« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
great importance, because God has importance of learning; Luther says, • I manifestly owned and prosperedam persuaded that true divinity could not human writings on religion, and of letters: of this we have sad proof, for because learning is needful for the while learning was decayed and in ruins, due understanding, both of the word theology fell too, and lay most wretchedly and the works of God. This learn- obscured. I am sure that the revelation ing, useful at all times, is eminently would never have been so extensive and
and inanifestation of the word of God so in the present age of free inquiry, glorious as it is, if preparatorily, like so and often sceptical objection; besides many John the Baptists smoothing the which, it furnishes much real enjoy- way, the knowledge of languages and good ment, and an agreeable as well as
learning had not risen up amongst us.
They are most exceedingly mistaken, who salutary exercise of that preeminent imagine that the knowledge of nature and faculty of reason which was bestow- true philosophy is of no use to a divine.'” ed upon us by a gracious Creator Bickersteth, pp. 11, 12. for his own glory, and our happiness lified to say so, For an ordinary natu
“ It is the testimony of Boyle, one quaand benefit. Mr. Bickersteth most ralist to despise those that study the mysjustly remarks:
teries of religion, as much inferior to phy“ If we look at the history of the sical truths, is no less unreasonable than church, the brightest examples of ardent it were for a watch-maker, because he unand useful piety have been found in men
derstands his own trade, to despise privy of great knowledge. The most honour. councillors, who are acquainted with the ed instruments in founding and carrying secrets of monarchs and mysteries of forward both the Jewish and Christian state ; or than it were for a ship-carpenchurches were men eminent in learning as ter, because he understands more of the well as in piety. Moses, the lawgiver and
fabric of a vessel, to despise the admiral leader of the Jews, was learned in all the that is acquainted with the secret designs wisdom of the Egyptians, and Paul was of the prince, and employed about the most brought up at the feet of Gamaliel.” Bick- important affairs.” Bickersteth, p. 13. ersteth, p. 9. “ The force of the objection, that the
But the student in theology needs first Christians were illiterate, is taken ever to keep in mind that he treads away by the fact, that they were superna. on sacred ground. He is not purturally assisted with all the learning which was requisite for their office. Ecolum- suing, an abstract, or merely spepadius justly observes to the Waldenses, culative branch of knowledge, but
we are not to tempt God as if He were one which has constant reference to to be expected to instruct us as He did the state of the heart as well as the the Apostles, miraculously without study mere powers of the understanding. the local information which they had with Mr. Bickersteth, therefore, wisely out much learning. Besides, while the reminds the student of those moral great Apostle of the Gentiles was not qualifications with which he ought destitute of human learning naturally acquired; he both made use of that learn
to apply himself to divine science. ing in defence of the Gospel, and disputed He shews that sin blinds the mind; with the learned Athenians on their own that communion with God, that principles.
faith and love, that Christian tem" It is a very erroneous idea, that knowledge is prejudicial to faith. Religion pers and dispositions, that simpliis not the privilege of the ignorant. In city of purpose to do the will of fact, the worst enemies of Christianity God, that a willingness to confess have endeavoured to keep Christians in Christ before men, and all the de. ignorance. We see this both in Pagan- tails of a holy and charitable life, ism and Popery. The ages of ignorance were the ages when Popery was domi- are important helps to the right atnant: and in the time of Paganism, the tainment of sacred knowledge. emperor Julian, one of the most artful
Yet even this is not all; for and bitter opponents which the Christian religion perhaps ever had, well aware of though “ with the heart man be. the powerful use which Christians had lieveth unto righteousness,” yet this made of learning, refused permission to very faith is the gift of God. Dithem to study the classics.”" Bickersteth, vine teaching is necessary to guide « The revival of literature and the re
men into religious knowledge, to formation of the church were connected any practical or spiritual purpose ; events. The Reformers felt strongly the and this teaching is promised to
all who humbly seek it. " The the Bible with as little reverence as if it meek shall he guide in judgment, in all other books, we have to exercise
were a mere human classic. But, wbile the meek shall he teach his way."
our judgment as to what is right and what “ All thy children shall be taught is wrong, and are bound to leave the of the Lord.” “ A man can receive wrong, there is a vast difference in the nothing except it be given him from Bible. It is God's word, and we have by above." Our author has many ex
that book to correct every other impres
sion.” Bickersteth, pp. 68, 69. cellent observations on this subject. “ Read the Bible then first, read it in He remarks :
the middle of other studies, read it last “ Perhaps the grand defect of most
of all. There ought to be no part of the theological writers is the not constantly Scriptures to which you have been long adverting to the need of Divine teaching,
a stranger. The whole should be read to make us wise unto salvation ; and the through again and again. Let it be your great success of such spiritual and devo- daily, constant, and never-failing compational treatises as have been a means of nion and guide. Let its truths be con, edifying the church through successive tinually revolving in your mind. Look ages, has arisen from their clearly and dis- upward for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. tinctly bringing forward our dependence No commentator teaches as he teaches. on Divine grace. Such books as Augus. He giveth wisdom, and that liberally, and tine's Confessions, and Thomas a Kempis, upbraideth not. In this book, under his are eminently useful, simply on this ground. teaching, you may place unreserved confi.
“God does not now teach by super-dence, you will find sweet repose, holy natural means; as he taught the Prophets affections, and perfect security." Bickerand Apostles, and enabled them to write steth, pp. 70, 71. the inspired volume. He does not ordi. The whole work is written, as our narily teach without human instrumen- readers will have perceived by the His own word. The standard or criterion above extracts, in a hortatory and of this instruction, is the inspired volume. didactic style ; and many parts The Father, through the mediation of might have been preached in the Christ, communicates by the Spirit, this form of a practical address from Divine teaching to His children. The Holy Ghost is the main agent. This Dic the pulpit. To reasoning minds, vine Spirit enables us to know the things that prefer having premises only that are freely given to us of God." Bick. given, and working out their own ersteth, pp. 50, 51.
These things premised, the reli- conclusions, and making their own gious student proceeds to his inves applications, this style is not the tigations. The mine in which he is effect it is the most useful, and the
most interesting; but for popular to dig for the hidden treasure is the wide extension of Mr. Bickersteth's sacred Scripture : to this, therefore, valuable publications shews how he first betakes himself, and this, well his truly scriptural exhortawhatever subsidiary aids he may tions have been received, and how call in, he never leaves. Our au: highly they are prized. His labours thor's observations on the study of have not been in vain in the Lord. the Scripture are highly useful.' He
Mr. Bickersteth proceeds to shew sums up the whole as follows:
the character of scriptural divinity, “ All things relating to religion may be resolved into these two great questions,–
and the union of spirit which, amidst Is the Bible the word of God? What minor diversities of opinion, exists does the Bible teach? To be able to among the true members of Christ. answer the first satisfactorily is a great The basis of this union, as well as and important duty. The Scriptures must be read, the evidences must be weighed, the basis of the whole scheme of and light must be sought from above, that Christian doctrine, he represents the mind may come to a clear and decided to be Christ crucified as a sacrifice conviction. To answer the second, the Scrip for sin, and the life of the believer tures also must first be diligently sought, and cavils must not be admitted; it being grounded on union to Christ; warn. proved to be the word of God, submission ing his readers against resting upon of mind to its ascertained truth, even a dead faith, a mere assent to Chriswhere we cannot harmonize them, is as
tian doctrines, and a bold forward great a duty as diligent inquiry, to ascerlain what these truths are. 'Men of an profession of religion, or excited infidel spirit have scrutinized and sifted feelings, or our own imperfect obedience, or religious acts, or the exactness. It better meets the prejudices mercy of God irrespective of the of God's people, all of whom are prone to mode in which he has promised to therefore, if they found them systemati
have their favourite doctrines, and who exercise it ; or, most perhaps of all, cally defined in particular parts of Scripour own goodness conjoined with ture, would probably be exclusive in their the merits of Christ,-that most regard to those parts, and limited in their plausible of all devices to evade the establishment in the Gospel. It is as it
It suits also their doctrines of grace. Mr. Bickersteth were a compounding of the whole matter alludes as follows, to the manner in of Gospel truth into the bread of life, so which sacred truth is revealed in that the whole nourishment is commuthe word of God, a manner far from nicated. The mind gradually and insen
sibly imbibes the whole, and assimilates accordant to the views which we to its spirit.” Bickersteth, pp. 99, 100. should have ignorantly formed of
These statements are equally true what was most befitting, yet found in and useful; as are those in the next fact to produce those blessed effects chapter, on the study of practical which revelation was intended to works of divinity. We commend secure.
Human wisdom would the following caution to the Chrishave written a regular treatise, or tian student. a catechism, or a set of articles, or
“All who have deeply engaged in study well reasoned propositions; not so have felt its tendency to draw the heart the Bible.
from God: so to occupy the intellect, “ Divine truths are not stated abstract- that we forget, or think
we have not time edly, as a mere theory to be established for, the highest privilege of man, commu
nion with God. What we mean is, that by argument, and proved by the moral fitness of things, or by their native beauty this, as well as any
other pursuit that and excellence. We have not a statement; be theological and scriptural in its subject,
eagerly engages the mind, even though it for instance, to explain the difficulties of the Trinity, or a dissertation to shew the may yet lead us away from that which nature of the doctrine. It is revealed
should be the primary object of the Chrisonly in its devotional and practical con
tian student: the life of God in the soul
of man." Bickersteth, pp. 109, 110. nexions. We have indeed, in the Romans and in the Ephesians, much of a system of and especially such practical books as are
“ May we then study practical books, Divine truth in regular order, yet all is stated with reference to experience and full of Christ and his salvation. A devout practice, rather than as a mere theory. It Christian will cordially concur in the senis in short a revelation of the Divine will timent of Augustine; 'I am neither from the great Lord of all to his sinful pleased with those writings, nor yet with
that conversation, in which I find not a creatures; an authoritative declaration, rather than an argumentative proof, or
savour of the name of Jesus; for he is as a treatise to establish a human doctrine. honey, to my mouth, music to my ears, There is a beautiful proportion given to
and joy to my heart.'” Bickersteth, every truth, according to its real character p. 111, and use; and we disturb the order of that
“ The more we enter into the spirit of proportion, when we insist too promi- them, the more clear will be our evidence
practical writings, and can find joy in nently or too exclusively on one favourite that our heart is right with God; and in doctrine, to the neglect of others, and so give a partial view of the whole.
deed in proportion as we advance in real “ The truths of revelation in the Bible piety shall we cordially love such reading. are not generally either systematically ar
And while we are thus seeking not only ranged, or scholastically defined. They shall receive more and more of the en
to know but to do the will of God, we are rather incidentally introduced, with the exception of one or two of the Epistles, lightening beams of his Spirit.” Bickeraccording to occasion, and in the
steth, p. 112. common discourse. We hardly know The next chapter, on works of where to turn for any explicit definitions of controversy, is drawn up with great Scripture doctrine in the word of God, candour, and in a conciliating and This actual position of Divine truth in Scripture (promiscuously scattered Christian spirit. The author, how. throughout, and connected only by the ever, by no means considers that subject matter of discourse, rather than even a vehement contention for truth by any artificial arrangement) is surely is inconsistent with a spirit of affecone of the most beautiful proofs of the wisdom of God. It is far better adapted tion and the meekness of wisdom. to the bulk of mankind than any technical He remarks, that
“ There may be a disproportionate at- written. Let us also not interpret figutention to controversy, as well as a des- rative expressions too minutely. Where pising of it: if it be pursued to the neglect Scripture is plain and obvious, there is a or prejudice of devotional and practical clear ground of faith. Where it is amreligion, if it be pursued with the passions biguous or intricate, suspend your judgof the natural and not with the graces of ment, neither affirm nor deny, but humthe spiritual man, it is disproportionately ble yourself before God and admire His pursued. But because there is this mis- majesty. Especially, seek not by human take, there is a prevalent notion among additions to make every part clear in your those to whom we may justly give the own system. That system which is more blessed title of peacemakers, that the exact and clear than the Scriptures is so simple statement of truth is a sufficient far false. We ought to be as fairly chargeconfutation of error. Such forget the ad- able with inconsistency as the book of vantage that error has against truth in its God. But we are often, in study, attendfalling in with the natural principles of the ing rather to the theory and science of heart. Exposure of error and false state- theology, than to practical obedience, and ment, in a controversial form, is a promi. the holy efficacy of scriptural truth." nent part of the Epistles to the unsettled Bickersteth, pp. 149, 150. churches. The duty of controversy under
But we must lay down our pen, many circumstances which might be stated is perfectly clear, We must earnestly con- only adding that the remaining tend for the faith which was once deliver- chapters of the work are written in ed to the saints.
the same judicious and excellent . Yet while it has pleased our Heavenly spirit, and always for spiritual and Father thus to overrule some controver sies for good, it is not all controversy that practical edification. The lists of has done good, nor any in this fallen world books in various departments of that has done unmixed good. There have divinity, adapted to the studies of been controversies with comparatively different clases of persons, will be little practical benefit, and with deep in jury to the spirit of those engaged in found highly serviceable. Amidst them ” Bickersteth, pp. 113, 114. the diversity of tastes, and the mul
We will quote one passage more tiplicity of publications, new and from this chapter. It contains a old, no two persons would compile truth which for nearly thirty years the same lists ; but Mr. Bickerwe have been urging upon zealous steth's are very valuable, and may systematizers on all sides, and which be consulted with advantage by can never be too often impressed, the advanced as well as incipient especially upon younger theological theological student. An important students, who are too often ready to feature throughout his book is the follow the steps of some favourite affectionate prominence which he leader over brake and briar, into has given to the works of the Enthe most treacherous bogs and glish Reformers, whose writings mazes of error.
were far less technical, and more “ Beware of artificial systems of divi- scriptural and redolent of devout nity. That the Scripture contains an and holy feeling, than those of many harmonious system, and that there is con- of their most admired successors. nexion, and dependence, and proportion, We need scarcely repeat that a of the several parts of truth is, ungues deep spirit of piety, of love to God tionable. clearly in every component part, requires and to man, and an elevated tonean eye perfectly single, without a dark of scriptural sentiment, breathe spot of sin, or prejudiced reasoning of any throughout this as well as all the kind. It is also unquestionable that a full and clear statement gathered from all author's other writings. parts of Scripture is advantageous; but implied consequences, where the Scripture has not stated those consequences, and artificial plans and arrangements of truth, may deprive us of the power and Jewish History vindicated from the simplicity of truth, and even prejudice unscriptural View of it displayed the mind of others against it. In this in the History of the Jews, formview it appears to me that many excellent
ing a Portion of the Family Liwriters bave gone too far in their distinc. tions. Let us keep to scriptural terms
brary; a Sermon preached before and ideas, and not be wise above what is the University of Oxford. By
the Rev. GODFREY FAUSSETT, But with all the faults of Mr. DD. Lady Margaret Professor Milman's book, the censure upon of Divinity. Oxford. 1830. it, however severe, ought, in order
to be just, to be discriminating. We perused the work alluded to in We cannot bring our minds to think this sermon, at its first publication, him an infidel, or a willing abettor and were so deeply afflicted at its of infidels; and Carlile's " fraternal contents, that we were proceeding hug” is a gratuitous insult, which to draw up a somewhat full reply to entitles him to sympathy, rather its exceptionable statements, and than indignation. The convicted only waited till we could go through blasphemer rejoices if he can any the details with the care and at the where collect a stray shred from length which appeared to us de- any decent man's garment to patch sirable to counteract its evil ten- the leprous tatters of brutal infidency. In the mean time, the ce. delity; and to pillage an Oxford prolebrity of the reputed author, Mr. fessor must be doubly glorious. Mr. Milman, and the character of the Milman is wronged by this base apwork itself, have caused it to be so propriation ; he strayed upon the widely canvassed, and its principles borders of the hostile camp; but to be so fully exposed, that we think we would trust unwittingly, not init now unnecessary thrice to slay tending really to enlist himself in the slain. Our pages not being the ranks of the enemy. Between confined to theological students, his purpose and its result we con. but familiarly domesticated in fami- sider it but justice to make this dislies, we are always unwilling unne- tinction. To say nothing of higher cessarily to protrude neological ex. motives, it seems not likely that a positions of Scripture, or light and clergyman in Professor Milman's Aippant allusions to sacred things, station would have alienated his even for the sake of refutation. In friends, offended the public, and the present case, the task is unne- impeded his prospects in life, by the cessary; for it is refutation suffi- publication of such a work if he had cient that the work in question is himself fully discerned the tendentriumphantly displayed in the win- cies of his own system. He prodows of Carlile, by the side of bably intended to write a light and Paine's Age of Reason and similar entertaining history, and imagined productions. When a work reaches that the Jewish History might be so that degradation, we cease to think treated : that his book would be so it requisite to review it. So far as we dangerous and exceptionable as it are concerned, our readers may live is, was no part of his calculations. and die in happy ignorance of the At the same time, could any man irreverence with which, under the whose views of Divine revelation are grave name of history, sacred things what they ought to be have written may be associated with indecorous such a book ? He has made the eneimages : they may read their matin mies of God to blaspheme; he has portion of holy writ, without being niade the hearts of the righteous haunted through the day with the sad; and he owes it to himself, to chilling notion that miracles, if not the university of Oxford, to the wholly juggles, are at least only world, and to his God, to make his natural phenomena ; and retire to palinode as public as his offence. rest after their vespers, edified by He has been animadverted upon the faith of saints and patriarchs, in the pulpit of St. Mary's, by a without dreaming of sheiks and brother professor, in the able and emirs, commuting prophets into interesting discourse now before poets, and the champions of Israel us: in the same pulpit should we into “gallant insurgents and gue. hear him express bis deep regret rilla leaders."
gladly for what he has written,