Mercy And Judgment by Canon F.W. Farrar
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Didorus, Bishop of Tarsus, friend and correspondent of St. Basil, master of St. Chrysostom, who pronounced his eulogy, was one of the most eminent teachers of his age. He spent the greater part of his life in combating the heathens, Jews, and heretics of all denominations. He was a vigorous defender of the Nicene Creed, and the loss of his works is due to the Arians. He introduced responses into the services of the Church. He ended in universal honour a blameless and fruitful life, after having, as Theodoret said,*(1) saved the bark of the Church from being submerged under the waves of misbelief.*(2)
*(1) Theodoret, H. E. v. 4.
*(2) See Chrysostom, Laus Diodori. Facundus Hermian. Defens. Trium Capit. iv. 2. Soctrates, H. E. vi. 13. Sozomen, H. E. vii. 2.
Theodorus of Mopsuestia did more than any man who ever lived to rescue the Church from that abuse of the allegorizing system of Origen, which would, sooner or later, have been absolutely fatal to all sound exegesis, and would have made the Bible an unintelligible sphinx, of which the utterances were twisted hither and thither at each man's will. He was perhaps the greatest of all the exegetes of his time, and he died in undisturbed communion with the Catholic Church, of which he had been a bishop for thirty-six years.*(1) He died in A.D. 429. It was not till A.D. 553 that the by no means universally accepted edict of the Fifth Council condemned him as a heretic.
*(1) See Photius, Cod. 81.
May we not quote once more the complaint of Facundus and of Domitian of Ancyra, that, under pretence of condemning the dogmas of Origen, many are rushing into the condemnation of most holy and most glorious teachers, and indeed of all the saints who had lived before or after him?*(1) Even Cyril — the bitter and unscrupulous Cyril — who (like Evagrius)*(2) did not hesitate to condemn to hell the unhappy Nestorius whom he had goaded to misery and ruin, yet said of Theodore that "he had gone to God."*(3)
*(1) Facundus Hermian, iv. 4, p. 62.
*(2) Evagr. H. E. i. 7.
*(3) epei de apedhmhse pro s Qeon, Cyril, Opp. p. 200. Cyril himself is condemned to a place of punishment by Theodoret in his letter (not improbably genuine) to the Patriarch of Antioch, on Cyril's death; but Theodoret seems to have believed in the efficacy of prayers even for the wicked, for he adds, "May it be so ordered by your prayers that he may obtain mercy and forgiveness, and that the unmeasured grace of God may prevails over his wickedness." Canon Luckock in his After Death has not noticed this passage.
Of the "Fifth General Council" I shall have something to say hereafter, and I shall show the grounds on which alike the genuineness and the validity of some of its asserted decisions may well be questioned. Nor do I consider it in the least degree fair to say that Theodore and Diodorus questioned the Incarnation,*(1) a charge due either to the ignorant malice or misunderstanding of their enemies. Meanwhile I claim the authority of these two great Bishops, to whom in their lifetime, and long afterwards, the Church looked up with the profoundest veneration, as showing that in their day, at any rate, the doctrine even of Universalism had never been authoritatively condemned; and that, up to this time, and far on in the fifth century, there existed none of that unbroken unanimity on the subject which is now asserted. Mr. Swete, in his valuable edition of parts of his Commentaries, says that "every accession to our knowledge of him adds strength to the conviction that he was entirely unconscious of deviating from the doctrine of the Catholic Church."*(2)
*(1) See Harduin, iii. 107.
*(2) "His eschatology is meant to be a safeguard against Apollinarianism; his sympathy with Pelagius arises from a dread of fatalism; his rejection of much of the prophetic and typical import of the Holy Scriptures is due to an excessive jealousy for their literal truths. Of all that the Church declared to be of the faith, he was the staunch defender." — SWETE, Theod. Mopsuestia, Introduction.
9. And as for the condemnation of these two Fathers, even supposing it to have been honourably obtained, even supposing that their Nestorianism was not capable of explanation, or modification, or retraction, had they been heard in their own favour, instead of being accused long after they had been laid in honoured graves, yet may we not say with the learned and pious Cave, that "Nothing can be more true and modest than what St. Hierom observed in such cases,*(1) that it's great rashness and irreverence presently to charge the ancients with heresie for a few obnoxious expressions, since it may be they erred with a simple and honest mind, or wrote them in another sense…or they took less heed and care to deliver their minds with the utmost accuracy and exactness, while as yet men of perverse minds had not sown their tares nor disturbed the Church with the clamour of their disputation, nor infected men's minds with their poisonous and corrupt opinions."*(2) I have no sympathy with the views of Nestorius; I accept ex animo the word "indivisibly" ( adiairetw s) by which the Council of Ephesus condemned his error; but the less said about Cyril and the conduct of the Council of Ephesus the better; and it must not be forgotten that "Nestorius's offers of accommodations were refused, his explanation not read, his submission rejected, and he himself condemned unheard."*(3) Luther was not the first, nor will he be the last, to think that the differences between "Nestorius personally and the Council which condemned him were mainly verbal," and that "the blame of the controversy is to be charged upon the turbulent spirit of Cyril and his personal aversion to the Patriarch of Constantinople."*(4)
*(1) Jer. Adv. Rufin. ii. p. 219.
*(2) Life of St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, ad fin. (Apost. Fathers), i. p. 281.
*(3) See Assemanni, Bibl. Orient. iii. p. 210.
*(4) Mosheim, Cent. v. ii. c. 5.
10. Passing on to DIDYMUS OF ALEXANDRIA (+ A.D. 396), not one of the passages which Dr. Pusey quotes contains anything more decisive than the current Scriptural terms which all alike used, whether they were Origenists or not. I content myself with the perfectly unbiased opinions of Neander and Gieseler,*(1) of whom the former says that Didymus formed himself on the writings of Origen, and defended his authority, and had adopted his whole system, except in matters which were supposed to touch on questions of our Lord's nature; and Gieseler that he "was known as an Origenist."*(2) St. Jerome, ardently as he admired this all-accomplished blind scholar, does not conceal this fact.*(3) I add further, as against the asserted unanimity of the Church on this subject, the weighty remark of Gieseler, that "the belief in the inalienable capability of improvement in all rational beings, and the limited duration of future punishment, was so general even in the West and among the opponents of Origen, that, whatever may be said of its not having risen without the influence of Origen's school, it had become entirely independent of his system." St. Jerome not only shows in his own writings how wide on these subjects was the permitted variety of opinions,*(4) but he expressly reckons the "repromissiones futurorum quomodo debeant accipi" among things that were still unsettled.*(5)
*(1) Neander, iv. 455, 459; Gieseler, i. 361, English translation.
*(2) Gieseler refers to Lucke, Quaest. Didymianae, p. 9. On the services of this great scholar, see Guerike, De Schol. Alexandr. pp. 69-80.
*(3) Jer. Adv. Rufin, ii. p. 409; iii. p. 463 (Opp. iv).
*(4) Jer. On Gal. v. 22, "Nullam rationabilium creaturarum perire perpetuo," and on Eph. iv. 16, and Ambrosiaster on Eph. iii. 10.
*(5) Proaem in lib. xviii. in Isaiam.
11. It would be useless to proceed with the Greek Fathers. While not denying that some of them believed in "endless retribution," I think that I have proved, as clearly as anything can be proved, that their supposed unanimity in this view is a mere fiction, and that those who openly dissented from it — going therein farther than I have done — were some of the ablest and best and most learned among them. I will only add one word respecting St. Athanasius and St. Chrysostom.
12. Considering the extent of the writings of ST. ATHANASIUS and the face that Origen's opinions on universal restoration were so universally known and so widely adopted, I think that his all but total silence on the subject is an additional proof that in his day that particular opinion was not viewed so unfavourably as has been asserted. If the opinion were so dangerous and so untenable as its impugners assert, how is it that St. Athanasius has so little, and that so purely general, to say on the other side? The passages which Dr. Pusey quotes are not in the smallest degree decisive. They only refer to vague Scriptural expressions, and are quite consistent with a belief in some form of ultimate deliverance for all, at any rate except the very worst. I said that "he only speaks with oblique and kindly disapproval of Origen's opinion on the restitution." This Dr. Pusey flatly contradicts: the reader shall judge. So far from treating Origen as an abominable heretic, I believe that he only thrice alludes to him in all his writings. In two of these passages he gives him a complimentary epithet, calling him in one "the indefatigable," in the other "the marvelous and indefatigable."*(1) In one he expressly defends Origen from the attempts of Arians to claim him on their side, and quotes him to prove that the Son is co-eternal and co-essential with the Father. In a third passage he alludes, as Cave says, "obliquely" — in a few kindly passing words — to his view of restoration.*(2) That view he rejects, but not in the tone of one who viewed it with indignation, and not as one who wished to brand it as a heresy. The more I look into the history and writings of those times the more firmly am I convinced that Neander is right in saying that the doctrine of final restitution, taken alone, never was regarded as heretical, or as untenable within the limits of the faith, until the furious attacks on Origen two centuries after his death led men to mix up this opinion, - which I still believe and maintain was never condemned by any general council, - with others of his opinions which were so condemned. Such is the opinion of Neander. And in spite of the asserted unanimity of the Church on the subject I have shown  that the views of Origen were held by large multitudes both in the East and in the West;  that they were defended by Church Fathers of the most splendid reputation without any injury to their canonization or their character for orthodoxy;  that they found champions in some of the deepest thinkers and ablest writers of the three greatest theological schools — the school of Alexandra, the school of Antioch, and the school of Cappadocia.
*(1) Def. Nic. vi. 27.
*(2) De Communi Essent. Patris et Fil. Et Sp. Sancti, 49. The same passage occurs in Quaest. Ad Antioch , lxxii. Stephen Gobar, who knew the works of St. Athanasius well, says that in several places he had spoken favourably of Origen, and that he constantly studied his works.
13. To ST. CHRYSOSTOM and his opinions on this subject Dr. Pusey devotes nearly seventeen pages.*(1) It was needless to do so, for every one would admit that St. Chrysostom again and again uses the ordinary language about future punishment. He preached in the corrupt, wicked cities of Antioch and Constantinople , and came into contact with many who, from idle motives and amid frivolous lives, with no earnestness of opinion and no depth of conviction, adopted some of the widespread views that no Christian would be doomed to hell, or that hell is nothing but a threat temporary punishment. Both these views St. Chrysostom rejected, as most Christians do, and as I myself do; and rejecting them it was right that he should most earnestly and emphatically warn those who thus flattered themselves into a life of wickedness. No warnings could be too strong for such, and I have been even censured for the way in which, in the very volume which is now under consideration, I tried to impress such warnings on all my hearers. Yet I greatly doubt whether St. Chrysostom, even in his strongest passages, means to brand as unorthodox even the Universalism of Origen, much less any hope less large. By far the majority of the passages quoted are as indecisive as the others on which I have commented; they might have been used equally well by Origen, or by St. Gregory of Nyssa. They are large metaphorical Scriptural expressions, with which the great orator is not professing to deal philosophically or critically. Now St. Chrysostom was a pupil of Diodorus of Tarsus, and must therefore have been familiar with what one opinion about final restoration which was accepted even by those who in other exegetical matters were the ablest opponents of Origen. Does St. Chrysostom ever say one word in disapproval of Diodorus? Does he ever distinctly formulate the arguments of the Universalists, and show why he considered them to be untenable? He constantly rebukes — and most justly — those who "deny hell"; but I find very little in him which excludes the possibility of a belief in a modified Origenism; and no single word that excludes any view which I have advocated. I therefore attach very great importance to the fact that in the Thirty-ninth Homily on the First Epistle to the Corinthians he mentions the view of those who believe in the final extinction of evil without a word of refutation and without a word of disapproval.
*(1) What is of Faith, pp. 243-260.
In considering this let it be remembered  not only (as I have said) that St. Chrysostom was the pupil and panegyrist of one who on this point was a distinct Origenist;  that though the charge of Origenism brought against him at the Synod of the Oak was absurd, yet it may have been grounded on some supposed leaning to this particular view of Origen's;  that he gave a cordial protection to the "tall brothers" and the Origenist monks; and  that he is the writer of one of the very few passages which sanction prayers for those who died in willful sin. Speaking of those who lived all their lives at random, in luxury and wantonness, of whom it might even be said that "it were good for them not to have been born," he says: "Shall we not then wail for this man? Shall we not endeavour to snatch him out of his perils? For it is possible, if we will, that his punishment become light to him. If then we should offer on his behalf continual prayers, if we should give alms, even though he be unworthy, God will forgive our importunity."*(1) In two other places *(2) he speaks of doing what we can to procure some consolation ( paramuqian ) for a dead sinner. Canon Luckock, who quotes these passages, can see nothing "in them to weaken the force of the writer's apparent conviction" — though introduced with qualifications and some doubt — "that a life of sin did not place the sinner wholly beyond the influence of our prayers."*(3)
*(1) touton oun ou qrhnhsomen; ou peirasomeqa twn kindinwn exarpasai; esti gar estin ean qelwmen koufhn autw genesqai thn kolasin. - In Act. Ap. Hom. xxi. 3.
*(2) In Joann. Hom. lxi. 4; in Ep. I ad Cor. Hom. xli. 4.
*(3) After Death, p. 140. He adds, and the remark illustrates much that I have said, "St. Chrysostom certainly lays himself open to a charge of inconsistency."
And besides all this, it must not be forgotten that when Epiphanius had been goaded by the intrigues of Theophilus of Alexandria to call a local synod for the condemnation of Origen, and to take the decrees of this synod with him to Constantinople, St. Chrysostom refused to subscribe them, and sent Epiphanius back to see with what Bishop Rust calls a "gentle snubbing" for his pragmatical meddling- because he thought it "very hard and unequal, and not according to the manner of ecclesiastical censures, that a person of so great learning and piety, who had been so serviceable to the Church, who lived two hundred years before, whose books no council had condemned, should now be condemned by a small packed synod of his professed enemies."*(1)
*(1) Bishop Rust, in The Phoenix , i. p. 10.
And here I must respectfully protest against Dr. Pusey's remark that I imputed to St. Chrysostom "accommodation, i.e. that he did not believe what he said." "Accomodation," in the sense in which the Fathers believed in its expediency, simply meant that they sometimes dwelt on doctrines which they thought useful,*(1) and which were commonly accepted, without entering into any controversy about them; without entering into details; without saying all in public which they thought themselves at liberty to say in private; without feeling bound to distinguish between what they expressed in ordinary phrases and the hopes which they might privately entertain that some of those phrases were capable of a meaning less sweeping and less exclusive than they conveyed to ordinary hearers.*(2) I do not support their views on this subject; but that such were their views is undeniable. St. Chrysostom himself constantly refers to the thought, "What is more profitable than the fear of hell?" and yet even in the very heat and passion of his rhetoric on the subject very little escapes him which can be regarded as a distinct and decisive repudiation of the views even of Origen, much less of those who believed in soe form of temporary penal "fire."*(3)
*(1) See Windet, De Statu Vita funet. p. 189.
*(2) Athanasius speaks of Dionysius as writing, kat oikonomian , "oeconomically," "or with reference to certain persons addressed, or objects contemplated." — Newman, Arians, ii. 44, n.
*(3) See note on "Accommodation," at end of chapter.
Let us take the case of an orator analogous in many respects to St. Chrysostom — Bishop Jeremy Taylor. There are many variations of doctrine in his different works; but it would be very harsh to say of these that in some instances "he must have taught what he did not believe," or that "he could not have taught this if he were an honest man." We must take his opinions as we find them, consistent or not. Allowance must be made in the cases of such men for differences of mood, for rhetorical amplitude, for power of imagination, for inexactitude of language, for growth of opinions. Now from the writings of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, and above all from his Second Sermon on the Advent to Judgment, may be gathered some of the most frightful passages ever written in description of the horrors of hell; and yet it is clear that those agglomerations of horrible torments in which he revels can only be regarded as "bubbles, and flashes, and electrical apparitions from the magic caldron of a fervid and ebullient fancy, constantly fuelled by an unexampled opulence of language."*(1) For — in a manner exactly analogous to that of St. Chrysostom — he alludes, without disapproval or refutation, to the apparent belief of St. Irenaeus and St. Justin Martyr in "conditional immortality"; and to the fact that the word everlasting only means "to the end of its proper period"; and to the argument that, "though the fire is everlasting, not all that enters into it is everlasting."*(2) And there are sufficient grounds to sanction Coleridge's remark that, in spite of all his "Tartarean drench" of descriptions, he probably held to the view of the annihilation of the wicked, at least in abditis fidei.*(3)
*(2) Works, viii. 43.
*(3) See my sermon on Bishop Jeremy Taylor in Masters of English Theology, pp. 175-211.
I will take two other instances to show that the use of current phrases does not necessarily show a man's unalterable opinion, and must not be taken to explain away his obvious leanings to another view.
One is the case of the poet Dr. Edward Young, author of the Night Thoughts. No one has reveled more than he has done in descriptions of an endless hell, and yet in such lines as—
"Ah, Mercy, Mercy, art thou dead above? Is Love extinguished in the Source of Love?"
as well as in many other passages of his poems, his leanings are obvious; and it is known that he greatly admired and heartily recommended the works and sentiments of men who had earnestly pleaded for a wider hope. (See his Moral Letters.)
The instance of Dr. Watts — "the flower of Non-conformist orthodoxy" — is still more remarkable. His hymns have had no small share in spreading and fixing the popular accretions to Christian faith; and I suppose that there are chapels where men and women still "praise God by singing" —
"There is a dreadful hell, and everlasting pains, where sinners must with devils dwell, in darkness, fire, and chains."
And yet it is certain that Dr. Watts did not hold, in its ordinary sense, the doctrine of "everlasting pains," but held both the possibility of repentance after death, and of the extinction of sentient existence. One passage has already been quoted on p. 30, and another, infra, p. 401. Here is yet another: -
"Whenever such a criminal in hell shall be found making such a sincere and mournful address to the righteous and merciful Judge of all, I cannot think that a God of perfect equity and rich mercy will continue such a creature under His vengeance, but rather that the perfection of God will contrive a way to escape, though God has not given us here any revelation or discovery of such special grace as this."
Now no one will say that the pious writer was not a thoroughly honest man; and yet he clearly uses language which, literally taken, is not in accordance with the more thoughtful and deliberate expression of his opinions. Will any man of competent culture deny that his real opinion is to be deduced from the expression of his distinct thoughts when they seem to correct and abandon the popular phraseology?
If I do not follow Dr. Pusey farther through his catena, it is only because enough has been said. But the instances which I have examined are not the only ones in which I could show that the Fathers from whom he quotes used other language on the same subject, and that they were therefore either "inconsistent," or else that the terms which he quotes from them are capable of a different interpretation.
By way of a single specimen take ST. PETER CHRYSOLOGUS (+ A.D. 450). He says in one place (Serm. 60, De Symbolo) that "there is, after the resurrection, no end either of good or of ill." Yet in another (Serm. 123), speaking of the "great gulf", he says, "those who have been assigned to penal custody in hell cannot be transferred to the rest of the saints, unless, having been already redeemed by the grace of Christ, they be freed from this hopelessness by the intercession of the Holy Church . So that what the sentence denies them, the Church may obtain, and grace bestow." I do not see what meaning can be assigned to this passage, except that of the possibility that God may be pleased not to carry out to the full His own threatenings — the view, in fact, which is not unfrequently alluded to by the Fathers, but is usually associated in modern days with the honoured name of Archbishop Tillostson.
II. A much briefer examination of the opinions of the Latin Fathers will here suffice. Every one admits that Origenism in general, and Origen's hope for a final restoration of the wicked in particular, was much less prevelant in the West than in the East; and that after St. Augustine's day, amid ever-deepening corruptions of religious truth, this hope was to a considerable extent extinguished. It was extinguished, both because men accepted the authority of St. Augustine — weak as his arguments on this subject are, and wavering as is his language — and also because they assumed (as I believe erroneously) that this opinion of Origen had been condemned with his other opinions by some Conciliar decree. But this dissemination of the popular view would not have been either so rapid or so complete had it not been that the gradual distinctness acquired by the notion of "purgatory" rendered the notion of "hell" less immediately and overwhelmingly horrible to the imagination of Christian men.*(1)
*(1) "The doctrine of Purgatory was brought home to the minds of the people as a portion or form of penance due to post-baptismal sin." — Newman, Es. On Development, p. 388.
And yet many of my previous remarks about the abatements which must be made from the asserted evidence as to the opinions of the Greeks, apply with scarcely less force to the passages quoted from the Latins.*(1) I shall, however, content myself with considering the opinions of three great Fathers — St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome; and I shall be much surprised if every really candid reader does not admit that, though they all three reject Universalism (as I do myself), they neither held those current errors which I have repudiated, nor do they treat even Universalism as a recognized or dangerous heresy.
*(1) Even Tertullian, fierce as he usually is, says "that a moderate fault shall there [in the next world] be atoned for by a delay of resurrection." — De Anima, 38.
I. As regards ST. AMBROSE I will merely ask the reader to study with unbiased mind the following passages: -
a. "For the devil and his ministers will not be scourged. The punishment is separated, where the fault also is different…If human decision works this result" [namely, the obtaining of pity, and the not hopeless exclusion from the possibility of repentance], "how much more must that of Christ be awaited by all? The judgment of the devil is delayed that he may be ever a criminal in punishment, ever bound in the chain of his wickedness, that he may undergo for ever the judgment of his own conscience. So then that Dives in the Gospel, although a sinner is pressed with penal agonies that he may escape the sooner. But the devil is shown not as yet to have come to judgment," &c.*(1)
*(1) "Ideo Dives ille in Evangelio, licet peccator, poenalibus torquetur aerumnis, ut citius posit evadere." — St. Ambr. in Ps. cxviii. ad vs. I.
The passage must be considered with its whole context. Petavius argues from it that it was the opinion of St. Ambrose that the punishment of the devil was put off because it was to be endless, but that the punishments of men were inflicted immediately after death, "because they ought to be moderated and limited by pity." Referring to this passage of St. Ambrose, I had said that, though in other passages he uses the ordinary language, he here distinctly states the doctrine of universal restitution. Dr. Pusey thinks it enough to reply that "he distinctly states the contrary."*(1) Certainly St. Ambrose was speaking only of men, but so was I. I had declined to enter into the question about devils; and in repeating that, in this passage, St. Ambrose does distinctly imply the restitution of all men, I find that Petavius says the same thing. The reader at any rate has the materials wherewith to judge for himself.
*(1) What is of Faith, p. 109.
Further, if the passage be not of an Universalist tendency as regards mankind, it is all the more in favour of my own views. For Dr. Pusey can only set aside the Saint's evidence by saying, "It is nowhere laid down that Dives is in the place of the lost." Therefore, since St. Ambrose had no manner of doubt that Dives was not lost, Dr. Pusey must either concede to me the full weight of this Father's opinion, or must give up the tenability of the arguments about this parable and the "great gulf fixed" on which the popular notions about the lost are mainly built.
b. The other passage to which I referred was the well-known one in his remarks on Ps. xxxvi., where St. Ambrose says: - "Although we shall not be burned up, yet we shall be burned."
And again: - "I shall burn till the lead melts away. If no silver be found in me, alas! I shall be plunged down into the lowest pit, or consumed entire as the stubble."*(1)
*(1) St. Ambr. in Ps. cxviii. Serm. XX.
g. And again, speaking of I Cor. iii. 15, he says: - "Whence it is gathered that the man is saved in part, condemned in part."
These three latter passages do not indeed convey the doctrine or hope of a final restoration of all, but, as Dr. Pusey says, they "contrast the temporal suffering in the Day of Judgment with the eternal." They therefore express the belief, which popular opinion ignores or denies, that many may have to pass through punishment hereafter, and yet may be saved. But that was the very opinion which I have maintained in my Eternal Hope, and which I am maintaining now.
d. There is a still more remarkable statement in the Saint's comment on Psalm i. "Those", he says, "who do not come to the first, but are reserved for the second resurrection, shall be burned until they fill up the times between the first and second resurrection, or, should they not have done so, will remain longer in punishment."
e. And I am justified in saying that the whole tone and bent of the mind of St. Ambrose were on the side of trust in God's mercy and pity. Thus he denies altogether, in one passage, any pain of sense.*(1) In the treatise on the Blessing of Death he again and again expresses the thought that even to sinners death is a boon, not a curse; because the punishment beyond the grave is less to be dreaded than the state of sin in this life. Two quotations will suffice: -
*(1) "Ergo neque corporalium stridor aliquis dentium, neque ignis aliquis perpetuus flammarum corporalium, neque vermis est corporalis." — AMBROS. in Luc. vii. 14.
"For", he says, if the guilty die "who have been unwilling to leave the path of sin, even against their will they still gain, not of nature but of fault, that they may sin no more." The argument of the whole passage is that "even for sinners death is better than life.
x. And again he says (c. 7) that "Death is not bitter, but to the sinner it is bitter; and yet life is more bitter than death; for it is a deadlier thing to live in sin than to die in sin; because the sinner as long as he lives increases his sin; if he dies he ceases to sin."
h. Once more let the reader study the book of St. Ambrose on Penitence, and he will be able to judge whether this saint would have sympathized most with what I have said or with the crude horrors of the popular Calvinism.*(1) On that side would have been Novatian the schismatic and Pelagius the heresiarch; on my side some of the very best, greatest and most orthodox of the Fathers.
*(1) O. S. "Quos Christus ad salutem redemit, eos Novatianus damnat ad mortem. Quibus Christus dicit…discite a me quia mitis sum; Novatianus dicit Immitis sum." — De Poenit. i. 2.
2. ST. JEROME 'S language varies greatly. He is not a consistent writer. But the following passages prove this much at any rate — (I) that even in his day the Church had not arrived at any fixed dogma respecting the state of the dead; and (2) that the hopes concerning those who died in a state unfit for heaven were larger and more merciful than those which popular theology has until very recently admitted.
a. Thus after admitting (an important fact) that many in his day held that all punishment would some day be ended, and that there would be "refreshments" (refrigeria),*(1) which ought now to be hidden from those to whom fear is useful, that, dreading punishment, they may cease from sin, he first says that we ought to leave this to the knowledge of God, "Who knows whom, how, and how long He ought to judge," and adds, "And as we believe that the torments of the devil and of all infidels are eternal, so as to sinners and the impious*(2) who are yet Christians, whose works are to be tested and tried in the fire, we believe that the sentence of the Judge will be moderate and mingled with pity.*(3)
*(1) "Refrigeria quae nunc abscondenda sunt ab his quibus timor est utilis." — JER. in Is. lxvi.
*(2) "Atque impiorum," omitted in one MS., probably from dogmatic bias.
*(3) Jer. in Is. lxvi. 24. See supra, p. 43.
Petavius here thinks that Jerome has in mind infernal and not purgatorial fires, because he is arguing against Origenists, who thought that they would end after many ages. If so, he here expresses his belief that all Christians would be saved, even though they were sinners and impious. If not, he still grants all for which I have argues — the possibility of a retribution or a purification not necessarily endless beyond the grave.
b. In another passage, rejecting the opinion that "in the end of the world, the devil, coming down from his pride, will repent and be restored to his former place, because no reasonable creature made by God should perish," he admits that it was held by "very many", and that they supported it by the allegoric explanation of the repentant king of Nineveh as being the devil*(1); and in rejecting this notion of the salvability of the devil as dangerous, and saying that sinners shall be cast into the same fire, he yet takes care to dwell predominantly on the thought, "Merciful and just is the Lord, yea, our God is merciful." "He so spares as to judge, so judges as to be merciful."
*(1) In Jon. iii. 6, 7.
g. A third passage is still more remarkable, and I ask close attention to it.
Pelagius had broadly laid down the view, which accords as nearly as possible with what is now the popular view, that, "In the Day of Judgment the wicked and sinners will not be spared, but will be burned with everlasting fire." Undoubtedly any clergyman who now maintained this view would be regarded as a champion of the popular "orthodoxy"; but the Church of that day, on the contrary, condemned Pelaguis for this very statement.
"As to your saying that 'in the Day of Judgment sinners must not be spared, but must be burned up with eternal fires', who can tolerate it? And that you should preclude the mercy of God, and before the Day of Judgment judge about the sentence of the Judge; so that if He may have wished to spare the wicked and sinners, He cannot do so because of your prescriptions?*(1) For you say it is written in Ps. ciii. 'Let sinners and the unjust fail from the earth, so that they may not be'; and in Ps. vi. 'The unjust shall be consumed, and at the same time sinners, and those who forsake God shall be consumed.' And you do not understand that the threatening of God sometimes means clemency, for He does not say that they are 'to be burnt up with eternal fires,' but that they 'fail from the earth and cease to be unjust.' It is one thing that they should cease from sin and injustice, and another that they should perish for ever and be burnt up with eternal fires. Lastly, Isaiah….says this properly of heretics who, leaving the right path of faith, shall be consumed if they have not willed to return to God, whom they have abandoned."
*(1) "Illud vero…ferre quis potest et interdicere te misericordiam Dei, et ante diem judicii de sentential judicis judicare, ut si voluerit iniquis et peccatoribus parcere, te praescribente, non posit?" — JER. in Pelag. i.
Then after defining that "unjust" and "sinners" are not the same as "impious", and that the "impious" shall not rise up in the judgment, being pre-judged to perdition, whereas "sinners" should not perish for ever, though they should not rise in the council of the just, Jerome adds, "If, however, Origen says that no rational creature is to be destroyed, and ascribes repentance to the devil, what is that to us who say that the devil and his hosts, and all the ungodly and transgressors perish for ever, and that Christians if they have been overtaken (by death) in sin, are to be saved after punishment?"*(1)
*(1) "Si autem Origenes omnes rationabiles creaturas dicit non esse perdendas, quid ad nos qui et Diabolum et satellites ejus, omnesque impios et praevaricatores dicimus perire perpetuo; et Christianos, si in peccato praeventi fuerint, salvandos esse post poenas." — JER. in Pelag. i. 28.
Petavius compares with this the similar remark of Gilbert of Poictiers, who says on Ps. i. that "the impious" will not be judged, because they have been judged already, but that "sinners await a sentence which saves by fire."*(1)
*(1) "Peccatores vero, exspectare sententiam quae salvat per ignem.
As to this remark of Pelagius — "In die judicii iniquis et peccatoribus non esse parcendum, sed aeternis eos ignibus exurendos" — although it is so indignantly condemned by St. Jerome, I venture to think that if, five years ago, it had been brought forward, without further hint, at almost any "clerical society," it would at once have been accepted as expressing the opinion of many of those present.
The Church of the fourth century was, however, so little inclined to accept it that it was made the subject of an express charge against the Welsh heretic in the Synod of Diospolis, A.D. 415. The arguments about it are excessively vague and misty, but Pelagius, who undoubtedly used a good deal of "accommodation" and succeeded (as all admit) in completely mystifying the minds of the good Fathers assembled at Diospolis, "said that he only meant his remark in the sense of Matthew xxv. 46, and that, if any one thought otherwise, he was an Origenist." If the synod was satisfied with this, and yet were at first inclined to regard the statement as heretical, their views must have been exceedingly plastic and exceedingly ill-defined. Not only does St. Jerome, as we have seen, indignantly reject the dogma of Pelagius, but it is also clear from the remarks of St. Augustine that the sentiment of Pelagius was accused of being heretical because it was understood as being meant to deny what the Church accepted as a truth on the authority of I Cor. iii. 13 — namely, that some would pass through fire and yet be saved.*(1) The Synod of Diospolis, and St. Augustine, and St. Jerome, and Dr. Pusey, are all anxious to explain that the suspicion of the synod respecting the "too broad" remark of Pelagius arose not because the Fathers denied an endless hell, but because they believed in a terminable purgatory. So then — after all this controversy — it appears that they all hold exactly what I have been so much attacked for holding — namely, that there is such a thing as a terminable retribution beyond the grave! They condemned in Pelaguis the implied notion that there is an endless hell beyond the grave, and that there is no form of future retribution (e.g. no purgatory) which is terminable. The Diospolitan bishops and Augustine and Jerome, and the whole Catholic Church in their day, and all Roman Catholics, and most German Protestants, and many English Protestants, all hold the long obliterated doctrine which I trust that I have helped to restore to prominence in many minds, that though some souls may be lost for ever and ever, there is also such a thing as a terminable retribution (call it purgatory, or the probatory fire of the Day of Judgment, or what you will), beyond the grave. The prevalent belief in the Church has been for ages exactly what I said it had been — namely, that (as Dr. Pusey expresses it) there are sinners "who, when their work has been burned, shall be saved, but so as by fire."
*(1) De Gestis Pelagii, iii. 10. On this Synod, see infra, p. 339.
d. St. Jerome sometimes also indicated a view of which glimpses are recognizable in many writers, that what is evil in men may be burnt up without involving their own endless destruction. "If, therefore," he says, "any man have tares in his conscience, these the flame will consume, these the conflagration will devour."*(1)
*(1) Jer. in Isaiam, lib. xviii. ad fin.
e. And if any one will read St. Jerome's remarks on Is. v. he will see that while the saint very decisively rejects the salvability of devils, he invariably alters the tone of his language when he speaks of men. Of them he uses language which, while it sounded like the language which had become current in his time, was yet perfectly capable of another explanation. It is clear to me from this circumstance that St. Jerome secretly, though not always consistently, inclined to the "larger hope". In this he resembled his adversary Rufinus, who while in his first apology he eagerly defends himself against the charge of believing that the devil would be saved, is far more ambiguous in the terms he uses about men.*(1) And how little the vague terms "eternal", &c., are to be pressed in St. Jerome appears from his use of the term "infinite ages" twice over in a passage where he is actually discussing the possibility of those "infinite ages" coming to an end.*(2)
*(1) See Petav. l. c. iii. 8, 11.
*(2) In a passage quoted by Rufinus he says that the thought of possible refrigeria of the lost should be concealed from those to whom fear is useful, and that we must leave the quomodo and quamdiu of future judgment to the knowledge and pity of God. — Invectiv I. in Hieron. That notion of refrigeria, "refreshments", "pauses of torment", & c., in hell, to which some Fathers allude, is found also in the Rabbis, who say that the wicked have every day an hour and a half of rest at the time of prayer as well as the whole Sabbath — i.e. fifty-one hours a week. — Jalkuth Reubeni, f. 167, 4; Jalkuth Chadash, f. 51, I, &c. (Stehelin, ii. 54, 56).
x. Again, in the commentary on Amos he says, "Therefore both Israel, and all heretics, because they had the works of Sodom and Gomorrha, are overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrha, that they may be set free like a brand snatched from the burning. And this is the meaning of the prophet's words, 'Sodom shall be restored as of old', that he who by his vice is as an inhabitant of Sodom, after the works of Sodom have been burnt in him, may be restored to his ancient state".
I conclude, then, with Daille' — an unprejudiced witness, because vehemently opposed to every deviation from the current opinion — that St. Jerome leaned to this modification of Origenist opinions, which elsewhere he only partially repudiates.*(1) Those who know the impassioned ferocity of Jerome's style know how very differently he deals with this opinion and with those which he really repudiates.
*(1) Dallaeus, De Poenis, 378. "Sunt ergo haec plane Origenica, qualia Hieronymus non pauca in commentaries suis immiscuit, quae ipse alibi non quidem omnino sed aliquatemus repudiat". Comp. Bellarmine, De Purgat. ii. I.
3. ST. AUGUSTINE did more than any man to settle the popular conviction in the distinct and definite belief that there is an endless hell. He did this far more by his authority, which was immense, than by his arguments, which, in the one main passage in which he discusses the question, are singularly empty and feeble.*(1) And yet St. Augustine himself, dubious and tentative as his own language is, also did more than any man to lead the Church into a belief in that terminable retribution — that "purgatorial fire" beyond the grave — that cleansing pain, whether in the intermediate state or at the Day of Judgment — which was my main thought in Eternal Hope.*(2) For "Eternal Hope" means "hope in the life to come"; and I meant thereby the hope that from some forms of retribution which might fall on us beyond the grave there was a possibility of ultimate deliverance — that there was a "remedial fire" as well as an unending doom.*(3)
*(1) See them analysed in the Rev. F. N. Oxenham's Letter on Everlasting Punishment, p. 79.
*(2) It must not be forgotten that Augustine furnishes us with the strongest proofs of the entirely unsettled state of the question among Catholic Christians even in his day. This is why he finds it necessary to argue (1) against Origenists; (2) against those who thought that all men would be saved; (3) or all baptized Christians; (4) or all but heretics; (5) or all who remained in Catholic communion; (6) or all who had given alms. De Civ. Dei. xxi. 18-22; Enchir. 67; ad Dulcit. 21. "In his De Civitate Dei, after speaking of the fire at the judgment, he goes on to change its position…and places it between death and the resurrection; yet still he observes his hesitating and conjectural tone". — Tracts for the Times, No. 79, p. 41.
*(3) See Eternal Hope, passim.
a. He holds that there are different degrees of suffering among the lost.*(1) He admits as tenable the opinion "that the pains of the damned are at certain intervals of time in some measure mitigated". He furnishes decisive evidence of the numbers of those whom he calls "our party of compassion" (nostri misericordes).*(2) He thinks it necessary in a friendly spirit (pacifice) to argue against such views as that all the baptized*(3), or all the communicants*(4), or all Christians, even if they lived ill, or all who gave alms, would be saved*(5), showing thereby how far all Christians were from fixed opinions on these subjects. He mentions the notion of those who thought that God would hear the intercessions of His saints, and so render punishment less than endless, or that He might, as in the case of the Ninevits, withdraw His threats.*(6) He says in one place that the sacrifice of the altar, and of alms, were propitiations for those who were not very bad, and that even for the very bad they might perhaps be of advantage, "either that there may be a full remission, or certainly that the damnation may be more endurable."*(7) Writing on Ps. lxxvii. ("for God will not forget to be gracious"), he argues that the wrath of God, if incompatible with His putting an end to eternal punishment, is not incompatible with His "applying or interposing between their tortures some alleviation."*(8) He argues that our Lord's words to Judas apply only to the worst and most impious sinners.*(9) In all this he by no means speaks with that dogmatic positiveness about the most intricate problems of the future, and especially of the Intermediate State*(10), which now characterizes the most ignorant of mankind. He was far from that air of infallibility with which any rash curate — whether literate or illiterate — now imagines that he can announce ex cathedra his own entirely valueless opinion. Thus he says of the opinion that the purgatorial fire will in the interval between death and judgment burn away venial sins, "I do not refute it, because perhaps it is true."*(11) And of the slower or speedier cleansing of the faithful by fire after this life he says, "It is not incredible, and whether it be so or not may be considered, and either be discovered or remain unknown."*(12)
*(1) Enchir. c. iii
*(2) De Civ. Dei, xxi. 17.
*(3) Id. 20.
*(4) Id. 19 (referring to John vi. 58).
*(5) Id. 22 (referring to I Cor. iii. 15; Eph. v. 30). "Sed qui hoc credunt, et tamen Catholici sunt, humana quadam benevolentia falli videntur." — Enchir. 67.
*(6) Id. 18. Some of his remarks in 24-28 are meant for a refutation of these views; but they are very much feebler than we should have expected, and are indeed founded on assertions, or on entire misapplications of Scripture.
*(7) Enchir. cxii.
*(8) "Non tamen contineat miserationes suas, non aeterno supplicio hnem dando, sed levamen adhibendo, vel interponendo cruciatibus." — AUG. l. c. See on this Petr. Lombard, Sentent. Iv. 46A. "Si valde malis detur mitigatio poenae?"
*(9) "Cum hoc Deus non de quibuslibet peccatoribus, sed de sceleratis. Simis et impiissimis dixerit." — In Julian. v. II.
*(10) See Enchir. 62; Exam. in Ps. lxxx. Ad fin.; Ps. cvii.; Hom. iii. ad Princip.
*(11) De Civitate Dei, xxi. 20, "Non redarguo, quia forsitan verum est."
*(12) Ench. 69. "Incredible non est et utrum ita sit quaeri potest et aut inveniri aut latere."
b. It is also observable that St. Augustine believed that Christ by His descent into hell liberated the souls even of sinners, though he introduces this doctrine also with one of his hesitating phrases, "It is not undeservedly believed."*(1) The simple fact is that St. Augustine — vast as have been the consequences of his opinions — had very little to say which is authoritative on the subject. Far be it from me to ask the blunt question of Pelagius: "And what is Augustine to me?" (Et quis est mihi Augustinus?)*(2) But he "was evidently puzzled as to the meaning of Hades", and was so far from sharing the convictions of every infallible modern clergyman on such subjects as these, that, even of the dwelling of the saints in Hades till they were thence delivered by Christ, he only says, "haud absurde videtur"*(3), and frankly admits that the nature and meaning of the word "eternal" is still a matter for careful investigation. Even as to I Cor. iii. 15, he says he finds it very obscure, and would rather hear others explain it.*(4) Largely as he has moulded the eschatological opinions of Christendom, St. Augustine himself when he treats of them by no means shows that "unhesitating confidence", or that "vehement and intrepid dogmatism" which so largely helped to secure acceptance for his theological conclusions.*(5) "Non abhorret, quantum arbitror a ratione veritatis"; "Incredibile non est"; "Quod quidem non ideo confirmo, quoniam non repello"; "Non immerito creditur"; "Non absurde videtur"; "Forsitan verum est": - such are the very indecisive answers of the oracle on most important points of Christian eschatology. I confess that the impression left on my mind is that he would never have wavered as he has done, nor decided as he has done, if he had thoroughly realized the true meaning of aionios — of which he was not aware, because of his imperfect knowledge of Greek.
*(1) "Christi animam venisse usque ad ea loca in quibus peccatores cruciantur ut eos solveret a tormentis quos esse salvandos…judicabat, non immerito creditur." — De Genes. Ad lit. xii. 33, 63.
*(2) As reported by Orosius.
*(3) De Civ. Dei, xx. 15.
*(4) De Fide et Spe, 15, 16.
*(5) See Milman's History of Christianity, ii. 276; Bishop Forbes, On the Articles, ii. 334.
And one more point is certainly remarkable, - which is that though he unquestionably accepted the doctrine of endless torments for the damned, he never in a single place tells us that the Church had specifically condemned the hope of Origen as regards men only. He invariably mixes up that hope — as others Fathers do — with the irrelevant and to us unpractical question of the salvability of devils, or with speculations about cycles of existence and antenatal life. Thus in the two passages most generally quoted to prove that the Church had condemned Universalism, St. Augustine says, "This the judges [at Diopolis] understood of that which in truth the Church most worthily detests in Origen, that they who the Lord says will be punished with eternal punishment, and the devil himself and his angels will after a time…be freed from punishment and will be united in a society of blessedness with the saints who reign with God."*(1) In the other he rejects Origen's Universalism by simply saying that the Church rightly rejected him (jure reprobavit) — for what? Not for his large hope, but "for this and other things, and most of all for the alternations of bliss and misery"; for he adds Origen "lost the semblance of mercy by assigning to the saints true sufferings in punishment and false bliss" — false because it was not eternally secured to them.*(2) It is therefore not fair to quote the phrase "jure reprobavit" and "Hoc detestatur Ecclesia" of Universalism pure and simple. The "hoc" in question was not this point, but this one point as a single element — and that by St. Augustine 's own admission the least questionable element — in a vast mass of other opinions. And in reading these passages we have to remark that he offers no arguments whatever against Origen's "merciful opinion". He thinks to knock it down  by saying that the Church has condemned it taken in connection with other opinions which the Church condemned more; and  by a bald dogmatic assertion — respecting which he himself elsewhere expresses great doubts — that it is against the Word of God.*(3)
*(1) De Gestis Pelagii, iii. 10.
*(2) In De Haeresibus, c. 243, he speaks of the liberation of the devil, and mixes all the notions together, e.g. "De purgatione et liberatione ac rursus, post longum tempus, ad eadem mala, revolutione rationale universae."
*(3) De Civ. Dei, xxi. 17.
[I] As to his first point, we should have been glad if he had told us where the Church condemned it. It would have been quite beside the mark to argue that the Church condemned it because — long after Origen had been laid in his honoured grave, and long after he had moulded the best thoughts of many of the best thinkers of the Church — "Origenism" (which is a very large word indeed) was condemned, or was supposed to have been condemned in the lump. Indeed I feel the most firm conviction that even Universalism never would have been condemned as a general hope, or a permissible opinion, if it had not been erroneously mixed up with many other speculations which the Church rejected.
 St. Augustine quotes no text in this place to show that such a hope is "against the Word of God" (contra recta Dei verba); but he doubtless had in mind the text to which he refers so frequently, viz. Matt. xxv. 46. Like so many of the Latin Fathers, &c., St. Augustine erroneously supposed that aionios necessarily meant "endless". This mistake influences their entire view.*(1) The ablest and most learned Greek Fathers knew better; they knew that aionios meant "that which belongs to the future aeon", and that "aeonian life" and "aeonian punishment" have no other meaning than the life and the punishment of the world to come. The endlessness of beatitude rests on far other "texts" than this; the endlessness of misery for some may be the necessary deduction from other Scriptures; but it is nowhere indisputably asserted, and certainly can only be inferred from this passage by an ignorance which is unaware of, or a prejudice which sets at defiance, the most indisputable facts. Probably the champions of the popular view will continue to repeat — in spite of its ten-times-demonstrated feebleness — what I again call this battered and worthless argument. St. Augustine thought that aionios meant "endless" partly (perhaps) because his knowledge of Greek was "late-acquired, and at the best imperfect"*(2); but a total ignorance of Greek, and of all things else, is no excuse for the repetition of the error, in face of the most positive demonstration. If Augustine had not been born an African and trained as a Manichee, nay, if he had only faced the labour of learning Greek thoroughly — a labour from which he confesses that he had shrunk*(3) — the whole stream of Christian theology might have been purer and more sweet. Take, for instance, Augustine's direct "argument" about aion and aionios. To call it an "argument" is an extravagant compliment, for it is a mere untenable and self-refuted assertion. Aion, he says, does often mean a limited period, but aionios always means "endless". This is a specimen of that asserting style of which Augustine is a master. It instantly occurs to him, however, that this is not prima facie true, and indeed the two passages which he quotes (Lev. xvi. 29, 36) are sufficient to show that he is wrong. His attempt to get rid of, and explain away, these usages, is really beneath all refutation. It is impossible that any moderately-educated modern reader should regard it as adequate. Huet admits the failure: "Quod est literam destruere," he asks, "si hoc non est?" Augustine himself is so conscious of the falsity of this piece of philogical criticism, that he takes refuge in the old assertion that torments must be endless because bliss is endless. In such "arguments" they may acquiesce who are content with the impossible and obsolete philology of fourteen centuries ago.*(4)
*(1) "Cum falsum aliquid in principio sumserint…necesse est eos ia ea quae consequuntur incurrere." — LACTANT. Inst. iii. 24.
*(2) See Tillemont.
*(3) Confess.i. 14.
*(4) Aug. c. Priscillianistas, 6, 7.
 And yet this seems to have been the main consideration which swayed the hesitating conclusions of St. Augustine . It was helped out, however, by another no less untenable. He shut himself out from the inferences which naturally spring from the mercy of God by arguing that the devils will certainly be condemned to endless torments. If, then, their punishment (he argued) is consistent with God's absolute love, so must be also the endless punishment of men. The argument is futile on every ground, but is sufficiently nullified by the fact that of the nature and degree of Satanic and diabolic culpability we know absolutely nothing.*(1)
*(1) Aug. De Civ. Dei, xxi. 17-23; Baur, Dogmengesch. ii. 440.
I end with two passages of St. Augustine , written it may be in his milder moods, but very instructive: -
i. Speaking of Dives and Lazarus, he says, "How that flame of Hades is to be understood, that bosom of Abraham, that tongue of the rich man, that finger of the beggar, that thirst of torment, that drop of refreshment, is perhaps scarcely discoverable by those who inquire with gentleness, but by those who content in a quarrelsome spirit, never."*(1)
*(1) De Gen. Ad Litt. viii. 6.
ii. The other is as to the meaning of the word "eternal". Again and again has St. Augustine dogmatised on this philological question. He makes loud assertions about it, with which his earlier Manichaean proclivities had much more to do than this imperfect knowledge of philology. Yet there, were moments in which even he is forced to waver and in his commentary on Matt. xxv. 46 he feels himself obliged to repudiate much of his own dogmatism on the subject. "I would not," he says, "say this so as to seem to close the door to a more careful consideration as to the punishments of the lost, and the sense in which they are in Scripture called eternal." O si sic omnia! Had he always spoken in this modest tone he might have saved the Christian world from many perils.
It would have been far better for the Church if her mediaeval admiration of Augustine had been less blind, and if her sense of his fallibility, and the many limitations of his knowledge and intellectual power, had been more decided. It would have been above all well for her if she had noticed that, in spite of all his dogmatism, he did not, in his humbler moments, even profess to have closed the door of inquiry on a subject concerning which his means of coming to an authoritative conclusion were far inferior to those of some of his contemporaries, many of his predecessors, and thousands of those who have approached the inquiry with that added knowledge of many centuries which God has vouchsafed to His Church by the Light of His Holy Spirit, shining age after age in the hearts of His Prophets and His Sons.
NOTE ON ACCOMODATION ( Oikonomia, Sugkatabasi s , Dispensatio).
The first Church writer who uses the word "oeconomy" in the sense of "accommodation" is Clemens of Alexandria (Strom. vi.). To use "oeconomy" was also called acting kata sumperiforan . The word "condescension" ( sugkatabasi s) occurs in St. Chrysostom (Hom. iii. in Tit.). The Fathers attribute "oeconomy" not only to St. Paul (e.g. when he circumcised Timothy), but even to our Lord. Thus St. Basil is so bold as to remark on Matt. xxiv. 37, touto dia p--spoihth s agnoia s oikonomei (Ep. 8, p. 84). This surely is a bad instance of irreverent reverence.
"Towards the uninitiated," says Gieseler,*(1) "the Alexandrians regarded a certain accommodation as necessary, which might venture to make use of even of falsehood for the attainment of a good end, nay, which was even obliged to do so; and hence they did not scruple to acknowledge such an accommodation in many ecclesiastical doctrines."
*(1) Eccl. History, i. 234, E. tr.
The doctrine came to them from Plato, who allows the use of falsehood as a kind of moral medicine.*(1) Philo borrowed from Plato the same notion. Truth ought always to be used, he says, to the initiated and the noble-natured; but those whose natures are dull and blunt, and blind and childish, need a sort of healing treatment. "Let all such, therefore, learn things that are false by means of which they may be benefitea if they cannot acquire sober-mindedness by means of truth."*(2)
*(1) De Rep. iii. en farmakou eidei.
*(2) Philo, Quod Deus sit immutabilis, p. 302
From Plato and Philo this unwholesome tendency — which it will be seen goes farther than the mere suppression of truths beyond the comprehension of the hearer — was inherited by the great Alexandrian Fathers.
"They," says St. Clemens, "are not in reality liars who sumperiferomenoi (take circuitous methods) because of the 'oeconomy' of salvation."*(1)
*(1) Clem. Alex. Strom. vi. p. 802.
"Let a man, however," says Origen, referring to the above-quoted passage of Plato, "who is obliged to speak falsely, be very careful so to use falsehood sometimes as a spice and medicament, otherwise," he adds, "we shall be judged as enemies of Him who said, 'I am the truth.'"*(1)
*(1) Strom. vi. Ap. Jer. Apol. I in Rufin. 18. There is a tract on "accommodation" by F. A. Carus, Leipz. 1793.
Again, in another passage, Origen quotes the remark of Solon, that he had not proposed the best laws possible, but the best he could; and applies it to the Christian doctrine of punishments, the threat of which was best adapted to the amendment of obstinate sinners.*(1)
*(1) Contr. Celsum, iii. 159.
It was to eschatology especially that this doctrine was applied. Both Clemens and Origen avowed that they had certain esoteric doctrines,*(1) and the latter expressly implies that they were in part eschatological. In the Stromata, St. Clemens says that there were some things which he was afraid to write, because he was on his guard even against speaking them.*(2)
*(1) Orig. c. Cels. i. p. 7.
*(2) foboumeno s legin a kai grafein efulaxamhn, Strom. i. p. 324, and speaking of eschatology, ta d alla sigw doxazwn ton kupion . Comp. Origen, De Princip. i. vi. i.
Origen speaks of "hidden mysteries of God which must not be committed to paper," and will not linger on some subjects "because they are known to the learned, and can never be known to the unlearned."*(1)
*(1) Orig. in Ep. Rom. ii. 479, Hom. in Lev. ix 244.
So, too, Jerome alludes to the refreshments "which are now to be hidden from those to whom fear is useful, that, dreading punishment, they may cease from sin."*(1) It is clear that he both believed in these "refreshments," and agreed with those to whose opinions he is referring.
*(1) Jer. in Is. lxvi. Ad fin.
Synesius, when he accepted the bishopric of Ptolemais, openly accepted the prae-existence of souls, and denied the resurrection of the body, and believed that "the pure truth could never become the popular faith." He held the Platonic distinction between exoteric and esoteric truth, and merely pledged himself not to teach in public any acknowledged heresy.*(1)
*(1) Synesius, Ep. 105.
The reader will find much that bears on the subject in Tracts for the Times, No. 80, "On Reserve in Communicating Religious Knowledge."
If any one will read Schrockh, Kirchengeschichte, x. 380-395, or Daille', De Usu Patrum, vi., and Cardinal Perron, De Eucharistia (passim), he will, I think, see how many of Dr. Pusey's arguments about the supposed "positive teaching" of some of his authorities fall at once to the ground.
*** END OF CHAPTER IX Part 2***