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Cl2 64, 11.40
HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
· 1895; March 22.
Hoc philosophiæ genus in affectibus situm est, verius quam in syllogismis; vita est magis, quam disputatio; afflatus potius quam eruditio ; transformatio magis, quam ratio.
Tantum esto docilis et multum in hac philosophia promovisti. Ipsa suppeditat doctorem spiritum, qui nulli sese lubentius impertit, quam simplicibus animis. At rursum ita non deest infimis ut summis etiam sit admirabilis. Quid artem aliud est Christi philosophia, quam ipse renascentiam vocat, quam instauratio bene conditæ naturæ.-Erasmus. Ilveõua SwoTOLOūv. 1 Cor. xv. 45.
CHRISTIANITY, and the arguments on which it is established, have a universal and never to be diminished value. The reasonings of politicians, and even of philosophers, have a limited application : those of the Christian teacher pertain to the interests of mankind at large; and neither time nor circumstance can diminish their real importance, or deprive them of the interest they possess in thoughtful and ingenuous minds. But this can only properly be said of Christian doctrine purely and honestly exhibited; or of meditations on its application, which display throughout the spirit of its precepts, their elevation, their simplicity, their benignity. Theology, therefore, is a science which can recognize no fundamental principle not plainly traceable in the book of God; nor can it be expected to produce any effect, however. taught, without the assistance of that same divine influence which originally gave efficacy to the written word. Its vast importance, on the other hand, to the world at large, demands our most careful cultivation; and from this twofold consideration we arrive at the conclusion, that in the writings of those men whose hearts were confessedly imbued with the love of God, and whose minds with patient labour, and in the exercise of devout thoughts, stored up divine precept, Christians may look with safety for the expanded argument of their faith ; may find therein the living fountain of truth still on the flow; and discover those traces of the divine Spirit which give equal light and encouragement to the anxious inquirer after knowledge.
One of the chief benefits conferred upon mankind by the writings of eminent Christians, is found in the uniformity of their assent to the prime doctrines of grace. Differing in expression, in the forms of statement, in the species of illustration employed, and even in the advocacy of their several ecclesiastical systems, they agree in whatever concerns the fundamental relations of man to God; and redemption and the methods of sanctification, as described in the pages of the earliest fathers, have been spoken of with equal clearness by each successive generation of Christ's faithful servants. There is one Spirit and one faith, is the golden inscription on the portal of the church; and the lesson it conveys is repeated in every proof that can be given of the communion of God's chosen people.
The importance of this uniformity of testimony to the doctrines of grace, is greatly increased by the efforts which have been made in the world to modify or suppress them. It is nothing less than dishonesty to pretend that these efforts have been confined to the ordinary movements of declared opponents of the gospel. Unfortunately, the history of religious opinion abounds in evidence that the most systematic attempts have been made by professors of Christianity to lower the standard of its doctrines; and this in the face of truth, so fully and implicitly set forth, that the hostility to its lessons must needs be regarded as direct rather than incidental.
It is the noble characteristic of our older theologians, and of those who followed in their track, that they ever seek, with the overflowing gratitude of love, to make known and exalt the mercy of the Almighty. They show no petty anxiety to save the credit of human nature, by asserting its independence of God; nor any desire to luxuriate in the spectacle of a race of fallen creatures made brave, generous, and true, by the force of moral precept. Satisfied of the universality of the divine goodness, and of the thankless and rebellious character of man, they rejoice in contemplating the method whereby their great originating cause of being has still continued to work, securing the recovery of the lost, and the glory of the recovered. Instead of speaking as if their happiness or dignity depended on proving what they could do by their own energy and knowledge, they point to the grace of God as the true source of power; and acknowledging that every good and every perfect gift is from above, describe the convictions of faith as the fruit of spiritual and moral conversion.
The vast difference between the style of these writers, and that employed by the simple advocates of moral discipline, must be attributed either to an uncertainty in the statement of doctrine, as found in Scripture itself, or to the opposite nature of the aim which these various parties have had in view. How few believers in revelation would feel willing to shelter the difficulties of their system under the plea, that the broad outline of Scripture truth is but faintly described : and if we are left to examine the probable interpretation of God's word, by an appeal to the known aim of the interpreters, that surely may most safely be received in which the goodness and justice of God are most manifestly displayed.
Christianity may be studied, and its value estimated, first, as it is a spiritual and regenerative system; and secondly, as it operates on the world by its precepts and by its gradually acquired political authority. Under each of these views the subject demands attentive consideration; but the social character of Christianity, or that by which it acts