§ 1. Its Nature.
§ 2. The Facts of Nature Reveal God.
§ 3. Insufficiency of Natural Theology. §
4. Christian Theology.
§ 1. Its Nature.
IF the views presented in the preceding chapter be
correct, the question, What is Theology? is already answered. If natural
science be concerned with the facts and laws of nature, theology is concerned
with the facts and the principles of the Bible. If the object of the one be to
arrange and systematize the facts of the external world, and to ascertain the
laws by which they are determined; the object of the other is to systematize
the facts of the Bible, and ascertain the principles or general truths which
those facts involve. And as the order in which the facts of nature are
arranged cannot be determined arbitrarily, but by the nature of the facts
themselves, so it is with the facts of the Bible. The parts of any organic
whole have a natural relation which cannot with impunity be ignored or
changed. The parts of a watch, or of any other piece of mechanism, must be
normally arranged, or it will be in confusion and worthless. All the parts of
a plant or animal are disposed to answer a given end, and are mutually
dependent. We cannot put the roots of a tree in the place of the branches, or
the teeth of an animal in the place of its feet. So the facts of science
arrange themselves. They are not arranged by the naturalist. His business is
simply to ascertain what the arrangement given in the nature of the facts is.
If he mistake, his system is false, and to a greater or less degree valueless.
The same is obviously true with regard to the facts or truths of the Bible.
They cannot be held in isolation, nor will they admit of any and every
arrangement the theologian may choose to assign them. They bear a natural
relation to each other, which cannot be overlooked or perverted wthout the
facts themselves being perverted. If the facts of Scripture are what
Augustinians believe them to be, then the Augustinian system is the only
possible system of theology. If those facts be what Romanists or Remonstrants
take them to be, then their system is the only true one. It is important that
the theologian should know his place. He is not master of the situation. He
can no more construct a system of theology to suit his fancy than the
astronomer can adjust the mechanism of the heavens according to his own good
pleasure. As the facts of astronomy arrange themselves in a certain order, and
will admit of no other, so it is with the facts of theology. Theology,
therefore, is the exhibition of the facts of Scripture in their proper order
and relation, with the principles or general truths involved in the facts
themselves, and which pervade and harmonize the whole.
It follows, also, from this view of the subject, that
as the Bible contains one class of facts or truths which are not elsewhere
revealed, and another class which, although more clearly made known in the
Scriptures than anywhere else, are, nevertheless, so far revealed in nature as
to be deducible therefrom, theology is properly distinguished as natural and
revealed. The former is concerned with the facts of nature so far as they
reveal God and our relation to him, and the latter with the facts of
Scripture. This distinction, which, in one view is important, in another, is
of little consequence, inasmuch as all that nature teaches concerning God and
our duties, is more fully and more authoritatively revealed in his Word.
Definitions of Theology.
Other definitions of Theology are often given
1. Sometimes the word is restricted to its etymological
meaning, "a discourse concerning God." Orpheus and Homer were called
theologians among the Greeks, because their poems treated of the nature of the
gods. Aristotle classed the sciences under the heads of physics, mathematics,
and theology, i. e., those which concern nature, number and quantity, and that
which concerns God. The Fathers spoke of the Apostle John as the theologian,
because in his gospel and epistles the divinity of Christ is rendered so
prominent. The word is still used in this restricted sense when opposed to
anthropology, soteriology, ecclesiology, as departments of theology in its
2. Theology is sometimes said to be the science of the
supernatural. But what is the supernatural? The answer to that question
depends on the meaning assigned to the word nature. If by nature is meant the
external world as governed by fixed laws, then the souls of men and other
spiritual beings are not included under the term. In this use of the word
nature, the supernatural is synonymous with the spiritual, and theology, as
the science of the supernatural, is synonymous with pneumatology. If this view
be adopted, psychology becomes a branch of theology, and the theologian must,
as such, teach mental philosophy.
The word nature is, however, often taken in a wider
sense, so as to include man. Then we have a natural and a spiritual world. And
the supernatural is that which transcends nature in this sense, so that what
is supernatural is of necessity also superhuman. But it is not necessarily
super-angelic. Again, nature may mean everything out of God; then the
supernatural is the divine, and God is the only legitimate subject of
theology. In no sense of the word, therefore, is theology the science of the
says, "Theology is the science of divine things." If by divine things, or "the
things of God," he meant the things which concern God, then theology is
restricted to a "discourse concerning God;" if he meant the things revealed by
God, according to the analogy of the expression "things of the Spirit," as
used by the Apostle in I Cor. ii. 14, then the definition amounts to the more
definite one given above.
3. A much more common definition of Theology,
especially in our day, is that it is the science of religion. The word
religion, however, is ambiguous. Its etymology is doubtful. Cicero2refers
it to relegere, to go over again, to consider. "Religio" is then
consideration, devout observance, especially of what pertains to the worship
and service of God. "Religens" is devout, conscientious. "Religiosus," in a
good sense, is the same as our word religious; in a bad sense, it means
scrupulous, superstitious. "Religentem esse oportet, religiosum nefas."3
Augustin and Lactantius derive the word from religare, to bind back.
says: "Ipse Deus enim fons nostrae beatudinis, ipse omnis appetitionis
est finis. Hunc eligentes vel potius religentes amiseramus enim negligentes:
hunc ergo religentes, unde et religio dicta perhibetur, ad eum dilectione
tendimus ut perveniendo quiescamus." And Lactantius, "Vinculo pietatis
obstricti, Deo religati sumus, unde ipsa religio nomen accepit, non, ut Cicero
interpretatus est, a religendo."5
According to this religlo is the ground of obligation. It is that which
binds us to God. Subjectively, it is the inward necessity of union with God.
Commonly the word religion, in its objective sense, means "Modus Deum colendi,"
as when we speak of the Pagan, the Mohammedan, or the Christian religion.
Subjectively, it expresses a state of mind. What that state characteristically
is, is very variously stated. Most simply it is said to be the state of mind
induced by faith in God, and a due sense of our relation to him. Or as
Wegscheider expresses it, " AEqualis et cow stans animi affectio, qua homo,
necessitudinem suam eandemque aeternam, quae ei cum summo omnium rerum auctore
ac moderatore sanctissimo intercedit, intimo sensu complexus, cogitationes,
voluntates et actiones suas ad eum referre studet." Or, as more concisely
expressed by Bretschneider, "Faith in the reality of God, with a state of mind
and mode of life in accordance with that faith." Or, more vaguely,
"Recognition of the mutual relation between God and the world" (Fischer), or,
"The recognition of a superhuman causality in the human soul and life" (Theile).
"Faith founded on feeling in the reality of the ideal" (Jacobi). "The feeling
of absolute dependence" (Schleiermacher). " The observance of the moral law as
a divine institution" (Kant). "Faith in the moral order of the universe" (Fichte).
"The union of the finite with the infinite or God's coming to
self-consciousness in the world" (Schelling).6
This diversity of views as to what religion is, is
enough to prove how utterly vague and unsatisfactory must be the definition of
theology as "the science of religion." Besides, this definition makes theology
entirely independent of the Bible. For, as moral philosophy is the analysis of
our moral nature, and the conclusions to which that analysis leads, so
theology becomes the analysis of our religious consciousness, together with
the truths which that analysis evolves. And even Christian theology is only
the analysis of the religious consciousness of the Christian; and the
Christian consciousness is not the natural religious consciousness of men as
modified and determined by the truths of the Christian Scriptures, but it is
something different. Some say it is to be referred to a new life transmitted
from Christ. Others refer everything distinctive in the religious state of
Christians to the Church, and really merge theology into ecclesiology.
We have, therefore, to restrict theology to its true
sphere, as the science of the facts of divine revelation so far as those facts
concern the nature of God and our relation to him, as his creatures, as
sinners, and as the subjects of redemption. All these facts, as just remarked,
are in the Bible. But as some of them are revealed by the works of God, and by
the nature of man, there is so far a distinction between natural theology, and
theology considered distinctively as a Christian science.
With regard to natural theology, there are two extreme
opinions. The one is that the works of nature make no trustworthy revelation
of the being and perfections of God; the other, that much revelation is so
clear and comprehensive as to preclude the necessity of any supernatural
§ 2. The Facts of
Nature Reveal God.
Those who deny that natural theology teaches anything
reliable concerning God, commonly understand by nature the external, material
universe. They pronounce the ontological and teleological arguments derived
from the existence of the world, and from the evidences of design which it
contains, to be unsatisfactury. The fact that the world is, is a proof that it
always has been, in the absence of all evidence to the contrary. And the
argument from design, it is said, overlooks the difference between dead
mechanism and a living organism, between manufacture and growth. That a
locomotive cannot make itself, is no proof that a tree cannot grow. The one is
formed ab extra by putting its dead parts together; the other is
developed by a living principle within. The one necessitates the assumption of
a maker external and anterior to itself, the other excludes, as is said, such
assumption. Besides, it is urged that religious truths do not admit of proof.
They belong to the same category with aesthetic and moral truths. They are the
objects of intuition. To be perceived at all, they must be perceived in their
own light. You cannot prove a thing to be beautiful or good to the man who
does not perceive its beauty or excellence. Hence, it is further urged, that
proof of religious truth is unnecessary. The good do not need proof; the evil
cannot appreciate it. All that can be done is to affirm the truth, and let it
awaken, if possible, the dormant power of perception.
A. Answer to the above
All this is sophistical. For the arguments in support
of the truths of natural religion are not drawn exclusively from the external
works of God. Those which are the most obvious and the most effective are
derived from the constitution of our own nature. Man was made in the image of
God, and he reveals his parentage as unmistakably as any class of inferior
animals reveal the source from which they sprung. If a horse is born of a
horse, the immortal spirit of man, instinct with its moral and religious
convictions and aspirations, must be the offspring of the Father of Spirits.
This is the argument which Paul on Mars' Hill addressed to the cavilling
philosophers of Athens. That the sphere of natural theology is not merely the
facts of the material universe is plain from the meaning of the word nature,
which, as we have seen, has many legitimate senses. It is not only used to
designate the external world, but also for the Forces active in the material
universe, as when we speak of the operations and laws of nature, sometimes for
all that falls into the chain of cause and effect as distinguished from the
acts of free agents; and, as natura is derived from nascor,
nature means whatever is produced, and therefore includes everything out of
God, so that God and nature include all that is.
2. The second objection to natural theology is that its
arguments are inconclusive. This is a point which no man can decide for other
men. Every one must judge for himself. An argument which is conclusive for one
mind may be powerless for other minds. That the material universe began to be;
that it has not the cause of its existence within itself, and therefore must
have had an extramundane cause; and that the infinitely numerous
manifestations of design which it exhibits show that that cause must be
intelligent, are arruments for the being of God, which have satisfied the
minds of the great body of intclligent men in all ages of the world. They
should not, therefore, be dismissed as unsatisfactory, because all men do not
feel their force. Besides, as just remarked, these arguments are only
confirmatory of others more direct and powerful derived from our moral and
3. As to the objection that religious truths are the
objects of intuition, and that intuitive truths neither need nor admit of
proof, it may be answered that in one sense it is true. But self-evident
truths may be illustrated; and it may be shown that their denial involves
contradictions and absurdities. All geometry is an illustration of the axioms
of Euclid; and if any man denies any of those axioms, it may be shown that he
must believe impossibilities. In like manner, it may be admitted that the
existence of a being on whom we are dependent, and to whom we are responsible,
is a matter of intuition; and it may be acknowledged that it is self-evident
that we can be responsible only to a person, and yet the existence of a
personal God may be shown to be a necessary hypothesis to account for the
facts of observation and consciousness, and that the denial of his existence
leaves the problem of the universe unsolved and unsolvable. In other words, it
may be shown that atheism, polytheism, and pantheism involve absolute
impossiblities. This is a valid mode of proving that God is, although if be
admitted that his existence after all is a self-evident truth. Theism is not
the only self-evident truth that men are wont to deny.
B. Scriptural Argument for
The Scriptures clearly recognize the fact that the
works of God reveal his being and attributes. This they do not only by
frequent reference to the works of nature as manifestations of the perfections
of God, but by direct assertions. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and
the firmament sheweth his handy-work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night
unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their
voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their
words to the end of the world." (Ps. xix. 1-4.) "The idea of perpetual
testimony," says Dr. Addison Alexander7,
"is conveyed by the figure of one day and night following another as witnesses
in unbroken succession The absence of articulate language, far from weakening
the testimony, makes it stronger. Even without speech or words, the heavens
testify of God to all men."
The sacred writers in contending with the heathen
appeal to the evidence which the works of God bear to his perfections:
"Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise?
He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he
not see? He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? He that
teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?" (Ps. xciv. 8-10.) Paul said to the
men of Lystra, "Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions
with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the
living God, which made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are
therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways.
Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and
gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food
and gladness." (Acts xiv. 15--17.) To the men of Athens he said:
"God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of
heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is
worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to
all life and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of
men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times
before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek
the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not
far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as
certain also of your own poets have said, 'For we are also his offspring.
Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the
Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's
device." (Acts xvii. 24-29.)
Not only the fact of this revelation, but its clearness
is distinctly asserted by the Apostle: "That which may be known of God is
manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things
of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by
the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are
without excuse: because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as
God, neither were thankful." (Rom. i. 19-21.)
It cannot, therefore, be reasonably doubted that not
only the being of God, but also his eternal power and Godhead, are so revealed
in his works, as to lay a stable foundation for natural theology. To the
illustration of this subject many important works have been devoted, a few of
which are the following: "Wolf de Theologia Naturali," "The Bridgewater
Treatises," Butler's "Analogy," Paley's "Natural Theology."
§ 3. Insufficiency of
The second extreme opinion respecting Natural Theology
is, that it precludes the necessity of a supernatural revelation. The question
whether the knowledge of God derived from his works, be sufficient to lead
fallen men to salvation, is answered affirmatively by Rationalists, but
negatively by every historical branch of the Christian Church. On this point
the Greek, the Latin, the Lutheran, and the Reformed Churches are unanimous.
The two former are more exclusive than the two latter. The Greeks and Latins,
in making the sacraments the only channels of saving grace, deny the
possibility of the salvation of the unbaptized, whether in heathen or
Christian lands. This principle is so essential to the Romish system as to be
included in the very definition of the Church, as given by the authoritative
writers of the Papal Church. That definition is so framed as to exclude from
the hope of salvation not only all unbaptized infants and adults, but all, no
matter however enlightened in the knowledge of the Scriptures, and however
holy in heart and life, who do not acknowledge the supremacy of the bishop of
The question as to the sufficiency of natural theology,
or of the truths of reason, is to be answered on the authority of the
Scriptures. No man can tell a priori what is necessary to salvation.
Indeed, it is only by supernatural revelation that we know that any sinner can
be saved. It is from the same source alone, we can know what are the
conditions of salvation, or who are to be its subjects.
A. What the Scriptures teach as
to the Salvation of Men. Salvation of Infants.
What the Scriptures teach on this subject, according to
the common doctrine of evangelical Protestants is first : --
1. All who die in infancy are saved. This is inferred
from what the Bible teaches of the analogy between Adam and Christ. "As by the
offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the
righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of
life. For as by one man's disobedience many (oi. polloi,
were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many (oi.
pa,ntej) be made righteous." (Rom. v 18, 19.) We
have no right to put any limit on these general terms, except what the Bible
itself places upon them. The Scriptures nowhere exclude any class of infants,
baptized or unbaptized, born in Christian or in heathen lands, of believing or
unbelieving parents, from the benefits of the redemption of Christ. All the
descendants of Adam, except Christ, are under condemnation; all the
descendants of Adam, except those of whom it is expressly revealed that they
cannot inherit the kingdom of God, are saved. This appears to be the clear
meaning of the Apostle, and therefore he does not hesitate to say that where
sin abounded, grace has much more abounded, that the benefits of redemption
far exceed the evils of the fall; that the number of the saved far exceeds the
number of the lost.
This is not inconsistent with the declaration of our
Lord, in Matthew vii. 14, that only a few enter the gate which leadeth unto
life. This is to be understood of adults. What the Bible says is intended for
those in all ages, to whom it is addressed. But it is addressed to those who
can either read or hear. It tells them what they are to believe and do. It
would be an entire perversion of its meaning to make it apply to those to whom
and of whom it does not speak. When it is said, "He that believeth not the Son
shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John iii. 36), no
one understands this to preclude the possibility of the salvation of infants.
Not only, however, does the comparison, which the
Apostle makes between Adam and Christ, lead to the conclusion that as all are
condemned for the sin of the one, so all are saved by the righteousness of the
other, those only excepted whom the Scriptures except; but the principle
assumed throughout the whole discussion teaches the same doctrine. That
principle is that it is more congenial with the nature of God to bless than to
curse, to save than to destroy. If the race fell in Adam, much more shall it
be restored in Christ. If death reigned by one, much more shall grace reign by
one. This "much more" is repeated over and over. The Bible everywhere teaches
that God delighteth not in the death of the wicked; that judgment is his
strange work. It is, therefore, contrary not only to the argument of the
Apostle, but to the whole spirit of the passage (Romans v. 12-21), to exclude
infants from "the all" who are made alive in Christ.
The conduct and language of our Lord in reference to
children are not to be regarded as matters of sentiment, or simply expressive
of kindly feeling. He evidently looked upon them as the lambs of the flock for
which, as the good Shepherd, He laid down his life, and of whom He said they
shall never perish, and no man could pluck them out of his hands. Of such He
tells us is the kingdom of heaven, as though heaven was, in great measure,
composed of the souls of redeemed infants. It is, therefore, the general
belief of Protestants, contrary to the doctrine of Romanists and Romanizers,
that all who die in infancy are saved.
B. Rule of Judgment for Adults.
2. Another general fact clearly revealed in Scripture
is, that men are to be judged according to their works, and according to the
light which they have severally enjoyed. God "will render to every man
according to his deeds: to them who, by patient continuance in well doing,
seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that
are contentious, and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness,
indignation, and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that
doeth evil; of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and
peace to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the
Gentile, for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have
sinned without law shall also perish without law, and as many as have sinned
in the law shall be judged by the law." (Rom ii. 6-12.) Our Lord teaches that
those who sinned with knowledge of God's will, shall be beaten with many
stripes; and that those who sinned without such knowledge shall be beaten with
few stripes; and that it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for the
heathen, even for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for those who perish under the
light of the gospel. (Matt. x. 15; xi. 20-24.) The Judge of all the earth will
do right. No human being will suffer more than he deserves, or more than his
own conscience shall recognize as just.
C. All Men under Condemnation.
3. But the Bible tells us, that judged according to
their works and according to the light which they have severally enjoyed, all
men will be condemned. There is none righteous; no, not one. The whole world
is guilty before God. This verdict is confirmed by every man's conscience. The
consciousness of guilt and of moral pollution is absolutely universal.
Here it is that natural theology utterly fails. It
cannot answer the question, How can man be just with God? or, How can God be
just and yet justify the ungodly? Mankind have anxiously pondered this
question for ages, and have gained no satisfaction. The ear has been placed on
the bosom of humanity, to catch the still, small voice of conscience, and got
no answer. It has been directed heavenward, and received no response. Reason,
conscience, tradition, history, unite in saying that sin is death; and,
therefore, that so far as human wisdom and resources are concerned, the
salvation of sinners is as impossible as raising the dead. Every conceivable
method of expiation and purification has been tried without success.
4. The Scriptures, therefore, teach that the heathen
are "without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and
strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God."
(Eph. ii. 12.) They are declared to be without excuse, "Because, that when
they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but
became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of
the uncorruptible God, into an image made like unto corruptible man, and to
birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave
them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour
their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie,
and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed
for ever. Amen." (Rom. i. 21-25.) The Apostle says of the Gentiles that they
"walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being
alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them because
of the blindness of thicir heart: who being past feeling have given themselves
over unto lascivousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." (Eph. iv.
5. All men being sinners, justly chargeable with
inexcusable impiety and immorality, they cannot be saved by any effort or
resource of their own. For we are told that "the unrighteous shall not inherit
the kingdom of God. Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor
thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall
inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor. vi. 9.) "For this ye know, that no
whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath
any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." (Eph. v. 5.) More than
this, the Bible teaches us that a man may be outwardly righteous in the sight
of men, and yet be a whitened sepulchre, his heart being the seat of pride,
envy, or malice. In other words, he may be moral in his conduct, and by reason
of inward evil passions, be in the sight of God the chief of sinners, as was
the case with Paul himself. And more even than this, although a man were free
from outward sins, and, were it possible, from the sins of the heart, this
negative goodness would not suffice. Without holiness "no man shall see the
Lord." (Heb. xii. 14.) "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom
of God." (John iii. 3.) "He that loveth not, knoweth not God." (1 John iv. 8.)
"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John ii.
15.) "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me." (1
John iv. 8.) Who then can be saved? If the Bible excludes from the kingdom of
heaven all the immoral; all whose hearts are corrupted by pride, envy, malice,
or covetousness; all who love the world; all who are not holy; all in whom the
love of God is not the supreme and controlling principle of action, it is
evident that, so far as adults are concerned, salvation must be confined to
very narrow limits. It is also evident that mere natural religion, the mere
objective power of general religious truth, must bc as inefficacious in
preparing men for the presence of God, as the waters of Syria to heal the
D. The necessary Conditions of
6. Seeing then that the world by wisdom knows not God;
seeing that men when left to themselves inevitably die in their sins; it has
"pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." (1
Cor. i. 21.) God has sent his Son into the world to save sinners. Had any
other method of salvation been possible, Christ is dead in vain. (Gal. ii. 21;
iii. 21.) There is, therefore, no other name whereby men can be saved. (Acts
iv. 12.) The knowledge of Christ and faith in Him are declared to be essential
to salvation. This is proved: (1.) Because men are declared to be guilty
before God. (2.) Because no man can expiate his own guilt and restore himself
to the image of God. (3.) Because it is expressly declared that Christ is the
only Saviour of men. (4.) Because Christ gave his Church the commission to
preach the gospel to every creature under heaven, as the appointed means of
salvation. (5.) Because the Apostles in the execution of this commission went
everywhere preaching the Word, testifying to all men, Jews and Gentiles, to
the wise and the unwise, that they must believe in Christ as the Son of God in
order to be saved. Our Lord himself teaching through his forerunner said, "He
that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the
Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John iii. 36.)
(6.) Because faith without knowledge is declared to be impossible. "Whosoever
shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call
on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of
whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how
shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Rom. x. 13-15.)
It is, therefore, as before stated, the common faith of
the Christian world, that, so far as adults are concerned, there is no
salvation without the knowledge of Christ and faith in Him. This has ever been
regarded as the ground of the obligation which rests upon the Church to preach
the gospel to every creature.
To the objection that this doctrine is inconsistent
with the goodness and justice of God, it may be answered: (1.) That the
doctrine only assumes what the objector, if a Theist, must admit, namely, that
God will deal with men according to their character and conduct, and that He
will judge them according to the light which they have severally enjoyed. It
is because the judge of all the earth must do right that all sinners receive
the wages of sin by an inexorable law, unless saved by the miracle of
redemption. In teaching, therefore, that there is no salvation for those
ignorant of the gospel the Bible only teaches that a just God will punish sin.
(2.) The doctrine of the Church on this subject does not go beyond the facts
of the case. It only teaches that God will do what we see He actually does. He
leaves mankind, in a large measure, to themselves. He allows them to make
themselves sinful and miserable. It is no more difficult to reconcile the
doctrine than the undeniable fact with the goodness of our God. (3.) In the
gift of his Son, the revelation of his Word, the mission of the Spirit, and
the institution of the Church, God has made abundant provision for the
salvation of the world. That the Church has been so remiss in making known the
gospel is her guilt. We must not charge the ignorance and consequent perdition
of the heathen upon God. The guilt rests on us. We have kept to ourselves the
bread of life, and allowed the nations to perish.
Some of the older Lutheran divines were disposed to
meet the objection in question by saying that the plan of salvation was
revealed to all mankind at three distinct epochs. First, immediately after the
fall, to Adam; second, in the days of Noah; and third, during the age of the
Apostles. If that knowledge has been lost it has been by the culpable
ignorance of the heathen themselves. This is carrying the doctrine of
imputation to its utmost length. It is making the present generation
responsible for the apostasy of their ancestors. It leaves the difficulty just
where it was.
The Wesleyan Arminians and the Friends, admitting the
insufficiency of the light of nature, hold that God gives sufficient grace, or
an inward supernatural light, which, if properly cherished and followed, will
lead men to salvation. But this is merely an amiable hypothesis. For such
universal and sufficient grace there is no promise in the Scripture, and no
evidence in experience. Besides, if admitted it does not help the matter. If
this sufficient grace does not actually save, if it does not deliver the
heathen from those sins upon which the judgment of God is denounced, it only
aggavates their condemnation. All we can do is to adhere closelly to the
teachings of the Bible, assured that the Judge of all the earth will do right;
that although clouds and darkness are round about Him, and his ways past
finding out, justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
§ 4. Christian
As science, concerned with the facts of nature, has its
several departments, as Mathematics, Chemistry, Astronomy, etc., so Theology
having the facts of Scripture for its subject, has its distinct and natural
departments. First --
Which includes all the Bible teaches of the being and
attributes of God; of the threefold personaiity of the Godhead, or, that the
Father, Son, and Spirit are distinct persons, the same in substance and equal
in power and glory; the relation of God to the world, or, his decrees and his
works of Creation and Providence. Second, --
Which includes the origin and nature of man; his original
state and probation; his fall; the nature of sin; the effect of Adam's first
sin upon himself and upon his posterity. Third, --
Including the purpose or plan of God in reference to the
salvation of man; the person and work of the Redeemer; the application of the
redemption of Christ to the people of God, in their regeneration,
justification, and sanctification; and the means of grace. Fourth, --
That is, the doctrines which concern the state of the soul
after death; the resurrection; the second advent of Christ; the general
judgment and end of the world; heaven and hell. And fifth, --
The idea, or nature of the Church; its attributes; its
prerogatives; its organization.
It is the suggestive remark of Kliefoth in his "Dogmengeschichte,"
that to the Greek mind and to the Greek Church, was assigned the task of
elaborating the doctrine of the Bible concerning God, i. e., the doctrines of
the Trinity and Person of Christ; to the Latin Church the doctrines concerning
man; that is, of sin and grace; to the German Church, Soteriology, or the
doctrine of justification. Ecclesiology, he says, is reserved for the future,
as the doctrine concerning the Church has not been settled by oecumenical
authority as have been the doctrines of Theology and Anthropology, and that of
justification at least for the Protestant world.
The above classification. although convenient and
generally received, is far from being exhaustive. It leaves out of view the
law (or at least subordinates it unduly), or rule of moral duty. This is a
department in itself; and under the title of Moral Theology, is sometimes, as
in the Latin Church, regarded as the most important. Among Protestants it is
often regarded as a mere department of Philosophy.
It has been assumed that Theology has to do with the
facts or truths of the Bible; in other words, that the Scriptures of the Old
and New Testaments are the only infallible rule of faith and practice. This,
however, is not a conceded point. Same claim for Reason a paramount, or, at
least a coordinate authority in matters of religion. Others assume an internal
supernatural light to which they attribute paramount, or coordinate authority.
Others rely on the authority of an infallible church. With Protestants, the
Bible is the only infallible source of knowledge of divine things. It is
necessary, therefore, before entering on our work, briefly to examine these
several systems, namely, Rationalism, Mysticism, and Romanism.
1. Eccles. Pol. iii. 8.
2. Nat. Deor. ii. 28.
3. Poet. ap. Gell. iv. 9.
4. De Civitate Dei, x. 3. Edit. of Benedictines, Paris, 1838.
5. Instt. Div. iv. 28.
6. See Hase's Hutterus Redivivus, § 2.
7. Comm. on Psalms, in loc.