of humility; and he who does humble actions most will be most humble; and he who is most humble will be most emptied of self-righteousness, and therefore will most of all value the Cross of CHRIST, being least of all sensible of his own good deeds: and the more he does these works, the more will the HOLY SPIRIT dwell with him, according to the promises of Scripture, and the more fully will he come to the knowledge of that mystery which is hid in CHRIST. That teacher, therefore, who will most induce men to do these works, will most of all bring men unto CHRIST, though he speaks not most fully and loudly of His ever blessed Atonement.
Or again, good works consist especially in Prayers. He who does most of these good works, i.e., he who prays most, seeks most of all for an assistance out of, and beyond himself, and therefore relies least of all on himself and most of all upon GOD; and the more he does these good works, the more does he rely upon GOD'S good Spirit, for which he seeks. He, therefore, who, by preaching the judgment to come, or by recommending alms and fasting, or by impressing men with a sense of the shortness of life and the value of eternity, or by any such practical appeals which the occasion suggests, will lead men most to pray, will do most towards leading them to lean on GOD'S good SPIRIT, although he may not repeat in express words the necessity of aid from that good SPIRIT, without whom we cannot please GOD.
To say, therefore, that such works, which alone are good works, tend to foster pride, and are a seeking for expiations beyond the one great Atonement, conveys a most dangerous fallacy: when the works which are intended, if the words can be applied to anything worthy of condemnation, must be bad works, those of ostentation, of hypocrisy, or superstition, and the like, which, of course, the oftener they are repeated, the more do they make men ostentatious, hypocritical, or superstitious; and so do take them from the Cross of CHRIST. They are sins against which we cannot warn men too much; sins repeatedly condemned by CHRIST, who never condemns or disparages good works, but insists upon them always and throughout most earnestly. Let hypocrisy, in all its shapes, be condemned as Scripture condemns, and we shall fully understand such teaching. Or again, consider the case morally with regard to the teaching of Repentance. For instance, take the deceivable sin of covetousness, of which we are all in danger. A covetous man is he who trusts in riches; and so far as any one trusts in riches, in that degree he cannot trust in GOD, and therefore can have no saving sense of the atonement of CHRIST, or dependence on the good SPIRIT of GOD. And if his feelings are excited on the subject of these doctrines, while he is under the influence of this vice, it cannot be any thing better than a mere delusion of the fancy; and therefore that teacher who will most of all lead men to abandon and get rid of covetousness, will render their minds most open to receive these two great doctrines of the Gospel; as seen in the case of Zaccheus, when salvation came to his house as a true child of faith; and in our LORD'S advice to all to sell and give alms. The same inference may be drawn with regard to the love of praise, in which case it may likewise be shown that it follows as a plain moral consequence, what our Lord has declared, that they cannot "believe who receive honour one of another." So also with respect to impurity of heart; for a man of impure heart may be very sensible affected by these touching and vital doctrines of the Gospel; and yet it is certain that he cannot receive them rightly; for the pure in heart alone can see GOD; and therefore can alone see, so as rightly to understand, these doctrines in which GOD is manifested. That minister, therefore, who, by preaching the terrors of the judgment day, or by any other Scriptural means, induces men to repent of these crimes, will necessarily, and by a plain moral consequence, open their eyes, their ears, their heart, to receive the high saving principles of the Gospel; though he speaks not explicitly of them any more than the Baptist did, or our LORD, or His Apostles. So palpably absurd, even on the plain grounds of moral principles, is it to speak of the teaching of repentance being opposed to the preaching of CHRIST.
This is an explanation of some obvious reasons why Holy Scripture should connect our own cross with the Cross of CHRIST, as it so often does, and emblematically typified of the Church, in him who bore the Cross after CHRIST; for it is said to us all, "whosoever doth not take up his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." Now there can be no repentance, and no progress in religious duties without self-denial. These duties, therefore, are a bearing of our own cross, which will alone bring us to a right sense of the Cross of CHRIST. It is not setting aside the Cross of CHRIST, nor disparaging it; it is only showing the mode by which alone we may be brought to know its inestimable value.
He who most of all practises these duties, will be most of all brought, by a necessary and moral consequence, to value the Cross of CHRIST; and he who is brought to embrace that doctrine with most affection, will speak of it with most reserve; he cannot speak of it as these persons require. Nor can there be any reasonable apprehension, as it is sometimes said, that the teaching of the Church, which keeps the doctrine of the Atonement in the reserve of Scripture, will lead men to despair. Did any one ever know an instance of this, of a Christian, in sound health of mind, brought to a state of despair from the fear of GOD and His judgments? There is a mistake in this use of the word despair, which rather means a careless, hopeless indifference to the anger of the Almighty, which is so common, than an excessive fear of His judgments. Such a fear brings with it abundant consolation and hope; and therefore the true knowledge of this saving doctrine of the Atonement is expressed in such words as these, that "the salvation of GOD is nigh unto them that fear Him;" that the LORD looks to him who "trembles at His word;" that He "revives the spirit of the contrite;" or that "whoso is wise will ponder these things; and they shall understand the loving-kindness of the LORD."
We must again return to and repeat this point; good works, being nothing else but the exercise of a good principle, will make a good man (as far as, humanly speaking, a man can be called good), and those are not good works which will not make a man good; and he is not a good man, who does not love GOD with all his heart, and depend on the aid of the blessed SPIRIT, and trust in CHRIST. He, therefore, who most of all induces men to practise these good works, under the awful sense of their condition as baptized Christians, brings them most of all to the Cross of CHRIST; and he who, by his teaching, leads men to think that such works are of minor importance, and speaks slightingly of them, i.e., works of charity, of humiliation, and prayer, teaches men false and dangerous doctrine, flattering to human indolence, but opposed to Scripture, opposed to the Church, opposed to the first principles of our moral nature; and therefore it is said emphatically, "Whosoever shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven:" that is to say, he who treats slightingly these good works, shall obtain least of all the blessings of CHRIST'S Spiritual kingdom at present, the gracious gifts which are in the Atonement of CHRIST, and by consequence to be lowest in His kingdom hereafter. By using high words of doctrine, without the inculcation of these commands, we lead men to trust to a vain shadow, instead of the Rock of their salvation. Doing the works or not it is which makes the entire difference between the house built on the sand, and that which is founded on a rock, though outwardly they appear alike; as our LORD has warned, he who "heareth these words and doeth them, I will liken to a wise man, who built his house on a rock;" and "every one who heareth them and doeth them not," is outwardly the same, perhaps, but has no foundation. And what is the rock on which he is built, but CHRIST? His very works are built on this Rock, otherwise they are not good works. It is not as if CHRIST was the end only (as they who disparage Baptism would imply); not as if the Atonement were a thing to be arrived at at last; but CHRIST is the way also, the beginning and the end, the Author and the Finisher, the Alpha and Omega. It is through the blood of CHRIST alone we are able to think or do what is good. It is through His blood alone that such thoughts and deeds are accepted. It is not simply that by bearing our cross we are brought to His; but we are in Him, and He in us; our cross is His Cross, and His Cross is our cross. When we humble ourselves, we partake of the virtue going forth from His humiliation: it is He that is drawing us nearer to Himself. When we pray, it is not our prayer, but His HOLY SPIRIT within us that leads us unto Himself. When we do works of charity, it is to Him in His brethren: it is His compassionate bowels yearning in us towards them: it is the virtue of His ineffable charity through us, His members, again flowing forth to all mankind. To check, therefore, such works by any mis-statements, by half admonitions and half encouragements, is to keep men from Him. It is like stopping the mouths of the blind men, who have now ay to approach Him but by prayer, that He may open their eyes; for unless we practise these works of obedience and repentance, we shall assuredly have no eyes to see Him; for it is "the commandment of the LORD" which "giveth light unto the eyes." It is putting away the little children, the babes in CHRIST, because they are not of full stature. It is casting stumbling-blocks in the way of weak men. It is very true, that in the Gospels, the consolations of CHRIST may be more imparted to persons who were opprobriously designated "sinners;" and some of whom may have fallen into grievous sin; that "the publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom before the Pharisees:" but why? not because they were worse, but because they were far better than the Pharisees; as the poor and despised are perhaps generally found wiser and better than those in higher station.
6. All Scripture is perfect harmony as opposed to this modern system.
We must again return to, and repeat the same point. Good works must ever make a good an; and a good man will most of all love GOD, as manifested in JESUS CHRIST; and therefore it is that Holy Scripture has put the case in every variety of ways, in order that, comparing the manifold expressions by which its describes the inscrutable mysteries of CHRIST'S kingdom, we may arrive at some sense of the truth. And in whatever way we consider it, we shall find that the whole harmony of Scriptural teaching is opposed to the present system, or what is sometimes designated the Gospel scheme; the former being, in contrast to it, one of Reserve. We have shown, from obvious moral inference, that to ameliorate the heart and practice is the only way to arrive at those riches which are hid in CHRIST. Surely a little reflection will show how thoroughly Holy Scripture supports this opinion throughout. Let us only look to the manner in which the commandments are spoken of, and that not merely in the New Testament, but in the Old also. Could words be applied to them such as we find throughout the Psalms, unless they had some mysterious connexion with the Cross of CHRIST? How else could they be "sweeter than honey and the honeycomb?" How else could they be "dearer than thousands of gold and silver?" How else could they be "wonderful," and "quickening," "giving light unto the eyes," and "everlasting righteousness?" Let us again consider the expressions by which the Gospel privileges are spoken of in Scripture, and we shall find that they are all connected with certain dispositions and graces, and confined to them. Those dispositions and graces can alone be attained by a certain mode of life and course of actions; which actions, therefore, Scripture commands and inculcates in every way, by bringing before us every example, and precept, and doctrine, that may be calculated to affect us with the terrors of GOD'S judgments, or the hopes of His mercy.
Let us consider who they are whom Scripture pronounced as blessed. It might be supposed from the modern system, that the expression had been, "Blessed are all ye that hear the Gospel," and this Gospel is confined to a full declaration of the gracious doctrine of the Atonement; but it is not thus it speaks. It is, indeed, said to some, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see, and blessed are the ears which hear the things that ye hear," -but then it must ever be remembered, and again repeated, that this was not said unto all the people to whom our LORD had been preaching: but to the disciples "privately," in express distinction from those who had heard our LORD teaching, but who, as He said, had no "eyes to see, nor ears to hear." Whereas in His more public teaching, His blessing was entirely confined and limited to certain dispositions, which are recorded in the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessing again is pronounced privately on St. Peter, because he had been brought to that high knowledge of CHRIST by GOD Himself: as in the case of all the disciples, our LORD thanked GOD for having "revealed these things unto babes." And after these declarations to St. Peter, pronouncing his blessedness, and the greatness of that belief on which the Church would be built; we naturally expect our LORD to invite others to it, either by openly declaring that doctrine, or by showing them the way to arrive at it; we watch His words with expectation, especially when He calls all the multitude unto Him: but, so far from declaring unto them these gracious and high things, He speaks of the necessity of every man taking up his cross. This was, in fact, telling the people in what way they might arrive at that belief for which St. Peter was so blessed. For let it be observed, that this was the mode by which St. Peter had arrived at it. He had taken up the Cross at the first, and followed CHRIST when He called him to forsake all; and the result was, that he had now come to the full knowledge of that Truth. To suppose, therefore, that a doctrine so unspeakable and mysterious as that of the Atonement, is to be held out to the impenitent sinner, to be embraced in some manner to move the affections, is so unlike our LORD'S conduct, that it makes one fear for the ultimate consequences of such a system.
Or again, consider the case of Judas Iscariot; what was the cause of his not believing? it was simply this, that he had one unrepented sin in his heart. He must have witnessed many miracles, and heard our LORD'S Divine teaching; and might have seen His unexampled and transcendent goodness and holiness. But this one sin blinded his eyes and stopped his ears, so that seeing he saw not, and hearing heard not. Had he taken the Baptist's advice to repent; or our LORD'S warnings on the subject of riches, or those so often graciously given to himself,-as when He said, "Ye are clean, but not all," and "one of you shall betray me," and "It were good for that man, if he had never been born," then he might have believed; and might have been possibly "the beloved disciple." In his case, humanly speaking, so far as we can perceive, repentance would have been one with believing in CHRIST. And surely our LORD'S conduct to Judas might show us how men might do all that can be done to reclaim a very bad person, without any display of the most ineffable mercies of GOD, beyond what the occasion called for.
But, moreover, if we take the mere general outline and first view of the Gospel narrative, it is so like all GOD'S manifestations of Himself to the world, and the history of what the Church was to be, that it ever occurs to one as showing the principles of it. "The Desire of all nations had come," "the Messenger of the covenant whom men delight in;" but he was to be "as a refiner's fire." The power of the cross was to be shown especially in this its secret character, whereby the strength of GOD being concealed in human weakness, it might act as a test to the dispositions of men: it was to be "a sign that should be spoken against, in order that the thoughts of many hearts might be revealed." On the contrary, what do they really mean who adopt the human scheme of teaching and receiving in its fulness the doctrine of the Atonement? How is this to be done? Do they understand the meaning of their own words? We hardly know what we speak of when we speak of the Atonement, it is a vast sea which no man can fathom: who can think of it worthily? Who can comprehend the Sacraments in which it is hidden? The sea, indeed, itself, is the type or figure of Baptism, wherein the ways of GOD are, and His paths in the great waters, and His footsteps are not known. Surely men know not what they do, when they define and systematize the ways of GOD in man's redemption, under expressions such as imputed righteousness, justification, and sanctification, and the like; which words stand in their minds, for some exceeding shallow poor human ideas, for which they vehemently contend, as for the whole of religion. It is, in fact, to explain the ineffable, to measure the infinite, to enter into the secret counsels of GOD; to circumscribe truths as vast and incomprehensible as the circuit of the heavens in the compass of the human system. Whereas we know nothing whatever but this, that a childlike obedience which accepts the commands and doctrines of Scripture, will be brought to the full knowledge of GOD.
Surely, I repeat, we know not what we do, when we speak of the doctrine of the Atonement, and of preaching and receiving the same: we know not how much it is the very foundation of every part of Scripture, and how mysteriously it may be contained therein, "the LAMB slain from the foundation of the world." Doubtless, we may suppose that our LORD went about in the fulness of the power of the Atonement, (if we may so speak,) out of that vast sea of mercy, dispensing to men as they were able to receive it; what were the bodily cures that He wrought, connected as they were with the forgiveness of sins; and what the various blessing that He pronounced? But the distributing of those gifts according as the dispositions of men made them capable of receiving them. To one it was the kingdom of heaven, to another it was consolation, to another it was the inheritance of the earth, to another it was righteousness, to another it was mercy, to another it was the power to see GOD; thus was the unspeakable power of the Atonement, in all the beatitudes, distributed according to each man's obedience. Not as gifts falling from heaven into the cup of each; but in every case as a pearl of great price, as hid treasure. To another it is spoken of as "refreshment," to another "as rest for the soul," to another as being to JESUS CHRIST as "brother and sister and mother;" to another that GOD the FATHER, and JESUS CHRIST, and the COMFORTER will come to "make their abode with him." But observe on each of these occasions, how perfectly mysterious and secret the gift is; how closely limited and restricted to certain tempers or conditions; how on every occasion the conditions are put first, the disposition required, or the keeping of the commandments, and the gifts as following: in short, these promises and privileges, vouchsafed to the Christian are distributed in a manner perfectly analogous to the miracles, which were dispensed, as it would appear, by an invariable law according to the faith of each. And both of them upon a principle quite opposed to these modern opinions, which speak of "the display of GOD'S mercy in the Atonement." Observe how, on all occasions, the very opposite conduct is pursued to that of the human system. The LORD of heaven and earth, in the full power of His Divinity and atoning mercy, but ever as it were hiding Himself, as a poor man going about with a few fishermen, calling every one that came to Him to undisguised privation and hardship, putting these as it were always first, and keeping back the blessing; checking men, and setting aside their offers of attendance, when they expected any thing but hardship; as when to the Scribe He said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head;" or demanding an instant surrender without delay, as of him to whom He said, "Let the dead bury the dead, but follow thou me." And let us notice the rich man whom "He loved;" and who seemed what would be called deficient in spiritual views, and in a right understanding of the nature of the Gospel;-how differently did our LORD treat him, to that conduct which these modern religionists would require us to adopt, when he called upon him to the practice of the most self-denying duties and the exercise of charity.
And observe how necessarily all these gifts, in which the kingdom of heaven consists, are attached, and invariably imparted to these conditions, and inseparable from them: so that to have the dispositions, or to fulfil the commands required, is in that degree to partake of the spiritual blessings; and not to fulfil them is to fail of those gifts. Thus when we are commanded to learn of CHRIST "to be meek and lowly, and we shall find rest;" so far as we become meek and lowly we shall find rest to our souls: and this rest is not imparted to any but so far as they are so. And when CHRIST says, that if we keep His commandments, He will come and make His abode with us; so far as we keep the commandments, we shall assuredly have CHRIST abiding with us; and so far as He abides with us, we shall of course be made partakers of all the privileges of the Gospel, both now and hereafter. Whosoever therefore will himself keep the commandments, and induce us to do so, will so far be himself a partaker of the Gospel, and make us to be so, as a necessary and infallible consequence. The same argument may be applied, if considered with respect to every blessing in the Gospels, taken separately with a view to the temper connected with it; for instance, the poor in spirit does naturally, and of necessity come to the enjoyment of the Christian inheritance; whatever teaching, therefore, disengages men from the love of wealth, will bring them so far into their Christian inheritance; every act which produces this spirit, leads men so far one step into the possession of this their Christian birthright. We have repeated these points more at large from the former treatise, in order to show, in connexion with the moral proof, how fully the Scriptural statements confirm all that has been said concerning actions and habits; that actions alone can produce dispositions, and dispositions alone can receive doctrines, when the case is viewed with regard to our moral constitution. Or to state it in a higher point of view, all knowledge of saving doctrine is revealed from above to those who will do the will; for every act of obedience is rewarded of GOD with additional light, and the fulness of this light, illuminating the path of obedience, is the knowledge of GOD. So that in whatever way we consider it, there is no Scriptural sanction for the necessity of our always thrusting forward the doctrine of the Atonement without reserve.
And here we cannot forbear asking in seriousness, whether it be not such a failure in inculcating Christian practice, which may have cherished such dispositions, as are plainly betrayed in the words and actions of those who avow and maintain this system; dispositions and tempers which, whether they result from this system or no, could not possibly have resulted from a proper discipline of the heart under Scriptural teaching.
But to return, the same harmony of Scripture may be shown in the variety and apparent discrepancy, by which not only the different tempers and graces which Scripture inculcates are designated, as we have seen, but the one thing that is needful in order to obtain eternal life. In one place it is said, "Believe in CHRIST, and thou shalt be saved." Whereas in another place our LORD says, "If thou wouldst enter into life, keep the commandments." So that these two requisites will necessarily imply each other, and somehow to keep the commandments will lead us to CHRIST, and will be believing in Him. But the commandments contain the love of GOD and the love of our neighbour; and to know this principle, the spiritual interpretation of the commandments, our LORD told the Lawyer, was to be "not far from the kingdom of heaven:" and this was the test which our LORD put to the rich young man whom He loved, telling him to give to the poor and follow Him. These two points, therefore, in this case, would put it to the proof, whether he had kept the commandments or understood the spirit of them. Agreeable to this, St. Paul tells us in another place, that faith will profit us nothing, and works will profit us nothing, without charity, which alone availeth. On the other hand, St. John tells us that to know GOD is eternal life; therefore faith, and obedience, and charity, and knowledge, must in some sense be one and the same, or necessarily imply each other. For if we keep the commandments, we shall enter into life, and if we have charity, we shall enter into life; and so also if we believe in CHRIST, or know CHRIST, it is eternal life. And yet not one of these without the other. If, therefore, GOD'S promises partake of so great diversity, may not our teaching partake of this variety of GOD'S Word, without our being bound to one human system? And why may not those who inculcate love and obedience lead men to the Truth?
Surely it is sufficient to say, that we are following the method of Scripture: nor can any thing else be truly said to partake of the parrhsia of GOD'S WORD, and to be "not shunning to declare the whole counsel of GOD." The whole case might be put very simply to any unprejudiced mind: let it be granted, that the degree of happiness the good will attain hereafter depends on their sense of, and trust in, the Atonement of CHRIST; yet nevertheless this is also true, that he who humbles himself most on earth, will be the highest in heaven: or again, it is also true, that the degree of the rewards hereafter will depend on, and be proportionate to, the use of the talents which have been given; and therefore, if objection is made to our inculcating these things, it is a sufficient answer, that we are but following the method and commands of Scripture. This would be quite sufficient for a childlike obedience. But when we come to consider the nature of religious principles, and to "compare things spiritual with spiritual," then we obtain a glimpse of that vast and mysterious truth laid up in the counsels of GOD, that it is he who humbles himself most, and obeys most dutifully, who attains most of all unto a right and saving sense of the Atonement of CHRIST. And thus we come again to the same point with regard to our teaching, as for instance, that he who most of all impresses himself and others with a sense of the day of judgment, will most of all lead himself and others to keep the commandments; and he who does this will be the most humble, and will most of all embrace the doctrine of the Atonement; whereas he who puts forward this doctrine most prominently, in a manner different from this general analogy of GOD'S Word, may be taking persons furthest from it.
Again, we have said the necessary effect of keeping the commandments, is to empty a man of self-righteousness, and therefore to bring him to CHRIST Crucified. Now this might be shown in all the examples of holy men in Scripture: for whatever other graces they might have, they are all marked with humility. And that humility in proportion to their obedience, and their faith in proportion to their humility. Thus St. Paul, because he had always laboured to have "a conscience void of offence both towards GOD and man," and in a Gospel had "laboured more abundantly" than all the Apostles, therefore felt himself the chief of sinners: words which our own devout and laborious Hammond eagerly and emphatically at his last Communion exclaimed of himself: and the good Bishop Andrewes, in all his devotions speaks of himself as ton panu amartwlon, ton amartwlon uper telwnou. These holy men loved much, because they felt they had much forgiven; and they felt they had much forgiven, because they loved much. For it has been well said, "The best men know they are very far from what they ought to be, and the very worst think that, if they were but a little better, they should be as good as they need be." So far therefore as we keep the commandments we shall embrace the Atonement, and so far only, whether we speak of it or not. But how very inconsistent with this is the mode which this system has introduced, of judging of the saints of GOD according to this rule, viz. how far and how much they speak of the Atonement! Holy Scripture itself is hardly sufficient to shield the man of GOD. Before the publication of the Gospel indeed, such a full declaration is not expected and among the very few that since appear before us in Holy Writ, St. James has been by one great name given up, because he cannot stand by this peculiar criterion of saving Faith. And surely this principle upon which sentence is pronounced on the Saints of the primitive Church, is quite irreconcilable with the general tenor of Scripture; for their devotional and practical graces are allowed, but they are supposed to have misunderstood and misinterpreted the true nature of the Gospel; that is to say, they gave up houses and lands, and parents and wives and children for the sake of CHRIST and the Gospel, but did not receive the promises annexed to doing so in the present, or in future time; that they were meek, but did not inherit the kingdom; that they mourned, but were not comforted; that they kept CHRIST'S commandments, but He did not, according to His promise, manifest Himself unto them. And is all this to be inferred from their not speaking of the Atonement? Why was this of such vital importance? And consider what great injury is done to a generation who are taught to disparage these holy men, who spent their days and nights in frequent prayers, in fastings, and mortification, and retirement from the world. Men have been induced to believe that this was not only unnecessary, that they took not merely a circuitous and difficult way to obtain the favour of GOD, whereas the true way was comparatively very short and easy; but that these saints of GOD have failed of the right and saving way altogether.
7. On eloquent preaching and delivery.
There is another important point in which the modern system is opposed to Scripture in breaking the spirit of reserve, viz., in attaching so great a value to preaching as to disparage Prayer and Sacraments in comparison. According to this the Church of GOD would be the House of Preaching; but Scripture calls it the House of Prayer. But with regard to the subject of preaching altogether, it is, in the present day, taken for granted, that eloquence in speech is the most powerful means of promoting religion in the world. But if this be the vase, it occurs to one as remarkable, that there is no intimation of this in Scripture: perhaps no single expression can be found in any part of it that implies it: there is no recommendation of rhetoric in precept, or example, or prophecy. There is no instance of it; no part of Scripture itself appears in this shape, as the remains of what was delivered with powerful eloquence. Many parts of it consist of poetry, none of oratory; and it is remarkable that the former partakes more of this reserve, the latter less so. It speaks of instruction, "precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little," but never of powerful appeals of speech. The great teacher of the Gentiles, in whom we would most of all have expected to find it, was "weak in bodily presence, and in speech contemptible;" and rendered so, it is supposed, by "a thorn in the flesh." Whereas, it would be thought by many now, that the great requisites for a successful minister are a powerful bodily presence and eloquent speech. Indeed, St. Paul says, that the effect of the words of men's wisdom would be to render the Cross of CHRIST of none effect. It is, moreover, observable, that in Scripture all the words denoting a minister of the Gospel throw us back on the commission. Such, for instance, is the word "Apostle," or "the Sent," which title is repeated with a remarkable frequency and emphasis, and united, in one instance, with the awful and high expression, "As my FATHER hath sent me, even so I send you." And the word "preaching," as now used, has a meaning attached to it derived from modern notions, which we shall not find in Scripture. "A preacher," indeed, properly conveys the same idea as "Apostle," and really signifies the same thing-"a herald;" for, of course, all the office of a herald depends on him that sent him, not so much on himself, or his mode of delivering his message. All other words, in like manner adopted in the Church, speak the same; they all designate him as one ministering or serving at GOD'S altar, not as one whose first object is to be useful to men; such, for instance, are the appellations of diaconus, sacerdos. It is curious that our word "minister," implying also the same, comes to be commonly used in the other sense, being applied, like that of preacher, to self-created teachers. Thus do men's opinions invest sacred appellations with new meaning, according to the change in their own views.
If people in general were now asked what was the most powerful means of advancing the cause of religion in the world, we should be told that it was eloquence of speech or preaching: and the excellency of speech we know consists in delivery; that is the first, the second, and the third requisite. Whereas, if we were to judge from Holy Scripture, of what were the best means of promoting Christianity in the world, we should say obedience; and if we were to be asked the second, we should say obedience; and if we were to be asked the third, we should say obedience. And it is evident, that if the spirit of obedience exists, simple and calm statement of truth will go far. Not that we would be thought entirely to depreciate preaching as a mode of doing good; it may be necessary in a weak and languishing state; but it is the characteristic of this system as opposed to that of the Church, and we far the undue exaltation of an instrument which Scripture, to say the least, has never recommended. And, indeed, if from Revelation we turn to the great teachers of morals which have been in the world, we shall be surprised to find how little they esteemed it useful for their purpose. The exceeding jealous apprehension of rhetoric which Socrates evinces is remarkable, as shown throughout the Gorgias. Nor does it ever seem to have occurred to the sages of old, as a means of promoting morality; and yet some of them, as Pythagoras and Socrates, made this purpose, viz., that of improving the principles of men, the object of their lives: and the former was remarkable for his mysterious discipline, and the silence he imposed; the latter for a mode of questioning, which may be considered as entirely an instance of this kind of reserve in teaching.
And here again, if we are referred to expediency and visible effects, let us ask what these effects are. They have the effect of bringing people together in crowds, of creating strong religious impressions: so far it may be well; but even then, to all strong feelings the saying may be justly applied, "quod est violentum non est diuturnum." But does this system make men more desirous to learn, and more exact in adhering to truth? Does this system in the long run make men more humble and obedient to their appointed ministers, more frequent in attending the daily prayers, more honest and just in their dealings with mankind? Does it lead men to think more of GOD and His appointments, and less of men and their gifts? Does it produce a healthful and reverential tone of feeling respecting the blessed Sacraments? Are persons who have been used to popular preaching more submissive to Divine ordinances, and more easily moved to the self-denying duties of repentance and prayer? But on this point, with regard to religious effects, even did they appear satisfactory, yet we are, in fact, no judges at all on this subject; the next world only can show this: here we walk by faith, not by sight. Certainly the silence of Scripture should make us cautious how we allow too much to this instrument. The great importance now attributed to these means is sufficient to show the tendency of the system; it is one of expedience, it looks to man: that of the Church is one of faith, and looks to GOD. Their principle is to speak much and loud, because it is to man; that of the Church is founded on this, "that God is in Heaven, and we on earth;" therefore "keep thy foot in the House of GOD," and "let thy words be few."
8. This system a worldly system.
It is very remarkable, how much this new scheme of religion is an instance of an observation which has been made, that they who set out with the profession of principles holier, or wiser, or purer than those of Holy Scripture, do ultimately tend to the virtual denial of those very truths which they professed most strictly to uphold. They who maintain that the Church does not sufficiently preach the dependence of man upon GOD, and trust in the Atonement, do practically, in their whole system, tend to derogate from those truths themselves, while the Church continues to hold them. They consider, for instance, that the efficacy of a preacher consists in human eloquence and activity, and not in the power of his Divine commission, which is, in fact, to set up something else, which may be sensibly felt, for the Divine gifts of the SPIRIT. By disparaging the efficacy of the Sacraments, they have come to substitute for them something like a meritorious act, or opinion, on the part of the individual. Professing to be guided exclusively by the written Word, they have established a method so opposed to it, as to render the greater part of it superfluous. Requiring us to speak loudly of Spiritual assistance, they have set at nought all those practices, whose sole end and object was to live in that invisible world, and to partake of its gifts. For men have been led to reflect, censure, and even ridicule, not on the superstitious and wrong observances of Sacramental Ordinances, and Creeds, and Prayers, but on the punctual observance of them at all; and sentiments are expressed which would brand with superstition the devout Daniel for his unbending adherence to times and circumstances of devotion; and the widow Anna, who departed not from the temple, with formalism. And all this arises from the fact, that these opinions are not thoroughly and unreservedly based on Holy Scripture, and therefore look too much to external support.
The very principle of sound Religion is that the world "knoweth it not, as it knew Him not:" its rules of action are so essentially opposed, that they cannot understand each other, from something of an essential nature different. The system, on the contrary, of which we speak, has ever the indirect object of making a league with it,-not externally, on the contrary, it has devised externally strongly-marked lines of demarcation and distinctions, which do not extend to the thoughts or character; and in every way has substituted a great unreal system, nominal, superficial, formal, though in name spiritual, and the more formal in reality, because in name spiritual. Where GOD is, there must be the fear of Him.
For this reason it has come to pass that names of the most awful and holy import have been so used habitually, that they carry not with them their own high and awful meaning, even the Names of the ever-blessed Trinity. Not only have they become used without reverence, and very much as the distinctive signs of a party,-but the very use of them tends to keep up this feeling of unreality, and without bearing on the heart and conduct. Whereas homefelt natural expressions in which any one who is in earnest is apt to clothe his sentiments, and which touch the heart and conscience of another, as they come from his own, are disliked; because they break through this unreal web, and bear more upon the daily life and conscience.
All this is substituting a system of man's own creation for that which GOD has given. Instead of the Sacraments and external ordinances, it has put forth prominently a supposed sense of the Atonement, as the badge of a profession. That which is most thoroughly internal, most thoroughly spiritual, secret and holy, it has made the external symbol of agreement; and therefore has completely (so to speak) turned people inside out, wherever it is received: and thus it has lost the essential peculiarity of Christianity, that purity of heart which is directed to "the Eye that seeth in secret." This spirit has thoroughly imbued their whole system, in the same manner that it has prevailed in the corruptions of Rome. In the case of the latter, the use of external symbols the most sacred, has lost much of its power, by rude exposure to the gaze of the world; so is it with this system in the use of words; they have lost their proper sense and meaning, and have a peculiar signification. That dread doctrine so essential as received into the heart, the very foundation of life and actions, has come with them to consist in that which can be called up from time to time, and satisfy the professor in sensible emotions and satisfactions. Works as performed strictly in secret, and directed to the eye of GOD, cannot but be life-giving and good: the corruptions of Rome have substituted for these external actions; and this system external professions. The eye of man is on both, unhallowing the holy things of GOD, and engendering pride. Hence has arisen among them that rejection of natural modesty, and sacred reserve, on the subject of religion in discourse and writing:-attempts to remedy certain effects and symptoms of the want of religion, instead of that want itself. Much indeed of this may arise from a natural craving after sympathy on the highest of all subjects, and from having lost the legitimate expressions of it. External visible Communion must be preserved by external visible means; when these are withdrawn, sacred principles or sacred feelings will be outwardly substituted. In proof of this, it may be observed, that a Sect which has least of all to distinguish it in doctrine or discipline as a separate body, the Wesleyans, are most under the influence of what is here condemned, to the great injury of their moral character: words with them do not signify what they do with others. Instead of visible means of grace, and participation in the same Sacraments, being the bonds of union, something in external speech or demeanour becomes substituted. A still more remarkable instance may be seen in the sect denominated the Society of Friends, who, after labouring the divest themselves of all the appearances of a visible Church and visible Sacraments, have become from external garb and mode of speech, the most visible of all Societies.
It must be allowed that this modern system did for a time partake of the "reproach of CHRIST," and did in that strength prevail for a season. In that reproach, all good Christians will be glad to share with them. Doubtless the very name of CHRIST must ever carry with it a blessing; and earnestness in religion, in views however mistaken, seems ever to have annexed to it the reward of GOD. And for a time this earnestness of mind carried with it incidentally much good, and led men to embrace other great truths of Christianity, and perhaps that of CHRIST Crucified, in reality as well as in name; being far better themselves than their system, and better in their practice than in their opinions, which they held rather speculatively and controversially, than practically: but these things for a while corrected by the sincerity of individuals have gone by, and left the legitimate fruits of the system. The evils it has led to in various forms of dissent are too evident wherever we turn our eyes, leading men to the neglect of honesty and plain dealing, and at length to indifference, unsettledness, and infidelity. In the Church it excludes with jealous eagerness all things that may alarm the consciences of those who heartily adopt the system, obedience to Church authority, practices of mortification, the fear of GOD, and the doctrine of judgment to come. It sets forth religion in colours attractive to the world, by stimulating the affections, and by stifling the conscience, rather than by purifying and humbling the heart. Hence its great prevalence in places of fashionable resort. And to those who have in any way forfeited their character for religion and morality or sound doctrine, instead of the process of painful secret self-discipline and gradual restoration, or the open and salutary penance of the ancient Church, it affords an instant and ready mode for assuming at once all the privileges of authority and advanced piety. And the consequence is, that real humility of heart, and a quiet walking in the ordinances of GOD, finds not only the world in array against it, but that which considers itself as Christianity also. Through all its appearances it is marked by a want of reverence; and therefore it can use worldly instruments and worldly organs. It may serve as a ready cloak to cover an unsubdued temper and a worldly spirit, concealing them as well from the individual himself as from others. It may offer a convenient refuge to those who would cling to the Establishment, rather than the Church, if she should be spoiled and persecuted. But the effect of these opinions is not confined to those who profess and receive them; but as a great part of the office of the Gospel is to be a witness to all nations, even to those who receive it not, the witness itself, or the voice which is heard from it, becomes altered in its character. One or two great truths are thus put forth exclusively as the whole of religion; and this has a vast effect on the whole of society, among those who do not openly avow, nor are even secretly con-scious of' these opinions: the world accepts them, not even as the professors of them would themselves intend, but as pal-liatives to an uneasy conscience, as an assistance to throw off the sense of responsibility, and as false easy notions of repentance. Therefore it is that these peculiar views in religion amalgamate so readily with the liberal notions of the world, and both will be found readily to unite against principles of a more unbending nature. There exists a secret affinity between them.
There was one impediment in the Jews throughout, when prevented their receiving the truth; they trusted in their being of the seed of Abraham. From this point as a centre, the evil one wove around them a web of external and specious observances, from which the great Teacher of repentance, and our LORD Him-self, and St. Paul, in vain endeavoured to extricate them: they bore leaves, but no fruit. The Baptist had laid the axe to the root of the tree: our LORD had interceded for three years with the FATHER, till He should dig around it and dung it: St. Paul had endeavoured to graft within it the better stock; but in vain; it still bore leaves, but no fruit. The present age is one of affected refinement in sentiment combined with loose morals; one of expediency rather than principle, of rationalism rather than faith; one that will take all that is agreeable and beautiful and benevolent in religion, and reject what is stern and self--denying and awful. Now the whole truth in its just propor-tions we have in the Creed, which GOD has given us as a key to Scripture, the depository of the faith in the Church, to each individual a guide and safeguard. But it is very evident that if we take one point only in religion, instead of this analogy of the Faith, we may produce a religion which may please ourselves and others, and yet may be very far from the truth as it is in Scripture, and from the principles of that new world wherein dwelleth righteousness. And it is an awful and trying question for a man to ask himself, whether the reason why he sets aside the Day of Judgment, the severe discipline of the Church, and above all the two Sacraments, in his public teaching, is not this, that in the secret care of himself he does not consider them: and whether the strong controversial party feeling, exhibited on these points, does not arise from the dislike he has to be disturbed in these easy convictions, into the truth of which he will not seriously enquire.
Now against all this leaven of a worldly system, the reserve that is here inculcated seems at once the remedy; for it strips off at once all those external indications of a religion which exists not in the heart, as rather hindrances to true piety than the promoters of it; and requires one to be reverential and considerate in all that regards it. We have nothing to show to ourselves or others, to encourage the notion that we are better than they; and may be induced to cultivate a sincere desire to be approved in the eyes of our Father "who seeth in secret." A want of reserve, an artificial religious tone in conversation or prayer is, as the good James Bonnel observes, a proof that the person is wishing to be, or wishing to persuade himself that he is, rather than that he really is religious. As far as any one is in earnest, he will act naturally with this sacred modesty, seeking to know GOD and do His will. And this unaffected reserve will be a great protection to him in keeping the spirit of piety fresh and true, and when he loses it, he will lose half his strength. This secret devotion will doubtless lower him in his own eyes, and in the eyes of the world, and will keep him back. He must be content to be not understood, to be misrepresented, but this will little concern him, if he may be hid from men's eyes in the sanctuary of the Divine presence, where his prayers for them will have power with GOD.
THE SYSTEM OF THE CHURCH ONE OF RESERVE.
1. The principle considered with reference to ourselves.
BUT far be it from us, to put forward this sacred principle merely in condemnation of others, and their system; what we have said with regard to them is in our defence and for their warning: and we have quite as much need of it for the regulation and protection of ourselves. Indeed it might have been considered that it is for ourselves that it is more especially needed; and the subject should, one would think, have been hailed with pleasure as a pledge and indication, that what we maintain we would wish to maintain modestly and seriously. That when we consider ourselves called upon to put forward great Christian truths, which have been forgotten, we imply, by connecting this principle with them, that we consider them as matters, not for speculation or external distinction, but to be embraced practically, and as it were secretly, looking to that time when all things will be revealed.
The whole of the effects which we condemn, and which have developed themselves in a system, have been spoken of as putting forward religion with a want of reality, an absence of true seriousness; and of course the principles of the Church are liable to be taken hold of, and turned to the same purpose. But we proceed to show that the Church of itself is entirely a system of reserve. In fact, she holds all the doctrines which those who agree not with her consider most essential, but in a sort of reserve; being calculated to bring men to the heart and substance of those things of which this scheme embraces the shadow. The Church, moreover, in all her departments, is directed to the eye of GOD, and not to man; as the Bride who ever looks to the Bridegroom, and to none else. The one instance in her usages which partakes least of this reserved character, is the practice of preaching which she sanctions and admits, and which alone, it is curious to observe, this human system has taken, considering it as the only instrument calculated for its purpose. The principle of the Church is, that "the secret things belong unto the LORD our GOD;" that He Himself dispenses them through His Church, as He thinks meet, to faith and obedience. Her system therefore is one of reserve.
But before we proceed to this subject, it may be requisite to say something respecting the application of the rule at all to baptized Christians. It may be said, that during the gradual revelations of the Gospel to mankind, this might have been the mode of the Divine proceeding, and very necessary; but that now among baptized Christians, "the enlightened," as they were called in the early church, all have entered into the fulness of the Christian inheritance, and we have no right to withdraw from them any part of their birthright. Or it may be said, that the mystery is now made known to all the world; every thing is perfectly different; omnia jam vulgata.
But now in answer to this, it must be observed, that this sacred forbearance is an universal rule in morals, and not confined to circumstances, but accompanies every progress in religious knowledge; thus the Fathers speak of it, as a rule to be observed, not only towards catechumens, but according to which the mysteries of GOD are revealed more and more to the last stage of Christian perfection. It is evident, that the knowledge which Scripture speaks of as life-giving goes entirely with Christian purity of heart; that in this respect, unless it will be maintained that this sincerity and purity now prevails, the rule still holds; in the Scriptural sense, men are still in darkness, and ignorance, in proportion to their vices; knowledge is to be imparted or withdrawn on the same principles. And with regard to the circumstance of men having been baptized, St. Paul did not make this an occasion of altering this rule towards his converts, but he maintains towards them precisely the same caution. This St. Augustine observes, speaking of the expression of "giving what is holy to dogs," he adds, "when the LORD says this, we must believe that He wished to signify, that unclean hearts cannot bear the light of spiritual intelligence, and if a teacher should compel them to bear that which they do not rightly receive, inasmuch as they are not capable of doing so, they either rend him with the bitings of reprehension, or by despising, tread them under foot. For if the blessed Apostle says that he gave milk, and not meat, to those who thought they were already born again in CHRIST, yet were still babes; for hitherto were ye not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. If, in fine, the LORD Himself said to His elect Apostles, 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now;' how much less can unclean minds of the wicked, bear those things that are spoken of incorporeal light?"
In one point of view, our case indeed differs from that of for-mer ages; in that the great and essential truths of our religion, which have been so long kept back, are now generally known. Our position is therefore in most material respects different, but not so, in any way, as to do away with the necessity of this natural principle.
It must be observed, that the word knowledge is used in two senses, or that there are two kinds of knowledge; the one, according to which "the knowledge of the LORD fills the earth, as the waters cover the sea:" the other, discovering One who still dwelleth in secret in the midst of these manifestations, One "whose ways are in those deep waters, and whose footsteps are not known." The one is she "who lifteth up her voice in the streets, and in the city uttereth her cry:" the other is she, "who goeth about secretly, seeking those who are worthy of her, trying them in crooked paths, and ways of discipline, until she finds that she can trust their souls." The one that which is "a savour of life and also unto death," as when our LORD says, that he who knew his LORD'S will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes; and "if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them;" a knowledge which without charity puffeth up. The other knowledge is that which is truly Divine and in-separable from charity; where to know and love GOD, is one and the same thing, and both of them eternal life. This is the gift especially of GOD alone, and which He dispenses according to man's fitness to receive it; and therefore the Church is a system of reserve. And this in no way limits or confines, but in every way strengthens the most active efforts for propagating the Gospel in the world; which can no more be doubted than that our LORD Himself took the very best, the most engaging, and at the same time the most powerful, means of recommending truth to mankind. And indeed the Church, in which our LORD has promised to be present unto the end, may very well be compared in this respect to His visible body in the flesh; a comparison which may be allowed, as He applied the term "temple" to His human person; both served as a veil to His Divinity, in both He withdraws from human eyes, through both in the same manner, He manifests Himself according as persons will by faith receive Him, will take up the cross after Him, and be His disciples.
2. The Holiness of God's House of Prayer.
Now the whole business of the Church, as a system upon earth, is to impart to mankind this true saving knowledge; and in so doing she is quite opposed to the restless systems of the world for imparting mere knowledge of itself. She acts therefore as her Divine Founder throughout, on a species of reserve. As one desirous above all things to prepare men's minds, and bring them to the truth, but communicating it to them as they are able to receive it. She contains as it were within herself numerous channels or modes of access, by which men may be brought to this knowledge of GOD. Her Sacramental ordinances are, in fact, ways to that invisible Jerusalem, that celestial fellowship, and the city of the Living GOD. The progressive states of proficiency in the school of CHRIST have been termed the via purgativa, or the way of repentance; the via illuminativa, or the way of Christian knowledge; and the via unitiva, or the way of charity and union with GOD. Now it may be seen, that Church principles contain within them these modes of bringing men to the knowledge of, and to union with GOD, who dwelleth in secret, after a reserved, silent, and retiring manner. All those that are considered peculiarly Church principles, doctrines and practices, are of this character.
For instance, the Church, contrary to the human system, which we have described, looks upon houses of Divine worship as being especially sacred, and the place of GOD'S peculiar presence. Now if this doctrine of the Church is true, then they must be the abode of some great and peculiar blessing; every body must necessarily allow, that the Divine presence must be life-giving and hallowing, and as it were sacramentally convey spiritual benefit; but now if both these opinions of the Church be true, it is evident that these blessings cannot be realized, but by particular persons and dispositions; by those who make it their reverential study to raise their minds to it, and by faith receive the blessing. These privileges, so high and spiritual, are held by the Church in a sort of reserve and silence. The case is precisely analogous to that of our LORD in the flesh; conveying now spiritual blessings, as then bodily cures, after precisely the same rule and method; and withdrawing Himself from many, who may be inclined to doubt and ridicule such a supposition. That such a sense of the holiness of Churches is itself beneficial to the moral character, may be inferred from the high authority of Bishop Butler, the great master of morals, who recommends some devotional act of the mind, as a reverential exercise, to be practised at the very sight of a Church. And there is something in Holy Scripture most mysteriously striking, and awful, on this subject; as for instance, the sanctity, and adoration, claimed so strongly in the Old Testament for the place where GOD vouchsafed to disclose His presence, of which there are many instances. And perhaps there is no circumstance in all the account of our SAVIOUR'S life, which so arrests and demands our awful attention, as that of His driving the buyers out of the temple, when He would suffer no "vessel to be carried through it." In the first place, because this action was so different in its character to all other actions of our LORD; in the next place, because it was twice repeated; and lastly, because it implied a sense of holiness so transporting as to have carried Him, humanly speaking, beyond Himself, fulfilling the expression of the Psalmist, "the zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up." Since therefore no man can equal the sense of veneration here expressed, for GOD'S "House of Prayer," therefore no one can exceed on this subject; the case is in some respect analogous to an adoration of our LORD'S Divinity when seen in the flesh. And the effect and cause become mutually implicated in bearing on the moral character: the most holy men will most reverence the place of GOD'S presence, and he who more values the place of GOD'S presence will become the most holy. Now this secret of GOD is so entirely disclosed by Him, after this manner of reserve, that the difference of regard which men feel for Churches, is as great as the difference of estimation in which our LORD was regarded by the beloved disciple or by the traitor Judas, for both of them were in His presence, but one only derived benefit from it. For instance, David speaks of the temple of GOD with words of longing desire, as great as could be expressed for any conceivable blessing, as being the place of GOD'S presence; and yet many of us doubtless feel nothing of the kind. These gifts therefore, the greatest that heart of man can devise, are in secret; it is the kingdom of heaven upon earth, but seen only by certain persons; a treasure hid, "the pure in heart seeing GOD" under those veils: of all of which it may be said, as of our LORD'S teaching, "he that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
3. Sacraments, Church Ordinances and practices.
In the next place, with respect to the Holy Sacraments, it is in these, and by these chiefly, that the Church of all ages has held the Doctrine of the Atonement after a certain manner of reserve; which sense of things this modern system has relinquished, and in consequence has put forward this doctrine to the people in a manner unknown to former ages. The Church has ever thus held the doctrine in its substance, in its fulness, in its life-giving power and reality: for which these moderns have substituted what is human;-the declaration of it by eloquence of speech, the reception of it in excitement of feeling. The Church consi-ders it in the Sacraments as a power of substantial and Divine efficacy, conferring spiritual gifts and privileges; this system, as nominal and external to ourselves. In the Sacraments the doctrine is most intimately and closely blended with the life and conduct of man; in this system, it is in great measure separated from it. For instance, all ancient Baptismal Services, as well as that of our own Church, have most closely connected with the doctrine of the Atonement, the consideration of our being crucified with CHRIST, being dead with CHRIST, being buried with CHRIST, and the consequent necessity of our mortifying our earthly mem-bers: in this respect, they exemplify, in a wonderful manner, all that we have stated respecting this doctrine in the Gospels, and the Epistles of St. Paul, wherein our own cross,-the world being crucified to us, and we to the world,-is mysteriously connected with that of CHRIST. The Sacraments realize the doctrine in a way that no human system can do; for we believe that a Divine Power, and the blessings of the Atonement especially, are, after some transcendental manner, present in those Sacraments, according to the express promise of our LORD. And it is very obvious that our Communion Service does support the same principle in like manner with the Baptismal Offices; for it throughout implies penitence, faith, and charity as indispensable on the part of man; and "the body and the blood of CHRIST, verily and indeed taken and received," as the highest of gifts on the part of GOD. And these it considers as the spiritual life of- Christians. And as the very essence of a Church does depend on a due dispensation of the blessed Sacraments, so, where a sense of these is impaired, or not realized by faith, the doctrine of the Atonement itself is put forth to mankind, as if the preaching of this constituted all that was life-giving in the Church. Now here it is very evident at once that the great difference between these two systems, consists in this, that one holds the doctrine secretly as it were, and the other openly, in a public and popular manner; one in connexion with all other doctrines of Scripture, the other as separated from them. It is always the case with the Church, that it has considered the Sacraments as certain veils of the Divine presence, being not only the signs and tokens, but vehicles and conveyances, as it were, of Divine gifts. This is obvious, not only from the Discipline of the secret, but from usual modes of speaking concerning them. Thus, St. Augustine on the words, "He laid in the darkness His secret place," applies this to GOD having laid His secret place "in the obscurity of the Sacrament, and secret hope in the heart of believers;" "where He Himself might be hid, and desert them not even in this darkness, where we walk as yet by faith, not by sight."
The same may be shown with respect to the powers of Priestly Absolution, and the gifts conferred thereby. It is not required for our purpose to show the reality of that power, and the magnitude of those gifts which are thus dispensed. But a little consideration will show, that if the Church of all ages is right in exercising these privileges, the subject is one entirely of this reserved and mystical character. Its blessings are received in secret, according to faith: they are such as the world cannot behold, and cannot receive. The subject is one so profound and mysterious, that it hardly admits of being put forward in a popular way, and perhaps more injury than benefit would be done to religion by doing so inconsiderately. And yet a faithful Christian may look through the actions and offices of the Church, to that which is beyond human senses, to CHRIST absolving, CHRIST baptizing, CHRIST interceding, CHRIST pronouncing benediction; and may thus by an habitual sense of Absolution declared, come to the state of that penitent, who "loved much, because she had much forgiven." The same may be said with respect to the Benediction: no words and arguments, no learned proofs nor eloquent demonstration, of the blessing that is through these channels conveyed, render us of themselves capable of receiving them; but it is a secret which GOD Himself dispenses as men are found worthy. For when our SAVIOUR instructed His disciples to pro-nounce the blessing of peace beyond understanding, He annexed to it, "that if the Son of peace be there, His peace should rest upon that house, if not, it should return to them again." And that His peace was mysteriously powerful to convey what it expressed, and not like mere human words of salutation, nor in a manner capable of being understood by the world, our LORD seems to have signified in that expression, "Peace be unto you, My peace I give, not as the world giveth give I unto you." And that some blessing would be in reality attached to the authoritative declaration, might be inferred from the promise, attached to the Levitical Benediction, which GOD vouchsafed should be accompanied by His own blessing. To the heart of faith, therefore, the Priestly pronunciation of blessing, may be productive of greater spiritual benefit than the most moving appeals of human eloquence: as GOD is in secret, and His Angels that minister to us, and all His paths in the deep waters, so all His instruments of benefiting our souls seem to partake of this character of Reserve; ways that appear foolishness to the world, for its effects are out of sight, but seen and fully acknowledged by those who are brought to the sense of them, for "wisdom is justified of her own children."
The like may be shown in many other points, that "the weapons of our warfare being not carnal," partake of this secret character, in opposition to that system which we condemn. It is the custom of that system to recommend persons to seek those ministers which are supposed edifying; but the Church considers all edification to be of GOD, and by His own means. If they are found unworthy or inadequate, the world recommends us to attach ourselves to others; the Church, by her Ember Weeks, supplies a remedy, but entirely of a secret character. For as our LORD has said, when he beheld the people as sheep without a shepherd, "Pray ye the LORD of the harvest, that he may send more labourers into his harvest;" therefore, it is clear that the remedy for the unworthiness or scantiness of ministers depends on the prayers of the people. Here again the Church supplies us with a quiet rule of Reserve: the opposite to that which this system extensively pursues.
There is another point which may be mentioned to show the way in the which the Church secretly realizes the doctrines of Scripture, which doctrines the world will not allow. The modern scheme is very careful to separate the cross of Christians from the Cross of CHRIST, which the Scriptures, we think, in mysterious and manifold ways, unite, in the same way that type and prophecy often combine allusions to CHRIST and to His members. Now, consider the Friday fast with respect to this subject. The Church has always set apart this day for meditation on CHRIST'S death and passion. But how is it to be observed? First of all it is a matter of obedience; in the next place the Church requires fasting on this day, both of which are in fact the bearing of our own cross. And now to take the simple matter of fact, in this case fasting and obedience is what would be called bearing our own cross, and the effect of this is to dispose the heart to prayer, and to heavenly affections, and a sense of GOD'S mercy in CHRIST; thus, as Bishop Wilson observes, "the mystery of the cross is learned under the cross." Nor can this day be rightly observed excepting in such a manner as leads to these affections. Something of the same kind may be said respecting the LORD'S day, on which the Ancient Church used to observe the posture of standing in prayer, to express that we are risen together with CHRIST. To realize the Christian Sunday is a matter of faith, and requires a knowledge of the "power of the Resurrection:" to insist on the observance of the Jewish Sabbath is to insist on an external duty, and may be popularly expedient; it comes more among things of sight; the former is received by faith in the invisible sanctions of long Tradition; the latter insisted on by express legal sanction.
Again, the mode in which the Church teaches us to regard Holy Scripture is one of Reserve. Let us take for instance, the use of Psalms in daily public worship; by this circumstance of thus using them, it is evident she considers them as a Christian manual of devotion. And yet modern systems, which disparage or separate from the Church, consider them as very unfit for such a purpose. The Church uses them entirely upon a principle of reserve: for of course, for a Christian to be repeating expressions concerning war, "the shield, the sword, and the battle," or concerning legal sacrifices, "offering bullocks and goats," or of "the hill of Sion," and the mountains that surrounded Jerusalem; or of Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan; or of Edom and Babylon being laid even with the ground: all these things are of course (as Dr. Watts has stated them to be) unfit words for a Christian, excepting upon this principle of reserve; according to which we believe that the inspiration of GOD is in the words, and reverence them as full of Divine meanings with respect to ourselves. Something after the same manner that we look upon a Church and altar as holy, though to bodily eyes they are nothing more than cold stones or bare wood. And after some faint imitation of this vast principle of reserve, which thus pervades the Church of GOD, it is supposed that even the visible shape and structure of sacred edifices was intended by our forefathers to represent sacred mysteries, and the higher doctrines of our faith. Indeed, the Lessons themselves which are read in Divine worship are many of them not at all understood by some, by most very imperfectly. Hence this popular system will not allow this reading of Holy Scripture to be sufficient for maintaining their opinions, without also what they call the "preaching of the Word," by which it is implied, that the Scriptures themselves are not the Word in the sense in the which they use the term. Because they do not put forward prominently and explicitly on all occasions the doctrine they regard.
But moreover, with regard to the doctrine of the Atonement, it is contained throughout the whole of the Liturgy, after this manner of sacred reserve: inasmuch as the whole tone, spirit, and character of it, and especially the Litany, is expressive of this doctrine; and in fact conveys it, teaches it, infuses a right sense of it, more vitally and truly than any set speeches could do, in the same way that it is taught by all our LORD'S words and actions. So that they of her sons whose spirit is in unison with her prayers, rightly receive this great cardinal truth: they whose spirit is not thus in accordance with her cannot receive it rightly.
4. The Church realizes the Kingdom in secret.
Now to realize all these mysterious blessings contained in the Church were, indeed, to understand the meaning of the term by which it is designated in Scripture as "the kingdom of Heaven" upon earth. It is all founded on that vast principle in Religion, that "he who will do the will, shall know of the doctrine." They are all things that depend on the state of the heart: they cannot be otherwise than real and substantial gifts as they have reference entirely to GOD'S unseen presence, and only thus attained by secret faith and obedience. Now, some persons will allow that the case is perfectly true respecting our LORD'S conduct in the flesh, that He observed this reserve (as shown in Tract 80. part i.) but they would confine it to that alone: they may be asked then, whether the case of the Church in all these respects is not perfectly analogous to it: our LORD is present in His Church according to His promise, and in all these things as of old, "He doth not strive, nor cry, nor lift up His voice in the streets."
We have in these points endeavoured to show more especially that the Church holds, after a living and substantial manner, those great truths of our LORD'S Divinity and Atonement: she holds in secret what others require to be publicly pronounced aloud. But as the Church is more especially the dispensation of the SPIRIT, so it may be shown that she realizes, in the same kind of retiring modesty, all those influences of the SPIRIT connected with duty and dependence on the part of man, which it is thought so necessary publicly to profess. It is very evident how this is implied in the principle of the Church sacramentally conveying grace: not to all indiscriminately, but to those who duly watch and wait for those gifts. It might be shown in like manner, how each article in the third part of the Creed, respecting the dispensation of the SPIRIT, is found fulfilled in the Church after a living manner, and not in human plans of religion. "The Holy Catholic Church" is realized throughout it, all our principles and practices being thence derived, and holding us in union with her. "The Communion of Saints" is maintained by unity of worship, by similarity of devotional forms, by one Baptism, and also by her Saints' days; whereby various Churches throughout the world, by commemorating the same Saints, on the same days, preserve a communion of spirit with the living, and also with the dead, whom they commemorate. "The Forgiveness of sins," is taught by her Sacraments, and Absolution. "The Resurrection of the body," by the doctrine of the Eucharist, as always considered to have some mysterious connection with the resurrection of our bodies by the reverential regard with which she looks on Churchyards: and the whole tone of her Liturgy and prayers, looks forward to "a life everlasting after death." So fully do her Services contain every doctrine and every principle which has a reference to the Holy SPIRIT: and as far as her sons, by faith and obedience, realize the same, they obtain the blessings of the SPIRIT; though the world knows not of it. And if the Church is reproached for not exhibiting these sacred truths more publicly, that reproach she shares with her Divine Founder and Master, to whom it was said, "If thou doest these things, show thyself to the world."
There are many points in which this sacred economy of the Church, being directed to the eye of GOD, and not to man, as one of reserve, is free from the temptations to which human systems are liable: it has no temptation to put forth principles of expediency rather than of truth, as that of Regeneration after Baptism: it is in a great degree independent of numbers;-are there few or many that hold them, it matters not: it is free from the temptation to party spirit; it needs no words, no professions, to collect others around in sympathy; to make "broad phylacteries," wearing without that which should be within: external ordinances serve the purpose of external bonds of union, and it thus secretly enters into the Communion of Saints. And, again, the House of GOD is, we know, "the House of Prayer," for the purposes of worship, but those whose religion mainly consists in popular appeals, are used to say, that the sight of a thinly-attended Church is perfectly deadening to them: and judging from their own feelings, they think it very desirable, that a Church should never be open, but when fully frequented: they need, moreover, external sympathies more for worship: but not so those who are used to realize, or endeavour to realize, in a Church, GOD'S presence: where Angels are intermingled as their associates in worship. And it is remarkable, that the two systems, that of this sacred reserve, and that of popular expediency, cannot exist together, without one derogating from the other: in the same way that what is carnal, sensible, visible, has tendency to stifle that which is spiritual and invisible. Where preaching (or rather eloquence of speech) is too highly estimated, prayer and the sacraments must necessarily lose their value: spirits excited, and moved beyond the tone of GOD'S WORD, cannot enter in the calm and deep reality of the sacred services.
But it may be asked, if the principle of the Church is so much of this retiring character, how is she as well calculated to propagate the Gospel publicly, and extensively, in the world, as the more popular system, and to bring into CHRIST'S fold His sheep that are scattered abroad? To this it should be a sufficient answer, that these are the ways of GOD; this is the point we maintain; to which it may be added, that at that early period when this system was most of all observed in the Church, the Gospel spread itself throughout the earth in a manner quite beyond any subsequent example: for as they then carefully inculcated that saving truths could not be known, but by obedience and faith, they preserved that unity to which the blessing is attached. But it may be explained in this manner, how it is that the Church, under this veil of reserve, must necessarily be more powerful than any human modes or principles of extending the faith. For all the means we have spoken of, as belonging to the Church, are ways of obtaining holiness of life and GOD'S favour: and the obedience of Christians is the light of the world; example the most powerful of persuasions. But besides these, preaching, catechising, and all such means directed to mankind, obtain their greatest efficacy from holiness of life. And the point we have endeavoured to show in popular systems, is their want of real efficacy; that expediency in things Divine is the worst policy: for surely the ways of GOD are more powerful than those of man, though it is impossible they should appear so to mankind, as they are spiritually and morally discerned. A faithful Church is necessarily a converting Church, for it is of itself, "a city set on a hill that cannot be hid," the true Bethlehem, from which CHRIST goeth forth publicly, though there hid in secret: the true Bethlehem, the house of bread, which is the Church, the city of GOD. Though it be silent, if that were possible, yet in holy reserve it preaches aloud; "though there be neither speech nor language, yet their voices are heard among them."
When our LORD in the Sermon on the Mount, after laying down the laws of evangelical righteousness, proceeded to give directions respecting the three modes by which power should be obtained to fulfil His Laws, viz. by Prayer and Almsgiving and Fasting, He confined those regulations especially by the law of secrecy, commanding that they were to be done in secret, with reference alone to our FATHER, who seeth in secret, and will reward openly. It seems not unnatural to think that in these He spoke (according to the vastness of Divine words) of what must be the essential character of His Church, as therein all duties are by faith to be directed to Him who dwelleth in secret: and there is something of a reward which is openly promised in this world (in prelude to the manifestation hereafter), in that, from the strength thus derived in secret, the example shines before men, who are able to see the good works, and by their own conversion by these means, glorify GOD.
And thus, is there are persons living in the fear of GOD, and entirely given up to the things that are unseen, and making great sacrifices to do so, (which has been the purpose with whole bodies of Christians in religious houses) not only by the prevailing power of their prayers, and such means as are known to GOD only, but as a witness, their efficacy is most powerful in supporting a sense of piety in the world. Such a religion, which has its anchor in the invisible world, is not moved by the storms of this: a city which has its foundation on the eternal hills, and standeth fast like the great mountains. In contrast to which, this modern system, partaking of the character of our own age of expediency, and mostly founded on feeling, is moved by every wind; it partakes of the weakness of human things, and cannot stand when the floods arise. For surely it must be allowed that it consists, not in Sacraments, not in gifts of GOD bestowed on His chosen, not in Divinely appointed Ordinances, not in Liturgical Services, not in prayer, not in obedience, not in the strong holds of the eternal world, and the secret strength of GOD: but in words and phrases, in professions and emotions, in popular appeals, and party zeal: in confounding all distinctions between the Church of GOD and all the sects that prevail among misguided men. Very tenderly as we must wish to speak of individuals that adopt it (some of whom are in fact but attempting to realize the substance of great Christian truths which have been forgotten) yet, surely we must see that this religious system has about it something which falls in with, and encourages, nay, assumes its own character and complexion from, that spirit of disobedience and lawlessness, which is to prevail in the last days.
5. The best preservative of sound principles.
But it may be asked, do not those who bring forward the doctrines of the Church among ourselves, act in a manner at variance with this principle? It is sincerely hoped that they have not done so. They have indeed put forth the highest and most sacred doctrines, respecting the regenerating power of Baptism, and the sacrifice of the blessed Eucharist, matters beyond all others of sacred reserve, and the discipline of the secret. But they have done so by constraint, as bearing witness, which they were bound to do most distinctly and fully, to principles and doctrines of the Church, vitally important, but very much forgotten, and even denied by many, not only of Christians in general, but also of her ministers. And this they have done, not so much in popular discourses as in argumentative treatises, directed for the most part to the clergy: and not, it is hoped, without some sense and due reverence for their importance; certainly not in a manner to move the feelings and render them popular, by separating them from other distasteful truths, but with those accompanying doctrines, which have a tendency to make both those that bear and those that speak, serious. Those especially (or we might speak in the singular number) who have brought forward these two great doctrines just mentioned, might have met with a more favourable reception from the world, had they not associated with them other subjects equally forgotten, and naturally unpopular and unwelcome, such as the danger of sin after Baptism, the necessity of mortification, the doctrine of Judgment to come. Surely if any thing would dispose men to speak of those high doctrines of the Sacraments with reverential reserve, and to hear of them with seriousness, it is their connection with these subjects: not that they have been thus connected with any designed intention of this kind, but that they have naturally gone together, from the spontaneous acting of those who felt the importance of what they said, and have therefore, as it were accidentally, fallen in with the Scriptural mode of teaching. Had all religious matters been treated with this spirit, there would have been no need for the subject of this Tract. That these Church principles should be received by others with this spirit, is perhaps, in this age, scarcely to be expected: and yet, from the absence of it, are to be apprehended all those evils which we have deprecated under a different form.
The one and sole end of all that has been taught respecting the Church, is simply to point out the means of obtaining and continuing in GOD'S favour, during our stay in this world, and being accepted of Him for the sake of JESUS CHRIST at last, and escaping the sad doom that awaits the impenitent world. If considered in any other point of view they are thoroughly unprofitable and vain, of no more worth than the idle speculations of the day, the schemes of business, and plans of politics, merely specious theories respecting things most holy, which may touch the fancy with their transcendent beauty, and amuse the imagination, but leave the heart worldly, and pride unsubdued: nay, with regard to a better world, they are in such a case not merely unprofitable, but they may become snares to delude the conscience, and leave us at last, like all earthly things, with a shadow in our hands, having for ever lost the substance.
For in proportion as they are themselves holy and true and life-giving, they must necessarily be dangerous in their abuse. But now, if this one end and aim is the most rare thing in the world to obtain, the very last thing to be expected of creatures corrupt and inclined to evil as we are, then, of course, it is to be feared, that these principles may be perverted to other than these the highest of all purposes. At all events, if they should spread and become popular in the world, then of course one would fear, that they are not taught, or at all events not received, in their purity: one would apprehend that there was something wrong or possibly, if such holy principles are received without a change of life, it may be but the raising of that temple of GOD, in which Antichrist will sit, and exalt himself at last.
For as every thing is difficult in proportion to its excellence and value; very difficult therefore must it be to enter into the fulness of these blessings, which these doctrines of the Church contain. For instance, if we take the subject of prayer, the spirit and temper and practice of prayer being more essentially that of the Church Catholic; how difficult is it to pray aright; so much so, that it were not too much to say, that it requires the very utmost stretch of our endeavours, the perfection of our highest faculties, the labour of a long life, to learn to pray. The very best of men are but learners in this art, and become most sensible of their deficiencies. How much more so must it be to realize also the Divine Sacraments, and attain unto the greatness of their efficacy. Such indeed it were to understand the meaning of Divine words, which speak of the Church as a "kingdom of Heaven;" it were to be indeed a heaven upon earth. And in the progressive attainment of that knowledge, "blessed is he that feareth always."
The less therefore that these most holy doctrines are received into the heart, the more loudly will they be spoken of. Divine fear, like Divine love, has ever about it this natural modesty it has little to say, its chief language is that of prayer, and that in secret: as all its ways are directed to One who seeth in secret, it is ever fearful of man's praise, and fearless of his reproach.
Those who most value sacred things will in general say least about them: admiration indeed and joy will find a voice, and a spontaneous expression, as the shepherds published abroad what they had heard of the Angels and seen: but yet in such eloquence there will always be a natural reserve. And even these feelings, when increased greatly and fixed very deeply, will be silent: the shepherds spake, but Mary was silent, she "kept these things and pondered them in her heart."
Disputation, says Hooker, speaking of the Eucharist, is a sign of a want of love, and perhaps a sign of a want of faith also, for it was something of a disputatious spirit, that St. Thomas evinced, when he said that he must feel and handle. Whenever, also, there is a secret doubt of an opinion which we wish to entertain, there is a disposition to dispute and persuade, in order that by obtaining the persuasions of others, we may establish our own convictions. This may be seen in the origin of the doctrine of Transubstantiation: it arose in a dereliction and forgetfulness of the discipline of reserve on that subject; in a want of the high and ancient reverence; in a desire to establish and prove to the world a great secret of GOD. The result was profaneness in both parties. Not only in the denial of Sacramental grace on the one side, but in the low and carnal conceit which Transubstantiation introduced. So awful in its consequences has been the attempt to bring out the doctrine of the Eucharist from the holy silence, which adoring reverence suggests; the attempt of the human understanding with unhallowed boldness to fathom the deep things of GOD; to circumscribe the Ineffable, who hath made His pavilion in dark water, with thick clouds to cover Him; to look into the ark of GOD; to pry into those secret things which the ALMIGHTY has reserved unto Himself. The Primitive Church thought otherwise, as of a doctrine to be realized by devotion, rather than capable of being expressed in human language; considering it impossible for human reason to define its nature, or to think and speak worthily of that which is Divine. It is no part of our duty to censure the state of other Churches, but where, for our own protection, Christian wisdom and charity require it. And it is worthy of observation, that, in the Church of Rome, that which is Roman and Tridentine, in distinction from that which is Catholic, is characterized by a want of this reserve. The want of reserve and reverence which attends the elevation of the Host, and the public processions connected with it, is very great indeed: these are indications (like many things of a different nature in the system we have condemned) that it is popular impression, and not a sense of GOD'S presence, which is considered: for here there can be no true veneration; and "where GOD is, there must be the fear of Him." They are of the nature of religious frauds; it is effect which is more thought of than truth.
The same may be shown in many other circumstances of their religion: it is indeed the Catholic Church, but decked out with tinsel and false ornaments to catch the eye; like a statue of the purest marble painted and besmeared, till scarce a vestige of its true substance is seen. Consider, for instance, their sacred edifices: the Church holds these to be worthy of the deepest veneration as the places of GOD'S peculiar presence; and the altar more especially. But what is to be said of tawdry decorations of Churches and sacred things? Would we wish to see any human being that we venerated and respected thus meretriciously adorned? It is an attempt at comparatively little cost to catch the eye, very unlike that ancient religion which is costly, and chaste, and simple; which would gladly be poor in this world, that it may offer to GOD what is most worthy and valuable, and cares not, but in a secondary manner, for the effect on mankind; for we always look to that which we most love.
In these things to look to GOD will lead us to the reserve of a sacred simplicity: ostentatious singularity and display is a looking to man. To know GOD in His holy places; to know GOD in His Sacraments, in His Word, in prayer, is the kingdom of Heaven. But if the Israelites could fall away with the pillar of fire before them, and the destruction of the Egyptians behind; if, in the light of the Baptist's teaching, men could "rejoice for a season only;" and could eat of the loaves from our SAVIOUR'S hands, and yet deny Him; we have more reason to fear for the abuse of sacred truth, than presume on its being revived among us.
And how are the many evils to be avoided which we would guard against? To say that we are always to be reverent on sacred things, to speak with reverence, to act with reverence, surely this will not produce what we want; but rather the very opposite; for to put on the appearance of reverence for example's sake, or for the edification of others, were but the very thing which we condemn, and were no better than formal hypocrisy. All that can be said is, not to seek to remedy by external effects, that which can only be from within; to think less of appearance, more of the reality; to be natural, serious, forbearing, as considering what, and where we are, and what we are coming to.
6. Caution necessary with respect to the latent senses of Scripture.
There is another subject which necessarily must attract much attention, as men's minds are turned more to Theology: and which comes on this generation with all the attractions, and all the dangers, of novelty; and that is, the depth and vastness of type, analogy, and prophecy contained in GOD'S WORD. Now with regard to these things it must be remembered, that attention to them has been revived by person of some experience, and some reading; and the right and true understanding of such subjects, the Fathers, to whom they refer us, speak of as being the result of a life of devotion and piety. Such, for instance, is the knowledge of these mystical and deeper senses of Scripture; they consider them to be disclosed to prayer rather than learning. But of course there is no reason why these should not become matters for mere speculative inquiry, and curious research: they are at once highly attractive and pleasing to the imagination: the analogies of Scripture open new worlds to the mind, like discoveries in the material Heavens, and may excite the curiosity we derive from our fallen parents. The accurate closeness of its phrases, is like the nice formation in each flower of the field; its light like the body of the Heavens in its clearness; its vastness like the bosom of the sea; its variety like scenes of nature. Nothing, therefore, can be more captivating, more sublime, more engaging; tempting the mind by its indefiniteness to fresh pursuits, and new inquiries; and from thence to speculate, to talk, to be eloquent, on such points; to make even them also matters of display. Here, therefore, the reserve of natural piety will be broken, for these are not the uses for which GOD'S revealed WORD was intended, but only that we might come to the knowledge of Him and of ourselves.
One thing is certain, that the deep senses and hidden knowledge of Scripture, are intended to enlighten the heart and exercise the affections, not to gratify the intellect or try the ingenuity. With regard to any knowledge that is truly valuable, the unhallowed intellect can of itself learn nothing. As in all other matters, in His Providences, His moral government, in the events of life, and the thoughts of man's mind, GOD will reveal Himself only to the pure in heart, to the humble, and such as keep His commandments: so also in His written Word, He will manifest Himself to such only. He will disclose Himself to each in that particular way, perhaps, in which they reverently seek Him; to one in exercises of devotion; to another in acts of charity; to another in the practice of humiliation; to another in the religious fulfilment of practical duties; to another in the study of Holy Scripture. Not that either of these can be pursued exclusively to the neglect of the others, for he, who breaks one law of his Christian calling, is guilty of all: but as the peculiar sphere of each is regulated by the great Disposer of all, so the line which is appointed unto each, is that course which, if rightly pursued, will lead him to GOD, and to the manifestation of some one of His attributes, which are variously disclosed to each. To search out and study in Holy Scripture nothing more than the beauty of its analogies, the strength and depth of its figures, the harmony of its proportions, and its perfection as a whole, were indeed but a poor and barren study of itself alone: and poor would be its reward, if it could attain unto the greatest skill in this knowledge. It would be like scientific studies in the natural world, which, if exclusively pursued, will, we know, draw away the heart from GOD, and not nearer to Him. But if they are pursued at every step in a thorough dependence on Him, from whom alone cometh down every good and perfect gift; with a devout acknowledgment of His perfections whenever they are disclosed; and a desire to know Him, in order to serve and worship Him better; then, no doubt, He will through these studies impart that wisdom, to the attainment of which St. Paul so earnestly exhorts his Ephesian converts, that knowledge which is one with faith;-these two being as closely united with each other as light and heat, the one illuminating, and the other quickening the soul after some heavenly manner. The knowledge of Holy Scripture, which is thus life-giving, may be ever progressive, leading more and more into hidden riches and treasures: the promise is given, and to him who knocks at the door by humble prayer, it will infallibly be opened. And he will still have to knock again at the door, and be admitted again into the inner shrine of ever-increasing light; and as he advances onward into better knowledge, and more light, he will see himself more and more deformed and unsightly, until, at length, he will wish to be entirely withdrawn from the sight of man, and to be hidden with GOD.
Now, if we study Scripture with this single eye, under the guidance of GOD'S good SPIRIT, we shall so far be preserved and protected by this sacred modesty; it will prevent us from exposing the treasures of GOD, or His secret gifts; and will suggest to us, that so far as we are truly desirous to do good to others, we shall observe towards them this forbearance, according as their case requires. We shall have no need of a system, for we shall do it naturally: the example of St. Paul on this subject of the mystical senses of Scripture is quite sufficient; he does not, we may suppose, set himself any system or rule of secrecy; on which account his example is of more weight in always observing it: as it shows that it is a law of natural piety, which the HOLY SPIRIT has stamped on our souls. So that if any body be otherwise minded, and yet is seeking His heavenly guidance, He will reveal even this unto him, so that "he will walk by the same rule, he will mind the same thing." For consider St. Paul's reserve in the Epistle to the Hebrews on the subject of Melchisedeck: how different is his conduct to that which the modern wisdom of expediency would suggest? These mystical prophecies in the Old Testament, so long secretly contained in it respecting the Messiah, so distinct and so minute, must, (it might have been thought) if publicly brought forward, have struck these carnally-minded Hebrews very much; such wonderful circumstances, couched in such apparently accidental mention, in a book written at so early an age, would have been a great confirmation of their faith, and would have inspired them with awe for the sacred volume, and for the person of CHRIST, for whose coming there had been such solemn and so long preparation; and how (might it have been urged) would it have increased their awe for the Holy Eucharist to find the allusion to it contained in this passage in Genesis. But St. Paul thought otherwise. It is precisely in the same manner that we might have supposed our LORD'S fully disclosing Himself would have been so beneficial to the unbelieving Jews. But the conduct of our LORD and of His Apostles is perfectly analogous: and that of the Fathers on the same subject is so similar, that we cannot but suppose it is by the same SPIRIT. We may, indeed, sometimes speak of these things publicly: and may even enlarge on the sacred mysteries of the most blessed Eucharist, (which is so awfully depreciated) but afterwards we shall, I think, feel some misgiving, some instinctive feeling, as if reverence was hurt: in such cases, a man's own mind will tell him more than ten men that stand on a watchtower. Though of course, they who have to combine theological studies with popular teaching, will often find some difficulty on this subject, which St. Augustine describes himself as struggling with.
7. Secret religious duties, conversation, and controversy.
There is another point, in which it would seem that the Roman Church of late years has out-stepped the retiring nature of Christian piety, to the great injury of the religious character, viz. in the observation of fast days, which has become very external, and looks too much to human obligation: thereby bringing in some degree into the sanctuary of GOD, the unsanctifying eye of man. On this subject, therefore, we require to be reminded of our LORD'S sacred injunction of a reserved secrecy. We would, of course, keep the fasts of the Church religiously and scrupulously, for as Bishop Wilson says, Woe be to that Christian, who knows not what it is to fast, even when the Church requires it. And with regard to the shame which men, and especially the young, are apt to feel at being thought under the subjection of rule and ordinances, we would take for our especial warning those awful words, "Whosoever is ashamed of me and of my words of him shall the Son of man be ashamed." But when this shame is once overcome, if it be before the heart be humbled, and any thing is to be gained in the way of countenance or sympathy, there is a danger of a feeling being introduced alien to Christian delicacy, on this most delicate of all subjects. There are duties to the unseen, but ever-seeing GOD, and expressions of love to Him; and what an exceedingly delicate thing this love is? What a breath of air seems to sully it, how it shrinks from the light of common day? This may be seen in Mr. James Bonnel's treatment of himself on these points; how does his own moral feeling exemplify our SAVIOUR'S very remarkable and particular directions on the subject of these duties. It is indeed true, that the observance of these things is so out of fashion, that a public warning, and a public profession of them is almost needful: but such public testimonies, while they are necessary, are painful; and when they cease to be painful, become a snare. The strength of truth is from its connexion with other worlds, and, therefore, is in secret; "Thy words have I hid within my heart"-and why? "That I should not sin against Thee." Or again, if we press these duties on others beyond what they are able to bear, or beyond what they may reasonably think our own sincerity will warrant, how may we rather repel than invite them! The cause of truth may suffer in our hands. Let our private self-denial exceed, and precede, our public testimony.
Others again, may be half inclined to cast aside this reserve, from feelings of natural pride at the greatness of that high cause in which they are interested; in which the best names of all ages have been engaged. There is, moreover, something of refinement and good taste connected with the highest principles, which it is honourable to be associated with; these may tempt some to be too forward in so holy a cause, too forward in externally maintaining, far too backward in practically realizing them. But, above all, there is a humble quietness in all these retiring ways of seeking GOD; whereas our natural tempers seek for excitement, and press forward to something beyond.
Such persons, who are tempted to feel as if they were supporters of, rather than supported by, the Church, her friends rather than her disciples, should be requested to consider, what it is to be supporting the cause of the Holy Catholic Church, and that of great and good men. Who are we, that we should venture to do so? It is our highest honour to be supposed capable of a lively interest for the former, and to be allied in sympathy with the latter. It is a privilege and high favour we may well aspire to. But are we in our lives and habits worthy to take this upon us; may we not by doing so, bring discredit, by our favour and zeal, on that sacred cause? Is there not something of presumption in venturing too freely to connect our names with theirs? Here again, do we not require a certain reserve and modesty, to keep us faithful? Servants about a king's presence, may be proud of that nearness, and of the company that it brings them into; but they venture not to speak of this; but in the exact fulfilment of their duties are more zealous not to be found wanting. We know that Sir Matthew Hale was cautious not to be too much thought religious, lest he should fall into sin, and so bring discredit on the cause of GOD: is not something of this feeling a right and good one, with respect to the great principles and great names when our profession may bring into disrepute by some fault? And besides, surely our great object must be to cherish in ourselves deep and quiet principles; to strengthen in ourselves more and more a right and adequate sense of what we believe, rather than to hold them externally and disputatiously. A desire for disputation, is no sign of a regard for truth: how much the habit of looking at things with this view, eats out the seriousness and delicacy of Christian piety, is too sadly evident in the Roman controversialists. Deep waters are still and unruffled, and scarce perceptible in their motion to the ear and eye: shallow streams are noisy and disturbed.
But as on this, and some other points to which this subject refers, there have existed strange misapprehensions, or rather, it must be said, vague suspicions of some meaning neither expressed nor intended, it seems requisite to say a little more distinctly, what it is which has been neither taught nor meant. It will be observed, that nothing whatever is said in this treatise to recommend our forming a system of reserve, nor our watching over ourselves to suppress the natural expression of what we revere and love, nor our forming a close society for the freer communication of religious sentiments: but that we endeavour above all things to cherish in ourselves a habit of reverence, that we speak as truth dictates, and speak naturally. What has been said, has been put forth defensively; in order to show that the assuming of a religious tone, is so far from being necessary, that it is highly to be deprecated, as injurious to ourselves and others; that in an age which looks so much to effect and appearance, we must thoroughly study truth and reality. No rule of silence need perhaps be even thought of by a simple-minded piety, that has not dimmed the light within, nor lost the single eye. But few of us are of this kind. It has been shown in the former treatise to be rather the unavoidable effect in good men, under the teaching of GOD'S good SPIRIT, than any thing to be recommended as a rule; because all we say is, that such reserve is natural, and that, where it is lost, religion has lost its best protection and its strength. We have only to repeat, therefore, our former admonition, (Tract 80. Part iii.) that we follow in this as in all other matters our LORD'S example, who was ever watching to do good, never ostentatiously and unnecessarily obtruding religion and, as it were, ever spoke naturally.
The fact is, that this is one of the many subjects in which we have to go back, and learn of children; there is remarkable in children, together with that openness and freedom which accompanies simplicity and singleness of heart, that modesty also and reserve which is here inculcated; it is one of the most beautiful and interesting traits of that age: like the bloom on the flower; when this is spoiled in children they have lost the highest hopes we can entertain of them; it is one of the first indications of the loss of innocency.
It must also be observed, that there are among mankind great constitutional diversities of temper and character, which render the same free expressions of their sentiments, in some perfectly natural, which would be far from being so in another. So far, therefore, as it is natural, it will not offend against this rule of modesty; but, of course, being the teaching of GOD, will be the best means to promote the cause of His truth.
Certain it is, notwithstanding, that persons of deep feeling and seriousness of mind have thought it requisite to prescribe to themselves rules of reserve; have felt, that when they have not done so they have injured their better mind, and it has been a subject of regret to them. Now the statement of this principle should be a protection to such, that they should not be harshly and inconsiderately judged for so doing.
And indeed, in such cases, the reserve of a reverential and thoughtful character is of itself the most emphatic language, this silence the strongest eloquence of affection. This even nature dictates on the common law of our poor earthly affections,-
"Incipit effari, mediâque in voce resistit."
Even heathen piety, in holy places, and on subjects that are holy, would say, eufhmeite, which expression, though it literally implied "use words of good," was piously interpreted to mean silence or reserve, and a guard on the thoughts. And doubtless that is a beautiful and right feeling, which quite shrinks from an affectation of religious discourse: "it is quite nauseous," says Bishop Butler; tot eipein eupeteV musagma pwV, says the Greek Poet. Such a practice must be very injurious. Even where sacred principles are truly cherished, this natural reserve strengthens, tries, and matures them, when they have to snake their way through difficulties, and are not fully explained; whereby they show themselves in fruit rather than leaves, in action rather than words. "Be swift to hear," says Holy Scripture, "slow to speak;" "be ready to give an answer with meekness and fear, to him who asks a reason of your hope."
The subject ought also to suggest to us some little forbearance with regard to matters of disputation and controversy. If, where truth is (according to the often repeated remark of Tertullian), "there GOD is, and where GOD is, there must be the fear of Him," we have to apprehend the worst consequences from that prevailing irreverence in religion, which it has been the object of this treatise to call attention to; and it makes it incumbent on each to look to himself. With regard to controversial disputations, either in discourse or writing, where the object can scarcely be con-ceived to be a sincere desire of knowing the truth, surely we should thoughtfully weigh our LORD'S example, and His very remarkable silence on many occasions, or His indirect answer, and that under the strongest accusations. "The chief Priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing; and Pilate asked Him again, saying, answerest Thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against Thee. But JESUS yet answered nothing, so that Pilate marvelled." This silence, says St. Jerome, expiates the excuses of Adam: and Origen has spoken of it as the example, which we are to follow in attacks on our faith, except where the circumstances call for a reply. We may observe throughout our LORD'S exceeding watchfulness (so to speak) to meet every desire of knowing the truth in those around Him, and how, from His knowledge of their hearts, He often anticipated their expressions; how continually, even with those who were not thus desirous, He kept suggesting thoughts, which, if pursued, might serve them as a clue to their arriving at the truth, or would remove their prejudices. But with regard to entering into their captious difficulties, or answering their unreasonable accusations, He appears to have avoided it, and patiently submitted, although their false or falsely coloured charges were loud in the ears of others, "committing Himself unto Him who judgeth righteously."
It is moreover too evident, how many things come in to instigate to controversial attacks and disputations, besides a regard for the truth: how much of self, how much of careless inattention to the whole matter in dispute; what slowness to comprehend, combined with determination to deny. Persons will often admit accidentally and unconsciously their knowledge of that truth which their arguments are intended to controvert. It is the state of the heart in such matters which is to be changed; a mind set earnestly on the attainment of truth itself will avoid such disputations; and therefore perhaps it is told us, that though we are to be "ever ready to give an answer to Him that asketh," and we may add to Him who desireth, "with meekness and fear:" that the servant of the LORD must be "gentle and apt to teach;" yet it is said that he "must not strive: Foolish and unlearned questionings avoid, knowing that they gender strifes," is St. Paul's advice to the Christian minister. In the case of infidelity in the nearest of relatives, it is enjoined, that such may be gained over without argument, by "beholding chaste conversation, coupled with fear." To take a very strong instance of that subtle and secret hypocrisy which we have been speaking of, we all know that there are instances of persons standing forth as the public champions of a Church, or some form of faith, whose lives deny their belief in the very existence of a GOD. Let us take care that there be nothing of this, the same in kind, though less in degree, in our-selves.
8. Untenable objections on the ground of our present position.
But there are some objections to this treatise, of a very obvious and simple kind, which it is difficult to know how to answer, as they arise from a strange misapprehension in limine of the nature of the subject: objections which, as was stated before, are necessarily implied in the very word revelation. It is thought, for instance, that the command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel unto every creature," is an insurmountable objection to the whole argument. Whereas, it should be considered, that the whole matter under consideration is, not whether the Gospel is to be preached or not, for of course there could be no doubt among Christians on that subject, but respecting the most effectual mode of preaching it: without taking this for granted as the first axiom among Christians, viz. that the Gospel is to be preached, the whole inquiry has no meaning.
With rather more appearance of reason it is alleged, that our LORD'S conduct is no example for us in this case; as He has said, "what I tell you in the ear, that preach ye on the housetops;" and "men do not light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house." Now if there was any weight in these passages against this reserve, it would be merely that of one Scripture expression opposed to another; for there are several commands in the same discourse of an opposite character, and therefore of course they admit of explanation without contradicting each other. The obvious meaning of these passages of course is "Think not that My kingdom is to be confined, as now it is, to you few alone, it is to be preached to all the world;" and such a declaration evidently does not interfere with this principle of holy reserve, as the guide and mode of doing this most sincerely and effectually. And indeed to the latter text it is added, as if showing us the way by which we were to extend the truth, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works," as Chrysostom says, not of course that they were to display their works in any way, but that if they keep the fire burning within them, it necessarily must shine. And besides which it appears, on many occasions, when expressions of this kind are used, that they have a reference also to the day of Judgment; as if it had been said, "Wonder not that My ways are so much in secret, and that I require your works also to be done so much in secret, and unlike those of the Pharisees; a time is coming when every thing whatever shall be publicly made known, to all men and angels." As if it were in some measure an explanation given, that that great manifestation will be a counterpart to this reserve.
But that these expressions respecting the general knowledge of the Gospel throughout the world, do in no way affect this rule of reserve, will be evident if we consider the various periods of the Divine economy as various manifestations of CHRIST. And it will be easily perceived that they are all characterized by this same law. First of all the term manifestation is applied to our LORD'S appearing in the flesh; it is applied to Him at His birth; it is applied to the coming and calling of the Gentiles; it is applied to the Presentation in the temple; it is applied to our LORD at His Baptism: and to the first miracle He performed in Cana of Galilee. It is applied to Him more especially in His miracles and teaching. All these we celebrate in the Epiphany, as will be seen in the successive Gospels for that season; but how secretly and mysteriously were they all conducted? All these are manifestations of GOD seen in the flesh, our Immanuel. And all these are with this reserve. In like manner the preach-ing of the Gospel, and the extension of the Kingdom, are more fully manifestations of GOD; but as in the former cases CHRIST was known and acknowledged but by a very few, notwithstanding those manifestations of Himself; so is it now. It is evident that in some sense even now the manifestation of Himself must be according to some law of exceeding reserve and secrecy, for our LORD has said that if any man will keep His commandments He will love him, and will manifest Himself unto him; that He would "manifest Himself to His disciples, and not unto the world." Now as it is too obvious that many do not keep His commandments, therefore to many He is not manifested. So that to us all, even now our LORD observes this rule of concealing Himself even in His manifestations; and therefore all His manifestations in His Church are ways of reserve.
9. This principle more than ever needed.
But great surprise is expressed, because we have maintained that the spread of religious knowledge throughout the world renders it a matter for serious apprehension, lest we should abuse that knowledge. Surely, since to him who knoweth and doeth not to him it is sin, all knowledge of GOD should be accompanied with this apprehension. All things seem to be tending to the one great manifestation of GOD, in the day of Judgment, which will be in destruction as well as in salvation; and therefore it may be, as intimations going before of that time, that all manifestations of GOD even now are awful, and often as it were kept back with a gracious and merciful forbearance to mankind. It will, I think, be observed in Scripture throughout, that greater manifestations of GOD, and declarations accompanied with the least reserve, are ever the most awful and severe. For instance, when St. John the Baptist first of all proclaimed the kingdom, it was with fearful words,-of "the axe at the root of the tree," and the "fire unquenchable." And when our LORD went up at last to Jerusalem, He spoke more openly and publicly, before the Jews and in the temple; but then the things that belonged unto their peace were hidden from their eyes, and they could not believe; and His teaching was far more severe than it had been; therefore the more open manifestation was an awful matter, a matter for serious apprehension.
Again, after His death the Jews were given one trial more; the HOLY GHOST was sent down, and the preaching of the Gospel was more open and public than ever before, and this preceded their condemnation; as if in some degree, and in some sense, guilty of sin against the HOLY GHOST, of the terrible effects of which they had been so strongly warned; then their final destruction came. This more public manifestation therefore was, I say, matter for serious apprehension.
A far more extensive manifestation is now taking place over the whole world. Now the event to be apprehended in the last days, as closing the period of the world's trial, when GOD will spare it no longer, is sin against the HOLY SPIRIT. And one does not see how this can take place, how the SPIRIT can be rejected, excepting when the SPIRIT is manifested. Therefore the knowledge of religion, which is now extending over the world, is a matter for serious apprehension. Not of course that this consideration affords any reason for withholding that knowledge: for to preach the Gospel to the world, is our office and duty, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear; we are bound to do it, marturein kai kerussein; but to learn how we may best do it is the part of Christian wisdom. But our having this knowledge should lead us to take the more heed, that we do not fall into that sin for which there are provided no further means of recovery.
And let it be remembered that the whole of this treatise is, under another name, on the subject of irreverence; but as reverential words, or a reverential demeanour, may be but a specious irreverence and hypocrisy, this sacred reserve seems a better designation. Every step in this irreverence, every indication of it, is so far a state of progress towards the sin against the HOLY SPIRIT. And as this latter is unpardonable, so we may perceive that a state of irreverence, where it has thoroughly affected the character, is irremediable. For if men have lost all reverence for GOD, how can they pray to Him? and if they cannot, nor have any sense of reverence for His power, who can help them? Under any other circumstances men may be guilty of the worst sins, and when greater light is manifested to them, even at the last hour, they may repent and be forgiven: but when that light has been habitually rejected, the case becomes very different, the SPIRIT is quenched, the light within is darkened. When the power of acknowledging GOD'S presence, which is the eye of the soul, is lost, what else can restore it? None can approach Him without His help, and His help cannot be attained without a reverential acknowledgment of His presence.
It would appear, therefore, that under the dispensation of grace in which we live, in the light of these full revelations of GOD, as the highest privileges are to be derived from a due acknowledgement of GOD, so there is the greatest conceivable danger from an absence of that fear and reverence. A danger incalculably increased, and infinitely beyond that of former generations, if our knowledge be so much greater. And this irreverence is more especially to be guarded against in all our approaches to GOD, and our imperfect modes of serving Him. We must remember that one of the Ten commandments refers to it, which is expressed in more awful terms than any other,-viz., that we take not that awful Name in vain, the meaning of which is not to be limited to open profaneness, but must be as extensive in its intentions as all the other commandments. It is to be observed, again, that the first petition in the LORD'S prayer seems to be for this reverence of mind, as the first thing to be obtained in all acts of devotion,-a prayer that GOD'S Name may be hallowed: the efficacy of our prayers depending on the reverential regard we have for that dreadful Name: And the last clause in the same prayer is an act or expression of reverence. And one of our SAVIOUR'S first rules with regard to prayer, is, that we do not use "vain repetitions," i.e. use idle words without a sense of Whom we are speaking to. Indeed, the first words of that prayer,-"Our FATHER which art in Heaven,"-may teach us the same, for that GOD is in Heaven and we on earth, is given as a reason why our words should be few. And in religious worship our SAVIOUR'S charges are chiefly directed against, what is called in Scripture, "hypocrisy." Of course, we cannot confine this most subtle and pervading habit to those circumstances in which it was developed in the religion of that day; but of all other vices it is that which most changes its complexion with the aspects of the age, being in itself equally applicable to human nature in all times; and surely there is none which more thoroughly destroys in the heart all love of truth. Such formalism may of course be found in a strict observance of the formal duties of religious worship; in a shape no less dangerous and subtle will it be developed in adopting modes of expression; and what is perhaps of all the worst, in taking hold of the most touching and sacred doctrines of Religion, entering as it were into the Holiest of Holies. In all things it consists in a want of reverence and fear, in having the form of godliness while the power of it is lost, the peculiar danger we are warned of in the last days.
10. Want of reverence now prevailing.
Let is be again considered, what this principle suggests respecting this knowledge which is now abroad, and how greatly our position is altered on account of that knowledge. For if the ALMIGHTY (according to His providential dealings with mankind) does withhold religious truth in a remarkable manner, the reason is because such truth is dangerous to us. It is dangerous to us to know it. Therefore, because we have these truths revealed to us, we are in a peculiar danger,-danger of neglecting them. There is no reserve in holding back that which is fully known; but there is reverence necessary because it is known. And therefore, the very fact of the Atonement, and other great doctrines being known, is an occasion for reverence respecting them of the very highest degree.
It will be seen by a little consideration, how the circumstance of a Divine Revelation, greater spiritual light, i. e. a knowledge of GOD'S presence, immediately alters the character of all actions, in the same manner as an action in Church, or near the Altar, is perfectly different from a similar action out of Church. So much is this the case as to render things, which on common ground would be indifferent, to be profane and sacrilegious in holy places. And this seems to explain how it is that Capernaum was worse than Sodom, Pharisees worse than heathens. In that walking in the nearer light of GOD'S presence, if we may so speak, from the knowledge vouchsafed them, the complexion of their actions was thus altered. And, indeed, were we to look to the accounts of other writers, and human narrators, we should, perhaps, neither suppose those Jews, nor those places to be so far worse than others, as our LORD has pronounced them to be. It is in like manner that a habit of irreverence in a Church, is more injurious to the character than thoughtlessness without.
We have said, therefore, that GOD'S present dealings with mankind are a subject for awful apprehension; surely, all manifestations which GOD is pleased to make of Himself ought to be so to sinful creatures, as they ever were to good men in Scripture. And far more so when it is considered with what little awe and apprehension these manifestations of GOD are being now received: how little reverential fear accompanies this knowledge the disunion that prevails, and spirit of disobedience. When we add to this, that it was Israel that rejected CHRIST, that it was Jerusalem that put Him to death; that it was the place of His continual abode, which he declared worse than the cities of destruction; the dwelling place of His parents that thrust Him out. That it was more than once declared, as if proverbially and prophetically, and with a mysterious significancy, that CHRIST was to bear witness, that in his own country a prophet is not received. When we consider these things, then, I say, that the knowledge of GOD is an occasion for fear; and the more so because not now consi-dered so. "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased," but yet, notwithstanding, "the unholy shall be unholy still, and the unclean unclean;" "the wicked shall do wickedly, and none of them shall understand."
The fearful extent to which this want of reverence in religion has gone, is, it is to be feared, very little considered or calculated upon. The degree to which all sense of the holiness of Churches is lost, is too evident; the efficacy of the Sacraments, the presence of GOD in them, and in His appointed ministerial ordinances is, it will be allowed, by no means duly acknowledged, and, indeed, less and less: men's eyes being not opened, they do not see with the patriarch, "how dreadful is this place," "the LORD was in this place, and I knew it not." There is also another point in which all due fear of GOD'S awful presence is lost, very far beyond what many are aware of, and that is in regard for the Holy Scripture. Some indeed, who profess to uphold and value them, in order to do so, depreciate the Apocryphal books, and all others of less plenary inspiration; as if by so doing they were exalting the Scriptures. But in fact, they do but lower their own standard of what is holy; and then lower the Scriptures also to meet it. The effect also of setting aside the Catholic Church as the interpreter of Holy Scripture, as if it needed none, is of the same kind; it incalculably lowers the reverence for Scripture, by making it subject to the individual judgment. From these things it follows, that although the Holy Scriptures are pronounced Divine (for no evil is done, but under a good name) they are treated as if they were not; as if human thought could grasp their systems, could limit their meanings, and say to that boundless ocean in which the Almighty walks, "Hitherto shalt Thou come and no further." If Holy Scripture contains within it the living Word, has a letter that killeth, and a Spirit that giveth life, with, far different a temper ought we to regard it: by prayer, as the Fathers say, we should knock at the door, waiting till He that is within open to us; it should be approached as that which has a sort of Sacramental efficacy about it, and therefore a savour of life, and also unto death; in short, as our SAVIOUR was of old, by them who would acknowledge Him as GOD, and receive His highest gifts. As the Centurion who sent the elders of the Jews unto Him, not venturing himself to approach; thus, humble faith from the dark corner of these latter days would rather seek to interpret through the Ancient Church than herself to presume. Far otherwise are the Sacred Scriptures now treated in evidences, in sermons, in controversial writings, in religious discourse. Divine words are brought down to the rule, and measure, and level of each man's earthly comprehension. And hence arise our Theological disputings, founded on words of Scripture, first brought down to some low, limited sense, and then thought to clash with and exclude each other. The Ancients, on the contrary, considered the Holy Scriptures like the heavens which were marked out by the lituus of the heathen soothsayer, wherein every thing that was found was considered full of Divine import: and speaking from GOD to man. They took Scriptural words as Divine words, replete with pregnant and extensive meaning. Thus when believing, in CHRIST, or confessing CHRIST, is spoken of as Salvation, St. Augustine remarks that such words are not to be taken after a low and human interpretation, but imply believing and confessing after a real and substantial manner according to the import of Divine words: and that to believe and confess this, according to truth and the vastness of Scripture, is indeed entering into the greatness of the Christian inheritance, which is signified by believing in CHRIST as GOD, with that corresponding awe and obedience which such a belief requires. With like reverential regard St. Chrysostom, when commencing his commentary on St. Matthew, likens it to approaching the gates of the heavenly city, and adds, "Let us not then with noise, or tumult enter in, but with a mystical silence. In this city must all be quiet and stand with soul and ear erect. For the letters not of an earthly king, but of the LORD of angels are on the point of being read." How many thousands of modern books had been unwritten; how much jealous controversy spared, had this sense of Holy Scripture been among us!
It is, of course, from the want of a saving knowledge of GOD that there exists such a want of religious fear: for fear cannot but increase with an increasing knowledge of His presence, and, therefore, with all holiness of life. The subtle and predominant spirit, which is the source of the irreverence of the age, consists in a forgetfulness of GOD, even in religion, and, therefore, in looking to impression rather than truth. It finds a place in Ministers, in reading the prayers, in preaching, in conversation. It is seen in a higher regard paid to the pulpit than to the altar. In setting preaching above the Sacraments, for that arises from looking to man rather than to GOD. This is, in fact, that which we would condemn in the spirit of the age respecting building of Churches, distribution of the Scriptures, and the like. Not things of course in themselves to be reprehended, but in the mode and tone which characterizes religious actions in the present day. There is a want of fear. The same may be said, when right conduct is pursued, having for its end rather to set a good example to men, than to obtain favour of GOD, which is a species of what Holy Scripture calls hypocrisy. The numerous schemes of education which are abroad partake of the same earthly character, and the futility of them is of itself a proof of something wrong. They are founded on the idea of education consisting in knowledge, whereas it consists rather in affording right pleasures and pains. They are vain attempts after something different from that path which GOD has marked out, which is obedience to Parental, and Pastoral, and Episcopal authority, whereas these commence in breaking one of these ties. Hence the disunion which prevails; each has a prejudice, each a system, each an opinion, while the centre of union, the key-stone is lost. It was very well for heathen philosophers to be forming schemes of education and schemes of politics; and if human wisdom could have effected any thing they had far better chance of success than we. We have it revealed from Heaven, that there is no way of wisdom, but that of obedience and the Cross. What else can be right education, but that which consists in entering more fully into the privileges of that kingdom of Heaven which is among us? of what little value is any knowledge, excepting so far as it brings us into the invisible world? This is the consideration which makes us unwilling to expose the sacred things of GOD. Not as if we enviously withheld a boon that has been in any degree freely given to ourselves; but that with a due sense of its value, GOD has ever connected a reverential modest in imparting knowledge: for the very nature of Christian knowledge necessarily implies a desire to communicate, while it regulates itself by the laws of true wisdom. Such a desire will ever show itself, in a forebearance towards the errors of others, allowance for their unavoidable ignorance, and aptitude to teach, arising from watchful endeavours to do them real good.
We may well suppose that the knowledge of CHRIST can scarcely be better described than by those many descriptions of the pursuit after wisdom, and the way in which she discloses herself to them that seek her. It is the fear of GOD throughout which is the only access to her; "the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom:" "the fulness of wisdom is the fear of the LORD:" "the crown of wisdom is the fear of the LORD:" "come unto her as one that ploweth and soweth:" "he that is without understanding will not remain with her. She will be upon him as a mighty stone of trial; and he will cast her from him, ere it be long. For Wisdom is according to her name, and is not manifest unto many . . . . . Put thy feet into her fetters . . . bow down thy shoulder, and bear her, and be not grieved with her bonds. Come unto her with all thy whole heart, and keep her ways with all thy power. Search, and seek, and she shall be made known unto thee; and when thou hast got hold of her, let her not go. For at the last, thou shall find her rest." All these expressions, and such as these, may range themselves as comments and lessons around that one great truth,-a subject worthy of our most thoughtful contemplation, viz., that CHRIST Crucified was exposed to the view of all mankind, CHRIST Risen only seen by a few witnesses chosen of GOD.
11. Summary of the whole subject.
All that has been observed of our LORD'S conduct may suggest to us much respecting our own condition, as now living in this His dispensation of grace. That the meaning of the kingdom of heaven upon earth, and the Evangelical revelations may be said to consist in this; that GOD is (as when revealed in the flesh) infinitely near to us, and that if we discern Him not, it is our own fault. It is as if heaven itself were not a local change, but that the invisible FATHER, and SON, and HOLY GHOST, and the Majesty of heaven were around us, and with us, and that we might have this truth disclosed to us, after some ineffable manner, if we will bow our heads to that lowly portal. This reserve by which GOD discloses Himself, in all natural and revealed religion, proves the entrance to be narrow and confined. That it is not by speculative inquiry, nor learned research, but by deepest humiliation of soul and body, that we must feel after Him, and expect pain and trouble in doing so, knowing that He is "a consuming fire," and therefore will burn up what is human about us, as we approach Him. Infinitely happy if we may do so at any cost. That sensible good of all kinds dims and obscures the due perception of Him; that every step towards it is contrary to our natural tendencies, for to know GOD is entirely a matter of faith; which is to the spiritual life what breath is to the natural life, the beginning of it, and co-extensive with it; of which it may be said, "when Thou takest away their breath they die, and are turned again into their dust."
That out position is, after some mysterious and transcendent manner, analogous to that of those who saw our LORD in the flesh; that this knowledge, which is the reward of obedience, has the effect of bringing men into some intimate connexion with Himself, would appear from the descriptions which are given of it. For unto him that will keep His commandments, and act up to His sayings, JESUS CHRIST will be as mother, and sister, and brother. Which, and many other like expressions, imply being brought into some mysterious consciousness of His Presence. Obedience itself is quickened and enlivened by CHRIST'S Presence, without which, it could not be, and therefore is often called faith or love, as being that in many by which he apprehends Him, in opposition to the human understanding. Revelation has supplied us through the whole of our moral probation with living means, a living way, and a living end. The end is Personal, and the means also a living Person. The yearnings of our nature after knowledge, the yearnings after love, here find their object: the friendship and the wisdom, which the heathen philosopher considered as the end and perfection of the practical virtues, and most needful for the soul's rest, are here combined,-combined in one living object of affection, Personal, Human, Divine.
Such reflections should encourage in us habits of reverence, reserve, and fear, as considering the awful dispensation under which we walk. We may observe how much there is in this principle to withdraw us from the world, and from the busy excitement that prevails. Every messenger that comes from the world in these evil times, may well cause the Christian to feel as did the prophet, "When he settled his face stedfastly" on the messenger, and then turned aside "and wept."
As GOD has declared Himself not to be in noise and tempest, but in the still small voice, so has He shown Himself in all His manifestations to mankind. In the older dispensation He was ever as One who, in disclosing, hideth Himself. When our LORD appeared on earth in His incarnation, He was still ever as one who, ever desirous to manifest, yet in love for mankind withdrew Himself. The same was ever the case in His Church in its purest and best days; it was ever (as in faint imitation of her LORD) a system of reserve, in which the blessings of the Kingdom were laid up, as a treasure hid in a field. And such is still the system of the Church throughout all her ways; GOD dwelleth in secret, and by faith only can be discerned. Faith is the key to His secret treasures. All that is directed to the eye of GOD will in some measure partake of this reserve. In opposition to which, all the ways of the world, of human expediency, all systems and practices that look to man, will be marked by an absence of this reserve. As far as we look to GOD we shall have this; as far as we look to man we shall have it not; and as far as thoughts of man are allowed to enter into the sanctuary and worship of GOD, our conduct will be marked by an absence of this reserve. The world knows not GOD, and cannot know Him; so far, therefore, as we know Him, so far also, the world also will not know us, and will not understand our ways, and our words. So that from the very nature of the case, this reserve becomes necessary and unavoidable. If we make those secrets of GOD known to it, we shall injure ourselves, by bringing the gaze of the world into the secrets of GOD, and His holy place; and injure others also, for those things which they cannot understand, they will not reverence. If we wish to do good to the world we must not look to it, but unto GOD; our strength must be in secret where GOD is; the bad instruments of the world (such as the daily periodical) must not be ours; the platform is not our strength, nay even the pulpit itself is not our chief strength, in these we must yield to others if they wish it: but our chief strength must be the Altar; it must be in Sacraments and prayers, and a good life to give efficacy to them; and in secret alms to the poor to buy their prayers, which have great power with GOD. Our strength must be in secret where GOD is. If others have recourse to thoughtless controversial disputations, we must leave such to them, and endeavour, ourselves, to learn the truth, and our obedience shall be their light. Remembering always, that this reserve of Holy Scripture, in which every thing that is good must be now, more or less, concealed, is ever calculated to lead on our thoughts by a necessary connection to that great manifestation, when there is "nothing secret that shall not be manifest;" neither any thing hid that shall not be known and come abroad, when He who now "seeth in secret, shall reward openly" those that wait for Him.