« PreviousContinue »
who has perceived difficulties and overcome them, is always stronger, than the persuasion of him who nev. er heard of their existence. The danger, which is apprehended, arises from superficial knowledge, which carries a man just far enough, to enable him to perceive difficulties, and there leaves him. In fact, it is not learning, but want of learning, which leads to er. ror in religion. It was the want of learning which occasioned the abuses of religion in the middle ages ; it was the learning of our early reformers, by which those abuses were corrected. Nor is that variety of religious sentiment, by which this nation is distracted, to be ascribed to learning. On the contrary, the leaders of that sect, which is now the most numerous, rather reprobate, than encourage learning; and that, in this respect, their practice agrees with their principles, is known to every man, who has once listened to their harangues. Let no one therefore apprehend, that theological learning will create divisions in the
Church of England; let no one apprehend, that it will · now undo what it did at the Reformation. It is in
fact the only method of ensuring to us the advantages of the Reformation, by guarding against enthusiasm on the one hand, and infidelity on the other.
That knowledge puffeth up, may be true of some kinds of knowledge ; and it might certainly be affirmed of that kind, to which St. Paul alludes in the passage so often misapplied by unlettered teachers, in vindication of their own defects. St. Peter commands us to add to our virtue knowledge; and St. Paul himself complains elsewhere of those, who, in re
ligious matters, have zeal which is not according to knowledge. The more we advance in the study of Divinity, the more likely are we to learn humility; the most profound Divines are generally men of modest manners; and spiritual pride and vanity is chiefly to be found among those, who are the least distinguished for theological learning.
We have every reason therefore to persevere in the study of Divinity; there is none whatever to dissuade us from it. We have every reason to applaud the wisdom of our illustrious founders, who were not of opinion, that it is easier to become a good divine, than a good mechanic; who were not of opinion, that the head requires less exercise than the hands; or that, if a seven years' apprenticeship is necessary, to learn the manual operations of a cominon trade, a less time is requsite for the intellectual attainments of a Christian teacher. No. They required a two-fold apprenticeship to Divinity; a seven years' study of the liberal arts, as preparatory to the study of Divini. ty, and another seven years' study of Divinity itself, before the student was admitted to a degree in that profession.
In conformity with the principles which directed our ancestors, in obedience to the commands of the Foundress of this Professorship, and, I hope, with the approbation of my audience, I shall proceed therefore next Saturday, at the same hour, to develop the plan, already announced in this Lecture.
In the preceding Lecture it was observed that on our entrance to the study of Divinity, we should endeavour in the first place to obtain a knowledge of the parts or branches, of which it consists; and in the second place, a knowledge of the manner, in which those parts or branches should be arranged.
Theological writers are far from being unanimous, either in regard to the number, or in regard to the kind of divisions, into which Theology should be resolved. In England especially, so little has been determined on this point, that few writers agree in their divisions; and in some of them the difference is such, that one should hardly suppose they were analysing the same subject.
A learned Prelate in our sister University, who has published a list of books recommended to the younger clergy, has made not less than fourteen divisions in Theology, which he has arranged in the following order : 1. The first division relates to Practical and Pastoral Duties. II. Devotion. Religion in general. iv. Revealed Religion. v. The Scriptures. vi. Comments on the Scriptures. vII.
Concordances, &c. VIII. Doctrines. IX. Creeds, Articles, Catechism, and Liturgy. x. Sacraments and Rites, (subdivided into Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Confirmation). XI. Constitution and Establishment of the Church of England. x11. Ecclesiastical History. XIII. Ecclesiastical Law.
XIV. Mis cellaneous subjects.—Then comes a second list, in which these fourteen divisions are repeated; and lastly a third, in which they are exchanged for another set, amounting to seventeen, which it would be really tedious to enumerate. Indeed throughout the whole of this theological arrangement there is nothing like system to be discovered: no reason is assignable for the peculiar position of any one head: nor does their disposition in any way contribute to that, which should be the primary object of every writer-perspicuity.
A more judicious Prelate of our own University, in his Preface to his Elements of Christian Theology, divides the subject into four parts. The first relates to the Exposition of the Scriptures; the second to the Divine Authority of the Scriptures; the third to the Doctrines and Discipline of the Church of Eng. land; the fourth to Miscellaneous subjects, including Sermons and Ecclesiastical History.-- In this arrangement there is method. For the Bible must be understood, before we can prove its divine authority; and both of these tasks must be performed, before we can proceed to deduce articles of faith. Sermons, it is true, should not be placed in the same class with Ecclesiastical History ; and in all systematic arrangements, the term “ miscellaneous” should be wholly
avoided. Where a classification is complete, the classes must be such, that every individual article may, in some one of them, find its
proper place. A four-fold division of Theology is a division, which has been long in use among the German divines. With them likewise the first division relates to the exposition of the Scriptures, and is termed Ex. pository Theology. The second is called, by way of eminence, Systematic Theology: it includes both evidences and doctrines. The third division is called Historical Theology: it comprises the internal, as well as external history of the Church. The fourth and last division is called Pastoral Theology, comprehending such subjects, as relate especially to the duties of a parish priest.
This division, though not universal among foreign divines, is at least the prevailing one, and the best, which has been hitherto introduced. To attempt therefore the introduction of
other may appear to savour of presumption. But as the inconveniences, which I have felt from all former ar. rangements, during a twenty years' study of this particular subject, have suggested such modifications, as seem at least to answer the purpose of theological or. der, the sole object of which either is, or should be, to represent the several parts of Theology according to their connexions and dependences, a theological arrangement, formed on this principle, will be attempted in the present Lecture.
That we should commence our theological studies with the study of that Book, from which all Christian