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Full text of "Inauguration of the Rev. Benjamin B. Warfield, D.D., as professor of didactic and polemic theology"

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INAUGURATION 



REV. BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD, D.D., 



PROFESSOR 



DIDACTIC AND POLEMIC THEOLOGY. 



NEW YORK: 

ANSON D. F. RANDOLPH & COMPANY. 

i8S8. 



COPYRIGHT, lS88, BY 

Anson D. F. Randolph & Company. 



PRESS OF 

EDWARD 0. JENKINS' SONS, 

NEW »OSK. 



PREFATORY NOTE. 



The Rev. Benjamin B. Warfield, D.D., was elected 
Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology in Princeton 
Seminary, at a special meeting of the Board of Directors, 
held in February, 1887. His formal inauguration was 
postponed at his own request, and took place by appoint- 
ment, on Tuesday, May 8, 1888, at 11.30 o'clock, in the 
First Presbyterian Church of Princeton. The order of 
exercises on this occasion was as follows : "" 

Hymn. 

Prayer, by the Rev. Dr. Philip Schaff, Professor in Union Theo- 
logical Seminary, New York. 

Administration of the Pledge to the New Professor, by 
the Rev. Dr. Gos.man, President of the Board of Directors. 

The Charge, by the Rev. Dr. James T. Leftwich, Pastor of the 
First Presbyterian Church, Baltimore. 

The Inaugural Address, by Professor Warfield. 

Benediction, 



The Charge and Inaugural Address are here published by order 
of the Board of Directors. 



THE CHARGE. 

BY 

THE REV. JAMES T. LEFTWICH, D.D. 



CHARGE. 



My dear Brother: 

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the Profes- 
sorship in this Seminary to which you have been called. In 
doing so, by a very natural train of associations I am re- 
minded of the illustrious men who have preceded you here 
in the chair of Theology, who, having finished their labors, 
have entered into rest. First, in the order of time, was Dr. 
Archibald Alexander, in the highest sense of the term, not 
involving inspiration, a Seer, whose swift intuitions so often 
anticipated the conclusions, which, by rigorous processes of 
Logic, he subsequently reached only to verify and confirm 
them. Then came Dr. Charles Hodge, the great scholar as 
well as thinker, whose vast erudition was digested into 
stately volumes, which stand on the shelves of our libraries 
side by side with the ponderous works of Augustine, Cal- 
vin, Turretin, and Edwards; of them all, perhaps, the most 
widely read in our day, at least among English-speaking 
peoples. It was every way fitting that such a father as he 
should be succeeded, in his labors and in his honors, by 
such a son as the late lamented Dr. Archibald Alexander 
Hodge ; a man of brilliant genius, in spirit simple as that 
little child whom, to illustrate the nature of true greatness, 
Jesus once set in the midst of His wondering disciples; 
while in intellect he was a giant in the power with which 
he grasped and wielded the sword of the Spirit which is the 
Word of God. In the power to formulate truth, to draw 
with unerring accuracy the fine line that at once includes 
all that belongs to its integrity, and excludes all that is for- 
eign and extraneous, he had no superior, I had almost 



viii Charge. 

said he had no peer in the Church in his day. In his " Out- 
hnes of Theology" may be found definitions, of which it is 
no extravagance to affirm that they have never been sur- 
passed, if, indeed, they have ever been equalled, since the 
Westminster Divines closed their sessions in Jerusalem 
Chamber, It is said that as a young rustic, who himself 
afterwards became a celebrated painter, stood gazing with 
rapt admiration at one of the splendid creations of Cor- 
reggio, the artistic spirit which, till then, had slumbered in 
his nature, suddenly awoke ; when, in the joyous conscious- 
ness of his new-born powers, he exclaimed : " I, too, shall be 
Correggio." And I can desire no better fortune for this 
Seminary, at least in the department of Theology, than 
that, while preserving entire your personal gifts, you should 
at the same time so contemplate the examples of the emi- 
nent teachers who have preceded you, as to imbibe all that 
was loftiest in their spirit, and reproduce all that was best 
in their methods. You will permit me to remind you that 
the Board of Directors conferred on you no ordinary' dis- 
tinction when, looking abroad over our great Church, they 
fixed their eyes on you, as of all her sons the fittest, per- 
haps, to inherit the mantle of these ascended Prophets. I 
desire to congratulate you ; and I desire to congratulate the 
Directors that, in the very free expression of opinion which 
your election has elicited, there has been heard, as yet, not 
so much as a whisper of dissent in any quarter ; the entire 
Church afifixing to the wisdom of your appointment the 
seal of its unqualified sanction. The high scholarship which 
marked throughout your career as a student in the Semi- 
nary, the special studies in which your faculties were dis- 
ciplined during the entire term of your residence at Alle- 
gheny, together with the valuable contributions already 
made by your pen to our current Theological literature, are 
construed as so many pledges that, by the blessing of God 
on your efforts, you will not disappoint the very high ex- 
pectations which your preferment has excited. And yet so 
responsible is the ofificc of Professor of Theology in such a 



Charge. ix 

Seminary as Princeton, and so tremendous are the interests 
which swing pivoted on your faithful discharge of its func- 
tions, that the Directors are not at Hberty to omit from the 
ceremony of your induction the Charge that is customary 
on such occasions. 

While it will be your office to teach truth, — and truth, 
too, of infinite importance, — it will not be your duty to 
teach all truth. For truth is coextensive with reality itself, 
of which it is always the faithful exponent. God has not 
called you, nor indeed has He called any man, to be an 
expositor of all truth. Even in the domain of Theology, 
the division of labor which obtains here as it does else- 
where, and which grows more and more minute as the 
world advances in knowledge, will confine your efforts to 
a single department, — " The Science of Didactic and Po- 
lemic Theology." I say Science ; for if facts, and inferences 
from facts logically drawn and systematically arranged, 
constitute Science ; and if Science rises in dignity with the 
value and importance of its object-matter, then indeed 
must Theology, treating as it does of God, of man, and of 
their involved relations, be not only a Science, but of all 
Sciences the Queen. 

The source from which you are to draw the materials of 
your Theology is the Scriptures ; constituting, as they do, 
the only infallible and all-sufficient Rule of faith and prac- 
tice. While it is true that it has pleased God to make a 
natural revelation of Himself; partly in the external world 
around us, partly in the course of history behind us, and 
partly in these living spirits within us, the Scriptures gather 
up into themselves all these scattered disclosures and utter 
them afresh to mankind ; completing all and crowning all 
with a glory that is all their own, — The revelation of saving 
grace. 

While you are to teach the truths of the Bible, you are 
to teach these truths as they are construed and reduced to 
system in the Confession and Catechisms of the Westminster 
Assembly. The outcry against Creeds and Systems of 



X Charge. 

Theology was never louder, perhaps, than at this very hour. 
The old indictment still bristles all over with the old counts. 
It is urged that they impugn the sufficiency of Scripture as 
the Rule of faith and practice, stifle the spirit of honest 
inquiry, fetter faculties that should be left free in the pur- 
suit of truth, and impede, if they do not arrest progress in 
the noblest study on which the mind of man can be exer- 
cised. Without stopping to consider these specifications 
in detail, it is a sufficient reply to the general charge that 
system in Theology, as in every branch of inquiry, is abso- 
lutely necessary to appease one of the profoundest, one of 
the most importunate cravings of the human soul. Man is 
never at ease until he has found the one in the many, until 
he has reduced the multiform in fact to the uniform in idea. 
His ear, if finely strung, suffers torture until the various 
sounds, proceeding from the different instruments in a great 
orchestra, blend in a stream of perfect harmony. As he 
walks abroad among the scenes of nature, the emotion of 
beauty refuses to rise to its full height, until he has gathered 
up into the unity of his complex view the objects dispersed 
in the landscape before him. The scientific mind of the 
great Newton could not rest until, rising from the ordinary 
phenomena transpiring in the world around him, he reached 
at length on the heights of speculation the sublime gener- 
alization which holds in its grasp the material universe. 
And so, as he goes forth into the field of Revelation, the 
Theologian cannot be satisfied until he has gathered up the 
disjecta membra of truth that lie strewn around him, and 
has articulated them into a body of Divinity that, to his 
eye at least, is harmonious, symmetrical, complete. 

It is only through system in Theology that we rise to 
knowledge in its highest form. A doctrine must be com- 
plemented, must be qualified, must be balanced by its cor- 
relates, if truth is to appear in its integrity. How beauti- 
fully was this illustrated in our Lord's temptation in the 
wilderness. It is written, as Satan urged, " He shall give his 
angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways ; they 



Charge. xi 

shall bear thee up in their hands lest at any time thou dash 
thy foot against a stone." But it is also written, as our Lord 
replied, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." It is 
in the complex produced by combining the two half truths 
that the truth emerges as a whole. 

It is easy to show that Confessions of faith condition the 
progress in Theology, which it is complained that they im- 
pede. The contents of the Bible have been distributed into 
Theology, Anthropology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and 
Eschatology ; and Klieforth calls attention to the fact that 
it has pleased God to assign each of these branches to the 
Church in that land and in that age, in which it will be 
best qualified to develop it. Accordingly, Theology fell to 
the lot of the Greek Church, which embodied the results of 
its long and painful researches in the Nicene and Athanasian 
Symbols. After garnering the sheaves reaped from the 
field of Theology, the reapers were at liberty to enter in 
their order the fields that remained, as one after another 
they grew white unto the harvest. If they had failed to do 
this, it is easy to see that the fruits of the toils of centuries 
would have been lost to the Church and the world. On 
such a plan, progress in Theology would have been out of 
the question. What Macaulay says of the Ancient Philos- 
ophy would be equally true of Theology. The " Ancient 
Philosophy," says he, was a " tread-mill and not a path. 
It was made up of revolving questions, of controversies 
that were always returning again. There was no accumu- 
lation of truth, no heritage of truth acquired by the labor 
of one generation and bequeathed to another, to be trans- 
mitted again with large additions to a third. Where this 
Philosophy was in the days of Cicero, there it continued to 
be in the days of Seneca, and there it continued to be in 
the days of Faverinus. There was every trace of intel- 
lectual cultivation except a harvest. There was plenty of 
ploughing and harrowing and reaping, but the garners con- 
tained nothing but smut and stubble." 

As to the sense in which our Articles of Faith are sub- 



xii Charge. 

scribed there arc three distinct views. The extreme posi- 
tions never came into sharper conflict, perhaps, than during 
the great controversy which, in the year 1741, rent in twain 
the original Synod of Philadelphia. The Old Side, with ex- 
treme strictness, insisted on an ipsissima verba subscription ; 
a yoke which neither they nor their fathers before them had 
been able to bear. The New Side, with extreme laxity, 
were no less strenuous in maintaining that the Subscription 
extends only to substance of Doctrine ; a phrase, which, 
like the tent which the fairy presented in a nut-shell to 
Prince Ahmed, may be easily expanded until it shall include 
all shades of Theological opinion, from the straitest Augus- 
tinianism on the one hand to the baldest Pelagianism on the 
other. The true view lies at the middle point between 
these extremes, and requires subscription to our Symbols as 
containing the System of Doctrine taught in the Scriptures. 
Subscription in the ipsissima verba sense is bondage. Sub- 
scription in the " for substance of doctrine " sense is license. 
Subscription in the Systematic sense is freedom regulated 
by law, which is the only liberty worthy of the name. 

Many present can easily recall the period in our National 
history when grave Senators attempted to vindicate their 
conduct in retaining their seats in Congress ; and, at the 
same time, violating their oath to support the Constitution 
of the United States on the ground that it contained pro- 
visions which they could not in conscience observe. And 
this ethical heresy has crept into the bosom of the Church ; 
where. Ministers of Religion, on precisely the same plea, 
would fain justify themselves in assailing the very Doctrines 
they are under vows to defend. Let the supremacy of con- 
science be acknowledged at all times and in all things. At 
the same time, no man is at liberty to accept, or accepting, 
to retain an oflice, knowing that it will precipitate a conflict 
between the mandate of his conscience and the fulfillment 
of his oath. Let the Senator be loyal to his conscience, 
never faltering for a moment or swerving by a hair, in his 
allegiance. But let him at the same time resign his seat in 



Charge. xiii 

Congress, and so absolve himself from the obligation of his 
oath. And if in the Providence of God it should ever fall 
out that you can no longer subscribe, and subscribe ex aimno, 
the Doctrinal standards of the Presbyterian Church ; then, 
at once and on the spot, restore inviolate to the Board of 
Directors, the trust they have confided to your honor. 

In requiring you to subscribe our Confession, I am per- 
suaded that we impose on you no hardship. St. Simon tells 
us that, like a pendulum in its arc, the world in its progress 
is ever swinging between periods that are organic and periods 
that are critical. It is in one of the critical ages that God 
has cast our lot. It is an age when, in every department of 
speculation and of action, the New is struggling to supplant 
the Old. It is an age when the eye is armed with the micro- 
scope and the hand with the scalpel. It is an age when 
multitudes are refusing to listen to the message which the 
Angel brings to us from the skies, because of their disgust 
at a few particles of dust which, contracted in his flight, are 
detected on his wings. It is an age when hand in hand 
with the Schoolmaster, the Reviser is abroad in the land. 

And yet, in this the most critical of the critical ages, 
the instrument in which the Presbyterian Church confesses 
her Faith has stood more than a hundred years as 
unmoved, as unchanged as the rock Gibraltar. Aye, so 
serenely has the faith of the Church reposed on the bosom 
of her noble Confession that only recently has been started 
the question as to the mode in which it may be constitution- 
ally amended. Indeed, in such perplexity is this whole sub- 
ject involved, that two of our most gifted Divines have 
entered the arena as the respective champions of the two 
opposite views between which the Church is divided. And 
now that, like an indulgent mother, the Church has had 
compassion on her disconsolate sons; and, Princeton to the 
contrary notwithstanding, has licensed them to correct the 
error of their earlier years by marrying the sisters of their 
deceased wives, is there not good ground for the hope that 
in the Articles that are left to us, still like the rock Gibraltar, 



xiv Charge. 

our venerable Confession will survive unchanged the shocks 
of at least another century. 

Passing to the manner of your teaching, I can touch only 
a few points which my time will not suffer me to expand. 

Let your teaching be pronounced in its Calvinism. The 
common character of the Reformed Theology in its more 
than thirty formularies is the Calvinism with which it is 
pervaded. And the specific difference of Calvinism is the 
emphasis with which it signalizes grace in all the parts and 
at all the stages of a sinner's salvation. Am I mistaken 
when I affirm that the doctrines of grace no longer ring from 
our pulpits as they once did in the days of our fathers ? 
Am I mistaken when I affirm that, in its reaction from the 
sharpness with which the Five Points were formerly pressed, 
the Church has swung to an extreme that is no less hurtful? 
If it is true that "One swallow does not make a Spring," it 
is also true that " Straws show how the wind blows." And 
is there not some significance in the fact that the committee 
charged with the duty of erecting in our national Capital a 
suitable memorial to the father of Republicanism, whether 
in the sphere of the Church or in the sphere of the State, 
after exercising due diligence, and that too for a consider- 
able period, was compelled to return and report to the As- 
sembly that the temper of the Church would not warrant a 
further prosecution of its task. It would be invidious to 
attempt, on an occasion like this, to fix the responsibility 
for such a state of things. But this I may say, and this.I 
will say, that the needed reform must begin in our Semi- 
naries. For the voices of the people are only the multitu- 
dinous reverberations of the voice that issues from the 
Pulpit ; and this, in turn, is only the echo of the voice that 
issues from the Chair. 

Let your teaching be popular in its form. It is hardly 
necessary to remind you that your pupils will reproduce, 
and that too in exaggerated forms, all that may be vicious 
in your methods. If the bones that you serve out to your 
classes are dry bones, rest assured that the bones which they 



Charge. xv 

in their turn will serve out to the people will be not dry 
only, but very dry. I do not forget the distinction drawn 
by Dr. Chalmers between the mode in which Theology 
should be taught in the Hall, and the mode in which it 
should be preached in the Pulpit ; at the same time I re- 
member that those lectures delivered to his pupils in the 
Hall were so profusely and brilliantly illustrated that close 
thinking was made not possible only, but easy and delight- 
ful even to the ordinary hearer. In the power to render 
popular the abstruse truths of Theology, your late predeces- 
sor was without a rival. It was never my fortune to hear 
him lecture from his Chair; but the man who could hold, 
as with a spell, the large and promiscuous audiences that 
assembled in Philadelphia to hear his discussion of such 
themes as "Predestination" and "God's Relation to the 
World," must have been the very Prince of teachers before 
his classes in the Seminary. 

Let your teaching be evangelical in its spirit. As I utter 
these words, there rises before me the venerable form of the 
sainted Dr. Skinner. A close student to the last, the atmos- 
phere which he always brought to his classes was more that 
of the closet than of the study. In those wonderful prayers, 
in which, lifting us in the arms of his faith, he bore us to 
the very foot of the throne, how often have I seen him, as 
in an ecstasy of devotion, his face shone like that of an 
Angel. When the Scriptures would represent in a single 
sentence the character of God, they tell us that God is love. 
Let love for Christ and for souls so burn in your heart, and 
beam from your features, and speak in your words, and 
breathe in your spirit, that, as you go in and out before 
your classes, you shall be, like the Master before you, your- 
self the incarnation of love. 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS. 

BY 

THE REV. BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD, D.D. 



THE 

IDEA OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY 

CONSIDERED AS A SCIENCE. 



PACE 



I. — The Subject -Matter of Systematic The- 
ology, 6-8 

II. — The Presuppositions of Systematic Theol- 
ogy, 8-12 

III. — The Definition of Systematic Theology, . 12-15 

IV. — The Sources of Systematic Theology, . 15-22 

V. — The Place of Systematics in the Theolog- 
ical Encyclopaedia, 22-28 

VI. — The Place of Theology among the Sciences, 28-31 

VII. — Systematic Theology a Progressive Science, 31-36 

VIII. — Systematic Theology a Practical Science, 36-40 



INAUGURAL ADDRESS. 



Fathers and Brethren of the Board of Directors : 

The signature which I have just affixed to the 
pledge which with great propriety, as I beheve, you 
require of those whom you call to the responsible 
position of teachers in this Seminary, will have assured 
you already of the matter of the doctrinal teaching 
which is still to be expected in this institution. 
Mourning as you do here to-day, with the renewed 
grief which is brought back upon us all by the bus- 
iness of the hour, with its teeming memories of those 
great men of the past who have shed lustre on the 
whole church from the chair into which you are now 
inducting a new incumbent, may you not take some 
comfort in being assured that, with however dimin- 
ished power, the same theology is still to be taught 
here that for three-quarters of a century gave to 
Princeton Seminary a noble name in the world? It 
was not my lot to know him who was called of God 
to plant the first seeds in this garden of the Lord. 
But it was my inestimable privilege to sit at the feet 
of him who tended it and watered it until its fra- 
grance went out over the whole earth. And I rejoice 
to testify to you to-day that though the power of 
Charles Hodge may not be upon me, the theology 
of Charles Hodge is within me, and that this is the 
theology which, according to my ability, I have it in 
my heart to teach to the students of the coming 



6 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

years. Oh, that the mantle of my EHjah might fall 
upon my shoulders ; at least the message that was 
given to him is set within my lips. 

In casting about for a subject germane to the oc- 
casion on which I might address you, I have lighted 
upon a line of thought which leads me to cast what I 
have to say into the form of some somewhat desultory 
remarks directed toward oudining the implications 
that arise from our regarding systematic theology as 
a science. I venture to state my subject, then, as 

THE IDEA OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY CONSIDERED AS 

A SCIENCE. 

I am not sure that we always realize how much we 
have already determined about theology, when we 
have made the simple assertion concerning it, that it 
is a science. In this single predicate is implicitly in- 
cluded a whole series of affirmations which, taken 
together, will give us a rather clear conception not 
only of what theology is, but also of what it deals with, 
Vi'hence it obtains its material, and for what purpose 
it exists. It will be my object in this address to make 
this plain to you. 

I. First of all, then, let us observe that to say that 
theology is a science is to deny that it is a historical 
discipline, and to affirm that it seeks to discover not 
what has been or is held to be true, but what is 
ideally true ; in other words, it is to declare that it 
deals with absolute truth and aims at orcranizinQf into 
a concatenated system all the truth in its sphere. 
Geology is a science, and on that very account there 
cannot be two geologies ; its matter is all the well- 



Considered as a Science. 7 

authenticated facts in its sphere, and its aim is to 
digest all these facts into one all-comprehending- sys- 
tem. There may be rival psychologies, which fill the 
world with vain jangling ; but they do not strive 
together in order that they may obtain the right to 
exist side by side in equal validity, but in strenuous 
effort to supplant and supersede one another : there 
can be but one true science of mind. In like manner, 
just because theology is a science there can be but 
one theology. This all-embracing system will brook 
no rival in its sphere, and there can be two theologies 
only at the cost of one or both of them being im- 
perfect, incomplete, false. It is because theology is 
often looked upon, in accordance with a somewhat 
prevalent point of view, as a historical rather than a 
scientific discipline, that it is so frequently spoken of 
and defined as if it were but one of many similar 
schemes of thought. There is no doubt such a thing 
as Christian theology, as distinguished from Buddhist 
theology or Mohammedan theology ; and men may 
study it as the theological implication of Christianity 
considered as one of the world's religions. But 
when studied from this point of view, it forms a sec- 
tion of a historical discipline and furnishes its share 
of facts for a history of religions ; on the data sup- 
plied by which a science or philosophy of religion 
may in turn be based. We may also, no doubt, 
speak of the Pelagian and Augustinian theologies, or 
of the Calvinistic and Arminian theologies ; but, 
again, we are speaking as historians and from a his- 
torical point of view. The Pelagian and Augus- 
tinian theolofjies are not two co-ordinate sciences 
of theology; they are rival theologies. If one is 



S The Idea of Systematic Theology 

true, just so far the other is false, and there is but 
one theolog-y. This we may identify, as an empirical 
fact, with either or neither; but it is at all events one, 
inclusive of all theological truth and exclusive of all 
else as false or not germane to the subject. 

In asserting that theology is a science, then, we as- 
sert that in its subject-matter, it includes all the facts 
belonging to that sphere of truth that we call theolog- 
ical ; and w^e deny that it needs or will admit of limi- 
tation by a discriminating adjectival definition. We 
may speak of it as Christian theology just as we may 
speak of it as true theology, if we mean thereby more 
fully to describe what, as a matter of fact, theology is 
found to be ; but not, if we mean thereby to discrimi- 
nate it from some other assumed theology thus erected 
to a co-ordinate position with it. We may describe 
our method of procedure in attempting to ascertain 
and organize the truths that come before us for build- 
ing into the system, and so speak of logical or induc- 
tive, of speculative or organic theology ; or we may 
separate the one body of theology into its members, 
and, just as we speak of surface and organic geology 
or of physiological and direct psychology, so speak 
of the theology of grace and of sin, or of natural and 
revealed theology. But all these are but designations 
of methods of procedure in dealing with the one 
whole, or of the various sections that tooether con- 
stitute the one whole, which in its completeness is the 
science of theology, and which, as a science, is inclu- 
sive of all the truth in its sphere, however ascertained, 
however presented, however defended. 

II. There is much more than this included, how- 



. Considered as a Science. 9 

ever, in calling theology a science. For the very ex- 
istence of any science, three things are presupposed: 
(i) the reality of its subject-matter; (2) the capacity 
of the human mind to apprehend, receive into itself, 
and rationalize this subject-matter ; and (3) some 
medium of communication by which the subject-mat- 
ter is brought before the mind and presented to it for 
apprehension. There could be no astronomy, for ex- 
ample, if there were no heavenly bodies. And though 
the heavenly bodies existed, there could still be no 
science of them were there no mind to apprehend 
them. Facts do not make a science ; even facts as 
apprehended do not make a science; they must be 
not only apprehended, but also so far comprehended 
as to be rationalized and thus combined into a corre- 
lated system. The mind brings somewhat to every 
science which is not included in the facts considered 
in themselves alone, as isolated data, or even as data 
perceived in relation to one another. Though they 
be thus known, science is not yet ; and is not born 
save throuGj^h the efforts of the mind in subsuming the 
facts under its own intuitions and forms of thought. 
No mind is satisfied with a bare cognition of facts : 
its very constitution forces it on to a restless energy 
until it succeeds in working these facts not onl)- into 
a network of correlated relations among themselves, 
but also into a rational body of thought correlated to 
itself and its modes of thinking. The condition of 
science, then, is that the facts which fall within its 
scope shall be such as stand in relation not only to 
our faculties, so that they may be apprehended ; but 
also to our mental constitution so that they may be so 
far understood as to be rationalized and wrought into 



lo The Idea of Systematic Theology 

a system relative to our thinking-. Thus a science of 
aesthetics presupposes an aesthetic faculty, and a 
science of morals a moral nature, as truly as a science 
of logic presupposes a logical apprehension, and a 
science of mathematics a capacity to comprehend the 
relations of numbers. But still aixain, thouQ^h the 
facts had real existence, and the mind were furnished 
with a capacity for their reception and for a sympa- 
thetic estimate and embracing of them in their rela- 
tions, no science could exist were there no media by 
which the facts should be brought before and communi- 
cated to the mind. The transmitter and intermediat- 
ing wire are as essential for telegraphing as the mes- 
sage and the receiving instrument. Subjectively speak- 
ing, sense perception is the essential basis of all science 
of external things; self- consciousness, of internal 
things. But objective media are also necessary. For 
example, there could be no astronomy, were there no 
trembling ether through whose delicate telegraphy 
the facts of light and heat are transmitted to us from 
the suns and systems of the heavens. Subjective and 
objective conditions of communication must unite, be- 
fore the facts that constitute the material of a science 
can be placed before the mind that gives it its form. 
The sense of sight is essential to astronomy : yet the 
sense of sight would be useless for forming an as- 
tronomy were there no objective ethereal messengers 
to bring us news from the stars. With these an as- 
tronomy becomes possible ; but how meagre an as- 
tronomy compared with the new possibilities which 
have opened out with the discovery of a new medium 
of communication in the telescope, followed by still 
newer media in the subtile instruments by which our 



Conside7'ed as a Science, 1 1 

modern investigators not only weigh the spheres in 
their courses, but analyze them into their chemical 
elements, map out the heavens in a chart, and sepa- 
rate the suns into their primary constituents. 

Like all other sciences, therefore, theology, for its 
very existence as a science, presupposes the objective 
reality of the subject-matter with which it deals ; the 
subjective capacity of the human mind so far to un- 
derstand this subject-matter as to be able to subsume 
it under the forms of its thinking and to rationalize it 
into not only a comprehensive but also a comprehen- 
sible whole ; and the existence of trustworthy media of 
communication by which the subject-matter is brought 
to the mind and presented before it for perception 
and understanding. That is to say: (i). The af- 
firmation that theology is a science presupposes the 
affirmation that God is, and that He has relation to 
His creatures. Were there no God, there could be 
no theology ; nor could there be a theology if, though 
He existed, He existed out of relation with His 
creatures. The whole body of philosophical apolo- 
getics is, therefore, presupposed in and underlies the 
structure of scientific theology. (2). The affirmation 
that theology is a science presupposes the affirmation 
that man has a religious nature, i. e., a nature capable 
of understanding not only that God is, hut also, to 
some extent, what He is ; not only that He stands in 
relation with His creatures, but also what those rela- 
tions are. Had man no religious nature he might, 
indeed, apprehend, certain facts concerning God, but 
he could not so understand Him in His relations to 
man as to be able to respond to those facts in a true 
and sympathetic embrace. The total product of the 



1 2 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

great science of religion, which investigates the nature 
and workings of this element in man's mental consti- 
tution, is therefore presupposed in and underlies the 
structure of scientific theology. (3). The affirmation 
that theology is a science presupposes the affirmation 
that there are media of communication by which God 
and Divine things are brought before the minds of 
men, that they may perceive them, and in perceiving, 
understand them. In other words, when we affirm 
'that theology is a science, we affirm not only the re- 
ality of God's existence and our capacity so far to un- 
derstand Him, but we affirm that He has made Him- 
self known to us, — we affirm the objective reality of 
a revelation. Were there no revelation of God to 
men, our capacity to understand Him would lie dor- 
mant and unawakened ; and though He really existed 
it would be to us as if He were not. There would be 
a God to be known and a mind to know Him; but 
theology would be as impossible as if there were nei- 
ther the one nor the other. Not only, then, philosoph- 
ical, but also, if there be a written revelation, the whole 
mass of historical apologetics by which the reality of 
a written revelation is vindicated, is presupposed in and 
underlies the structure of scientific theology. 

III. In thus developing the implications of calling 
theology a science, we have already gone far toward 
determining our exact conception of what theology is. 
We have in effect, for example, settled our definition 
of theology. A science is defined from its subject- 
matter ; and the subject-matter of theology is God in 
His nature and in His relations with His creatures. 
Theology is therefore that science which treats of 



Considered as a Science. 13 

God and of the relations between God and the uni- 
verse. To this definition most theologians have act- 
ually come. And those who define theology as "the 
science of God," mean the term God in abroad sense 
as inclusive also of His relations ; while others ex- 
hibit their sense of the need of this inclusiveness by 
calling it " the science of God and of Divine things "; 
while still others speak of it more loosely, as " the 
science of the supernatural." These definitions fail 
rather in precision of language than in correctness of 
conception. Others, however, go astray in the con- 
ception itself Thus theologians of the school of 
Schleiermacher usually derive their definition from 
the sources rather than the subject-matter of the 
science, — and so speak of theology as "the science 
of faith " or the like ; a thoroughly unscientific pro- 
cedure, even though our view of the sources be com- 
plete and unexceptionable, which is certainly not the 
case with this school. Quite as confusing is it to de- 
fine theology, as is very currently done and often as 
an outgrowth of this same subjective tendency, as 
"the science of religion," or even — pressing the his- 
torical conception which as often underlies this type 
of definition, to its greatest extreme, — as "the 
science of the Christian religion." Theology and re- 
ligion are parallel products of the same body of facts 
in diverse spheres ; the one in the sphere of thought 
and the other in the sphere of life. And the definition 
of theology as "the science of religion" thus con- 
founds the product of the facts concerning God and 
His relations with His creatures working through the 
hearts and lives of men, with those facts themselves ; 
and consequently, whenever strictly understood, bases 



14 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

theolog-y not on the facts of the divine revelation, but 
on the facts of the religious life. This leads ultimate- 
ly to a confusion of the two distinct disciplines of the- 
ology, the subject-matter of which is objective, and 
the science of religion, the subject-matter of which is 
subjective ; with the effect of lowering the data of 
theology to the level of the aspirations and imagin- 
ings of man's own heart. Wherever this definition is 
found, either a subjective conception of theology 
which reduces it to a branch of psychology, may be 
suspected, or else a historical conception of it, a con- 
ception of " Christian theology" as one of the many 
theologies of the world parallel with, even if unspeak- 
ably truer than, the others with which it is classed 
and in conjunction with which it furnishes us with a 
full account of religion. When so conceived, it is 
natural to take a step further and permit the method- 
ology of the science, as well as its idea, to be deter- 
mined by its distinguishing element : thus theology, 
in contradiction to its very name, becomes Christo- 
centric. No doubt, " Christian theology," as a his- 
torical discipline, is Christo-centric; it is by its doc- 
trine of redemption that it is differentiated from all 
the other theologies that the world has known. But 
theology as a science is and must be Theo-centric. 
So soon as we firmly grasp it from the scientific point 
of view, we see that there can be but one science of 
God and of His relations to His universe, and we no 
longer seek a point of discrimination, but rather a cen- 
tre of development ; and we quickly see that there 
can be but one centre about which so comprehensive 
a subject-matter can be organized, — the conception 
of God. He that hath seen Christ, has beyond doubt 



Considered as a Science. 15 

seen the Father ; but it is one thing to make Him 
the centre of theolog^y so far as He is one with God, 
and another thing to organize all theology around 
Him as the theanthropos and in His specifically 
theanthropic work. 

IV. Not only, however, is our definition of theology 
thus set for us : we have also determined in advance 
our conception of its sources. We have already made 
use of the term " revelation," to designate the medium 
by which the facts concerning God and His relations 
to His creatures are brought before men's minds, and 
so made the subject-matter of a possible science. The 
word accurately describes the condition of all knowl- 
edge of God. If there be a God, it follows by strin-^ 
gent necessity, that He can be known only so far as 
He reveals Himself And it is but the converse of 
this, that if there be no revelation, there can be no 
knowledge, and, of course, no systematized knowl- 
edge or science of God. Our reaching up to Him in 
thought and inference is possible only because He con- 
descends to make Himself intelligible to us, to speak 
to us through word or work, to reveal Himself We 
hazard nothing, therefore, in saying that, as the con- 
dition of all theology is a revealed God, so, without 
limitation, the sole source of theology is revelation. 

In so speaking, however, we have no thought 
of doubting that God's revelation of Himself is "in 
divers manners." We have no desire to deny that 
He has never left man without witness of His eternal 
power and Godhead, or that He has multiplied the 
manifestations of Himself in nature and providence 
and grace, so that every generation has had abiding 



1 6 The Idea of Systeniaiie Theology 

and unmistakable evidence that He is, that He is the 
good God, and that He is a God who marketh iniquity. 
Under the broad skirts of the term " revelation," every 
method of manifesting Himself which God uses in 
communicating knowledge of His being and attributes, 
may find shelter for itself — whether it be through those 
visible things of nature whereby His invisible things 
are clearly seen, or through the constitution of the 
human mind with its causal judgment indellibly 
stamped upon it, or through that voice of God that 
we call conscience, which proclaims His moral law 
within us, or through His providence in which He 
makes bare His arm for the government of the na- 
tions, or through the exercises of His grace, our 
experience under the tutelage of the Holy Ghost — or 
whether it be through the open visions of His proph- 
ets, the divinely-breathed pages of His written Word, 
the divine life of the Word Himself. How God re- 
veals Himself — in what divers manners He makes 
Himself known to His creatures, is thus the subse- 
quent question by raising which we distribute the 
one source of theology, revelation, into the various 
methods of revelation, each of which brings us true 
knowledge of God, and all of which must be taken 
account of in building- our knowledofe into one all- 
comprehending system. It is the accepted method 
of theology to infer that the God that made the eye 
must Himself see ; that the God who sovereignly 
distributes His favors in the secular world may be 
sovereign too in grace ; that the heart that condemns 
itself but repeats the condemnation of the greater 
God ; that the songs of joy in which the Christian's 
happy soul voices its sense of God's gratuitous mercy, 



Considered as a Science. 17 

are valid evidence that God has really dealt graciously 
with it. It is with no reserve that we accept all these 
sources of knowledge of God — nature, providence, 
Christian experience — as true and valid sources, the 
well-authenticated data yielded by which are to be 
received by us as revelations of God, and as such to 
be placed alongside of the revelations in the written 
Word and wrought with them into one system. As 
a matter of fact, theologians have always so dealt 
with them ; and doubtless they always will so deal 
with them. 

But to perceive, as all must perceive, that every 
method by which God manifests Himself is, so far as 
this manifestation can be clearly interpreted, a source 
of knowledge of Him, and must, therefore, be taken 
account of in framing all our knowledge of Him into 
one organic whole, is far from allowing that there are 
no differences among these various manifestations, in 
the amount of revelation they give, the clearness of 
their message; the case and certainty with which they 
may be interpreted, or the importance of the special 
truths which they are fitted to convey. Far rather is 
it a prio7-i likely that if there are "divers manners" 
in which God has revealed Himself, He has not re- 
vealed precisely the same message through each ; 
that these " divers manners " correspond also to divers 
messages of divers degrees of importance, delivered 
with divers deQfrees of clearness. And the mere fact 
that He has included in these "divers manners" a copi- 
ous revelation in .a written Word, delivered with an 
authenticating accompaniment of signs and miracles, 
proved by recorded prophecies with their recorded 
fulfilments, and pressed, with the greatest solemnity, 



1 8 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

upon the attention and consciences of men as the very 
Word of the Living God, who has by it made fooHsh- 
ness all the wisdom of men ; nay, proclaimed as con- 
taining within itself the formulation of His truth, the 
proclamation of His law, the discovery of His plan of 
salvation : — this mere fact, I say, would itself and prior 
to all comparison, raise an overwhelming presump- 
tion that all the others of "the divers manners" of 
God's revelation were insufficient for the purposes for 
which revelation is given, whether on account of de- 
fect in the amount of their communication or insuffi- 
ciency of attestation or uncertainty of interpretation 
or fatal onesidedness in the character of the revelation 
they are adapted to give. We need not be surprised, 
therefore, that on actual examination, all these imper- 
fections are found undeniably to attach to all forms of 
what we may, for the sake of discrimination, speak of 
as mere manifestations of God ; and that thus the 
revelation of God in His written Word — in which are 
included the only authentic records of the revelation 
of Him through the incarnate Word — is easily shown 
not only to be incomparably superior to all other mani- 
festations of Him in the fulness, richness, and clear- 
ness of its communications, but also to contain the 
sole discovery of all that it is most important for the 
soul to know as to its state and destiny, and of all 
that is most precious in our whole body of theological 
knowledge. The superior lucidity of this revelation 
makes it the norm of interpretation for what is re- 
vealed so much more darkly through the other 
methods of manifestation. The glorious character of 
the discoveries made in it, drives all other manifesta- 
tions back into comparative insignificance. The amaz- 



Considered as a Science. 19 

ing fulness of its disclosures renders the litde that they 
can tell us of small comparative value. And its abso- 
lute completeness for the needs of man, taking up and 
reiteratingly repeating in the clearest of language all 
that can be, only after much difficulty and with much 
uncertainty, wrung from their enigmatic indications, 
and then adding to this a vast body of still more im- 
portant truth undiscoverable through them, all but 
supersedes their necessity. With the fullest recog- 
nition of the validity of all the knowledge of God and 
His ways \\\\\\ men, which can be obtained through 
the manifestations of His power and divinity in nature 
and history and grace ; and the frankest allowance 
that the written Word is given, not to destroy the 
manifestations of God, but to fulfill them; the theo- 
logian must yet refuse to give these sources of knowl- 
edge a place alongside of the written Word, in any 
other sense than that he gladly admits that they, alike 
with it, but in unspeakably lower measure, do tell us 
somewhat of God, And nothing can be a clearer in- 
dication of a decadent theology or of a decaying faith, 
than a tendency to neglect the Word in favor of some 
one or of all of the lesser sources of theological truth, 
as fountains from which to draw our knowledofe of 
divine things. This were to prefer the flickering rays 
of a taper to the blazing light of the sun ; to elect to 
draw our w^ater from a muddy run rather than to dip 
it from the broad bosom of the pure fountain itself. 

Nevertheless, men have often sought to still the 
cravings of their souls with a purely natural theology ; 
and there are men to-day who prefer to derive their 
knowledge of what God is and what He will do for 
man from an analysis of the implications of their own 



20 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

religious feelings : not staying to consider that nature, 
" red in tooth and claw with ravin," can but direct 
our eyes to the God of law, whose deadly letter 
killeth ; or that our feelings must needs point us to 
the God of our imperfect apprehensions or of our 
unsanctified desires, — not to the God that is, so much 
as to the God that we would fain should be. The 
natural result of resting on the revelations of nature 
is despair ; while the inevitable end of making our 
appeal to even the Christian heart is to make for 
ourselves refuges of lies in which there is neither 
truth nor safety. We may, indeed, admit that it is 
valid reasoning to infer from the nature of the Chris- 
tian life what are the modes of God's activities toward 
His children : to sec, for instance, in conviction of 
sin and the sudden peace of the new-born soul, God's 
hand in slaying that He may make alive. His almighty 
power in raising the spiritually dead. Bufhow easy 
to overstep the limits of valid inference ; and, for- 
getting that it is the body of Christian truth known 
and consciously assimilated that determines the type 
of Christian experience, confuse in our inferences 
what is from man with what is from God, and con- 
dition and limit our theology by the undeveloped 
Christian thouQfht of the man or his times. The in- 
terpretation of the data included in what we have 
learned to call " the Christian consciousness," whether 
ot the individual or of the church at large, is a pro- 
cess so delicate, so liable to error, so inevitably 
swayed to this side or that by the currents that flow up 
and down in the soul, that probably few satisfactory 
inferences could be drawn from it, had we not the 
norm of Christian experience and its dogmatic impli- 



Considered as a Scie?tce. 21 

cations recorded for us in the perspicuous pages of 
the written word. But even were we to suppose that 
the interpretation was easy and secure, and that we 
had before us in an infalhble formulation, all the im- 
plications of the religious experience of all the men 
who have ever known Christ, we have no reason 
to believe that the whole body of facts thus obtained, 
would suffice to give us a complete theology. After 
all, we know in part and we fed in part ; it is only 
when that which is perfect shall appear that we shall 
know or experience all that Christ has in store for 
us. With the fullest acceptance, therefore, of the 
data of the theology of this feelings, no less than 
of natural theology, when their results are validly 
obtained and sufficiently authenticated as trustworthy, 
as divinely revealed facts which must be wrought 
into our system, it remains nevertheless true that 
we should be confined to a meagre and doubtful the- 
ology were these data not confirmed, reinforced, and 
supplemented by the surer and fuller revelations of 
Scripture ; and that the Holy Scriptures are the 
source of theology in not only a degree, but also a 
sense in which nothing else is. 

There might be a theology without the Scriptures, 
— a theology of nature, gathered by painful, and slow, 
and doubtful processes from what man saw around him 
in external nature and the course of history, and what 
he saw within him of nature and of grace. In like 
manner there may be and has been an astronomy of 
nature, gathered by man in his natural state without 
help from aught but his naked eyes, as he watched 
in the fields by night. Hut what is this astronomy 
of nature to the astronomy that has become possible 



2 2 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

through the wonderful appliances of our observa- 
tories ? The Word of God is to theology as, but 
vastly more than, these instruments are to astronomy. 
• It is the instrument which so far increases the possi- 
bilities of the science as to revolutionize it and to 
place it upon a height from which it can never more 
descend. What would be thoueht of the deluded 
man, who, discarding the new methods of research, 
should insist on acquiring all the astronomy which he 
would admit, from the unaided observation of his 
own myopic and astigmatic eyes? INIuch more de- 
luded is he who, neglecting the instrument of God's 
word written, would confine his admissions of theo- 
logical truth to what he could discover from the 
broken lights that play upon external nature, and the 
faint gleams of a dying or even a slowly reviving 
light, which arise in his own sinful soul. Ah, no ! 
the telescope first made a real science of astronomy 
possible : and the Scriptures form the only sufficing 
and thoroughly infallible source of theology. 

V. Under such a conception of its nature and 
sources, we are driven to consider the place of system- 
atic theology among the other theological disciplines as 
well as among the other sciences in general. Without 
encroaching upon the details of Theological Encyclo- 
paedia, we may adopt here the usual fourfold distribu- 
tion of the theological disciplines into the Exegetical, 
the Historical, the Systematic, and the Practical, with 
only the correction of prefixing to them a fifth depart- 
ment of Apologetical Theology. The place of System- 
atic Theology in this distribution is determined by its 
relation to the preceding disciplines, of which it is 



Considered as a Science. 23 

the crown and head. Apologetical theology prepares 
the wa}^ for all theology by establishing its necessary 
presuppositions without which no theology is possi- 
ble — the existence and essential nature of God, the • 
religious nature of man which enables him to receive 
a revelation from God, the possibility of a revelation 
and its actual realization in the Scriptures. It thus 
places the Scriptures in our hands for investigation 
and study. Exegetical theology receives these in- 
spired writings from the hands of apologetics, and in- 
vestigates their meaning ; presenting us with a body 
of detailed and substantiated results, culminatino- in 
a series of organized systems of biblical history, bibli- 
cal ethics, biblical theology, and the like, which pro- 
vide material for further use in the more advanced 
disciplines. Historical theology investigates the pro- 
gressive realization of Christianity in the lives, hearts, 
\vorship, and thought of men, issuing not only in a 
full account of the history of Christianity, but also in 
a body of facts which come into use in the more ad- 
vanced disciplines, especially in the way of the sifted 
results of the reasoned thinking and deep experience 
of Christian truth during the whole past, as well as of 
the manifold experiments that have been made during 
the ages in Christian organization, worship, living, 
and creed-building. Systematic theology does not 
fail to strike its roots deeply into this matter furnished 
by historical theology ; it knows how to profit by the 
experience of all past generations in their efforts to 
understand and define, to systematize and defend re- 
vealed truth ; and it thinks of nothing so little as 
lightly to discard the conquests of so many hard- 
fought fields. It therefore gladly utilizes all the ma- 



24 TJic Idea of Systematic Theology 

terial that historical theology brings it, accounting it, 
indeed, the very precipitate of the Christian conscious- 
ness of the past ; but it does not use it crudely, or 
at first hand for itself, but accepts it as investigated, 
explained, and made available by the sister discipline 
of historical theology which alone can understand it 
or draw from it its true lessons. It certainly does not 
find in it its chief or primary source, and its relation 
to historical theology is, in consequence, far less close 
than that in which it stands to exegetical theology 
which is its true and especial handmaid. The inde- 
pendence of exegetical theology is seen in the fact that 
it does its work wholly without thought or anxiety as 
to the use that is to be made of its results ; and that 
it furnishes a vastly larger body of data than can be 
utilized by any one discipline. It provides a body of 
historical, ethical, liturgic, ecclesiastical facts, as well 
as a body of theological facts. But so far as its theo- 
logical facts are concerned, it provides them chiefly 
that they may be used by systematic theology as ma- 
terial out of which to build its system. This is not to 
forget the claims of biblical theology. It is rather to 
emphasize its value, and to afford occasion for ex- 
plaining its true place in the encyclopaedia, and its true 
relations on the one side to exegetical theology, and 
on the other to systematics, — a matter which appears 
to be even yet imperfectly understood in some quar- 
ters. Biblical theology is not a section of historical 
theology, although it must be studied in a historical 
spirit, and has a historical face ; it is rather the ripest 
fruit of exegetics, and exegetics has not performed its 
full task until its scattered results in the way of theo- 
logical data are gathered up into a full and articulated 



Considered as a Science. 25 

system of biblical theology. It is to be hoped that 
the time will come when no commentary will be con- 
sidered complete until the capstone is placed upon its 
fabric by closing chapters gathering up into systema- 
tized exhibits, the unsystematized results of the con- 
tinuous exegesis of the text, in the spheres of history, 
ethics, theology, and the like. The task of biblical 
theology, in a word, is the task of co-ordinating the 
scattered results of continuous execfesis into a con- 
catenated whole, whether with reference to a single 
book of Scripture or to a body of related books or to 
the whole Scriptural fabric. Its chief object is not to 
find differences of conception between the various 
writers, though some recent students of the subject 
seem to think this is so much their duty, that when 
they cannot find differences, they make them. It is 
to reproduce the theological thought of each writer 
or group of writers in the form in which it lay in their 
own minds, so that we may be enabled to look at all 
their theological statements at their angle, and to 
understand all their deliverances as modified and con- 
ditioned by their own point of view. Its exegetical 
value lies just in this circumstance, that it is only when 
we have thus concatenated an author's theological 
statements into a whole, that we can be sure that we 
understand them as he understood them in detail. A 
light is inevitably thrown back from biblical theology 
upon the separate theological deliverances as they 
occur in the text, such as subtilely colors ihem, and 
often, for the first time, gives them to us in their true 
setting, and thus enables us to guard against pervert- 
ing them when we adapt them to our use. This is a 
noble function, and could students of biblical theology 



26 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

only firmly grasp it, once for all, as their task, it would 
prevent the brino-ing this important science into con- 
tempt through a tendency to exaggerate differences in 
• form of statement into divergences of view, and so to 
force the deliverances of each book into a stranofe 
and unnatural combination, in their effort to vindicate 
a function for their discipline. 

The relation of biblical theoloo^y to systematic the- 
ology is based on a true view of its function. Sys- 
tematic theology is not founded on the direct and 
primary results of the exegetical process ; it is found- 
ed on the final and complete results of exegesis as ex- 
hibited in biblical theology. Not exegesis itself, 
then, but biblical theology, provides the material for 
systematics. It is not, then, a rival of systematics ; 
it is not even a parallel product of the same body of 
facts, provided by exegesis ; it is the basis and source 
of systematics. Systematic theology is not a con- 
catenation of the scattered theologfical data furnished 
by the exegetic process ; it is the combination of the 
already concatenated data given to it by biblical the- 
ology. It uses the individual data furnished by exe- 
gesis, in a word, not crudely, not independently for 
itself, but only after these data have been worked up 
into biblical theology and have received from it their 
final coloring and subtlest shades of meaning — in 
other words, only in their true sense, and only after 
exegetics has said its last word upon them. Just as 
we shall attain our finest and truest conception of the 
person and work of Christ, not by crudely trying to 
combine the scattered details of His life and teachinor 
as given in our four gospels into one patchwork life 
and account of His teaching ; but far more rationally 



Considered as a Science. 27 

and far more successfully by first catching Matthew's 
full conception of Jesus, and then Mark's, and then 
Luke's, and then John's, and combining these four 
conceptions into one rounded whole : — so we gain our 
truest systematics not by at once working together 
the separate dogmatic statements in the Scriptures, 
but by combining them in their due order and propor- 
tion as they stand in the various theologies of the 
Scriptures. Thus we are enabled to view the future 
whole not only in its parts, but in the several combi- 
nations of the parts, and, looking at it from every 
side, to obtain a true conception of its solidity and 
strength, and to avoid all exaggeration or falsification 
of the details in giving them place in the completed 
structure. And thus we do not make our theology, 
according to our own pattern, as a mosaic, out of the 
fragments of the biblical teaching; but rather look 
out from ourselves upon it as a great prospect, framed 
out of the mountains and plains of the theologies of 
the Scriptures, and strive to attain a point of view from 
which we can bring the whole landscape into our field 
of sight. From this point of view, we find no difficulty 
in understanding the relation in which the several disci- 
plines stand to one another, with respect to their con- 
tents. The material that systematics draws from other 
than biblical sources may be here left out of account, 
seeing that we are now investigating its relations, con- 
sidered as a biblical discipline, to its fellow biblical 
departments. The actual contents of the theological 
results of the exegetic process, of biblical theology, 
and of systematics, with this limitation, may be said 
to be the same. The immediate work of exegesis may 
be compared to the work of a recruiting officer : it 



28 The Idea of Systeitiatic Theology 

draws out from the mass of mankind the men who are 
to constitute the army. BibHcal theology organizes 
these men into companies and regiments and corps, 
arranged in marching order and accoutred for service. 
Systematic theology combines these companies and 
regiments and corps into an army drawn up in battle 
array against the enemy of the day. It, too, is com- 
posed of men — the same men which were recruited by 
exegetics ; but it is composed of these men, not as 
individuals merely, but in their due relations to the 
other men of their companies and regiments and 
corps. The simile not only illustrates the mutual re- 
lations of the disciplines, but also suggests the histor- 
ical element that attaches to biblical theology, and the 
polemic or practical element which is inseparable from 
systematic theology as distinguished from a merely 
biblical dogmatic. It is just this polemico-practical ele- 
ment, determining the spirit and therefore the methods 
of systematic theology, which, along with its greater 
inclusiveness, discriminates it from all forms of biblical 
theology the spirit of which is purely historical. 

VI. The place that theology claims for itself, as 
the scientific presentation of all the facts that are 
known concerning God and His relations, within the 
circle of the sciences, is an equally high one. Whether 
we consider the topics which it treats, in their dignity, 
their excellence, their grandeur ; or the certainty 
with which its data can be determined ; or the com- 
pleteness with which its principles have been ascer- 
tained and its details classified ; or the usefulness and 
importance of its discoveries : it is as far out of all 
comparison above all other sciences as the eternal 



Considered as a Science. 29 

health and destiny of the soul are of more value than 
this fleeting life in this world. It is not so above 
them, however, as not to be also within them. There 
is no one of them all which is not in some measure 
touched and affected by it, or, we may even say, 
which is not in some measure included in it. As all 
nature, whether mental or material, may be conceived 
of as only the mode in which God manifests Himself, 
every science which investigates nature and ascer- 
tains its laws, is occupied with the discovery of the 
modes of the Divine action, and as such might be 
considered a branch of theology. Its closest rela- 
tions are, no doubt, with the highest of the other 
sciences, ethics. Any discussion of our duty to God 
must rest on a knowledge of our relation to Him ; 
and much of our duty to man Is undlscoverable, save 
through knowledge of our common relation to the 
one God and Father of all, and one Lord the Re- 
deemer of all, and one Spirit the sanctifier of all, — all 
of which it is the function of theology to supply. This 
is not Inconsistent with the existence of a natural 
ethics ; but an ethics independent of theological con- 
ceptions would be a meagre thing indeed, while the 
theology of the Scriptural revelation for the first time 
affords a basis for ethical investigation at once broad 
enough and sure enough to raise that science to its 
true dignity. Neither must we on the ground of this 
intimacy of relation confound the two sciences of 
theology and ethics. Something like it in kind and 
approaching it in degree exists between theology and 
every other science, no one of which is so Independ- 
ent of it as not to touch and be touched by it. Much 
of theology is presupposed in all metaphysics and 



30 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

physics alike. It alone can determine the origin of 
either matter or mind, or of the mystic powers that 
have been granted to them. It alone can explain the 
nature of second causes and set the boundaries to 
their efficiency. It alone is competent to declare the 
meaning of the ineradicable persuasion of the human 
mind that its reason is right reason, its processes 
trustworthy, its intuitions true. All science without 
God is mutilated science, and no account of a single 
branch of knowledge can ever be complete until it is 
pushed back to find its completion and ground in 
Him. It is as true of sciences as it is of creatures, that 
in Him they all live and move and have their being. 
The science of Him and His relations is thus the 
necessary ground of all science. All speculation 
takes us back to Him; all inquiry presupposes Him; 
and every phase of science consciously or uncon- 
sciously rests at every step on the science that makes 
Him known. Theology, thus, both lies at the root of 
all sciences, and brings to each its capstone and crown. 
Each could, indeed, exist without it, in a sense and 
in some degree ; but through it alone can any one 
of them reach its true dignity. Herein we see 
not only the proof of its greatness, but also the as- 
surance of its permanence. " What so permeates all 
sections and subjects of human thought, has a deep 
root in human nature and an immense hold on it. 
What so possesses man's mind that he cannot think 
at all without thinking of it, is so bound up with the 
very being of intelligence that ere it can perish, in- 
tellect must cease to be." * 



Principal Fairbairn. 



Considered as a Science. 31 

VII. The interpretation of a written document, in- 
tended to convey a plain message, is infinitely easier 
than the interpretation of the teaching embodied in 
facts themselves. It is therefore that systematic 
treatises on the several sciences are written. The- 
ology has, therefore, an immense advantage over all 
other sciences, inasmuch as it is more an inductive 
study of facts conveyed in a written revelation, than an 
inductive study of facts as conveyed in life. It was, 
consequently, the first-born of the sciences. It was 
the first to reach relative completeness. And it is to- 
day in a state far nearer perfection than any other 
science. This is not, however, to deny that it is a 
progressive science. In exactly the same sense 
(though not in equal degree) in which any other 
science is progressive, this is progressive. It is not 
meant that new revelations are to be expected, or 
new discoveries made, of truth which has not been 
before within the reach of man. There is a vast dif- 
ference between the progress of a science and increase 
in its material. All the facts of psychology, for in- 
stance, have been in existence so long as mind itself 
has existed ; and the progress of this science has 
been dependent on the progressive discovery, under- 
standing, and systematization of these facts. All the 
facts of theology have, in like manner, been within 
the reach of man for nearly two millenniums ; and 
the progress of theology is dependent on men's prog- 
ress in gathering, defining, mentally assimilating, 
and organizing these facts into a correlated system. 
So long as revelation was not completed, the pro- 
gressive character of theology was secured by the 
progress in revelation itself. And since the close of 



32 The Idea of Systematic Theology 

the canon of Scripture, the intellectual realization and 
definition of the doctrines revealed in it, in relation 
to one another, have been, as a mere matter of fact, a 
slow but ever advancing process. The affirmation 
that theology has been a progressive science is no 
more, then, than to assert that it is a science that has 
had a history, — and a history which can be and should 
be genetically traced and presented. First, the ob- 
jective side of Christian truth was developed : pressed 
on the one side by the crass monotheism of the Jews 
and on the other by the coarse polytheism of the hea- 
then, and urged on by its own internal need of under- 
standing the sources of its life, Christian theology 
first searched the Scriptures that it might understand 
the nature and modes of existence of its God and the 
person of its divine redeemer. Then, more and niore 
conscious of itself, it more and more fully wrought out 
from those same Scriptures a guarded expression of 
the subjective side of its faith ; until through throes 
and conflicts it has built up the system which we all 
inherit. Thus the body of Christian truth has come 
down to us in the form of an organic growth ; and 
we can conceive of the completed structure as the 
ripened fruit of the ages, as truly as we can think of 
it as the perfected result of the exegetical discipline. 
As it has come into our possession by this historic 
process, there is no reason that we can assign why 
it should not continue to make for itself a history. 
We do not expect the history of theology to close in 
our own day. However nearly completed our real- 
ization of the body of truth may seem to us to be ; 
however certain it is that the great outlines are al- 
ready securely laid and most of the details soundly 



Considered as a Science. 33 

discovered and arranged ; no one will assert that 
every detail is as yet perfected, and we are all living 
in the confidence so admirably expressed by old John 
Robinson, " that God hath more truth yet to break 
forth from His holy word." Just because God gives 
us the truth in single threads which we must weave 
into the reticulated texture, all the threads are always 
within our reach, but the finished texture is ever and 
will ever continue to be before us until we dare affirm 
that there is no truth in the word which we have not 
perfectly apprehended, and no relation of these truths 
as revealed which we have not perfectly understood, 
and no possibility in clearness of presentation which 
we have not attained. 

The conditions of progress in theology are clearly 
discernible from its nature as a science. The pro- 
gressive men in any science are the men who stand 
firmly on the basis of the already ascertained truth. 
The condition of progress in building the structures 
of those great cathedrals whose splendid piles glorify 
the history of art in the middle ages, was that each 
succeeding generation should build upon the founda- 
tions laid by its predecessor. If each architect had 
begun by destroying what had been accomplished by 
his forerunners, no cathedral would ever have been 
raised. The railroad is pushed across the continent 
by the simple process of laying each rail at the end 
of the line already laid. The prerequisite of all prog- 
ress is a clear discrimination which as frankly ac- 
cepts the limitations set by the truth already dis- 
covered, as it rejects the false and bad. Construc- 
tion is not destruction ; neither is it the outcome of 
destruction. There are abuses no doubt to be re- 



34 ^/^^ /<^r^ of Systematic Theology 

formed ; errors to correct ; falsehoods to cut away. 
But the history of progress in every science and no 
less in theology, is a story of impulses given, corrected 
and assimilated. And when they have been once cor- 
rected and assimilated, these truths are to remain ac- 
cepted. It is then time for another impulse, and the 
condition of all further progress is to place ourselves 
in this well-marked line of growth. Astronomy, for 
example, has had such a history ; and there are now 
some indisputable truths in astronomy, as, for in- 
stance, the rotundity of the earth and the central 
place of the sun in our system. I do not say that 
these truths are undisputed ; probably nothing is any 
more undisputed in astronomy, or any other science, 
than in theology. At all events he who wishes, may 
read the elaborate arguments of the "Zetetic" phi- 
losophers, as they love to call themselves, who in this 
year of grace are striving to prove that the earth is 
flat and occupies the centre of our system. Quite in 
the same spirit, there are " Zetetic " theologians who 
strive with similar zeal and acuteness to overturn the 
established basal truths of theology, — which, how- 
ever, can -never more be shaken ; and we should 
give about as much ear to them in the one science 
as in the other. It is utter folly to suppose that prog- 
ress can be made otherwise than by placing our- 
selves in the line of progress ; and if the temple of 
God's truth is ever to be completely built, we must 
not spend our efforts in digging at the foundations 
which have been securely laid in the distant past, but 
must rather give our best efforts to rounding the 
arches, carving the capitals, and fitting in the fretted 
roof. What if it is not ours to lay foundations ? Let 



Considered as a Science. 35 

us rejoice that that work has been done ! Happy are 
Ave if our God will permit us to bring- a single cap- 
stone into place. This fabric is not a house of cards 
to be built and blown down again an hundred times a 
day, as the amusement of our idle hours : it is a 
miracle of art to which all ao^es and lands brine their 
various tribute. The subtile Greek laid the founda- 
tions ; the law-loving Roman raised high the walls ; 
and all the perspicuity of France and ideality of Ger- 
many and systematization of Holland and deep so- 
briety of Britain have been expended in perfecting 
the structure ; and so it grows. We have heard 
much in these last days of the phrase, " Progressive 
orthodoxy," and in somewhat strange connections. 
Nevertheless, the phrase itself is not an inapt descrip- 
tion of the buildinor of this theolog-ical house. Let 
us assert that the history of theology has been and 
ever must be a progressive orthodoxy. But let us 
equally loudly assert that progressive orthodoxy and 
retrogressive heterodoxy can scarcely be convertible 
terms. Progressive orthodoxy implies that first of 
all we are orthodox, and secondly that we are pro- 
gressively orthodox, i. e., that we are ever growing 
more and more orthodox as more and more truth 
is being established. This has been and must 
be the history of the advance of every science, and 
not less, among them, of the science of theology. 
Justin Martyr, champion of the orthodoxy of his 
day, held a theory of the intertrinitarian relationship 
which became heterodoxy after the Council of Nice ; 
the ever-struesflinsf Christoloeics of the earlier a^es 
were forever set aside by the Chalcedon fathers ; 
Augustine determined for all time the doctrine ^of 



o 



6 The Idea of Systematic Theology 



grace, Anselm the doctrine of the atonement, Luther 
the doctrine of forensic justification. In any pro- 
gressive science, the amount of departure from ac- 
cepted truth which is possible to the sound thinker 
becomes thus ever less and less, in proportion as in- 
vestigation and study result in the progressive estab- 
lishment of an ever increasing number of facts. The 
physician who would bring back to-day the medicine 
of Galen would be no more mad than the theologian 
who would revive the theology of Clement of Alex- 
andria. Both were men of lio-ht and leadinof in their 
time ; but their time is past, and it is the privilege of the 
child of to-day to know a sounder physic and a sounder 
theology than the giants of that far past yesterday 
could attain. It is of the very essence of our position 
at the end of the ages that we are ever more and more 
hedged around with ascertained facts, the discovery 
and establishment of which constitute the very es- 
sence of progress. Progress brings progressive limi- 
tation, just because it brings progressive knowledge. 
And as the orthodox man is he that teaches no other 
doctrine than that which has been established as true ; 
the progressively orthodox man is he who is quick to 
perceive, admit, and condition all his reasoning by all 
the truth down to the latest, which has been estab- 
lished as true. 

VIII. When we speak of progress our eyes are set 
upon a goal. And in calling theology a progressive 
science we unavoidably raise the inquiry, what the 
end and purpose is toward an ever-increasing fitness 
to secure which it is continually growing. When we 
consider the surpassing glory of the subject-matter 



Considered as a Science. 2>7 

with which it deals, it would appear that if ever sci- 
ence existed for its own sake, this might surely be true 
of this science. The truths concerning God and His 
relations are, above all comparison, in themselves the 
most worthy of all truths of study and examination. 
Yet we must vindicate for theology rather that it is 
an eminently practical science. The contemplation 
and exhibition of Christianity as truth, is far from the 
end of the matter. This truth is specially communi- 
cated by God for a purpose, for which it is admirably 
adapted. That purpose is to save and sanctify the 
soul. And the discovery, study, and systematization 
of the truth is in order that, firmly grasping it and 
thoroughly comprehending it in all its reciprocal rela- 
tions, we may be able to make the most efficient use 
of it for its holy purpose. Well worth our most labori- 
ous study, then, as it is, for its own sake as mere 
truth ; it becomes not only absorbingly interesting, but 
inexpressibly precious to us when we bear in mind 
that the truth with which we thus deal constitutes, as 
a whole, the engrafted Word that is able to save our 
souls. The task of thoroughly exploring the pages 
of revelation, soundly gathering from them their treas- 
ures of theological teaching and carefully fitting these 
into their due places in a system whereby they may 
be preserved from misunderstanding, perversion, and 
misuse, and given a new power to convince the under- 
standing, move the heart, and quicken the will, be- 
comes thus a holy duty to our own and our brothers' 
souls as well as our eager pleasure of our intellectual 
nature. That the knowledge of the truth is an essen- 
tial prerequisite to the production of those graces and 
the building up of those elements of a sanctilied char- 



o 



8 The Idea of Systematic Theology 



acter for the production of which each truth is especi- 
ally aaapted, probably no one denies : but surely it is 
equally true that the clearer, fuller, and more dis- 
criminating this knowledge is, the more certainly and 
richly will it produce its appropriate effect ; and in this 
is found a most complete vindication of the duty of 
systematizing the separate elements of truth into a 
single soundly concatenated whole, by which the 
essential nature of each is made as clear as it can be 
made to human apprehension. It is not a matter of 
indifference, then, how we apprehend and systematize 
this truth. On the contrary, if we misconceive it in 
its parts or in its relations, not only do our views of 
truth become confused and erroneous, but also our 
religious life becomes dwarfed or contorted. The 
character of our religion is, in a word, determined by 
the character of our theology : and thus the task of 
the systematic theologian is to see that the relations 
in which the separate truths actually stand are rightly 
conceived, in order that they may exert their rightful 
influence on the development of the religious life. As 
no truth is so insignificant as to have no place in the 
development of our religious life, so no truth is so un- 
important that we dare neglect it or deal deceitfully 
with it in adjusting it into our system. We are smitten 
with a deadly fear on the one side, lest by fitting them 
into a system of our own devising, we cut from them 
just the angles by which they were intended to lay 
hold of the hearts of men : but on the other side, we 
are filled with a holy confidence that, by allowing them 
to frame themselves into their own system as indicated 
by their own natures, — as the stones in Solomon's tem- 
ple were cut each for its place, — we shall make each 



Co7isidered as a Science. 39 

available for all men, for just the place in the saving 
process for which it was divinely framed and divinely 
given. 

From this point of view the systematic theologian 
is pre-eminently a preacher of the Gospel ; and the 
end of his work is not merely the logical arrangement 
of the truths which come under his hand, but the 
moving of men through their power to love God with 
all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves ; to 
choose their portion with the Saviour of their souls ; 
to find and hold Him precious ; and to recognize and 
yield to the sweet influences of the Holy Spirit whom 
He has sent. With such truth as this he will not dare 
to deal in a cold and merely scientific spirit, but will 
justly and necessarily permit its preciousness and its 
practical destination to determine the spirit in which 
he handles it, and to awaken the reverential love with 
which alone he should investigate its reciprocal rela- 
tions. For this he needs to be suffused at all times 
with a sense of the unspeakable worth of the revela- 
tion which lies before him as the source of his ma- 
terial, and with the personal bearings of its separate 
truths on his own heart and life ; he needs to have 
had and to be having a full, rich, and deep religious 
experience of the great doctrines with which he deals ; 
he needs to be living close to his God, to be resting 
always on the bosom of his Redeemer, to be filled at 
all times with the manifest influences of the Holy 
Spirit. The teacher of systematic theology needs a 
very sensitive religious nature, a most thoroughly 
consecrated heart, and an outpouring of the Holy 
Ghost upon him, such as will fill him with that spirit- 
ual discernment, without which all native intellect is 



40 The Idea of Systematic Theology. 

in vain. He needs to be not merely a student, not 
merely a thinker, not merely a systematizer, not merely 
a teacher, — he needs to be like the beloved disciple 
himself in the highest, truest and holiest sense, a 
divine. 

Fathers and Brethren, as I speak these words, 
my heart fails me in a deadly anxiety. " Who is 
sufficient for these things ? " it cries to me in a true 
dismay. We all remember how but a short decade 
ago one stood in this place where I now stand, who, 
in the estimation of us all, was richly provided by 
nature and grace for the great task which now lies 
before me, but which then lay before him. " Alas ! 
sirs," said he, with a humility which was character- 
istic of his chastened and noble soul, — " Alas ! sirs, 
when I think of myself, I often cry, ' Woe is me, that 
such an one as I, should be called to inherit the re- 
sponsibilities descending in such a line.' And when 
I think of the Church, I cry with a far sorer wonder, 
' What times are these, when such a man as I should 
be made to stand in such a place ? ' " With far more 
reason may I be allowed to echo these words to-day. 
With far more need may I demand now, as he de- 
manded then, your prayers for me, that in "the ser- 
vice to-day inaugurated, God's strength may be made 
perfect in my weakness." 




v^ii* 






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