We must also see, however, whether the scriptures may not perhaps indicate this further truth, that just as the legislation is presented with greater clearness and distinctness in Deuteronomy than those books which were written at the first, so also we may gather from that coming of the Saviour which he fulfilled in humility, when he ‘took upon him the form of a servant,’ an indication of the ‘more splendid and glorious second coming of the glory of his Father,’ at which coming, when in the kingdom of heaven all the saints shall live by the law of the ‘eternal gospel,’ the figure of Deuteronomy will be fulfilled; and just by his present coming he has fulfilled that law which has a ‘shadow of the good things to come,’ so also by that glorious coming the shadow of his first coming will be fulfilled and brought to perfection. For the prophet has spoken of it thus: ‘The breath of our countenance is Christ the Lord, of whom we said that under his shadow we shall live among the nations,’ that is, at the time when he shall duly transfer all the saints from the temporal to the eternal gospel, to use the phrase employed by John in the Apocalypse, where he speaks of the ‘eternal gospel.’
But if we continue our inquiries as far as the passion, to seek for this in the heavenly places will seem a bold thing to do. Yet if there are ‘spiritual host of wickedness’ in the heavenly places, consider whether, just as we are not ashamed to confess that he was crucified here in order to destroy those whom he destroyed through his suffering, so we should not fear to allow that similar event also happens there and will happen in the ages to come until the end of the whole world.
But in all these matters let it suffice us to conform our mind to the rule of piety and to think of the Holy Spirit’s words not as a composition depending upon feeble human eloquence but in accordance with the sayings of Scripture, ‘All the king’s glory is within’, and, ‘a treasure’ of divine meanings lies hidden within the ‘frail vessel’ of the poor letter. If, however, a reader is more curious and persists in asking for an explanation of every detail, let him come and hear along with us how the apostle Paul, scanning by the aid of the Holy Spirit, who ‘searches even the depths of God,’ the ‘depth of divine wisdom and knowledge,’ and not being able to reach the end and to attain, if I may say so, an innermost knowledge, in his despair and amazement at the task cries out and says, ‘O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!’ And in what despair of reaching a perfect understanding he uttered this cry, hear him tell us himself: ‘How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out.’ He did not say that God’s judgments were hard to search out, but that they could not be searched out at all; not that his ways were hard to find out, but that they were impossible to find out. For however far one may advance in the search and make progress through an increasingly earnest study, even when aided and enlightened in mind by God’s grace, he will never be able to reach the final goal of his inquiries.
For no created mind can by any means possess the capacity to understand all; but as soon as it has discovered a small fragment of what it is seeking, it again sees other things that must be sought for; and if in turn it comes to know these, it will again see arising out of them many more things that demand investigation. this is why Solomon, wisest of men, whose wisdom gave him a clear view of the nature of things, says: ‘I said, I will become wise; and wisdom herself was taken far from me, farther than she was before; and who shall find out her profound depth?’ Moreover Isaiah, knowing that the beginning of things could not be discovered by mortal nature, no, and not even by those natures which, through diviner than man’s nature, are yet themselves made and created, knowing, I say, that none of these could discover either the beginning or the end says, ‘Tell ye the former things, what they were, and we shall know that ye are gods; or declare the last things, what they are, and then shall we see that ye are gods.’
My Hebrew teacher also use to teach as follows, that since the beginning or the end of all things could not be comprehended by any except our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, this was the reason why Isaiah spoke of there being in the vision that appeared to him two seraphim only, who with the two wings cover the face of God, with two cover his feet, and with two fly, crying one to another and saying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ For because the two seraphim alone have their wings over the face of God and over his feet, we may venture to declare that neither the armies of the holy angels, nor the holy thrones, nor dominions, nor principalities, nor powers can wholly know the beginnings of all things and the ends of the universe. We must understand, however, that those holy spirits and powers who are here enumerated are nearest to the beginnings of things and reach a point which the rest of creation cannot attain to. Nevertheless whatever it is that these powers may have learned through the revelation of the Son of God and of the Holy Spirit – and they will certainly be able to acquire a great deal of knowledge, and the higher ones much more than the lower – still it is impossible for them to comprehend everything; for it is written, ‘The more part of God’s works are secret.’
It is therefore to be desired that each one according to his capacity will ever ‘reach out to things which are before, forgetting those things which are behind,’ that is, will reach out both to better works and also to a clearer understanding and knowledge, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, to whom is glory for ever.