Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

the fire, no sinners have been converted, no inroads have been made on the kingdom of ignorance and vice; and Satan may

have seen with satisfaction the energies of the Christian world exerted in a form, which would never endanger the security of his empire.

But it is otherwise with the word of God. From that there is no appeal ; against that there is no resistance to be offered. Men must either be convinced and believe, or must throw off the selfdelusion of religion together with its semblance. In this case, they cannot protect their disobedience by a long-protracted combat; they cannot be defending their sins by disputing the authority which condemns them. The contest must be at once decided; and they must soon be made to feel that the Scriptures are to them the savour of life unto life, or of death unto death.

63

CHAPTER IV.

Different plans of study which have been

recommended, considered. The method already suggested, shown to be preferable; and the objections, that it is deficient in system, or may lead to latitudinarianism, answered.

It still may be urged against this view of the study of theology, that it labours under the insuperable fault of want of system. The nature of the sacred volume itself, composed of a variety of parts, and those parts joined together according to rules which are not always obvious or satisfactory; some of them historical, some didactic ; some poetical, others prose; in general following chronological order in their arrangement, and in some particulars deviating from it: these circumstances may be named as a source of inevitable confusion and error to the student, who takes the Bible as his plan of study.

There are two other modes of proceeding; of which the one deserves attention from the authority which recommends it; and the other from its general adoption; but neither of which seem free from objections of still greater weight than those which

may be urged against this. The first of these methods proceeds on the idea, that the student may commence the study of divinity, with a mind exempt from all pre-conceived ideas on the subject. He is to take up his Bible as he would any other book which treats of a new science, and to begin his theological labours with examining the claims which the book possesses, and the genuineness and authenticity of its parts. The obvious objection to this plan, is its impossibility; the utter impossibility that, in a Christian country, such a state of mind should ever be really and truly brought to the study in question; or that the attempt to produce it should be any thing more than a fiction devised for the purpose, an imaginary rather than an actual frame of mind. By the time of life when men have gone through their preparatory courses of education, and are beginning to enter upon theology, they must have adopted a system of belief which is incompatible with this philosophical state of indifference. If education, if example, if the influence of parental piety, has not already decided their opinions to the side of truth, the interval cannot have been passed in neutrality, and the enemy will have been stocking the ground with tares, which has not been occupied with wheat. However specious, therefore, the idea may seem of commencing the study at once, and from a given point, the practice

| 11

is impossible. The study has been begun unconsciously at a much earlier period. The mind has taken a bias which must effectually prevent all such impartiality of consideration as is supposed, all such rectitude of judgment as is essential to the discovery and reception of truth ; and men would only deceive themselves, if they thought that it was possible to begin the study of theology with minds which should combine the maturity of ripe reason with the simplicity of childhood.

Another objection, and one which in the present case seems insurmountable, arises from the circumstances of those to whom it must be recommended. That time is short, and art is long, is the reflection excited in the mind of

every student when he contemplates the extent of science, and compares it with the period he can devote to its pursuit; but the time which can be given by the parochial clergy to studies purely profes

1

« ForrigeFortsett »