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and of course defectively and with its own opinion lay at the very founpartiality. But when the heat of dation of religion, and to exalt it to the controversy had subsided, then an essential article of faith. The the dispassionate inquirer could triumphant party generally set forth weigh the arguments on both sides, its creed, defining articles of faith and profit by the new views which and prescribing phraseology, in or. had opened to the visions of the der to exclude from their communcombatants while sharpened by col- ion all who differed from them. lision. Yet advantageous as reli- Thus the Arian controversy gare gious controversies may have been rise to a creed respecting the Trinto the cause of theology, by giving ity, and the Nestorian controversy birth to more correct statements caused the person and natures of and better illustrations of the truth; Christ to be carefully determined ; not a little injury has also resulted and generally, religious contests from them. Seldom were they gui- have been the means of establishded by the love of truth ; but gene- ing new dogmas, and of giving a rally by violent party zeal subver- new form and stricter definitions to sive of all calm investigation. Sel- old ones. dom too, were they decided accor While a zeal for purity of docding to evidence; but oftener by ex- trine caused new speculative opintraneous circumstances, and some ions to be introduced, there were times by the decrees of the civil some distinguished men, whose atpower. The modest voice of truth tention was directed to the practical was drowned by the impassioned abuses of doctrines. To counterzeal of the stout polemic, and the act such abuses, they advanced promore boldly and fiercely defended positions which became distinguishcause often prevailed over the more ing doctrines of themselves and righteous. Polemic contests have their party. Why, for instance, led to useless speculations, and di- did Luther lay so much stress on verted attention from what is most justification by faith alone, without important, the practical bearing of works? Because he saw the human religion. They gave occasion for satisfactions for sin in the Catholic framing new articles of faith ; by church, to be worthless ; and the which the circle of subjects open to meritorious works, by which the free inquiry was more and more con- men of that age expected to purtracted, and the Christian religion chase remission of their sins, exciwas reduced to a precise form, to ted his strong disgust. which the highest importance was As the necessities of the times attached. The most important ef- caused many doctrines, so on the fects of controversies on the cause of other hand, many doctrines changtheology, were the following: new ed their character, because they principles were brought to light, were retained unaltered in a difwhich before were unknown; and . ferent state of the world. Princiothers that were known, were mod. ples that had once been harmless ified and supported by new argu- and even useful, became hurtful, ments. The estimate of the rela- when held fast after the state of tive importance of doctrines was things was totally changed. That changed; and many a point, on the early Christians, for example, which little stress had been laid, should at first have regarded oral was elevated to an essential article communications, which were handof religion, and all who rejected ited down in the church, as their consigned to the class of heretics. only source of religious knowledge, For each party in a controversy en- and afterwards should have coupdeavoured to make it appear, that led the Christian scriptures with
tradition, cannot surprise us. The ments, appears from the examples circumstances and necessities of of John Damascen, Thomas Aquithe times naturally led to this. nas, Anselm and others. But, that Christians should regard In particular, the neglect or tradition as a proper source of cultivation of good taste has had knowledge, in modern times, when considerable influence on theology. the lapse of centuries has rendered When the religious teachers were it uncertain, and the stream has very sensitive to the beautiful, the become so turbid by foreign mix- sublime, and the simple, and espetures, must be very prejudicial to cially when the study of the unritheology.
valled classic works of the Greeks FOURTH CAUSE, different helps and Romans enlightened and guided for pursuing theology.
their vision, the effects were appaThe sciences stand in close alli- rent in their theological producance; each contributes directly or tions. Their cultivated taste led indirectly to enrich, correct or sup- them to avoid useless speculations port the others; and with the cul- and digressions, to exclude the lumtivation of the sciences, the pro- ber of useless words, and to exhibit gress of theology is intimately con- religious truths in a profitable and nected. When barbarism spreads becoming manner. Among the rewide, then religion degenerates in- spectable names to which theology to mere forms of worship, and its is a debtor, I will mention only those doctrines are stamped with the of Erasmus and Melancthon. On ignorance of the age. Supersti- the contrary, when good taste fled tion prevails, and multiplies the ar- from the field of theology, then dogticles of faith immeasurably. The matics shrunk up to a dry skeleton, more mysterious any doctrine is, acuteness degenerated into intricathe more it distances all human cy, precision into logomachy, and conception, so much the truer and solidity into subtilty. Whoever reads more holy is it. The weakest proof, the scholastic divines, e. g. Anselm, -the bare assertion of a man of in- Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, cannot fluence, or even a marvellous story, but admire their intellectual acuis enough to satisfy a superstitious men; and he would often follow man and control his faith. Every with pleasure the no ordinary train doubt of a proposition so supported, of their thoughts, if every page did is in his view, treason against the not vexatiously remind him, that church and against God, and can be acuteness only, and not a chastened expiated only by the blood of the taste, was the inheritance of the audacious doubter. The more igno- scholastics. rant men are, the more credulous As the cultivation of learning and also; and among such, it is easy taste in general, had a close confor an honest enthusiast or a cun- nexion with the state of dogmatics; ning deceiver to give currency to so especially has the use of certain the most senseless thoughts. The auxiliary branches of knowledge, history of the middle ages affords namely biblical interpretation, phiabundant proof, how low theology losophy and history, had a direct can sink, when ignorance becomes influence on Christian theology. universal, and superstition mounts The scriptures of the Old and the throne. That great acuteness New Testaments have, from the beof intellect will seldom preserve a ginning, been regarded by Christman from the infection of a reign- ians as a legitimate source of their ing superstition, but only enables religious principles; and they must him to refine upon it, and to sup- be vastly preferable to dubious traport it by more plausible argu- dition, if we would ascertain the VOL. I.-No. III.
pure doctrines of Christ. Now guages, but also just principles of when the Bible was snatched from interpretation, are necessary for de. the hands of Christians, and kept riving doctrines from the scriptures. back as an obscure or dangerous We may compare them to a glass, book ; the faith of Christians must through which the scriptures are of course have rested wholly on the viewed, and which imparts its own authority of their teachers, and it colour to all the objects seen. If became loaded with much that was in expounding the Bible, we assume not genuine. On the other hand, some one principle as our fundathe free use and careful study of mental rule, from which we will the holy scriptures, promoted a re- never deviate,--as for example, the formation in theology ; for many a authority of the church, or of some dogma would be given up, when distinguished theologian ;-- or if men discovered that the Bible con- we chase every ingenious allegory tained not a vestige of it, or per- through all its windings, and in adhaps direct confutations of it. dition to the simple meaning of the
As the use of the Bible was so words, seek for hidden and mysteimportant, much also depended up- rious meanings ; we shall be led to on the manner in which it was in- very different results, and shall colterpreted. If the languages of the lect very different materials for our original were neglected, transla- system of theology, than if we had tions must be relied on; and as examined the sense of holy scripthese seldom expressed the origi- ture by grammatical rules, and had nal accurately, men were in danger transferred ourselves back to the of believing doctrines, on the au- age and the circumstances of the thority of the Bible, of which no writers. To be sensible of the ef. traces occurred in the original. fects of a change in exegesis on Examples in point, are numerous. dogmatics, we need only compare The earlier Christians taught that one of the recent systems of theolGod had committed the inhabitants ogy, with a system written forty of the world to the superintendence years ago. It will be seen at of angels, and that themselves had the first glance, that many tenets, charge of the Jewish people. They once supposed to be undeniably likewise taught, that a part of the biblical, are now regarded as not angels had debauched the daugh- biblical, and are therefore either ters of men, and for this crime were expunged from the system of divinthrust out of heaven. The first of ity, or are stated very differently, these opinions was derived from since the time that Ernesti and Deut. xxxii. 8, 9, and the last, from Semler introduced new principles Gen. vi. 2. Neither would have of interpretation. been found in the Bible, had not The state of philosophy has likethe Septuagint version been their wise contributed much to the chansole dependance. But the conse- ges in theology. The doctrines of quences of neglecting the original a revealed religion ought indeed to text are most apparent in the Latin be sought for only in a hermeneutifathers, who being confined to their cal and historical way: mixing phiLatin translation, drew from it many losophy with such a religion, must opinions, which with more knowl. be viewed as in a sense corrupting edge of philosophy, they could nev- it. But when its doctrines have er have derived from the Bible. Va- been ascertained, we cannot avoid rious examples occur even in Au- an inquiry, how far they agree with gustine, who as an interpreter was the dictates of philosophy; and the long admired and followed. great use of philosophy, in stating,
Not only a knowledge of lan- arranging and supporting these doce
trines can not be denied. Now phi- ions. Impartial history shews us losophy has had both her friends, the origin of opinions, and thus diswho recommended her as a safe covers various tenets to be modern auxiliary to the clergy; and her op- corruptions of Christianity. It diposers, who maintained that the vests us of many prepossessions, honour of divine truth was profan- and leads us to examine and to ed by her touch. Sometimes she judge with candour. The high auwas considered only as a convenient thority of the famous ecclesiastical instrument, serviceable when used councils, for example, must sink in to support the established system; our view, when we have learned and the only offices allowed her, re- from impartial history the manner lated to the form of doctrines, the and materials of their composition, selection and statement of the and the mode of their proceedings. proofs, and the arrangement of the Yet hitherto the influence of history parts of the system. In regard to on dogmatics, has been the less exthe substance of doctrines, she tensive, because the composing of might not hazard a query, without good histories, is a service, which being charged with a criminal in- past ages have left for these later trusion into the sanctuary of reli- times to perform. gion. On the other hand, some All the causes now enumerated times she has been able either open- have affected the state of theology, ly or silently to go much farther, and sometimes more, and sometimes to raise herself from a handmaid to less, at one time silently and ima mistress. Now dogmatics must perceptibly, at another openly and have assumed a totally different as- notoriously. And though the doc. pect, according as it was pursued in trines of Jesus were always made the one or the other of these ways. the foundation, yet the modificaFrequently there was a sharp con- tions they received were numbertest between the friends and the op- less. posers of philosophy; and whenever the former triumphed, the consequence was, that theology put on
SURPRISE IN DEATH. the livery of the reigning philosophy of the age, and appeared clad “We are all borderers upon the in Platonic, Aristotelian, Cartesian, river of death, which conveys us Wolfian or Kantean drapery, as the into the eternal world, and we fashion happened to be. And yet should be ever waiting the call of theologians have always ostensively our Lord, that we may launch founded their doctrines on the Bi away, with joy, to the regions of ble, even when in fact derived from immortality ; but thoughtless creathe prevailing philosophy ; and tures that we are, we are perpetuthough the Bible was often cited ally wandering far up into the fields merely to support the conclusions of sense and time, we are gathering of philosophy, and if it did not the gay and fading flowers that readily afford such support, was grow there, and filling our laps stretched on the rack of forced in- with them as a fair treasure, or terpretation ; still every age has making garlands for ambition to claimed the merit of having a sys- crown our brows, till one and antem which was in most beautiful other of us is called off on a sudharmony with the Bible.
den, and hurried away from this Finally, theological history holds mortal coast : those of us, who a place among the auxiliary branch- survive, are surprised a little, we es of knowledge, which might con- stand gazing, we follow our departtribute to changes in religious opin- ing friends, with a sweeping eye, for a minute or two, and then we Cool groves, and shady copses here, fall to our amusements again, and
There brooks, and winding streams ap
pear, grow busy, as before, in gathering
& While change of objects still new pleas
w the flowers of time and sense. O
ures yields. how fond we are to enrich ourselves with these perishing trifles, « Farther fine castles court the eye, and adorn our heads with honours There wealth and honours we espy : and withering vanities, never think Beyond, a huddled mixture fills the stage, ing which of us may receive the
Till the remoter distance shrouds
The plains with hills, those hills with next summons to leave all behind
clouds, us, and stand before God! but
There we place death behind old shiv'ring each presumes, “it will not be
age. sent to me.” We trifle with God, and things eternal, or utterly forget
“When death, alas! perhaps too nigh,
In the next hedge doth skulking lie, them, while our hands and our
There plants his engines, thence lets fly hearts are thus deeply engaged in his dart : the pursuit of our earthly delights Which, while we ramble without fear, all our powers of thought and ac- Will stop us in our full career, tion are intensely busied amongst And
ensely busied amongst And force us from our airy dreams to the dreams of this life, while we
part.” [Watts's Works, Vol. I.] are asleep to God, because we . The first of the above quotations vainly imagine he will not call us will remind the reader of the fol
lowing beautiful lines of Cowper. “ There are some beautiful verses, which I have read perhaps thir- “Op’ning the map of God's extensive ty years ago, wherein the ingenious
We find a little isle, this life of man; author describes the different sta
Eternity's unknown expanse appears, ges of human life, under the image
Circling around and limiting his years. of a fair prospect, or landscape, The busy race examine, and explore, and death is placed, by mistaken Each creek and cavern of the dangʻrous mortals, afar off beyond them all. shore, "Since the lines return now upon
With care collect what in their eyes exmy remembrance, I will repeat Some shining pebbles, and some weeds
cels, them here with some small alter
and shells; ation. They are as follow : Thus laden, dream that they are rich and
great, “Life and the scenes that round it rise, And happiest he that groans beneath his Share in the same uncertainties.
weight: Yet still we hug ourselves with vain pre- The waves o'er take them in their serious sage,
play, Of future days, serene and long, And every hour sweeps multitudes away;
Of pleasures fresh, and ever strong, They shriek and sink, survivors start and An active youth, and slow declining age. weep,
Pursue their sport, and follow to the deep, “Like a fair prospect still we make A few forsake the throng; with lifted eyes
Things future pleasing forms to take: Ask wealth of heaven, and gain a real First, verdant meads arise, and flow'ry prize.