Page images

or render it vile by familiarity to the crowd." If this be the maxim of his school, we may learn to set a just value on the expositions and palliations of the Roman Catholic tenets lately put forth, which are, by this account, but so many lures to draw the unsuspecting crowd of heretics within the circle of Romish authority, until their disciplined and subjugated understandings are prepared for the secret and offensive dogmas. This duplicity J. K. L. justifies by the example of that very St. Paul, who, as we have seen, disavows it for himself.

Thus, St. Paul seemed to know nothing in public, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified; but he adds, that he spoke wisdom amongst the perfect." P. 92. The shamelessness of this declaration is only to be equalled by its ignorance. I cannot prevail upon myself to use more measured terms. Who, thinks he, were the first that had the effrontery to ascribe this double-dealing to the apostle? Certain heretics in the days of Irenæus, who appealed in support of their absurd tenets to a supposed secret tradition, handed down by St. Paul. The father confutes their notions, since they refused to be judged by the sure test of Scripture, by shewing them, that the voice of all pure Tradition did but accord with those Scriptures which they rejected; and J. K. L. has mistaken the objection and assertions of the heretics, as stated by Irenæus, for that father's own opinion."When," says Irenæus, "they are reproved out of Scripture, they fall to accusing the Scrip

tures themselves........ as if they be not of sufficient authority, and that the truth cannot be found out of them, by those persons that know not the Tradition; for that was not delivered by writing, but by word of mouth. For which cause Paul said, We speak wisdom among them them that are perfect." Adv. Hær. lib. iii, cap. 2. It is the heretics who thus pervert the words of the Apostle, and J. K. L. implicitly receives their silly sophistry as the reasoning of the father.

That there is an intelligent method to be observed in the teaching of revealed religion, no less than in every branch of human knowledge, is beyond controversy. Its evidences are first to be exposed,-the genuineness and inspiration of its writings proved,—the consonance of its system with right reason and natural religion illustrated. By these steps, we may securely ascend to those mysteries which exceed, though they do not contradict, the conclusions of mere reason. In such a process, no part of the truth is artfully kept back, but all the parts are exhibited in a just gradation, and the more difficult truths are shewn to exist, in strict dependency upon those which are more easy. It is the process of every intelligent teacher.-But for this method, J. K. L. has contrived to mistake "the secret doctrine," or, as he calls it, "the law of secrecy," which was the opprobium of some of the fathers, and which gave rise to those pious frauds, as they were styled, that under the

pretence of propagating religion, mainly contributed to corrupt the purity of its doctrines, and to retard its progress. The disciplina arcani, or the secret doctrine, arose not out of a prudent regard to the difference of times and places, or to the difference of capacity in the hearers; but it was an artful and pernicious reservation of meaning, exercised generally towards all men, whether Christians or not, the chosen body of the initiated into this frightful mysticism alone excepted. Its very essence consisted in keeping back a certain set of opinions and dogmas, held by the Mystagogues, in private, from the great body of the people; and even from those amongst their own disciples, on whose secrecy and fidelity they could not place a perfect reliance. It had its origin in Egypt, the fruitful parent of many other theological monsters, and thence found its way into other parts of Christendom. "Princeps hujus disciplinæ iterum meminit Clemens Alexandrinus: ante hunc nulla ejus exstat memoria." Mosheim. de reb. Christ. ante Const. sæc. sec. p. 305. Clemens had even the audacity to assert, that this double doctrine, to which he gave the appellation of, y was introduced by our Lord himself; who, he tells us, had one set of truths for the people, which are contained in his discourses, and preserved in the Gospels, and another set, which were communicated only by word of mouth to a few chosen Apostles. See Mosheim de reb. Christianor. &c. Sæc. sec. p. 306. The

same Clemens, in a passage of the Hypotoposes, preserved by Eusebius, says, that our Lord, after his resurrection, communicated these secrets to James, Justus, John, and Peter; that they made the discovery of them to the rest of the Apostles; the Apostles entrusted the precious treasure to the seventy disciples, amongst whom was Barnabas. There is, says Mosheim, a similar passage extant in the Stromata, lib. p. 322. in which Clemens adds Paul to the Apostles enumerated by Eusebius, as one who had been taught this secret doctrine by Christ himself.


Of the same nature, by J. K. L.'s account, is the Tradition of the Romish Church; and such is this writer's novel argument for the authority of a secret and oral teaching, founded on the practice of the Apostles; an argument which would convert those simple and fearless men into a set of timid knaves and calculating impostors ;-the propagators of a double doctrine, as were the heathen priests and philosophers:—whose motives for concealment were, that their secret tenets and practices were, in part, too atheistical and irreligious; in part, too scandalous and impure, to bear the light of day. By this account, the ancient apologists of christianity did but set forth a garbled statement of their doctrines, and deserved to be ignominiously driven from the presence of those Emperors, whom they sought to conciliate by apparent frankness and candour. By this account, we know not yet the essential

doctrines of that religion, by which we hope to be saved. It is what the favoured few who are in the secret, choose to make it; and the existence of this hateful system of reserve is, we must now suppose, the reason why we do not find in the Gospels, or in the writings of the primitive fathers, more clear intimations of the awful and sacred doctrine" of Transubstantiation, the gainful traffic of indulgences, the religious homage paid to images and relics, the invocation of the Virgin Mary and of canonized christians; which are the life and essence of the Romish dispensation; but which were prudently withdrawn from the inquisitive gaze of philosophic heathens, and reasoning christians.

That, by the secret and traditive doctrine, J. K. L. means the "Disciplina arcani" of Clemens, is evident, from his asserting, that "the law of secrecy" was observed in the Church even to the 5th century:-that he approves of it, is equally evident, from his saying, that if the positive law had not existed, there would have been a necessity for observing the practice. It is the dictate" of common sense;" and he goes on to justify and to recommend this system of imposture, by the example of those whom he esteems the wisest of mankind: For, says he, "there is a greater analogy between true religion"


* Tertullian was of a different opinion; Quid ergo Athenis et Hierosolymis! Quid Academia et Ecclesie? Quid hære

« PreviousContinue »