Oeconomy (οἰκονομία, stewardship) is a term sometimes used to designate the entire suppression or temporary withholding, in the instruction of the great mass of Christians, of a large portion of the Gospel doctrines which are the most earnestly set forth in Scripture, as a sort of esoteric mystery of which ordinary believers are unworthy, and which should be dealt out with the managing discretion of a steward οἰκνόμος only as a reward for a long course of pious submission. Those who vindicate this system represent it to themselves and others as the same with the gradual initiation of Christians in the knowledge of their religion, in proportion as they "are able to bear it:" able, that is, and willing to understand each point that is presented to their minds. The opponents of the system, on the other hand, maintain that it confounds things essentially different. While they allow the necessity of gradual teaching, as of reading the first line of a passage before a second; and while they readily admit that care is requisite to avoid teaching anything which though true in itself, would be falsely understood by the hearers, they contend that this necessary caution is not to be confounded with the system of withholding a portion of Gospel truth from those able and willing to receive it, the system of "shunning to set before man all the counsel of God," and of having one kind of religion for the initiated few, and another for the mass of the Christian world. The opponents of the "œconomical" system assert, moreover, that very different was the apostle Paul's Gospel, which he assures us, "if it was hid, was hid from them that are lost" (men on the road to destruction, ἀπολλυμένοις), "whom the god of this world hath blinded" (2Co 4:4-5). SEE RESERVE.

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