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THE importance of theological knowledge to man, both in his individual and social character, cannot be too highly estimated. He has duties to perform in time, and the manner in which he discharges those duties will affect his happiness and usefuluess in the present state, and influence him in the future for ever. No man, therefore, is educated for the high designs of his existence unless his education include the science of theology. No secular knowledge can satisfy the human soul, nor qualify any man for the discharge of his duties in this world, or for happiness in the world to come. No uninspired system of ethics can authoritatively teach us our duty either to God or man; and nothing but the atonement made by the death of Christ, as taught in the sacred Scriptures, can form a basis for human happiness in time, or give the soul peace in the hour of death, or assurance of eternal life. The word of God is the only rule for our faith and actions, it is the sure guide to holiness and happiness, and it will be the rule by which all mankind will be judged at the last day. All divine teaching, therefore, must be drawn from the Bible.
As divine knowledge is of such importance to the human race, both for time and eternity, it is the duty of every man to ascertain whether he is acquiring and promoting this knowledge in accordance with his ability and position in life. Every domestic circle should be a thological seminary, in which all should be students of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. That such was the intention of God is evident from the directions given by Moses: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. vi. 6, 7.)
All who teach religion ought to possess at least an elementary knowledge of it as revealed in the Scriptures. This must commend itself to every man's understanding. In this age of conflict and effort to extend the knowledge of God and the kingdoin of Christ, it is of great importance that those who are engaged in this conflict possess as much knowledge as they can acquire of the doctrines and duties of Christianity. Local preachers, class leaders, Sabbath and day school teachers, tract distributors, and others usefully employed, as well as ministers of the Gospel, must be thoroughly furnished with divine truth, to intelligently instruct others, and know how to use the sword of the Spirit against the unbeliever and profane. The hearer of the Gospel should know the truth as it in Jesus, that he might detect error if presented in any form from the pulpit, especially when so many subtle arts are used to adulterate the truth, and so many who profess to be ministers of Christ handle the word of God deceitfully. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isai. viii. 20.)
In the acquisition of divine science, as methodical a study of its principles is requisite as in the acquisition of any other science. No man can expect to attain to any considerable eminence in theological knowledge, unless he pursue such a course as he might legitimately conclude will be crowned with success. Each branch must be studied and understood ; then its relations to all the other branches must be ascertained. By such a process the mind becomes disciplined, and acquires a capability to discover truth, to detect error, and to arrange its materials for powerful and successful operation. One reason why so few excel in any branch of knowledge, is, not the want of time or opportunity to study it, but the want of a systematic pursuit of their subject to the end.
This book has been written for the purpose of furnishing the English reader with a methodized arrangement of the first principles of the oracles of God. Many have written more learnedly, critically, and elaborately upon theological topics, and their contributions are of incalculable value. But to many in the middle classes, and to almost all the labouring classes, these are sealed books. They are hard to be understood. They require more time to study than those who are engaged in secular pursuits during the great part of the day can command : consequently, their treasures are unknown and unappreciated by those classes, which, so far as the author's knowledge extends, are the immense majority in the Christian community. This work is designed to make the chief topics of revelation easily comprehended by those who have but few books to read, and but little time to read them.
This book is nothing more than several short treatises upon the most important doctrines of the Christian religion, each one complete in itself, and all arranged in order, so as to form a complete whole. It has been written throughout in the fear of God, and its only design is to do good to men. The word of God has been the rule and standard of thought all the way through. Nothing has been either written or omitted for party purposes, and the author alone is responsible for all it contains. His only object has been to assist his fellow men to attain a knowledge of the doctrines of the word of life, for their own happiness and usefulness, and for the glory of God.
Salisbury, June 24th, 1862.
A SYSTEM OF THEOLOGY.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
I. GENERAL observations respecting God. 1. His character described. 2. A com
plete definition of Him impossible by a finite mind. 3. He cannot be known, except by such means as He reveals Himself. 4. His attributes equal to His existence, and essential to it. 5. The persons in the Godhead are essential and necessary. 6. The unity and spirituality of God. 7. He is perfectly blessed in Himself for ever. 8. The Creator and Lord of all. 9. All things created for His glory. II. The modes by which God has revealed Himself to man. 1. By His word. 2. By His names. 3. By His attributes. 4. By His works. Ist. By the heavens. 2nd. By the firmament. 3rd. By the structure of the earth. 4th. By the products and inhabitants of the earth. 5th. By the structures of animals. 6th. By the co-operation of things that differ and are independent of each other. 7th. By the instincts of animals and the reason of man. III. The things that are made demonstrate the being and attributes of God. 1. His eternity. 2. His self-existence and independence. 3. His infinity and immutability. 4. His unity or oneness. 5. His omnipotence. 6. His immortality. 7. His wisdom. 8, His goodness. 9. The argument à priori noticed. 10. Concluding observations.
I. GENERAL observations respecting God.
1. God is an eternal, infinite, and self-existing Spirit, who possesses in Himself unlimited fulness of being, perfection, and glory; and who is blessed for evermore. He is the Creator and Lord of all; for whose glory all things are and were created ; and to whom worship and glory are to be ascribed by all the intelligent creation for ever.
2. No created mind can comprehend or understand the fulness of the divine glory, because all creatures are finite, but God is infinite. There must, therefore, be unlimited glory in the Deity, beyond the conception of any created mind for ever. No definition of God can be given, because of the infinitude of His being and the spirituality of His nature. All the knowledge we possess in this world, we acquire through the medium of the senses, or by revelation ; but we have no sense by which we can perceive spirit; therefore spiritual existence must be unknown to us except by revelation, which we receive by