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commonly, though not so properly, distinguished, such as the spirituality, unity, eternity, immutability, and sovereignty of God, his omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, his wisdom, justice, truth, and good
In expressing what relates to each of these, let him adhere as close as possible to the style of scripture, only avoiding metaphorical and figurative expressions, and rendering these, where he meets with them, by the plainest and simplest terms which can convey the sense.
. Let him next proceed to the doctrine of holy writ, concerning the creation of the world and the divine provi'dence. Let him still in the same manner, and with the scriptures alone for his rule and guide, consider in the third place, human nature, particularly noting what is delivered concerning these three articles, the state of man immediately after the creation, the fall, and its consequences. The fourth point will be the doctrine concerning the Messiah or son of God, all which may be comprised under these articles, his pre-existence and divinity, his state of suffering including his incarnation, his character, his ministry on earth, his death and burial, and thirdly, his succeeding state of glory, including his resurrection, ascension, exaltation, and second coming, together with the purposes which the several particulars were intended to answer. The fifth point will be the doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit, which may be all comprised in two articles, what he is, and what he does. The sixth point, which in the order of nature should immediately follow the mediation of the son and ministration of the spirit, is that great end to which both are directed, the regeneration or recovery
On this head may be considered, the external means, their use, their difference under different
dispensations, and their connection with the effect produced. The seventh point will be the doctrine concerning the world to come. This may be subdivided into five articles, the intermediate state between death and the resurrection, the general resurrection, the future judgment, heaven and hell. The eighth and last point, the doctrine which scripture gives concerning itself, comprehending two articles, first what is scripture, secondly, what is its authority. The eight general heads (which for memory's sake I shall repeat) are the following, God, the creation, man, the son of God, the Holy Spirit, the regeneration, the world to come, the scriptures.
In framing the compendious digest above proposed, there are some things, which I would have the student particularly careful of. The first is, not to have recourse to any human, that is to say any foreign aid whatever, but to confine himself entirely to the reveal. ed word. He must have it deeply rooted in his mind, that the question, he is concerned in resolving, is not what is the doctrine of this or the other learned man, of this or the other sect or party, but what, to the best of his judgment, is the doctrine of the sacred volume. What have I to do, should he say, to take this doctrine upon trust and at second hand, when I have access to the fountain itself? If this book was given of God as a rule to all men, it must be in things essential, level to the capacity of all. Shall I take the mind of the Creator on the report of the creature, when, if I will, I have the opportunity of hearing the voice of the Creator himself ? ;.
The second thing is, not to indulge a disposition to speculate on points, which cannot with any propri
ety be said to be revealed. Sometimes events are mentioned, and a profound silence is observed as to the cause. Sometimes we are told of operations, but not a word of the manner of conducting them. Our information goes just so far and no farther. It is of the nature of our present state, and coincides with the design of our author, that here we should know in part only, that here we should see darkly as through a glass. Let us not vainly seek to be wise in divine things, above what is written.
Let us ever stop where revelation stops; and not pretend to move one single inch beyond it. It is chiefly by indulging the contrary practice, and giving way to the airy excursions of an inventive imagination, that all our system-builders, without exception, have more or less wandered from the mark. The question which I have to resolve (the student ought thus to argue with himself) is not what doctrine I should think reasonable or probable, but what is the doctrine contained in this book? However different therefore in other respects, it is as much a question of fact, what is the doctrine of the Bible, as it would be, if I were to be interrogated concerning the doctrine of Mahomet's Alcoran or Zoroaster's Zend. Nor can I ever think myself more at liberty, by philosophizing after my manner, to adulterate with my reveries the doctrine of Jesus Christ, than I should think myself at liberty to treat thus the system either of the military prophet of the Mussulmans, or of the Persian sage. It is the contrary practice, which hath so miserably sophisticated the christian scheme, and rendered many of our theological controversies mere logomachies, or no other than doting about questions and strifes of words, in which,
if the terms were properly defined and understood, the difference would vanish. There are not a few of them in like manner, and those too the most hotly agitated, of which it may be said with the greatest justice, that scripture is of neither side, having never so much as entered into the question. The third thing I would have him attend to, is to keep as near as possible to scripture style, only preferring proper to figurative expressions, and using those words which are the plainest, and of the most definite signification. Above all, he ought to avoid the use of technical terms and phrases, which, it may be alleged, gives a learned dress to religion ; but it is a dress that very ill befits an institution intended for the comfort and direction of all even of the lowest ranks. It is besides but too manifest, that this garb is often no other, than a cloak for ignorance. And of all kinds of ignorance, learned ignorance is undoubtedly the most contemptible.
I shall consider next the manner in which the student may attempt a compend of the christian ethics; and consider the advantages, that will result to him, in being pretty much employed in such exercises.
NOTE REFERRED TO IN PAGE 93,
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As a specimen of the manner of study above recommended, and as an instance of its advantages, it may not be improper to subjoin a criticism of Dr. Campbell's on a passage in the epistle to the Hebrews. The investigation is exhibited so clearly and fully, that it will shew by the teacher's own example and success, the benefit which the student may reasonably expect from an observance of his rules. Juvat usque morari et conferre gradum. The passage is Heb. iii. 5. Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant. When I consider the scope of the apostle
in this chapter, I perceive clearly an intention to compare the