Of the manifold meaning of the Holy Scriptures.
BUT as the renewal of our soul grows by means of this study, Scripture also will begin to put on a new face, and the beauty
of the holier meanings will somehow grow with our growth. For their form is adapted to the capacity of man's understanding,
and will appear earthly to carnal people, and divine to spiritual ones, so that those to whom it formerly appeared to be involved
in thick clouds, cannot apprehend its subtleties nor endure its light. But to make this which
we are aiming at somewhat clearer by an instance, it will be enough to produce a single passage of the law, by which we
can prove that all the heavenly commands as well are applied to men in accordance with the measure of our state. For it is
written in the law: "Thou shalt not commit adultery."815815
This is rightly observed according to the simple meaning of the letter, by a man who is still in bondage to foul passions.
But by one who has already forsaken these dirty acts and impure affections, it must be observed in the spirit, so that he
may forsake not only the worship of idols but also all heathen superstitions and the observance of auguries and omens and
all signs and days and times, or at any rate that he be not entangled in the conjectures of words and names
which destroy the simplicity of our faith. For by fornication of this kind we read that Jerusalem was defiled, as she
committed adultery "on every high hill and under every green tree,"816816
whom also the Lord rebuked by the prophet, saying: "Let now the astrologers stand and save thee, they that gazed at the stars
and counted the months, that from them they might tell the things that shall come to thee,"817817
of which fornication elsewhere also the Lord says in rebuking them: "The spirit of fornication deceived them, and they went
a whoring from their God."818818
But one who has forsaken both these kinds of fornication, will have a third kind to avoid, which is contained in the superstitions
of the law and of Judaism; of which the Apostle says: "Ye observe days and months and times and years;" and again: "Touch
not, taste not, handle not."819819
And there is no doubt that this is said of the superstitions of the law, into which one who has fallen has certainly gone
a whoring from Christ, and is not worthy to hear this from the Apostle: "For I have espoused you to one husband, to exhibit
you as a chaste virgin to Christ."820820
But this that follows will be directed to him by the words of the same Apostle: "But I am afraid lest as the serpent by his
cunning deceived Eve, so your minds should be corrupted and fall from the simplicity which is in Christ Jesus."821821
But if one has escaped the uncleanness even of this fornication there will still be a fourth, which is committed by adulterous
intercourse with heretical teaching. Of which too the blessed Apostle speaks: "I know that after my departure grievous wolves
shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and of yourselves also shall arise men speaking perverse things so as to
lead astray the disciples after them."822822
But if a man has succeeded in avoiding even this, let him beware lest he fall by a more subtle sin into the guilt of fornication.
I mean that which consists in wandering thoughts, because every thought which is not only shameful but even idle, and departing
in however small a degree from God is regarded by the perfect man as the foulest fornication.