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perhaps, be found there,—though there would be no lack of fresh-gathered and fragrant flowers; but by such ministrations as they would then give to their people, it would be according to the intimation of Scripture, “He should have fed them with the finest of the wheat; and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee."
J. What works do you place under the other subdivision of this second class?
S. Those which furnish complete systems of divinity, Theological Institutes. On the Continent, the older Lutheran and Calvinist divines supplied a considerable number of works of this class: and our own language is by no means destitute of them. Various principles of arrangement have been adopted; but the result has been the same,-a scheme, more or less particular as to the details, embracing the whole compass of revealed religion. Baxter, whose great object was the reduction of all theory to practice, wrote for that purpose his “Christian Directory:” a work which impressively exhibits the character of its author, both as to excellencies and deficiencies,-perhaps, speaking of Baxter, we should add, redundancies,—but which, as a scheme of truth referred to practice, would not be an unworthy companion to Bishop Pearson's more doctrinal work. Lawson, a contemporary of Baxter, wrote a small (but perhaps not the less valuable) work on systematic divinity, taking as his leading principle, the fact, that religion is the kingdom of God. He called his volume “ Theo-politica.” I purposely abstain from more modern compositions; nor do I mention by name the works of continental divines to which I have alluded. I only point out a class which cannot be studied without advantage. Truth cannot be properly understood unless the inter-relations of its various parts be distinctly noticed; and to aid him in this work, the systematic divines must have a share of the minister's attention.
J. Have you any other class of theological writers?
S. You may consider as a third, works on separate subjects. of theology, whether what are commonly called doctrinal, or more directly practical. And here, too, are to be referred the works which treat on ecclesiastical questions. Christian
practice, in fact, implies both religious and moral duties; and religious duties include not only those which have God, our Creator, our Sovereign, our chief good and last end, as their object, immediately and directly, but which refer to him through the institutions of the church of Christ.
J. Have you another class ?
S. It will be sufficient for my purpose to point out one more, agreeing in some respects with the one I have last mentioned, and in others, with that formed by the commentators. I now refer to Sermons. They partake of the nature of comment, in that they refer to separate portions of Scripture; but they likewise partake of the character of treatises—though brief ones—on detached religious subjects. The English language is particularly rich in this respect : not merely in the number, but in the quality, of the sermons which it contains. They are far from being mere declamatory addresses. They are, for the most part, short treatises, expository and practical, on some religious subject, suggested by the portion of holy writ taken as the text. Perhaps I ought to say, that, in very many instances, while they are admirably adapted for private perusal in the study and the closet, they do not furnish good specimens of all that a pulpit address ought to be. They are often deficient in discriminative and warm application. I send you to many of them as to short, but often luminous and complete treatises, to be studied in reference to the subjects to which they refer, not as models for your own imitation.
J. These four classes, then, you take, not perhaps as including the whole compass of theological writers, but as an orderly representation of them?
S. That is my meaning. But I should like to add, if not a fifth class, yet a useful appendix. I now refer to those biographical works which are directly religious and spiritual. Perhaps you will allow me to enlarge the description so as to include all works which are, in reference to their object, more immediately devotional. Christianity is a life as well as a light. In the English language we have many works which, without going so minutely into detail as Augustine has done in his “ Confessions,” do nevertheless describe, not
only the Christian character, but the exercises of the Christian life; its interior as well as exterior exercises. There are persons who ridicule the journals of religious experience which have been published. No one thinks of defending them all, any more than one would defend all the treatises which any subject may have called forth. But in this class of writings there are some of high value. At the same time that they enlighten, they enliven you. They help you both in head and in heart. I will venture to say that if you not give a fitting proportion of your time to these, you will be criminally defective. And while they serve to excite your Christian affections, there is another, and far from an unimportant purpose which they will promote,—they will show that it is not on one section of the church alone that the
grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,” are found to abide; and that the personal exercises and results of true religion are far less dissimilar than the external differences which so painfully exist, might lead the careless or the scoffer to suppose. As men approach nearer to the sanctuary of religion, where God manifests himself, and is all in all, differences melt away, and the true unity of the Spirit begins to appear. I have heard of a Christian minister who read this class of works particularly on the Saturday, in reference to the labours of the succeeding day. Remember, that there must be not only intellectual clearness, but spiritual unction, in the true minister of Christ.
J. And do these classes comprise all those which you would enumerate as properly theological?
S. No. There are two more. One, correctly speaking, is religious truth viewed under a particular aspect; the other is the statement of facts, in their succession and relation, so far as they are of a religious character.
J. How do you name these?
S. The first is theulogy, in some of vluer of its departments, considered in reference to its opponents. This is polemic or controversial divinity. It may be painful, when the mind is disposed to forbearance and peace, to engage in contests: but this will, in all probability, be necessary; and
you must therefore prepare for it. You have your own scheme of truth. You have studied it. You are conscientiously persuaded of its correctness. You are prepared to preach it for the salvation of your hearers. But there are certain points which are contradicted. These you must seriously consider. Are they true? That is the question; and satisfied on that point, the next is,—How are their opponents to be met and refuted? I again say, polemic divinity may not be pleasant to you: I should wish you to cultivate such a spirit as that you shall always feel controversy to be painful. A disputatious temper is not a right one. But you must defend what you believe to be the truth; and for that defence you must be prepared. In other words, you must study polemic theology.
J. And what description do you give of the facts connected by the orderly statement of their succession, and bearing direct relation to theology itself?
S. I refer to what is usually called ecclesiastical history: the account of the progress of religion, whether by extension or succession. Revelation is a fact. It has been variously dealt with by man.
It has been watched over, aided, promoted, by the providence of God. The history of all this is ecclesiastical history. And I may not dismiss this without saying, that if the Bible be a revelation from God, then is the Gospel “ the kingdom of God," and therefore, God's
The Omnipotent Creator and Ruler has a cause in the earth, the fortunes of which (to speak after the manner of men) he himself has predicted. History, if this be true, will be the continual unfoldment of the divine purposes : religion teaches the set of the current, and explains its cause. All history thus assumes, though not an ecclesiastical, yet a religious, character; and is to be studied by the Christian minister in these its theological references.
J. Have you anything more to say as to the theological branch of study ?
S. Were it my object to comprehend an entire scheme of study, and to be so minute as to omit not a single important particular, I might say much more. But I keep in view your own self-improvement. I mark out a path for you,
show you both its direction and ultimate object. As you travel along, you may make excursions to the right hand and to the left, and thus increase your knowledge of the country through which you are passing, without making your journey desultory. I would therefore only add, that as all your studies are to be pursued in reference to one continually remembered design, they may all be said to be theological. Whatever you study, you will study as a minister, and for the fulfilment of your ministerial intentions. But we must not lose sight of studies which, though not formally theological, are yet, in all ordinary cases, necessary to aid you in securing the objects which you contemplate.
MINISTERIAL STUDY MUST EMBRACE THE PROPER INSTRUMENTS BOTH OF ATTAINING AND OF COMMUNICATING KNOWLEDGE.
S. I HAVE already stated to you the need of the accompanying power of God to make all your ministrations publicly, as well as all your studies privately, effectual. But let me remind you that God ordinarily works by fitting means; and while we depend upon his aid, we are, among other ways of securing it, to seek to render ourselves, in the order of means, suitable instruments for the work to be accomplished by our agency. Suppose, then, that the work you have to perform is to be done, simply by the influence of mind upon mind. If you were desirous of success, and all your success thus depended on yourself, how would you prepare yourself for your work? Once for all, let me impress this rule on your mind: So pray, as though the grace of God were everything: so prepare yourself for your public work, especially, as if your own power of address were everything. Keeping this before you, I have now to call you to consider another class of studies. I may refer to them in few words, but your attention to them must be long, and accurate, and extensive. That you may acquire knowledge with the greater facility, and that with the greater facility you may communicate what you have acquired, the laws governing the various operations of the human intellect